MLB 2009 Playoffs Predictions – Round 2: Prepare for Battle
By Zach Patterson Thursday, 15 Oct 2009

Last week, we told you all about the Division Series, and prediction-wise, we went a respectable 3-4, our only gaffe being the total implosion on the Cardinals. This week, it’s all about the Championship Series. We’ve got a matchup of two AL powerhouses, and a rematch of last year’s NLCS matchup. Let’s get to this thang.

New York Yankees vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

What happened in the Division Series: Well, my predictions proved to be right. The Yankees one was easy enough to see, though the games unfolded much differently than I expected. Without their very best pitchers, the Twins still were able to keep the games very close, and even led both games 2 and 3 late, only to blow them, unable to hold the Yankees dangerous lineup in check. This series could have easily gone 5 with better relief pitching on the Twins part, but the end result was still a sweep. The Yankees power was a big factor, but so was the Twins costly mistakes, Punto’s giant running error being the most glaring and costly. The Angels/Red Sox also ended up as I predicted, though it wasn’t a 5 game nailbiter like I expected. Instead it was oddly similar to the Yankees/Twins series where there was some late inning heartbreakers for the Sox, including a momentous bungling of the 3rd game by Wagner and Papelbon, where they seemed to have the game in hand beforehand. Quite simply, the Red Sox really didn’t hit much, and the Angels came through with some huge hits when they needed to with their big hitting lineup, and their big starters bested the Red Sox best guys. Series Prognosis: This is going to be one hell of a series. Both offenses are fantastic, and each pitching staff has its weaknesses to exploit. It’s easy to see these games either being 1-0 affairs, or 11-9 slugfests. The Angels must get their starters late into games, as their bullpen remains shaky and uncertain, and the Yankees have power from the top of the lineup to the bottom. The Yankees must make sure that their expensive free agent pitcher signings don’t implode, as a certain Sabathia has been known to do in big playoff games. But the Yankees key, more than anything, is getting their lineup rolling. When this lineup is hitting, they can’t be beat. Likewise, the Angels will need Abreu’s patience and on base skills to get on in front of the heart of their order, and have guys like Morales continue to rake, and Hunter to provide his usual intensity in order to spark their offense past the Yankees. I’m also curious as to how big a factor Fuentes will be at the back end of their bullpen. Series Prediction: I want to say the Angels pull out a big, dramatic 7 game series…but everything in my head says it isn’t going to happen. This Yankees team isn’t a great matchup for them, and they don’t have a lot of weak spots. So I gonna be lame and say Yankees in 6. MVP Prediction: This whole offseason seems to be the “A-ROD IS REDEEMING HIMSELF IN A BIG WAY AND IS NOW CLUTCH” storyline, which is frankly ridiculous considering that whole myth was overblown based on the 2004 ALCS with the Red Sox, but if he does anything of importance, expect him to nab it. – Zach Patterson

Philadelphia Phillies vs Los Angeles Dodgers

What happened in the Division Series: Much to my chagrin (along with the chagrin of just about every other “expert”), my pick for St. Louis to easily handle L.A. was way off no thanks to the slumping of Albert Pujols, the less than stellar performance of the Cardinals pitching staff, and Matt Holliday’s “I can’t believe he actually dropped that”. The Dodgers deserve a heap of credit, however. Their starters, while nowhere near the best in the league, all came through with solid outings in the 3 game sweep and their bullpen continued to dominate. St. Louis never really had a chance, and we all should have known. On the other side, the Phillies/Rockies series turned out to be the longest in the divisional round, culminating over a WHOPPING 4 games. I predicted that every game would end in nail biting fashion, and 3 out of 4 times I was right. The comeback-styled offense of both teams made for an insanely even match and constant heart palpitations, but the Phils came out on top with the most clutch hitting and the most sturdy bullpen when the situations arrived. The return of a stable Brad Lidge came at just the right time aswell, as he helped close out the final two games without ever allowing a single hit. Meanwhile, Huston Street seemed to change roles with Lidge as he took the loss in both of those games after having a close to perfect regular season as Colorado’s closer. And if there was a MVP award for the first round it would have gone to Phils starter Cliff Lee, who only gave up 2 earned runs in 16.1 innings of work. Series Prognosis: A rematch of last year’s NLCS (in which Philadelphia won the series 4-1) shouldn’t be much of a surprise as both teams were at the top of the league for almost the entire season. In the regular season head to head games, Los Angeles won slightly more games thanks to late inning heroics at home. For the most part these teams play rather close games with each other with the location being the only real deciding factor. While the Dodgers lack the 1-2 pitching punch in their rotation, they still have a good mix of new and old arms that have yet to fail them in the postseason, coupled with the best statistical bullpen in the league. Manny Ramirez came back to form in Game 3 of the NLDS and supplied a lot of offense, but he very well could find himself struggling again as he did in the first 2 games. If the LA offense hopes to keep up with the likes of Jason Werth Raul Ibanez Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, they need big games from their supporting cast, like Andre Ethier James Loney Casy Blake and Matt Kemp. Cole Hamels is scheduled to start Game 1 after having a shaky division series, but there’s a reason why Hollywood Hamels is his nickname. His numbers in Dodgers stadium are insane (including a complete game shutout this season) and he always pitches like he has a home advantage, so he could very well return to his postseason MVP form. Another starter to look forward to is the return of Pedro Martinez, who got the nod to lead the Phils in Game 2 with the intimidating Cliff Lee most likely going in the third game. The Dodgers staff includes the likes of a

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young Clayton Kershaw who, regardless of never having a great start against Philadelphia, is trusted with Game 1 to get his team out on the right foot. Also starting will be former Phillies pitchers Randy Wolf and Vicente Padilla who both had great outings in their divisional series starts. This could turn into a bullpen series rather quickly if every starter performs as well as expected, but don’t be surprised if a blowout occurs in a game or two. And while it is a rematch of last year, these teams have shaped themselves quite differently this time around. Dodgers have better speed and power on the bench by a slight margin but the Phillies have a better overall hitting/fielding squad in their starters. Joe Torre and Charlie Manuel are both respected veteran managers who will likely take risky calls in order to win the close games. But will it mean different results when all is said and done? Series Prediction: I can guarantee the umps will continue to make controversial calls, at least, but I believe that the Phillies will repeat as NL champs in 6 games. MVP Prediction: Cliff Lee comes through once again with two great starts and wins himself a nice trophy to show for it. – Chris Derosa

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