Tag Archives: MLB Playoffs

Guide to the 2012 MLB Postseason – Version NL

One last time for Chipper. (Justin K. Aller/Gett Images)

In case you can’t get enough fill of baseball playoffs in the AL, the senior circuit also has it’s own five-team tournament going on. As a Red Sox fan the NL is the more intriguing for me this season because these teams are even farther removed from the debacle that was the 2012 Red Sox. Watching the San Franciso Giants is at no point going to remind me of some miserable point of this past season. But who should Red Sox fans be hoping to play the Athletics (as decided on yesterday). Well let’s take a look.

Atlanta Braves

Why you should: Three words. Chipper Mothereffing Jones. Before the season Chipper declared this as his final season and all he did was put together a solid season (.287/.377.485, 14 HR, 62 RBI) in 112 games. Chipper is the Derek Jeter of the NL. Now before you take that to mean an insult coming from a Sox fan I mean it like this: he is respected across the league, dominated during the steroid era without a smidge of suspicion that he juiced and if he doesn’t get into the Hall of Fame on his first ballot with 98 percent of the vote I’d be stunned. Plus Chipper has one of the great old-school nicknames that Major League Baseball is sorely lacking. Whatever happened to guys named ‘Goose’ or “Oil Can” or “Catfish”. Now we are just lazy. We just hyphenate last names (K-Rod, A-Rod) or shorten last names (Naps, Salty). Moving on from that tangent this team also features some of the best young talent in the game including Jason Heyward (.269/.335/.479 27 HRs, 82 RBI), Freddie Freeman (.259/.340/.456 23 HR, 94 RBI) and the unhittable Craig Kimbrel who had 42 saves this season, just missed out on a sub 1.00 ERA and has one of the best names in baseball.

Why you shouldn’t: Contrary to what I said before, Atlanta actually might bring about the most mentions of the terrible Sox. Both teams had epic collapses last season but the Braves did what the Sox couldn’t and came back with a vengeance to win 94 games and earn a playoff spot.

Washington Nationals

Why you should: This is the first playoff appearance by the Nationals/Expos since 1981. That’s right 1981. This team has never won a

Poppin’ bottles like its DC. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

division (1994 strike robbed it of that) and this year pealed off 98 wins and dominated in the NL East. So in terms of parity this the team to pull for. You can’t say “Oh, I’m tired of the Nationals they are always there.” The Nationals haven’t even been relevant past the month of May since 2002 (as the Expos)  let alone at this late junction in the season.  They have probably the biggest steal of last winter’s free agent race in Gio Gonzalez (21-8,  2.89 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 207 Ks) who is in a three-way battle for the Cy Young award with R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto. (Personally I think Dickey should get it but I have always had a soft spot for fantasy fiction loving knuckle ball throwers).  Plus you want good young talent. Let me throw you some Bryce Harper (2.70/.340/.477, 22 HRs, 59 RBIs) who seems to have wiped off that slump he had in the middle of the summer.  The Nationals even have a fun pitching staff without ace Stephen Strasburg with Jordan Zimmerman and Edwin Jackson pitching well entering the postseason.

Why you shouldn’t: That’s a clown question bro but if you want to Natpick (see what I did there) Bryce Harper is kind of a douche plus this might reinforce the decision to sit Strasburg for the playoffs which still seems like the wrong move to me. Other than that there is not a whole lot of reasons not to go for the Nats.

Cincinnati Reds

Why you should: Part of this is going to be a why I will more than why you should. That section starts now. DatDudeBP!  Bradon Phillips might be my favorite non-Red Sox player out there right now. Bro has swagger for days plus the production to back it up

DAT DUDE BP! (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

(.281/.321/.429, 17 HRs, 77 RBI, 15 SB) plus he is good for at least one web gem per game. Whether he’s laying out to snag a liner or flipping the ball backhanded out of his glove to start a double play. On top of that he rocks the “hat-titled-to-the-side-slightly” look better than most players including C.C. Sabathia. Okay enough of my irrational love for BP. The Reds play in one of the best looking stadiums in the game, so seeing more HD baseball at the Great American Ballpark is always a positive.  You want young talent too? How about ome Jay Bruce (34 HRs, 99 RBI) and Todd Frazier (19 HR, 67 RBI) all up in your grillmix. Plus they have the most electric closer in the game in Aroldis Chapman. He slowed slightl down the stretch which is a concern but at his best his line looked like this (1.0 IP, 3 Ks, O R, S) 99 out of a 100 times. The other one time was with three strikeouts.  Also love the Reds uniforms. I realize that isn’t a big deal but that red hat with the black brim is one of the best in the bigs.

Why you shouldn’t:  This is another team where it is tough to find reasons to root against it. The Reds haven’t won a World Series since 1990 or a playoff series for that matter since 1995.  Perhaps you can root against the Reds because of Barry Larkin who I still think has yet to make a definitive statement in his time as an analyst on ESPN. Come on Barry, just once say something with some conviction before its obvious. For example: In stead of waiting until  two games left to say you think the Cardinals, with a two-game lead, will win the wild card but the Dodgers still have a chance, you could have said last Friday that the Cardinals will win the Wild Card period.

Saint Louis Cardinals

Why you should: Speak of the devil. Who knew that the the Cardinals made it to the playoffs and won World Series in recent years

Kyle Lohse’s time to shine. (Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

despite Albert Pujols? I kid of course but this season the Cardinals are headed to October while Pujols hits the links (all while being told he isn’t better than that young kid that got brought up in May). The Cardinals didn’t need the epic run it made last season to make it in 2012 but they do have a worse record (88-74).  Perhaps if you liek rooting for outfields the Sox probably should have gone after rather than Carl Crawford like Matt Holliday (.295/.379./.400, 27 HRs, 102 RBI) or Carlos Beltran (.269/.346/.496 32 HRs, 97 RBI) this is your squad. Although at 35 Beltran wouldn’t have been worth it down the road. Or maybe it’d be good to see Kyle Lohse lead a team to a championship as the ace (16-3, 2.86 ERA) after having a largely mediocre career.

Why you shouldn’t: I was really grasping at straws for checks in the pro column for the Cardinals. They won it last season so they’re basically eliminated unless there is some sort of familial attachment or you bet on the Cardinals in the beginning of the season to win it all at some crazy odds.

San Francisco Giants

Why you should:  Let’s poor a little out for Cody Ross. Can’t say enough about how much I loved having him on the Sox this season and hopefully for the next few, but Mr. Ross really got hosed with his decision. He left San Fran who made the playoffs to play for the

Your 2012 NL MVP (Jake Roth/US Presswire)

Henry-Lucchino-Valentine Circus. I still feel like Ross will be pulling for his boys back in the Bay Area and I could get behind that. The Giants are also blessed with what looks to be the NL MVP in Buster Posey.  Buster led the league in batting (.336) while smacking 24 home runs and 103 RBIs all while being a very good catcher for most of the season. He was one of only eight players in the NL to have 100 or more RBIs and the only one to do it in less than 561 ABs (530). Plus his team made the playoffs so he doesn’t have that hanging over him. So I say he slightly edges out Ryan Braun (still pretty certain he was juicing) and Andrew McCutchen, who like the Pirates fell apart down the stretch.

Why you shouldn’t: The Giants didn’t win it last season but two years ago isn’t exactly a Chicago Cubs like streak. Plus it’s unclear how many games they won because Melky Cabrera pumping himself up with testosterone and setting up a fake website to cover it up.

So this is really a three-team race. Despite my man-crush on Brandon Phillips I have to say no to the Reds and even though the Nationals are a great story and an awesome team, they will be there for awhile. Meanwhile Chipper could go out on top of the baseball world with a second ring. You can’t go wrong with any of those three but I got to go with Chipper and the ATL.

-Phil

P.S. Here are my final predictions. Atlanta beats Saint Louis in one-game playoff. Atlanta over Washington in five. San Francisco over Cincinnati in five. Atlanta over San Francisco in six.

In the AL I said yesterday that the Rangers and Detroit meet in the ALCS. Give me Texas in seven and Rangers win it all over Atlanta in six games.

What team is the one to beat in the NL? Which squad is taking the whole thing? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Red Sox Fan Guide to the 2012 MLB Postseason – Version AL – UPDATED

So this is what the new format looks like.

EDITORS NOTE: This article has been altered, specifically in my breakdown of the MVP discussion. Text in bold is my retraction.

Yesterday the 2012 Red Sox season was mercilessly put to rest. For the past couple months baseball has been dead to me, and probably most other Red Sox fans. I haven’t watched many games. I haven’t checked scores every day. In fact its gotten so bad that I really just stopped following baseball as closely as I normally would. But yesterday that ended. There is no indication that things will get any better next season for the Sox but for now fans of the Fens can sit down and watch some playoff baseball without being constantly reminded of the circus going on in Boston.

I have never been one to believe in switching teams and I am not abdicating that now. Your team is your team whether its pounding out 100-win seasons or trotting out minr league lineups with three games left to go against your arch rival. However when your team is not in the playoffs I think its is permissible to favor one team if not openly pull for them.

For example back before the Celtics were what they are right now, from 1996-200 and then the 2006 and 2007 seasons there was always a team that I found myself getting to know and getting behind. From 96-98 it was Jordan’s Bulls because, you know, I was just like every other person in America. Then in 1999 it was the eighth-seeded New York Knicks and their improbable run to the NBA finals. Honestly the Larry Johnson four-point play is one of my great basketball memories from childhood. (The Celtics went 19-31 that season in their sixth straight losing season so cut me some slack. There weren’t a whole lot of pantheon moments from a team with Ron Mercer on it). Then I went for the Kings and Garnett’s T-Wolves during the first two years of the Kobe-Shaw three-peat. Took some time off as the Celtics actually made the playoffs and then in 2006-2007 was all in for Steve Nash and the Suns.

So what does that have to do with baseball? Well everyone knows watching sports is more fun when you have a vested interest. It’s why people love confidence pools and fantasy in football. Every game suddenly has something to watch. So who should Red Sox fans be pulling for this October, since they won’t be seeing anyone with a B on their hat play an inning.

Baltimore Orioles

Why you should pull for them:  A team that no one even expected to have competent players on at this point in the season somehow

Show me that ‘O’ face has got to be the catch phrase for the 2012 Orioles.

managed to win 93 games and push itself into the playoffs while also coming within a whisper of the AL East Division Crown. The

squads $81,428,999.00 payroll is less than half of that of the Sox and this team is still in the playoffs. The rotation isn’t anything to feel fantastic about and on offense they have a number of boom or bust batters like Chris Davis and Mark Reynolds but there is also some exciting young players like Manny Machado that no one seems to have figured out yet. Then there’s the bullpen that has been lights out thanks to a guy named Jim Johnson who had 51 saves this season. Baltimore is that feel-good story this season and has somehow caught every single break with something like a record of 178-0 in extra innings games.

Why you shouldn’t: This is the same team that put the final bullet in the 2011 Red Sox collapse and then stormed the field and celebrated like it they had just won game seven of the World Series. Also Kevin Gregg pitched for this team this season and I am none to fond of that goggled-up d-bag.

Detroit Tigers

Why you should: Yet again Detroit won in the junior circuit of the AL where it never seems like one team dominates. Both the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim had better records than the Tigers while playing in divisions that each had two playoff teams. So seeing Detroit win would be a bit of an upset special although less akin to Baltimore’s due to the talent on the Tigers roster. After blowing up last season Justin Verlander has largely been more ignored this season, and unfairly so. The dude went 17-8with a 2.64 ERA this season while leading the league in complete games (six), innings pitched (238 1/3) and strike outs (239).  Don’t know what pitcher I’d rather watch throw in October. Plus the Tigers have the first guy to win the Triple Crown since 1967

Why you shouldn’t: Miguel Cabrera made it so Red Sox fans cannot hang their hat on Carl Yazstremski being the last player to win the Triple Crown. Oh and Trout’s the MVP and it’s not even close. I was on some sort of drugs with what I wrote earlier.

Oakland Athletics

Why you should: Think of these guys as Baltimore Version Two. Or better yet Baltimore Light. The A’s have the second lowest payroll

Of course Oakland won the AL West. Who didn’t see that coming?

in baseball and all season trotted out guys you had either never heard of or thought might be pitching in a Venezuelan slow-pitch softaball league if anywhere at all. Yet somehow this team did the unthinkable and WON its division over the Texas Rangers. Yes, the same Texas Rangers that have won the AL pennant the past two seasons. Also this team is filled with Red Sox castoffs like Jumpin’ Josh Reddick, Coocoo for Coco Crisp, Brandon “Brother of Santana, Cousin of Randy and childhood friend of Sinorice” Moss and George “It’s the Cataracs” Kottaros.

Why you shouldn’t: This could threaten us with a sequel to last year’s Hadrball. It would be called Hardball 2 with the two silhouetted behind hardball like in the new Taken. It would tell the story of how Billy Beane flew to Cuba to rescue his daughter from Communist nationals and mobsters while also scouting and signing rookie of the year runner up Yoenis Cespedes.

Texas Rangers

Why you should: Isn’t it about time for the Rangers. Two straight seasons of devastating losses in the World Series. Can’t help but feel for that squad and it’s Dallas Cowboy-worshipping fan base. Would it really be fair to have Tony Romo, of the five-interception fame, at quarterback and see your team miss out on a World Series all in the same month? Oh, okay Philadelphia fans I guess you’re right. The Rangers also have a couple of Red Sox castoffs including Adrian “Don’t touch my head” Beltre and David “Missed Out on a Golden Marketing Campaign with the Dropkick” Murphy (s). Also seeing a guy like Michael Young win a ring would be good to see. He has been one of the most consistently solid players in the league for so long and still barely gets recognized for it.  And fianlly the Rangers red alternate hat might be one of my favorite in baseball.

Why you shouldn’t: If the Rangers win a World Series with Mike Napoli on its roster it might transform Naps into an even mightier beast and with how much he feasts on the Red Sox that just isn’t a risk you’d want to take. Also Ian Kinsler is a poor mans Dustin Pedroia who acts like a rich man’s version. Don’t want to see that crooked-nosed, high-socked wearing troll win much of anything.

There is another team in the AL playoff hunt but if you would even consider pulling for the Yankees then you clearly started for the Red Sox post-2004 and need to be dragged into the street and shot. Or at least stop pretending to be a Sox fan.

For my money I throwing it in with the A’s. I like what Baltimore did this season but you know the farther they get the more the Red Sox failures will hurt. The Tigers seem to be in the playoffs every season and won’t have to shock the world again next season to get back. The Rangers have been winning in recent seasons and still have a window open. Oakland just has that perfect storm of humble nobodies who don’t make sense being there and would just be the best story. Plus I have never really stopped loving Josh Reddick.

-Phil

P.S. My predictions for the outcomes of the first round. Rangers over Orioles in the one-game playoff. Then Rangers over New York Yankees in Four. Detroit over Oakland in Three.

Which AL team is going to win it all? Want to tell me how stubbornly stupid and behind in the times I am on the MVP discussion? Drop a line on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or blast off in the comments.

Tagged , , , ,

Voices of the Game

Jack Buck's son and his Great-Great-Great-Grandpa

Since I’ve actually been watching a Yankeeless postseason this year I’ve had to suffer through many more hours of terrible broadcasting on TBS, TNT and Fox. Perhaps it is just nostalgia, but when people think back to famous games of yesteryear there are signature calls we remember and announcer who made them. As corny and goofy as some may have been, Phil Rizzuto and Harry Caray, they provided a personality and signature to the game. Now we are stuck with the bland Joe (not Jack) Buck and the ancient Tim McCarver.

Buck has a terrific voice, but lacks in originality. The most interesting thing about him is his face that kind of resembles the Who’s from Whoville in the live

Joe Buck out Christmas Shopping

action Grinch. McCarver proves night in and night out that he has lost touch with the game. Part of the beauty of sports is couch coaching. First base is open, do you pitch to Pujols? (Well let’s be honest, after last night’s game I don’t care if the bases are full, I’m not pitching to the Machine). Suicide squeeze, the green light on a 3-0 count, sending the runner, are all decisions at home managers scream and sometimes beg and plead with the real skippers to make. Fortunately for the audience we have McCarver to serve as our official prognosticator. McCarver: “They’re going to bunt here.” Buck: “And the pitch… swung on and missed strike one.” Got that one wrong Timmy. The game is changing and it’s time to bring in a color man who understands the modern athletes, managers and strategies.

I’ve never liked McCarver. As a broadcaster, he routinely stumbles over his words and creates awkwardly worded statements. As a commentator, well he kind of gets what’s going on most of the time. I am a big believer of the principle: If you’re going to complain you have to offer a solution. Until this year I couldn’t think of a really good commentator, but now I’ve found him. John Smoltz. The future hall of fame pitcher has served as a member of the TBS broadcasting team the last two seasons. If you’re not sure which one he is that’s because he doesn’t talk too much. Guys like Bobby Valentine and Ron Darling never stop providing their “insights.” When Smoltz talks it is sharp, accurate and concise. He understands what it is to be a pitcher facing today’s big sluggers and what managers try to do to neutralize offensive threats. I think he would make an excellent pitching coach, but for now I hope that Fox steals him from TBS.

Part of the blame falls on the networks. They are looking for middle of the road guys and consistency. The audience likes to feel comfortable and familiar with their announcers, but this breeds a team like Buck and McCarver. They are locked in with Tim probably until he decides to walk away because of his long standing relationship with the public. How can you reign in a guy who you can’t fire? Commentators, like all of us, have big egos and the longer they do their job the more they feel that their opinion is the only one that matters. I think that every five years the color guy should be rotated out to keep it fresh.

Now I love baseball. It truly is America’s past time and while many complain about the speed of the game, I love the drama that it builds. Everyone is in love

Wait, Gruden didn't like something?

with the NFL, but they have some issues in the booth as well. The Monday Night Football team could be the worst assembly of announcers in any of the four major sports. I like Mike Tirico as a play by play guy. He has a good voice and a nice touch, but the other two knuckle heads in there with him… woof. John Gruden sounds like your fat Uncle Billy at Thanksgiving dinner. “I really like that stuffing. I like the way the bird looks this year. I really liked that gravy. I like food a lot.” Like works fine when talking about food, third grade crushes and Facebook, but doesn’t play well in sports analysis. If Gruden doesn’t get back into coaching soon he will become the Dick Vitale of the NFL, only less loveable. Don’t tell me who you like; tell me how my team can win this game.

That is the job of the analyst. Give the viewers insight on how the team will react in situations, why they would do it and what they should do. Don’t talk down to the audience and don’t always praise players. While I don’t particularly like Cris Collinsworth, he is not afraid to criticize players. With Gruden and those of his ilk, the play didn’t work out or the defense did a great job and we really like that D.

A quick note on graphics. Limit them! The most annoying thing about this postseason, aside from the Yanks’ impotent offense, was the K Zone for every pitch. I was so distracted I wasn’t watching to see if the pitcher missed a spot or if the catcher framed a pitch. Instead I found myself looking for a blue dot in a gray box. Baseball has a serious problem with each umpire having their own version of the strike zone. Fans don’t understand it as our society looks to become more uniformed. In reality people treat others differently. You would be more willing to help out family than strangers. If somebody is a whiner it’s nice to see them fail and that’s what we get in baseball. They need to emphasize the human element of the game. Use the K zone on close pitches like they were doing before and other than that point out the relationship between pitcher and catcher. Play up the tension between hitters and an ump with a wide strike zone.

Also have you seen the heat camera on Fox? It shows us where the ball hit the bat based on friction because 17 different slow motion angles can’t capture that well enough. Sports are becoming over analyzed and the fan experience is suffering. We can’t really avoid it because of astronomically high ticket prices, so they have a captive audience upon whom they can show off their latest gadgets and profound knowledge of the game. With technology these days we hardly need the announcers and analysts. Just clarify a couple of confusing plays each game and then take a backseat to the live action, because that is what we tuned in to watch.

-Erik

Do you hate announcers as much as I do? Let me know via our twitter (@seeuinoctober) or leave us a comment.

Tagged , , , , , ,

MLB Playoffs- ALDS Yankees Vs. Tigers Game 5

What a series. Clutch home runs, rain suspended games, 100+ mph fastballs, AJ drama, and now this, a winner-takes-all elimination game in the Bronx. The past two games have been exciting and compelling with game three going to the Tigers at home Monday night. With that win they took the lead in the series and pushed the Yanks to the brink of elimination, but as I pointed out in the preview for that game, the pressure was on Detroit to win. Justin Verlander, who will win the Cy Young and possibly the AL MVP this year, got the start for the Tigers after the aces for both teams were relegated to only one start in the series. Advantage Yankees. All season long Yankee fans thought the weather was screwing them out of off days and now Mother Nature gave us a gift by eliminating one of Verlander’s starts. If the Tigers had lost game three, it would have been devastating. It would mean that their playoff lives depended on winning two straight, including one in the Bronx, and on the arms of Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. (Is it just me or does the Bombers’ rotation look deeper than Detroit’s?)

Verlander had a shaky first inning, giving up two runs, before settling down and looking, well, like an MVP. The breaking ball and change up were unhittable with the Yankee lineup gearing up to try and hit the fastball. The Yanks only managed four hits, but made the most of them scoring four runs off the ace including, a two run sixth inning to tie it up. CC Sabathia looked terrible. There were a couple of good breaking balls for strike three, but he was not getting the calls he is accustomed too and never established a rhythm. Both pitchers were beneficiaries of timely double plays, which prevented a big inning. In the end it would seem that John Smoltz, commentator for TBS and former Cy Young award winning pitcher, had a crystal ball. As the former Minnesota Twin Delmon Young stepped to the plate in the seventh inning against Raphael Soriano. “Better be careful on the first pitch,” cautioned Smoltz. He could barely get the words out before Young hit the game winning shot to right field. It just wasn’t our night. Derek Jeter came to the plate against Jose Valverde in the ninth inning, but struck out leaving two runners on base.

In the history of baseball there are many historic games that are known by one play or one player’s name. Boston has the “B’s” (Buchner, Bucky Dent and Boone), the Royals have the Pine Tar game and game four of this series will go down, at least in the minds of the Yankee fans, as the AJ Burnett game. With the postseason on the line the Yanks went into a pressure packed Comerica Park with the much maligned Burnett on the mound. Nobody really knew which AJ to expect. The optimists were clamoring for the pitcher who gave up two runs in seven innings to the Boston Red Sox in Fenway while the rest of the fans set their eyes on the NFL, NHL or NB… never mind. During the first inning it would appear the latter was correct. Burnett had the bases loaded without giving up a hit. He was erratic in the strike zone and relievers were warming in the bullpen. Then a miracle happened. Granderson started after a ball hit over his head with a couple steps in before quickly turning back, sprinting, leaping and making the game saving catch. The yankee offense went to work as Burnett settled down giving up only one run over 5.2 innings of work. The Tigers weakness was finally exposed in this game as hitters feasted on relievers like Phil Coke, the former Yank and left hander who was inexplicably left in the game to pitch to Yankee right handed hitters.

Now the momentum has swung back to the Bombers. Fresh off the win the Yankees head home on a perfect October night to try and finish off the Tigers. The pitching match up favors the Yanks, at least on paper. It is the same two pitchers who came in “in relief” during game one. Rookie Ivan “Super” Nova takes on Doug Fister “I harldy even know her.” With this being an elimination game it is far from a sure thing. Both teams are desperate. There are questions of whether or not the rookie will feel more pressure in an elimination game and, perhaps more importantly, which lineup will show up. In their two losses the Bombers have scored eight runs combined and in their two victories they have scored 19. The commonality between all four games is getting into the Detroit middle relief. That is where the Yankees have the biggest advantage. I look for the Yankees to move on in the Bronx tonight for a rematch with the Texas Rangers.

-Erik

Tagged , , , , , , ,

MLB Postseason Preview- NL

The Team With the Best Mascot Will Win (Although There's No Correlation)

 

Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) vs. Milwaukee Brewers (96-66)

The last time the Brew Crew won a division title it was in the American League before I was born and the last time the Diamondbacks saw October the were swept in the NLCS at the hands of the red hot Colorado Rockies. This is probably the most intriguing division series because there are two good teams and no clear edge.
 
‘Zona has gotten here largely on the arm of the ex-Yankee Ian Kennedy, who won a league leading 21 games with a sub-three ERA. The starters behind Kennedy did not have nearly as much success. The Diamondbacks have the second worst ERA of any postseason team (3.80) yet the starting staff posted a 3.36 ERA, which is better than the Brewers 3.65. Believe it or not only the Tigers have a worse ERA (4.04). The bright spot outside of Kennedy is JJ Putz the closer who posted 45 saves in 49 chances with a WHIP of 0.91.
 
The Brewers’ staff is relatively aceless, which is a major cause for concern. Yovani Gallardo leads the team in wins (17) and has the lowest ERA of the starting pitchers with 3.52. Neither number is very impressive. Their number two starter hasn’t been named yet but will presumably be Zack Greinke (16-6, 3.83 ERA). Grienke struggled trhough injuries early in the year but came on down the stretch. Shawn Marcum is a solid thir starter posting a 13-7 record and a 3.54 ERA. Both have had fine seasons, but neither has yet to have an opportunity to prove they are the guys to depend on in October when runs are harder to come by. Neither has a career playoff start. Also, in the case of Greinke, there has to be questions about his ability to handle the pressure. It is unfortunate that such a promising talent has been diagnosed with severe anxiety and we have to wonder how he will be able to handle October baseball. Everyone is pulling for the kid in this spot and I believe should be the number two starter so he can get the nod at home.   
 
Offensively the Brew Crew is probably the NL team that is closest to an AL lineup. They have plenty of power in their two MVP candidates Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. Behind them there is Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks with 46 home runs and 112 RBI between them. In short the lineup is stacked with dangerous hitters. For the Dbacks, well, not so much. No one on the team hit .300 nor had 100 RBI. The light hitting boys from the desert are going to have to scratch and claw for every run.
 
The Hinge:
Justin Upton- Diamondbacks Right Fielder
So far on the AL side of things we have given the swing player to pitchers, which makes sense in October baseball. In this case it goes to an offensive player. Upton is the only player on the Diamondbacks with anything close to power/MVP numbers. Upton is still recovering from being hit in the head with a pitch, but will need to put a jolt in the offense to give the pitching a chance to beat the Brewers.
 
The Pick:
Milwaukee’s offense is too good. The Dbacks get the edge in starting pitching and at closer, but I doubt they can completely shut down the Brewers. They will manage enough runs to beat the Diamondbacks because it really doesn’t take much. Brewers sweep the series.

Saint Louis Cardinals (90-72) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (102-60)

The Saint Louis Cardinals lorded over the NL in the early 2000s. Now they face off against the team that has dethroned them as the perennial bullies of the DH-less league.

Philadelphia is a team that had one weakness all season. They didn’t have a right fielder or a right handed bat to make up for the loss of Jayson Werth. Well that got solved to phenomenel results. By making the best trade of the season for Hunter Pence the Phillies sured up the offense and continued to cruise to a 100 win season. Pence hit .324 with the Phillies and matched his home run total of 11 through the first half in only 54 games. This added to an offense that already boasts slugging first basemen Ryan Howard, Five tool second basemen Chase Utley and a host of other dangerous bats.

The Cardinals are not lacking in the offensive category either as Albert Pujols woke up from his early season slumber to find Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday taking on the load. Pujols came back with a vengence ending the season with another 30 home run season, missing 100 RBI’s by one for the first time in his career. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Holliday will not be in the Game One lineup which could have some Red Bird fans nervous. He is on the roster and has been deemed healthy enough to play but losing his bat for one game could be detrimental.

Coming into the season it would seem that the Cardinals rotation could have given the Phillies hand of Aces a run. The Cardinals had two Cy Young candidates in Adam Wainwright (20-11 2.42 ERA in 2010) and Chris Carpenter (16-9 3.22 ERA in 2010) add in the surprise Jaime Garcia (13-8 2.70 ERA in 2010) and the Cardinals staff looked solid, if not second best in the league. The Cardinals staff didn’t end up turning out that way as they lost Wainright for the year and Garcia took a step back (13-7 3.56 ERA in 2011). Carpenter also had a diffucult year getting only 11 wins to nine losses. Kyle Lohse, who had a bounce back year (14-8 3.39 ERA) will get the start in Game One.

Unfortunately the Phillies will trot out Roy Halladay against Lohse who didn’t have a bounce back year. He just had another Doc Halladay season. Doc had a 19-6 record and an ERA under three (2.35) for the fourth season in a row. Unlike many other teams there is virtually no drop off for the Phillies No. 2 starter Cliffe Lee (17-8 2.40 ERA). Then there has to be dropoff? Nope. Then they have Cole Hamels (14-9 2.79 ERA). The Phillies rotation is not going to lose them games in this series.

The Hinge

Phillies Bullpen

Unlike other series this series doesn’t come down to one player per se. The Phillies rotation will not make mistakes and the Cardinals will be hard pressed to get many runs in innings one through seven (or eight or nine with how Halladay and Lee pitch). If the Cardinals rotation can keep games close the Cardinals will have to put some damage in the late innings. If the Phillies bullpen can hold up the Cardinals won’t have much hope.

The Pick

The Phillies have been the best team in baseball all year. They haven’t really been newsworthy because it has just been a ho-hum season of win, win and win some more. The Phillies rotation goes beyond three deep but that’s all you need in a five game series. Those three starters are No. 1’s on most every other team in the majors and will keep the Cardinals bats down for their potent offense to put up runs. The Cardinals scraped into the playoffs and now the Phillies will just have to scrape them off their cleats on the way to the NLCS. Phillies in three.

Tagged , , , , ,