Yep, Still Me, Again.
WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?
Well, we did pretty well with our picks this year. The PolishguyPodcast got 5 of the 8 playoff teams correct. the predictions did not miss any one team by more than two spots and the only surprises that were completely missed was the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants. 16 of the 30 teams were picked exactly correct in their places of record. Do I have an east coast bias? I picked the AL East and the NL East exactly correct.
Also, we have a good chance to to get some of the post-season awards correct as Halladay and Sabathia each have good chances at the Cy Young. Evan Longoria will probably finished in the top three of MVP. Troy Tulowitzki waited just a tad too long to look like a MVP, but will probably still get some votes. Julio Borbon as AL ROY? Um, let's just skip that. Jason Heyward as NL ROY? He has good competition with Buster Posey, but also has a great chance.
The team we almost picked in the NL Central, the Reds, turned out to not need an extra year to make the playoffs as they make it for the first time in 15 years. Their last chance was 1999 when the Mets saw Al Leiter shut them out to get into the playoffs.
MATCHUP #1: New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins
-Can the Twins get a break? They are 0-9 in their last nine playoff games, last beating these Yankees in 2004 in Game One before they lost three straight in that one. Since then, they have been swept by the Oakland Athletics and these same Yankees just a year ago. Also, they found out for sure that Justin Morneau will miss the remainder of the season with his concussion. One can only hope that his fine career has not been cut short. It would be a shame.
-You think the Twins want some replay? The now famous missed call on Joe Mauer's double that never actually happened last year helped fuel some of the talk for baseball to get more and more replay. Bud Selig and the ancient-thinking by him and his cronies are desperately hoping that nothing happens again this year.
Sidebar: Seriously, baseball, get with the program. The solution is deliriously simple and not hard to implement. Get a seventh umpire to sit in a booth and just monitor the game on TV to check safe/out, fair/foul and home run calls. How is this embarrassing? Why do they not want to get things correct? Cheating may be a part of the game, the human element is something that does not need to exist once technology circumvents it. Baseball has literally turned into that old man who just bought his first computer and does not know how to do an email. Bud Selig is currently trying to write with a pen on his computer screen. I do hear that he drives a fine 1974 Chevy Nova, so he has that going for him.
-Is AJ Burnett alive? Well, yes, but Joe Girardi and the Yankees secretly made a great move this year when they sat Phil Hughes for a few weeks. Why? It means that Burnett may not have to pitch at all. CC Sabathia has experience on three days rest and Burnett can sit back and just be called upon if Andy Pettitte throws 75 pitches in 3 innings and does not look like himself.
-Who are the key players? Delmon Young has to keep pretending he is as good as his stats say in the absence of Morneau and really has matured. Alex Rodriguez must continue his secretly very good season and prove that his post-season demons are gone for good.
Some Stats: The Yankees offense led the league in runs and OBP. They were third in HRs.......The Yankees faced the most amount of pitches in the league, again.......The Yankees were 64-40 vs. RHP and just 31-27 versus lefties.....Nick Swisher had a .335BaBIP as he changed his approach to more of a hacker........Delmon Young .826 OPS, Morneau 1.055, Thome 1.026...Thome had a HR every 11.04AB, his best since 2002 with Cleveland when he hit 52 in 480 at bats.
Prediction: Yankees in 4.
MATCHUP #2: Texas Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays
-Which Josh Hamilton will we get? It is an absolute shame every time I think about how good Hamilton could have been in his career if his body was not so fragile from years of taking drugs and abusing himself. He may still get MVP despite missing almost all of September. Despite that, he hit when the Rangers need him most. He hit .400+ in the months they needed him most. I can only hope that his ribs are fine we get to see him at his best.
-Will Cliff Lee dominate? Maybe not. The Rays were the best team against left-handers in the league, but this is not ordinary left-hander. They best get used to him, though, because they will see him a lot next year in pinstripes.
-Do the Rays have anything behind David Price? Yes, no and maybe. James Shields had an ERA that hovered around 7 in September and allowed 50 hits in his final 32 innings of the season. Matt Garza had shown the ability to shut down teams, but he has also blown up at inopportune times. I am going to guess that we will get the good version of Garza in the playoffs. He reminds me a bit of the mentality that the younger Josh Beckett had in 2003, 2004 and 2007. Wade Davis is a rookie and lacks the postseason experience. He also could turn out to have a good post-season as well, but let us not expect any 1997 Jaret Wright here.
-Do the Rangers have a chance without a fully effective Hamilton? I don't think so. The team still had a record above .500 without Hamilton, but he just means so much to the team.
-No team will be giving up too many ninth-inning leads. Feliz and Soriano each only had 3 blown saves.
Key Players? Josh Hamilton and every Rays starter not named David Price.
Some Stats: Cliff Lee has great splits, but was just 4-6 as a Ranger and was beaten three time by the Rays.......Incredibly, James Shields allowed 90 extra base hits in his starts, hitters against him all basically looked like Scott Rolen in his prime against him.....The Rays led the league in walks and stolen bases....The Rays win percentage during the day was 6th in the Majors, the first two games are day games......Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon combined for 31 bunt hits this year.
Prediction: Rays in five.
MATCHUP #3 Philadelphia Phillies and Cincinnati Reds
-Do the Reds have a chance? Well, yeah, if they had three Joey Vottos. The Reds were the surprise team and won with a combination of Joey Votto paired with just enough pitching. This is also the healthiest the Phillies have been all year. Good luck Cincinnati.
-What do the Reds have going for them? The fact that they are young and hungry and don't know any better. The Reds led the NL in runs scored fueled by a team that could have a homer hit by almost any spot in their lineup. Any pitcher who feels like they can just get Votto out and then cruise will be battered relentlessly. Scott Rolen looks ten years younger in that hitters park.
-This should be a fast series. Why? The Phils allowed the lowest walk rate against them in the NL and the Reds had the highest swing percentage in the NL. I do not think this bodes well for the Reds, especially if they get down early. When a team faces veterans like Halladay and Oswalt with a lead and they are not very disciplined, it would lead to a situation where the Reds get eaten alive. One player who has been good for the Reds but may have a tough series is Drew Stubbs because anything with good movement can get him out. Halladay and Oswalt are too experienced to give him easy fastballs to hit.
-Why are the Phillies the favorites? Because they have the pitching, the bullpen, enough defense and a bruising offense. Many have said that the Phillies are good because they have the same model that many good AL teams have and they is absolutely true. Roy Halladay is possibly the best pitcher out there today.
-Big lefties. Cole Hamels will be a big factor in the series and the Reds have some lefties to combat the Philly sluggers in some key situations. Arthur Rhodes and Aroldis Chapman will have key roles.
-Key Players? Jayson Werth. He will have to make lefties pay if he gets to face them after Howard and Utley get their shots at them. For the Reds, Joey Votto must lead his team. He may not like that moniker, but with questionable pitching, he will have to lead his team and make them believe.
Some Stats: Roy Halladay led the league in innings, complete games and shutouts....Roy Oswalt is 4-0 in his post-season career....Carlos Ruiz finished with a .302 batting average this year, yes, that Carlos Ruiz...
Prediction: Phils in 3.
MATCHUP #4: San Francisco Giants and Atlanta Braves
-How many runs will be scored? This is a fitting way for Bobby Cox to go out. He is in the playoffs and it will be decided by who has the best pitching. There may only be 30 combined runs scored if this series goes five.
-Who has the better rotation? Lincecum, Cain and Zito versus Hudson, Lowe and Hanson. This is basically a wash. The questions around Barry Zito and his overall effectiveness is canceled out by the youth of Tommy Hanson and his ability to lose the strike zone at times. The other four are about equal as well. Matt Cain is probably the best pitching in the league no one talks about. Cain routinely does not get runs in his career and normally is near the top in the league in quality starts and WHIP.
-Who has the better lineup? This is also tough to say. While Brian McCann and Heyward led the Braves, the rest of their lineup is aging, not very good or declining. Rick Ankiel has hole sin his swing and Derrick Lee has lost most of his bat speed. Alex Gonzalez can hit some homers and provide a glove, but he reminds too many of another version of Jose Hernandez. Pablo Sandoval saw his plate discipline come back and bite in his second full season. Pat Burrell awoke after his release and signing and he alone makes the Giants lineup a bit more scary than Atlanta. Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres were able to get on base in front of Burrell and star Buster Posey.
-The Playoff Run effect. The Braves fought tooth and nail until the end and were forced to use Tim Hudson over the weekend in a key game, which forced the Braves to alter their rotation just a tad while the Giants threw Jonathan sanchez on the final day of the season to end the Padres hope. This may give a slight edge to the Giants.
-Key Players? The entire Giants lineup and Brian McCann. McCann must lead this team in the batter's box. The team cannot just rely on Jason Heyward to drive in all their runs. They will need someone to lead the masses.
Some Stats: Starting with 2007, Eric Hinske has been on a team to go to the World Series the last three years, advantage Atlanta.....Craig Kimbrel had only one outing where he did not record a strikeout.......The Giants had a 1.78 ERA as a team in September.....Billy Wagner's strikeout per nine rate of 13.5 trailed only Carlos Marmol.
Prediction: Braves in five.
Phils over Braves in Five.
Yankees over Rays in Seven.
WORLD SERIES: YANKEES OVER PHILS IN SEVEN. Hey, I picked this at the beginning of the year. I'm not changing it now.