Replaying the 2012 MLB Playoffs with Current Rosters Entering Spring Training
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Would the San Francisco Giants still have won the 2012 World Series if they had the roster they’re about to bring into spring training instead of the one they brought into the postseason?
Many playoff teams from last season have made strides to improve with the hopes of doing what the Giants were able to do: win the World Series. Plenty of impact free agents have signed with playoff-caliber clubs, and many other teams have made top-notch trades to try to get better.
So what if all the 2012 playoff teams had their current rosters last postseason? Would another team be crowned champions, or would the Giants still come out on top?
Let’s take a look at what could’ve happened under this scenario.
American League Wild Card Game
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Actual Result: Baltimore Orioles over Texas Rangers
The Baltimore Orioles came into the first ever American League Wild Card Game on fire, while the Texas Rangers slumped their way into the postseason.
Joe Saunders pitched very well for Baltimore, as the Orioles defeated Texas 5-1 and headed to the ALDS to face the New York Yankees.
Baltimore will enter spring training with close to the same team it put on the field during the one-game playoff.
Texas, on the other hand, had a terrible offseason. The Rangers weren’t able to bring back Josh Hamilton, and they also lost Ryan Dempster, Michael Young and Mike Napoli, among others.
Texas would probably start Yu Darvish again, while Baltimore could go with Wei-Yin Chen or Jason Hammel since Saunders signed with the Seattle Mariners this offseason. Baltimore would also get the pleasure of featuring Nick Markakis in its lineup, something the Orioles couldn’t do at the time since he was injured.
With both teams' current rosters, I still don’t see a way where Texas comes out on top. Baltimore was too hot to handle at the time, and nothing was going to stop the Orioles.
With a worse Rangers club and a similar Orioles squad, I would still expect Baltimore to win the matchup.
Current Result: Baltimore Orioles over Texas Rangers
National League Wild Card Game
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Actual Result: St. Louis Cardinals over Atlanta Braves
If a ball is hit to short left field, does the infield fly rule still apply?
It certainly did in the inaugural National League Wild Card Game between the Atlanta Braves and St. Louis Cardinals last year.
Luckily for the Cardinals, they still won to defeat the Braves and advance to play the Washington Nationals. Unfortunately, it was the final time Chipper Jones would play, with the veteran third baseman retiring at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
Kyle Lohse earned the victory for St. Louis, but he remains a free agent on the open market. With Chris Carpenter out indefinitely with arm numbness, Adam Wainwright would probably make the start in a rematch. Kris Medlen could get the call again for the Braves, or Atlanta could decide to go with Tim Hudson.
The Cardinals would enter a rematch with their current roster very similar in terms of offense. Rafael Furcal would likely play over Pete Kozma if healthy enough, and outside of that, the lineup would remain the same as the one Mike Matheny used in early October.
Atlanta, on the other hand, has a much-improved lineup that now features B.J. and Justin Upton. The offense is much more potent even if Brian McCann isn’t ready to start the season, though David Ross, who is now with the Boston Red Sox, started at catcher that night anyways.
This call is relatively easy. The Braves should overpower the Cardinals with their deep pitching and dangerous offense. St. Louis goes home, while Atlanta moves on.
Current Result: Atlanta Braves over St. Louis Cardinals
American League Division Series
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Actual Result: Detroit Tigers over Oakland Athletics
Was there anything more awesome than watching the Oakland A’s down the stretch just winning game after game in what always seemed to be dramatic fashion?
That, for one, is up for debate.
But in that same vein, how can you not mention the season put together by Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers? He won the first Triple Crown in basically forever and would later be awarded the American League MVP.
At the time, this series could have gone either way, and it basically did.
The Tigers and A’s were tied through the first four games, and it all came down to a decisive Game 5 in Oakland, where Justin Verlander reminded everyone why he is the best pitcher on the planet. Detroit would advance to the ALCS with a 6-0 victory over Oakland to close out the best-of-five series.
Oakland has improved its left side of the infield as well as its outfield this offseason, but for the most part, the overall team remains the same. Detroit added Torii Hunter via free agency, and Victor Martinez is coming into spring training healthy, giving the Tigers two fresh bats in the middle of their lineup.
That being said, I think Detroit still wins this series. Oakland has a good team, but there aren’t many teams in the American League that can compete with the Tigers. Justin Verlander is much too overpowering, and Detroit’s offense is nearly second to none.
The Tigers would win this series in no more than four games.
Current Result: Detroit Tigers over Oakland Athletics
American League Division Series
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Actual Result: New York Yankees over Baltimore Orioles
The New York Yankees are always dangerous in the postseason, and it was difficult to think the Baltimore Orioles, who had been so bad for so long, could potentially knock them out in the ALDS.
But the Orioles came ready to play and did not just lay down while the Yankees took advantage of them. After dropping Game 1 of the best-of-five series, Baltimore bounced back to take the second game.
Two games later and the series was once again tied, this time at 2-2.
Now, no matter how well a team has been playing and how much will there is to win, not many teams can beat CC Sabathia on the big stage. Sabathia tossed a complete game four-hitter as the Yankees eliminated the Orioles with a 3-1 victory in Game 5, advancing to face the Detroit Tigers in the next round.
Going into a fresh best-of-five series, it is tough to imagine the Yankees losing.
Sure, they have had their issues retaining players this offseason but still have one of the best overall clubs in the American League. Alex Rodriguez wouldn’t be able to play, but he was pretty much useless anyways. Kevin Youkilis could provide some offense, and Mariano Rivera would take over for Rafael Soriano.
Baltimore wouldn’t be able to use Joe Saunders since he is gone but would benefit from having Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis in the lineup.
Even still, though, it would be mighty difficult to win three games against the Bronx Bombers. Once again, the Yankees move on.
Current Result: New York Yankees over Baltimore Orioles
National League Division Series
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Actual Result: San Francisco Giants over Cincinnati Reds
After winning the National League Central, the Cincinnati Reds were ready to win some more games in the postseason. They would have to get through the National League West champion San Francisco Giants to advance, though, a tough task for any team the last few years.
The Reds came out firing, winning the first two games of the best-of-five series over the Giants. But then the Giants made their mark, winning the next two to even the series at two apiece and force a decisive Game 5.
San Francisco kept its foot on the pedal and cruised to a 6-4 victory to finish a great comeback.
If the Reds and Giants were to play again with their current rosters, the series would likely again go to the maximum five games. Both teams have top-of-the-line pitching staffs with great offenses as well.
San Francisco enters the 2013 season with nearly the exact roster it had during the World Series. The Reds, though, made some changes this offseason, adding to the roster via free agency and trades
Cincinnati now features former Cleveland Indian Shin-Soo Choo in its outfield and atop the projected lineup. Choo may only be one player, but he is still an upgrade over Drew Stubbs, even if Choo can’t play center field as well.
The Reds, however, will still have a tough time beating the beast that is San Francisco’s pitching staff. Barry Zito was in rare form, but so was Tim Lincecum.
Pitching wins games and for this series, the Giants have the better pitching. The Giants advance to the NLCS after another Game 5 victory.
Current Result: San Francisco Giants over Cincinnati Reds
National League Division Series
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Actual Result: St. Louis Cardinals over Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals put together an extremely impressive regular season and, entering their first postseason under that name, were looking to do some additional damage. The St. Louis Cardinals, coming off a close-call victory in the NL Wild Card Game, were looking to upend the NL East champs.
After Washington took the series opener, St. Louis won the next two games, pushing the Nationals to the brink of elimination. Washington responded, however, winning Game 4 and held a late lead in Game 5—so late that thousands of Cardinals fans must have turned the TV off.
Nevertheless, St. Louis would battle all the way back to tie and eventually take the lead against a shocked Nationals team. The Cardinals went on to defeat the Nationals 9-7, advancing to the NLCS to take on the San Francisco Giants.
But in this scenario, I have the Atlanta Braves taking on Washington after defeating St. Louis in the Wild Card Game. The new matchup now features two NL East powerhouses that are sure to excite all season long.
Both teams have great overall squads and a best-of-five series would certainly go the distance, but I believe Washington has the edge. Stephen Strasburg would be able to pitch, since there won’t be an innings limit attached to him, which is a big advantage in itself.
Without Strasburg, Washington should still be able to take three-of-five from Atlanta, but with him starting two games, things become much easier for the Nationals.
This time around, Washington heads to the NLCS.
Current Result: Washington Nationals over Atlanta Braves
American League Championship Series
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Actual Result: Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees
With both the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees coming off big wins in their respective ALDS matchups, it seemed that the ALCS would be highly competitive and come down to either a Game 6 or Game 7.
That wasn’t close to being the case. Detroit swept the Yankees in four games, advancing to the World Series with ease. The age of the Yankees caught up with them, as they couldn’t muster even one victory after escaping the Baltimore Orioles a round earlier.
Looking at a rematch between these two teams with their current rosters, the edge is still clearly with the Tigers.
The Tigers are much better with Torii Hunter in the lineup and Victor Martinez healthy, and the Yankees pitching staff would struggle against the likes of Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
There is no way to avoid those five hitters in the heart of Detroit’s lineup.
The Yankees will have Derek Jeter back for a full season after breaking his ankle mid-series against the Tigers. He should provide a boost to the lineup if he is actually healthy, but in general, the Yankees offense isn’t as threatening as it used to be.
The Tigers pitching staff shouldn’t have many issues sitting down New York's batters, especially the lower half of the order.
The Tigers beat the Yankees without breaking a sweat last postseason, and I believe there would be a similar result this time around. Detroit should win the series in a maximum of five games unless something goes seriously wrong.
Detroit, again, advances to the World Series.
Current Result: Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees
National League Championship Series
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Actual Result: San Francisco Giants over St. Louis Cardinals
Heading into the NLCS, the ultimate victor appeared to be a toss-up. The San Francisco Giants had played well in the NLDS, but so had the St. Louis Cardinals. Relatively evenly matched, the NLCS was a series that surely wouldn’t disappoint.
And it didn’t.
After taking three of the opening four games of the NLCS, the Cardinals went cold, and the Giants took advantage. San Francisco won Game 5 and Game 6 to even the series at 3-3.
Riding a two-game win streak, the Giants propelled themselves to a 5-0 Game 7 victory to advance to the World Series—another well-played, hard-fought series win by San Francisco.
In my scenario, however, the Cardinals lose the NL Wild Card Game and don’t even play in the NLDS or the NLCS. Instead, I have the Giants matched up against the Washington Nationals, who were knocked out in the NLDS of the real postseason.
Both the Nationals and Giants are built around pitching. The starting rotations and bullpens of each team are dominant and tough to score against.
Going along with that point, both offenses are also quite potent. Without a doubt in my mind, these are the top two teams in the National League heading into 2013.
But given a best-of-seven series, someone has to come out on top. And that team, I believe, would be the Nationals.
Washington’s offense is a little better and certainly more versatile than San Francisco's. The NLCS would most likely go six or seven games, but I still think Washington overcomes the true World Champions.
Current Result: Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants
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Actual Result: San Francisco Giants over Detroit Tigers
Both the San Francisco Giants and Detroit Tigers were worthy of winning the 2012 World Series in my book. But I did think it would be a little more competitive than it turned out to be.
The Tigers just didn’t look like themselves, and the Giants looked better than ever. Detroit dropped the first two games of the best-of-seven series and headed home looking to bounce back immediately.
That, however, didn’t happen. San Francisco took the next two games of the World Series to sweep the Tigers and win the World Series.
While looking at the current rosters of each playoff team, I still think the Tigers would make it to the World Series.
Does that mean they will in 2013? I really have no idea. A pitch in spring training hasn’t even been thrown yet.
But I don’t think San Francisco will be there. Instead, the Washington Nationals will represent the National League.
Washington versus Detroit would be one of best fall classics we have see in quite some time. Just think of the matchups in this series.
How about a Game 1 in which Stephen Strasburg faces off against Justin Verlander? Would that not be awesome to see?
Back to breaking down the series. Both teams feature stellar pitching and stellar hitting. Home-field advantage could easily play a big role in this World Series, which would mean that Washington has an advantage.
Even though I do believe the Nationals would defeat the Tigers in a seven-game series, I don’t think it would necessarily have to go seven games.
That is how good the Nationals are.
Current Result: Washington Nationals over Detroit Tigers