Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Previewing / Predicting the MLB Playoffs

Texas vs. Tampa Bay
2010 Head to Head: Tampa Bay won 4-2
Pitching: Cliff Lee gives the Rangers the ace atop their staff they desperately needed.  He never walks batters, but he saw only mild success since the midseason trade that brought him to Texas from Seattle. He will need to win Game 1 if the Rangers want to steal this series. Unfortunately for Texas, David Price will take the hill against Lee. Price, a Cy Young candidate himself, has put it all together this season, striking out 188 and maintaining a sub 1.2 WHIP. The Rays staff runs deeper than Texas' too. James Shields and Matt Garza could be frontline starters for numerous MLB clubs. Edge goes to Tampa Bay.
Lineups: The Rays scored the third most runs in baseball despite having only two regulars with an OPS above .750. If Evan Longoria isn't healthy, this team could be in trouble. The Rangers sport a lineup led by MVP favorite Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz. Mix in Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler and this team can do some damage. Edge goes to Texas here. 
Other: After Longoria and Price called out the fans in Tampa, it will be interesting to see how they are greeted. Will homefield become a disadvantage for them? I would assume not, but the elderly can be a funny people.
Prediction: Tampa Bay in 4 because of the pitching.
New York vs. Minnesota
2010 Head to Head: New York won 4-2
Pitching: Both rotations revolve around one key arm. For the Twins, that arm is Francisco Liriano and for the Yankee, it's CC Sabathia. I would imagine Ron Gardenhire trusts Carl Pavano more than Joe Girardi trusts anyone on his staff not named CC, but the dropoff behind the aces runs steep. Slight edge to the Twins because of Pavano, something Yankee fans probably can't be happy about.
Lineups: These two teams led all of baseball in on-base percentage, but the Yankees hit 59 more homers than the Twins. Now, the the spacious Target Field and bandbox known as Yankee Stadium have a lot to do with that, but it's still telling. Minnesota also played half the season without its biggest power threat, Justin Morneau, and a banged up Joe Mauer that only produced nine homers. The Yankees can bash with the best of them. Edge Yankees.
Other: Ironically, the Yankees' hope may rest with Derek Jeter, a player that has fantastic postseason numbers but comes off his worst season in an illustrious 15-year career.
Prediction: Minnesota in 5.
Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia
2010 Head to Head: Philadelphia won 5-2
Pitching: The Phillies' Big Three of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels are the class of these playoffs. They combined to strike out 523 batters. The Reds counter with Edinson Volquez, who only made 14 starts this year, the consistent Bronson Arroyo, and the consistently inconsistent Johnny Cueto. Huge edge to the Phillies.
Lineups: If the Reds want any chance to win the series, they will need to knock one of the Roys out out of a game early to get to the Philly bullpen. Difficult, yes, but not impossible as they have just the offense to do it. Led by MVP candidate Joey Votto, Cincy scored the most runs in the NL and led the league in team OPS. The Phillies also have a lineup with few weaknesses. If Chase Utley was healthy all year, they likely would have found themselves higer on the offensive leaderboards. Slight edge to Cincy.
Other: Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies' weakest everyday hitter, has reached base safely in 20 straight playoff games and has a career postseason OPS of .905.
Prediction: Philadelphia in 3.
Atlanta vs. San Francisco
2010 Head to Head: Atlanta won 4-3
Pitching: Both teams finished top-3 in team ERA, but the Giants staff struck out more batters than any staff in the league by a fairly wide margin. Tim Lincecum will get at least two starts, and for that reason alone, San Fran gets the edge on the hill (assuming Barry Zito doesn't steal a start along the way).
Lineups: Jason Heyward and Buster Posey will likely finish 1-2 (in some order) in the NL Rookie of the Year race. They are the best hitters on each of these respective teams, but neither lineup instills fear in an opponent as they scored the least number of runs of any playoff teams.   
Other: The Giants made the fourth least errors in the Majors (73) while the Braves made the third most (126).
Prediction: Giants in 4 with defense playing a big part.
I will also go on record by predicting the Rays will beat the Phillies in the World Series. Sweet revenge for their 2008 defeat.

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