A Look into the Future: The 2009 MLB Playoffs
Here we go. We're more than one-third of the way through the season and it's time to look into the future.
You may be asking: why so early with the predictions? Well, this year is shaping up to be filled with middle-of-the-pack teams.
Seeing as how the largest lead in any division (with the exception of the NL West) is three and a half games, I wanted to shed some light on what we might be able to expect down the stretch run.
I have broken down the final standings for each division and then I forecasted what things are going to look like in October.
(y=division winner/x=wild card)
1. Texas Rangers (94-68)-y
2. Los Angeles Angels (89-73)
3. Seattle Mariners (79-83)
4. Oakland Athletics (77-85)
Behind the bats of Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, and a once again healthy Josh Hamilton, the young Rangers ball club was able to get their first division crown since 1999.
The lack of quality in AL West was an added help to the Rangers. They beat up on the lowly Mariners team during a three-game sweep on the seasons final weekend to hold off a late surge from the Angels.
1. Minnesota Twins (90-72)-y
2. Detroit Tigers (89-73)
3. Chicago White Sox (81-81)
4. Cleveland Indians (67-95)
5. Kansas City Royals (67-95)
Joe Mauer ends the season with an amazing .396 avg., falling just short of joining the .400 club. The Twins take three out of four from the Tigers in the second to last series of the season to win the division by just one game.
The White Sox inept offense proved too hurtful as they could never make up ground on the Twins and Tigers. It also proved to be the reason they could not acquire another starting pitcher and they slipped nine games out of the lead by season's end.
As for the Indians and Royals...well, there's always next year.
1. New York Yankees (97-65)-y
2. Boston Red Sox (95-67)-x
3. Tampa Bay Rays (89-73)
4. Toronto Blue Jays (82-80)
5. Baltimore Orioles (71-91)
2009 saw a return to the old days. The Yankees and Red Sox distanced from the rest of the division and never had to doubt their playoff position.
The Rays pieced together a solid second half behind the arm of David Price. Although they fell short of returning to the playoffs to defend their pennant, the emergence of Price is promising for 2010.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (105-57)-y
2. San Francisco Giants (85-77)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83)
4. San Diego Padres (78-84)
5. Colorado Rockies (65-97)
The Dodgers ran away with the division in record fashion. Chad BIllingsley ends the regular season with a 21-5 record and finishes second to Johan Santana in Cy Young voting.
Manny Ramirez, making his much anticipated return on July 3, hit .330 after the All-Star Break. The major leagues best offense was the main reason the Dodgers tied the franchise record for wins (105), held by the 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (91-71)-y
2. Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)
3. Chicago Cubs (85-77)
4. Cincinnati Reds (83-79)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (76-86)
6. Houston Astros (71-91)
In baseball's closest division race, the Brewers fall just one game short of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals. The Cubs and Reds stayed in contention until the finals 10 days of the season, but the powerful Cards and Brewer lineups wouldn't allow them to inch any closer than four games.
The Cardinals took two out of three from the Brewers on the final weekend of the season to earn their first NL Central title since winning the World Series in 2006.
1. Philadelphia Phillies (100-62)-y
2. Atlanta Braves (91-71)-x
3. New York Mets (85-77)
4. Florida Marlins (79-83)
5. Washington Nationals (44-118)
The World Champion Phillies return to October to defend their crown, while the injury-plagued Mets were unable to mount a run at the division. '09 saw the Atlanta Braves pass them up in the standings, and enter the postseason as the Wild Card team.
Nate McLouth proved to be the key piece to sparking the Braves order. With the protection of Chipper Jones, McLouth hits a scorching .375 after being traded in early June.
Yankees over Twins (3-1)
CC Sabathia is roughed up in game one for six runs in just five innings, but the potent Yankee offense batters a mediocre Ranger bullpen to muster a 10-9 win.
The Twins were able to scrap together a 2-1 win back home in Minnesota, but the Yankees proved to be too powerful to overcome. In the Metrodome's final game, the visiting Yanks celebrated their trip to ALCS on the green turf.
Red Sox over Rangers (3-2)
The series saw swings of momentum, late-inning heroics, and a veteran Red Sox club finally eliminating the Texas Rangers.
In a classic game five battle at Fenway, the Red Sox edge the Rangers in 11 innings to advance. Jonathon Papelbon comes on in the top of the ninth to preserve a 4-4 tie and continues to pitch the 10th and 11th to earn a gutty victory.
Dodgers over Braves (3-0)
The Dodgers slam former team mate Derek Lowe in Game One with a 10-2 win. Joe Torre decides to pitch young Clayton Kershaw in Game Two because of his dominance at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw throws eight shutout innings while fanning 10.
The Braves saw few bright spots as their unexpected regular season run ended with big disappointment in October.
Phillies over Cardinals (3-0)
Another uneventful NL series sees the Phillies slug their way into the NLCS. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, and Chase Utley combine for 10 home runs en route to the three-game sweep.
The Cardinals pitching staff didn't have an answer for the trio and couldn't keep their offense in games.
American League Championship Series
Yankees over Red Sox, 4-3
The rivalry is reborn in 2009.
Under the bright (and expensive) lights of the new Yankee Stadium, the series goes the distance.
CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett face off in a star-studded Game Seven. Sabathia rebounds from what has been a shaky postseason thus far to beat the BoSox in the clincher.
The big surprise? A-rod overcomes his Postseason woes and goes 10-21 with three home runs in the series. The homer-friendly Yankee Stadium was the deciding factor in Game Seven when the Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira hit back-to-back first inning home runs off of Beckett.
National League Championship Series
Dodgers over Phillies, 4-2
Despite almost stealing a game one victory at Dodger Stadium, Cole Hamels sees a 5-3 lead disappear in the bottom of the ninth.
Brad Lidge has flashbacks to 2006 when Manny Ramirez launches an Albert Pujols-esque bomb that sails over the grandstand in resurgent Mannywood and gives the Dodgers the win.
It was an uphill battle for the Phillies from there. As the leagues best team on the road, the defending Champs steal Game Two in LA, but proceed to drop games three and four back in Philly. This was the story of their season: uncanny success on the road, bizarre failure at home.
Game Six is a snoozer, except for the performance of Huroki Kuroda. He shuts out the Phillies through eight innings, turning the ball over to Jonathan Broxton with a 3-0 lead. Broxton promptly fans three in the top of the ninth and the Dodgers head back to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
Dodgers over Yankees, 4-2
Summoning the spirits on 1955 Brooklyn Dodger "Bums", the Los Angeles Dodgers win their first title in 21 years over their long-time franchise foe.
Not even a ceremonial first pitch from Don Larsen was enough to break the stride of an excellent Dodger team. Riding the arms of Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw, and Huroki Kuroda, the Dodgers pitching staff proves too much for the Yankee sluggers.
The big arm turned out to be closer Jonathon Broxton, who earns a save in games one, two, and four. He allows zero earned runs.
As for the Yankee pitchers, solid starts from CC Sabathia, Chein Ming-Wang, and Joba Chamberlain go to waste when the bullpen surrenders two eighth inning leads. The first comes in a Game Two four-run rally that is capped-off by a Matt Kemp game-winning double.
The second occurs when the Dodgers breakout for three runs in Game Six to clinch the series.
Alex Rodriguez slows down after a torrid ALCS performance, going just 2-16 in the World Series.