Well now, what do we have here.
24 down, 8 to go.
If last night’s sensational Twins v Tigers playoff game was anything to go by, we are in for one seriously entertaining October stretch of playoff baseball.
Let’s break down the NLDS and then the ALDS and try and sort out who is going to progress.
NLDS Cardinals v Dodgers
The most straight forward show-down on the NL side of affairs. The Cardinals are going to see the Dodgers off fast and without much of a mess. Have you tried backing the Dodgers at all in the last couple of months? Marvelous collection of talent, sure, but, gutsy, nailed-on winners? Not so much. The Dodgers are infuriatingly inconsistent. The makeup of their lineup leads to games where they look like world beaters, and games where they look like John Wasdin could throw a two hit shut-out against them, no sweat. With Manny struggling since he was suspended for drugs usage (gosh, I wonder why he is suddenly finding it hard to hit?!) the Dodgers are simply not as fearsome as they were in 2008.
Now they have to face Capenter, Wainwright and Pujols, and that’s a task this Dodgers team is simply not up to. Cardinals take it in walk-in-the-park fashion, just a vastly superior, fundamentally sound baseball club with strengths all up and down the lineup.
Pick: St Louis Cardinals
NLDS Rockies v Phillies
The shock of the first round. You heard it here first, the Rockies are going to take down the World Champion Phillies. Why so confident? A number of factors. First things first, Cole Hamels is not the pitcher he was last season. Heavy lies the crown, and there is no doubt Hamels has struggled to live up to his 2008 billing as NLCS MVP and World Series MVP to boot. Hamels went 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA in 2009. He is still a great pitcher, however the Rockies will not be quaking in their cleats if Hamels doesn’t find his 2008 form from somewhere, fast. Secondly, it is wildly difficult to win back to back World Series. The Phillies will be playing with a bullseye on their jerseys for the 2009 playoffs. Meanwhile the Rockies will be playing with the reckless abandon afforded by being the team with, Twins apart, the most momentum heading into the playoffs. Troy Tulowitzki, Todd Helton, Brad Hawpe and Clint Barmes will provide more than enough offence for the Rockies, while a healthy Jorge De La Rosa (wait until you see this kid pitch!) would also be a huge boost to Colorado. The relative youth, exuberance and momentum of the Rockies will carry them through in what could be a nail biter of a series.
Pick: Colorado Rockies
ALDS Twins v Yankees
It would be nice to think the Twins can give the Yankees a game, or at least stretch them a little, however, don’t be fooled into thinking this can even be a close series. The problem lies in the Twins starting pitching. There is simply no one on the Twins staff that will strike anything close to resembling fear.
Carl Pavano? Don’t make me laugh. Brian Duensing? I wonder how many of the Yankees even know who he is? I have seen Nick Blackburn get absolutely shelled a couple of times this season, and he doesn’t have the kind of stuff to scare the Yankees.
Another major issue for the Twins is the energy expended in simply making the playoffs, Momentum is nice, but how do you think the Twins lineup is going to enjoy facing big CC Sabathia’s 97mph missiles only hours after an emotionally draining extra inning playoff game against the Tigers? Keep an eye on this one, if CC is up for the game, he might cause some serious damage against a tired Twins lineup.
This one looks seriously lop-sided. The Twins only hope is to get involved in high scoring affairs, to a stage where their bullpen might actually match up against the Yankees huge big glaring weaklink, their bullpen. However, the Yankees starting pitching and big bats should see them home without breaking a sweat.
Pick: The New York Yankees
ALDS Red Sox v Anaheim
This will probably turn out to be the closest series in the first round. Two good teams, two good sets of starting pitchers, two great lineups, two good managers and two great bullpens. Only if you break it down section by section do you start to see a gap between the two competitors. Start with the pitching. The Angels are going to be sending three competent starters up against the Sox lineup (Lackey probably the standout of the bunch). The Red Sox are throwing two guys in particular on who the series outcome may rest. If Josh Beckett and John Lester pitch 70-80% close to their best, this could be a very short series. Boston’s two aces have the make up and stuff to dominate any lineup, even the speedy Angels. If they are on, it’s goodnight Anaheim.
The bullpen is another area the Sox look to be superior in. In the ninth inning of a playoff show down, who do you want on the hill, Brian Fuentes and his 3.93 ERA and 1.40 WHIP or Jonathan Papelbon? (1.85 ERA 1.15 WHIP)
Wagner and Bard form a terrific 100mph fireballing setup crew, if Anaheim don’t have a lead by the 7th inning, they may never get one.
Time and time again you hear the old refrain, pitching wins championships, and for this ALDS, the difference in pitching may separate two otherwise tightly matched teams.
Pick: The Boston Red Sox
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