October is over six months away. From now until then, all 30 teams in Major League Baseball will play 162 games, seemingly great teams will fall and seemingly bad teams will rise.
A lot can happen in baseball, and a lot will happen in 2012.
In other words, there really is no predicting what will happen this season, and predicting which team are going to come out on top when all is said and done is pretty much impossible.
But I'm going to give it a shot anyway. I've done my homework on all 30 teams (see list of links below), and I've already cemented my picks for which teams will snag division titles and wild-card berths.
Here's how I see the 2012 postseason unfolding, starting with the American League.
AL Wild Card Game: Los Angeles Angels at New York Yankees
I'm banking on the idea that the Yankees will be able to start CC Sabathia in this game. They're going to win enough games this season to avoid having to worry about locking up a wild-card spot at the very end. Joe Girardi will see this game coming and adjust Sabathia's schedule accordingly.
As long as Sabathia starts, the Yankees should win this game. The Angels will be able to counter with one of their own very good starters (Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson), but the Yankees will have the better offense between these two clubs and their home-field advantage will only help matters.
It'll be close, but the Yankees will advance.
AL Division Series: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays
One of the interesting parts of MLB's wild-card expansion is that it will allow two teams from the same division to meet in the Division Series. Before, an ALDS matchup between the Yankees and Rays would not have happened.
In addition, the 2-2-1 format has been brushed aside this season. For 2012 only, the Division Series will take on a 2-3 format, with the lower seed hosting the first two games.
The Yankees will be in extremely good shape if they sweep both home games before heading to Tampa Bay, but they'll be at a disadvantage seeing as how they just used Sabathia in the play-in game. The Rays will have their starting pitching all arranged, giving them the advantage in the first two games and the rest of the series as a whole.
But the Yanks won't go quietly. They'll split the first two games, and then win one more in Tampa. But in the end, their starting pitching won't be good enough to contend with Tampa's starting pitching, and that will be the difference.
Prediction: Rays in five
AL Division Series: Texas Rangers vs. Detroit Tigers
The Tigers will be looking for revenge in this series, as the Rangers denied them a trip to the World Series in the ALCS in 2011.
The Tigers are going to be a stronger team in 2012 than they were in 2011. They have a deep rotation that's extremely heavy at the top with Justin Verlander and Doug Fister, a deep and powerful lineup and a bullpen stocked with quality arms.
The Rangers' bats will be just as dangerous as they were in 2011, but their starting pitching staff is not constructed to win a short series. They'll stand a good chance of winning this series if it turns into a slugfest, but the Tigers have the bats to hang with them if it comes to that.
The other thing that worries me about the Rangers is simple fatigue. This is a team that has played a lot of baseball over the last two seasons. By the time this series rolls around, they could be gassed.
If they are, the Tigers will coast.
Prediction: Tigers in three
AL Championship Series: Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
The Tigers will lose to the first team that has the aces to go toe-to-toe with their own, and who can also neutralize the thunder in the middle of their lineup.
The Rays are perfectly suited to the task.
I'm a big Justin Verlander fan, but David Price is capable of being just as dominant as him, if not more so. James Shields overachieved in 2011, but he's as good as anyone in baseball at keeping the ball down and avoiding the big inning. Jeremy Hellickson is one of the best young starters in the game. Matt Moore has ace-level stuff, and he could be standing on the cusp of a Rookie of the Year award by the time this series rolls along.
The Rays don't have enough offense to make this series a complete romp, but it's a series they'll stand a very good chance of winning if their starting pitching takes care of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. The saying goes that great pitching will always beat great hitting, and this is a series that will prove the point for the umpteenth time.
Prediction: Rays in six
NL Wild Card Game: Milwaukee Brewers at Philadelphia Phillies
I have nothing but love for Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, but I don't trust either one of them going up against Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee or Cole Hamels in a pressure-packed play-in game, much less one on the road.
The Phillies are not going to be a great offensive team in 2012, but they'll be able to ride their starting pitching to the playoffs, and one of their studs will carry them to victory in this game. I'd feel better about Milwaukee's chances if they still had Prince Fielder, but they don't.
NL Division Series: Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants
These two teams met in the National league Championship Series in 2010, which was supposed to be a celebration of how great the Phillies were that year.
As it turned out, they weren't quite great enough to top the Giants' pitching.
That will be the key issue in this series: Will the Halladay-Lee-Hamels trio overcome the Lincecum-Cain-Bumgarner trio?
My answer: no.
The deal-breaker for me is the fact that Lincecum and Cain proved that they are capable of epic postseason dominance with their performances in 2010, and Bumgarner is a pitcher who has Cy Young potential. The three of them have been there and done that together, so I trust them more in the postseason than I do Philly's big three.
Plus, the Giants have a better bullpen than the Phillies, and these two teams are just about even offensively.
This series will go the distance, but the Giants will win it.
Prediction: Giants in five
NL Division Series: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals
Now this would make for a very interesting series.
I have the Nats making the postseason based on their outstanding young starting pitching and the power potential of their lineup. They remind me a lot of the 2011 Diamondbacks, except with a slightly better bullpen.
Against the Cardinals, the issue would be whether the Nats could handle themselves against a team stuffed to the gills with veterans with loads of playoff experience. These two teams could not be more different.
However, this is where I think the Cardinals will really be missing Tony La Russa. His managing wizardry is the key reason the Cardinals won the World Series last year, and Mike Matheny has yet to prove that he's capable of that same wizardry. I don't expect him to be, seeing as how La Russa had decades to build up his baseball wisdom and Matheny is a mere rookie manager.
So in this series, David will upset Goliath.
Prediction: Nationals in four
NL Championship Series: Washington Nationals vs. San Francisco Giants
If the Nats overcome the Cardinals to advance to the NLCS, they'll be primed to hit a wall.
Naturally, the key issue in this series would be whether the Nats would be able to hold their own against the Giants' pitching. The other question would be whether the Nats' young pitching staff would have enough ammo left to match the Giants' pitching staff step for step.
I just can't imagine that happening. The Giants' pitching would easily neutralize the Nats' thunder, and there would simply be too much pressure on Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman to keep the playing field level.
The Giants will take this series in a clean sweep.
Prediction: Giants in four
World Series: San Francisco Giants vs. Tampa Bay Rays
It will all come down to a showdown between two of the best pitching staffs in the majors.
The Giants' collective World Series experience won't be a huge advantage in this series. The Rays made a trip of their own to the World Series just a couple of years ago, and many of the guys who played key parts in that trip are still around.
The Rays team that went the distance in 2008 had a better offense, but this Rays team has much better pitching. Price wasn't an ace back then, and Hellickson and Moore were nowhere in sight. Their presence will come in handy against a team like the Giants.
This series will not result in a clean sweep for either team. It will be a series of pitcher's duels, the likes of which we haven't seen in a World Series in a long time.
A series like that will be a complete tossup. But since Tampa's rotation is just a little bit deeper than San Francisco's, I have to side with the Rays.
Prediction: Rays in seven
Complete MLB Preview Series
National League East
American League East
National League Central
American League Central
National League West
American League West
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