National League Division Series
When the Dodgers got off to a blazing start earlier this season, I was very skeptical of how good they really were. I didn’t think that their ridiculously good record meant that they were suddenly the favorite to win the pennant, and I didn’t expect their luck to last.
I ended up being right on the latter notion, and I think I’m going to end up being right on the first. One could argue that the Dodgers are the better of these two teams, but the three—and four—man starting pitching rotations used in the playoffs undoubtedly give the Cardinals the edge here. Even with home field advantage, the Dodgers are going to be doomed in this series because of the Cardinals’ highly superior three-man rotation.
Very few teams, if any, would be able to beat St. Louis in a five game series, simply because of their incredible three-man rotation. The Dodgers might get one win out of this series, but I doubt they’ll get more. Cardinals in four.
This series is perhaps the most intriguing of the Division Series matchups, because it pits the past two National League pennant winners against each other, and it also just so happens to be a rematch of a 2007 NLDS matchup.
My gut has been giving me a bad feeling about this series, and I’ve been trying to determine why. The best answer I can come up with is that, as a Phillies fan, I’m afraid that a loss to the Rockies could create a bad bell-curve like trend for the Phillies’ success. Such a curve would start to peak with a loss to the Rockies, leading up to the Phillies’ World Series win, and then begins to plummet with another loss to the Rockies.
Beyond that worry, I can’t think of any other valid reason why the Rockies should be favored in this series. In 2007, I picked the Rockies to beat my Phillies in the NLDS. This time, the Rockies aren’t in the midst of a ridiculous hot streak, and their pitching is a whole lot weaker. The Phillies, on the other hand, have a lot of experience and success under their belt, and have a pitching staff that is a whole lot stronger. Think of it this way—Ublado Jimenez, who was third in the Rockies rotation for the 2007 series, is now the Rockies ace, with Aaron Cook, who didn’t even make it onto the Rockies NLDS rotation that year, is their number two.
The Phillies, meanwhile, will have Cole Hamels in their rotation, while their other two starters from that series—Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer—can’t even make the Phillies five-man rotation these days, due to the Phillies much-improved starting rotation. This change could be dismissed as irrelevant because two years have passed, but to do so would be to ignore a clear change in how these two teams match up.
The Phillies will untie that knot in my stomach, and get their revenge on the Rockies (even though they claim that they aren’t worried about doing so). Phillies in four.
American League Division Series
I hate reverting to simplicity, but when things don’t change, history tends to repeat itself. I see little reason to go with the Angels here after the Red Sox recent dominance over them in the playoffs. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on the American League, but I think it’s pretty clear that the Angels haven’t been getting the playoff tune-up they need from playing in a relatively uncompetitive AL West division, while the Red Sox are used to playing big games by the time they get to October. Red Sox in four.
I think that the fact that I’m not even waiting for the one-game playoff to be completed shows how highly I think of the Yankees this year—or perhaps how little I think of the AL Central. We’ve known since before opening day that the Yankees playoff rotation was going to be a force to be reckoned with. Their pitching, combined with their offense, home-field advantage, and the fatigue of the winner of the one-game playoff will carry the Yankees to an easy victory. Yankees in three.
National League Championship Series
Cardinals vs. Phillies
After we saw the last two NL pennant winners face off in the NLDS, we now see the last two NL World Series champions face off. These two teams create an incredibly interesting matchup in so many ways. We get to see two legends-in-the-making at first base—Ryan Howard and Albert Pujols—face off in the playoffs for the first time, after each just beat out the other once over the past three years to win the NL MVP award.
Both these teams have very strong playoff pitching rotations, which means that the series will likely come down to whether or not each team’s starters bring their A-game, and whether or not the relief pitching for both of these teams comes through in the clutch.
Close games mean close finishes, and that could spell trouble for the Phillies. However, this is the playoffs, and experience is of the utmost importance. As ineffective as the Phillies’ bullpen has been this season, the fact that almost their entire bullpen has a good amount of playoff experience can’t be ignored. That alone could balance out the bullpen issue in this series.
I want to call this one too close to call, but obviously I can’t do that. I don’t always predict that a close matchup like this is going to go seven games, because often times even a close series can be decided in five or six games. However, I honestly think that the Phillies home-field advantage is going to turn the tide in this NCLS, and because of that, I’m actually going to say this one is going seven, with the Phillies winning a second consecutive pennant. Phillies in seven.
American League Championship Series
Red Sox vs. Yankees
I’m going to point out one of my biggest flaws in predicting about baseball’s playoffs—I always pick the Red Sox and Yankees to face off the ALCS, no matter what point it is in the season, so long as it is a legitimate possibility. This year, however, I am very, very confident that it will happen. On the same note, I’ve also picked the Yankees to win the World Series many times, and have been wrong many times—but again, I am confident that this year is different.
The Yankees organization is dying to get back on top, and that includes exacting revenge on the Red Sox for the 2004 ALCS. Poetic justice aside, the Yankees are simply too much of a powerhouse this year for me to pick them to lose against their archrivals.
The first half of these two teams’ season series was undoubtedly dominated by the Sox, while the second half was clearly dominated by the Yankees (which is interestingly enough the opposite trend of the 2004 ALCS). Even though the playoffs are a whole different creature than the regular season, it’s still pretty clear that the Yankees, now back on top in the division, back on top in the rivalry, and back in the ALCS, will have the edge in this series. Yankees in six.
Phillies vs. Yankees
Once again, I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about the Phillies’ chances- and I know exactly why. As I discussed before, the Yankees are determined to get back on top, and who better to do it against than the champions from the year before, the Phillies.
Their loss to the Phillies in a three-game interleague series this year will only further kindle the fire burning in the Yankees to win. Yankee Stadium will be a crazy place when this series starts, and I expect the Phillies to falter facing a crowd like the one that I expect to fill Yankee Stadium for the Fall Classic.
I see the Phillies dropping the first two games of this series, and despite a good effort at home, they won’t be able to recover. Unless the Phillies win all three of their home games in this series, I don’t think they’ll be able to recover from a 2-0 deficit. I always hate to predict against my own teams, but I’m never afraid to do it because I want to be believed when I predict my teams to win. That being said, a repeat doesn’t look likely for the Phillies. Yankees in six.
Predicted World Series Winner: Yankees