Full MLB Playoff Predictions from Wild Card Through World Series

Doug MeadCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2012

Full MLB Playoff Predictions from Wild Card Through World Series

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    With one day left in the 2012 MLB regular season, the National League is now completely set as far as postseason contestants and Wild Card match-ups.

    The American League, however, is far from set.

    The Baltimore Orioles, already locked into a postseason berth, kept their hopes alive for the AL East Division title with a thrilling 1-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night. Miguel Gonzalez combined with three relievers on a two-hit shutout to fight on for another day.

    An Orioles win and Yankees loss on Wednesday will force a one-game playoff on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, in the AL West, the Oakland A's continued their magical season by defeating the Texas Rangers for the second consecutive night, pulling the two teams into a tie atop the standings heading into Wednesday's final game.

    For now, the seedings in the American League won't be known until Wednesday night. The Detroit Tigers have the No. 3 seed, and that's the only seeding set in stone.

    Since we just love to make predictions here at Bleacher Report, we will attempt to make full playoff predictions for both leagues despite not knowing the outcome of games played on Wednesday.

    Hey, why not. That's what predictions are for, right?

American League Wild Card Round

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    Matchup: Texas Rangers vs. Baltimore Orioles

    I know, I'm being very bold here. The A's have hot young starter A.J. Griffin going against Ryan Dempster of the Rangers on Wednesday. It's my belief that Griffin continues his torrid pace and lifts the A's to the AL West Division title.

    The Yankees have Hiroki Kuroda starting against the Red Sox on Wednesday, with Chris Tillman starting for the Orioles against the Rays. I like the Rays' chances to come back strong offensively after a woeful performance on Tuesday night, and I like the Yankees to dice up Dice-K Matsuzaka on Wednesday as well.

    That pits the Orioles against the Rangers at Rangers Ballpark on Friday. The Rangers could go with Yu Darvish, who will be pitching on regular rest. The Orioles could go with Joe Saunders, also pitching on regular rest.

    Darvish is 10-2 with a 3.88 ERA at home this season, and has been terrific at Rangers Ballpark in his last three starts, posting a 1.78 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.

    Saunders, on the other hand, has been awful at Rangers Ballpark throughout his career, posting an 0-6 record and 9.38 ERA in six starts.

    Winner: Texas Rangers

National League Wild Card Round

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    Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

    This is going to be a fun game to watch.

    The Braves will start Kris Medlen, whom the Braves have backed up with 23 consecutive wins dating back to May 29, 2010. The Cardinals will counter with Kyle Lohse, not too shabby himself with a 16-3 record and 2.86 ERA in 33 starts.

    Lohse has fared well at Turner Field during his career—a 2-0 record and 3.52 ERA in four starts. Medlen this season is 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA as a starter at home.

    Winner: Atlanta Braves. I like Medlen at home, and the Braves will be looking to extend the career of Chipper Jones for just a few more games.

American League Divison Series: Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees

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    In a rematch of the 2010 ALCS, the Texas Rangers take on the New York Yankees, with the first two games of the series at Rangers Ballpark.

    Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have his rotation set, with CC Sabathia fresh to start Game 1 on five days' rest, followed by Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda. 

    Manager Ron Washington could counter with 18-game Matt Harrison who would be pitching on normal rest, with Ryan Dempster ready to go in Game 2 on Monday, Oct. 8. Yu Darvish would be fresh for Game 3 as well.

    The last time these two teams faced each other in meaningful baseball, Rangers center fielder Josh Hamilton was a beast, hitting .350 with four HR and seven RBI.

    Nelson Cruz also hit .350 in the 2010 ALCS as well. Cruz' strength in the postseason has been in ALCS matchups—the Rangers need his postseason heroics in the ALDS as well.

    For the Yankees, second baseman Robinson Cano has been hot over the last two years in the postseason, hitting .333 with six homers and 15 RBI in 14 games. Curtis Granderson has stepped up as well, hitting .313 with two homers and nine RBI in the past two postseasons.

    Winner: New York Yankees in four games. I like the Yankees' rotation, and the lineup with Mark Teixeira back and healthy gives manager Joe Girardi more options as well.

American League Divison Series: Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics

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    The Detroit Tigers and Oakland Athletics last matched up in the postseason in the 2006 ALCS, with the Tigers sweeping the A's to capture the AL pennant.

    This season, the Tigers bested the A's in four of seven games, splitting a four-game set at O.co Coliseum and two of three at Comerica Park.

    The A's are riding the hot hand into the playoffs, having won eight of their last nine games (assuming, of course, a win in Texas on Wednesday).

    Winner: Detroit Tigers in four games. The bats of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder will be difference makers. The pair went 8-for-10 on Monday when it most mattered to clinch the AL Central title. With the pressure on in the postseason, they'll rise to the challenge once again.

National League Division Series: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals

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    The Washington Nationals will be the No. 2 seed in the National League, taking on the No. 3-seeded San Francisco Giants.

    The Nationals took five of six games from the Giants this season, including two of three at AT&T Park in mid-August.

    Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann—the Nats' top two starters in the postseason rotation—both fared well at AT&T Park. Gonzalez won his only start, giving up two runs in 6.2 innings, while Zimmerman took a hard-luck loss, giving up just two runs in 5.2 innings.

    The Giants will counter with Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner at home. Cain has been brilliant at home, posting an 8-3 record and 2.03 ERA. Bumgarner likes home cooking as well—a 10-3 record and 2.38 ERA. The Giants will have to take advantage of fairly big home/road splits for both pitchers, however.

    Winner: Washington Nationals in three/four games. The Nationals simply pitch better on the road, almost a full run better than the Giants (3.37/4.29). If the Nationals can get off to a fast start on the road, this could be a sweep.

Natonal League Division Series: Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds

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    Unfortunately for the Atlanta Braves, they'll be behind the 8-ball right away, unable to use Kris Medlen until Game 3. They'll need to rely on Tim Hudson and Mike Minor to get the ball rolling for the Braves at Turner Field starting on Sunday.

    The Reds will counter with Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos, with Homer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo both pitching well of late.

    Winner: Cincinnati Reds in four games. Cueto has become a dominant ace and Latos put together a superb second half with a 6-2 record and 2.89 ERA.

    With Aroldis Chapman, Sean Marshall, Jose Arredondo and Jonathan Broxton in the bullpen, I can't see the Braves getting past the NLDS for the first time since 2001—that will have to wait for another year.

American League Championship Series: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

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    In a rematch of last year's ALDS, the Detroit Tigers take on the New York Yankees, with the Yankees looking for revenge.

    The Yankees will have the advantage as the higher seed. They also had the advantage during the regular season, taking six of 10 games from the Tigers.

    I also like the match-ups for the Tigers. Fielder hit .333 with three homers and seven RBI against the Yankees, and Miguel Cabrera hit .308 with five homers and 11 RBI as well.

    The wild card in this series could be leadoff hitter Austin Jackson. Jackson came into his own this year, hitting .298 with 16 HR, 65 RBI, and has been a general pest at the top of the order. If Jackson can do his job in setting the table, the Tigers could be back to the World Series for the time in six seasons.

    The Yankees will need to be patient at the plate. They drew the second-most walks in the American League this year and are one of the best teams at running up pitch counts.

    Staying patient against Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Doug Fister will allow the Yankees to get to the bullpen of the Tigers, who sport the third-worst ERA in the American League.

    Winner: New York Yankees in six games. I like the Yankees' chances against the Tigers' pitching staff, especially if they're successful in getting into the Tigers' bullpen early.

National League Championship Series: Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals

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    Have you ever had one of those premonitions where you said to yourself, "Yeah, this is their year."

    That's pretty much the way I feel about the Washington Nationals. And I have for several months now.

    Not too many teams can lose a talent like Stephen Strasburg and not miss a beat. Not too many teams could lose talents like Michael Morse, Jayson Werth, Wilson Ramos and Ian Desmond for significant periods of time and not miss a beat, either.

    Yet here they are, on the brink of bringing a pennant to the nation's capital for the first time since 1933.

    The Reds have been special as well, and they certainly endured their own spate of injuries, most notably to Scott Rolen and star first baseman Joey Votto.

    The past two seasons have seen two very special teams from the National League go on to capture baseball's biggest prize—the San Francisco Giants in 2010 and the St. Louis Cardinals last year.

    I believe the Nationals are that team this year. Is it scientific? Of course not, but after seeing what the Cardinals did last year, you have to believe in destiny just a little bit.

    Winner: Washington Nationals in six games.

World Series: Washington Nationals vs. New York Yankees

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    A World Series in the nation's capital—gotta love it.

    The Washington Nationals will enjoy home-field advantage against the New York Yankees. However, the Nats don't mind playing away from home, either. They have the best road record in baseball at 48-33.

    This has the makings of an epic match-up, starting with the two Game 1 starters, CC Sabathia and Gio Gonzalez. Two left-handers, two 20-game winners (one present, one former) going head-to-head.

    You have the storyline of the new kid on the block—Bryce Harper—against a three-time MVP winner and aging veteran Alex Rodriguez. You have the storyline of the ageless shortstop, Derek Jeter, hoping to lift his team to a sixth World Series title.

    You have 69-year-old manager Davey Johnson looking to win another World Series 26 years after his first one.

    Storylines will not be hard to find in this match-up at all.

    Winner: Washington Nationals in seven games. Nationals pitchers will have all they can handle against the patient and potent Yankees lineup. But I still believe that good pitching trumps good hitting, and the Nationals can do it from either the rotation or their stellar bullpen.

     

    Doug Mead is a featured columnist with Bleacher Report. His work has been featured on the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, CBS Sports, the Los Angeles Times and the Houston Chronicle.