American League Division Series: Boston defeats Detroit, New York defeats Texas
National League Division Series: Philadelphia defeats St. Louis, San Francisco defeats Atlanta
American League Championship Series: Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
The Yankees meet Boston to renew their bad playoff blood. The Yankees will forever taste the sourness left in their mouths from the 2004 collapse against Boston that enabled the Red Sox to win their first World Series in 300 years.
By mid-October, both lineups will be mashing the ball and won't produce any advantage. The mound is where this battle will be won.
The patchwork Yankee rotation has been surprising, led by the resurrections of Freddy Garcia (seven wins, 3.13 ERA) and Bartolo Colon (six wins, 3.24 ERA). C.C. Sabathia has been brilliant, especially of late and is capable of anchoring this group deep into the playoffs, but he'll help.
The keys will A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, two guys that can hardly be trusted with a big game start. Those guys will probably get one start per series, and what they do with that one start could decide this series.
Boston's rotation hardly looks any better right now, and has been getting hammered by injury all season. Jon Lester has made a trip to the DL already, and the same goes for Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, who is currently stuck there.
Daisuke Matsuzaka is out for the year, and you never know which way Tim Wakefield's knuckleball will break, metaphorically speaking.
The Boston bullpen has been shaky as well, so they'll depend on the starters even more heavily. What was supposed to be the team's strength heading into the season has become its greatest point of anxiety.
Tito Francona's offense must keep its offensive pace in order to compensate for the pitching deficiencies as they currently are.
This series could be a barnburner with a lot of early exits for starters. In the end, I think the Red Sox are better built and have more depth for the October run.
If Buchholz comes back and pitches well, they have the three-headed starter combo that every championship contender needs. The Yankees don't really have that.
Boston defeats New York in seven games
National League Championship Series: Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants
This matchup favors Philly on the surface, but I don't think the advantages are so clear-cut. The Giants approach or surpass the Phillies in most prominent pitching categories and could certainly rival their best three-man rotation in a best-of-seven series.
Lincecum-Cain-Vogelsong/Bumgarner is just a notch below Halladay-Lee-Hamels right now, and the latter trio has been virtually unhittable.
This series comes down to the offenses. The Giants are a rather light-hitting bunch, so don't expect any scoring outbursts from them. The Phillies have a powerful lineup but, as stated before, are prone to the prolonged team slump.
Plus, they're hitting splits for night games are shockingly bad in comparison to their day game offense. If the Giant starters could induce one of those dizzying dry spells for Rollins, Victorino, Utley and Howard, the Giants might be able to take them.
They did it in the 2010 NLCS, why couldn't they do it again in 2011?
Philadelphia defeats San Francisco in six games.
World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies
This is the matchup of the two best, most complete, teams in baseball. Both reloaded with offseason acquisitions after dissatisfying finishes last season.
For Boston, a pair of All-Stars, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford came in to bolster an already-loaded lineup. For Philadelphia, it was the return of Cliff Lee to a pitching rotation that boasts an embarrassment of riches.
Both have definite kinks they are working out, Philly's hitting consistency and health issues and Boston's shallow rotation. Despite noticeable shortcomings, both teams are pacing their respective leagues and haven't visibly broken a sweat in so doing.
Barring a hot October underdog meddling in their plans, these should be the teams that meet in the Fall Classic.
This is the best pitching staff (Philly) pitted against the best lineup (Boston). Whichever one is better will win, I think it's that simple. You couldn't ask for a better matchup on the game's biggest stage.
I like the Phillies' pitching to carry them to their second championship in four years. There is still a lot of season left, but if Halladay, Lee and Hamels are pitching like this in the playoffs, it's lights out for everybody else.
They're simply too strong to be beaten four out of seven when those three start six of the games. Great pitching always beats great hitting, and while that hasn't always rang true, it should in the 2011 World Series.
Philadelphia defeats Boston in six games.