MLB: Predicting the Division Winners and Each Series for the 2011 Playoffs
As September arrives, the MLB postseason is not too far off. Some teams already appear to be close to clinching a playoff berth, while other teams could be contending until the final days of the season. With some clubs still fighting for a spot, here is how I think the MLB regular season standings will look come October, as well as how I believe the playoff series will go for these teams.
American League East
As many predicted, the Boston Red Sox are competing for the crown in the AL East, what many consider to be the toughest division in baseball. What some didn't predict, was the New York Yankees to not only be contending, but leading the division. Though it may be by a slim margin, the Yankees currently hold a .5 game lead over the Red Sox, but the Red Sox have led the division for a majority of the season.
The Yankees and Red Sox have one more series against each other, which could decide who wins the division. Though the Yankees have surpassed expectations, with the surprise MVP candidacy from Curtis Granderson, the Red Sox may be too much to contend with down the line, as Adrian Gonzalez also hangs high in the MVP race. With a breakout season from Jacoby Ellsbury, and the support of Kevin Youkillis, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz, I believe the Red Sox will win the division narrowly.
My Prediction: Boston Red Sox
American League Central
In what may not come as a surprise, the Detroit Tigers currently lead the AL Central. What may be more a surprise, is the early season success of the Cleveland Indians, and the early season struggles of the Minnesota Twins. Justin Verlander is putting together his finest season, and he will likely be earning the Cy Young award, and is thought to be in contention for American League MVP as well. Though the Indians only sit 5.5 games behind Detroit, it will be very hard for them to surpass one of the top teams in baseball, and they will likely stay in second place for the remainder of the season.
My Prediction: Detroit Tigers
American League West
Though Josh Hamilton's post MVP year may be semi-dissapointing, the Texas Rangers post-American League champions year is far from disappointing. Though the Los Angeles Angels have remained in contention for most of the year, it will be very hard for them to dethrone the Rangers. Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana are all putting together strong years, but their 4.5 game deficit behind a team that continues to win will prove to be too much for the Halos.
My Prediction: Texas Rangers
National League East
The Philadelphia Phillies are 88-46, a franchise record for most games over .500 at this point in the season. The acquisition of Hunter Pence only increased the Phillies chances of success, for a team that is considered to be pitching oriented. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and a surprise season from Vance Worley have led the Phillies to the best record in the majors. The Atlanta Braves are much improved, as closer Craig Kimbrel has set the rookie record for saves. The Braves are likely to win the National League Wild Card, but the Phillies appear to have the division won.
My Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
National League Central
In what some expected, the Milwaukee Brewers hold a large lead over the rest of the National League Central division. Prince Fielder continues to put up MVP numbers, and Ryan Braun keeps progressing into one of the elite players in the majors. The St. Louis Cardinals will likely miss the playoffs for the second year in a row, and the Cincinnati Reds have been unable to repeat their success from 2010. The Brewers posses a dominant offense, and a highly capable pitching staff that many believe could compete with the best in the 2011 postseason.
My Prediction: Milwaukee Brewers
National League West
Entering the 2011 season, the San Francisco Giants were on fire after their surprising World Series win against the Texas Rangers. Many doubted that the Giants would be able to keep up with teams like Colorado Rockies and the Los Angeles Dodgers, but none expected the Arizona Diamondbacks to be leading by such a margin at this point in the season. The Giants let their division lead slip away in August, and the way Arizona is playing, a comeback is unlikely.
My Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild Card Teams
With the Red Sox winning the American League East, the winner of the Wild Card will likely be the New York Yankees. The Tampa Bay Rays sit far behind in second place for the Wild Card, and a comeback is unlikely.
My Prediction: New York Yankees
The Atlanta Braves appear to be heading to the postseason again. The next team behind them is loser of the National League West, but like the American League Wild Card, their is a large gap behind the first and second place teams. The Atlanta Braves won't win the National League East, but will make the playoffs via the Wild Card spot.
My Prediction: Atlanta Braves
ALDS Series One
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers
No team would like to face Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, but the Boston Red Sox are heading down that path. Lucky for them, the rest of the Tigers rotation shouldn't be feared, and the Red Sox have a few aces of their own. Josh Beckett has returned to form, and Jon Lester continues to be consistent. Justin Verlander will likely pick up a few wins, but the Red Sox may be the favorites in this series. The Red Sox offense will prove to be too much for Detroit, and the Red Sox will be headed to the American League Championship Series, where they could be facing a familiar foe.
My Prediction: Red Sox in Four Games
ALDS Series Two
New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers
A rematch of the 2010 ALCS, the Yankees will be facing the Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series. This time though, the Rangers are not the inexperienced underdogs. Though they no longer have Cliff Lee, the Rangers continue to improve and build a legacy in Texas. CC Sabathia could win 20 games again this season, and pitch twice in the Yankees three-man rotation. This series should prove to be a competitive, high scoring one, which the Yankees will win barely. The Yankees will redeem themselves against Texas, and find themselves facing their rivals in a heated American League Championship Series.
My Prediction: New York Yankees in Six Games
NLDS Series One
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers
In a series better suited for the NLCS, two of the National Leagues best teams face off. The Phillies will put their best pitchers on the mound, in a rotation that could be historic in this postseason. Though I don't expect Roy Halladay to pitch another no-hitter (you never know though?), I expect him to be pretty dominant, as well as Lee and Hamels. The Phillies could send Vance Worley and Roy Oswalt to the bullpen, which will solidify them as the team to beat. The Brewers offense will give them a run for their money, but an early season favorite will be eliminated in the first round. The Phillies return to the Championship series.
My Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies in Five Games
NLDS Series Two
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Atlanta Braves
A division series between two teams hungry to bring the championship back to their cities. The Diamondbacks haven't tasted success since their dramatic win over the Yankees in the 2001 World Series, and the Braves haven't tasted the same success since their run in the 1990's. Unlike the Diamondbacks though, the Braves are a well rounded team. Arizona's offense has shown potential, but not be able to match up with the deep rotation of the Atlanta Braves.
My Prediction: Atlanta Braves in Four Games
American League Championship Series
Boston Red Sox vs. New York Yankees
For the first time since the historic 2004 ALCS, the Red Sox will be facing the New York Yankees. Both teams have had regular season success, and this series should prove to be a competitive one. The Red Sox won the season series against the Yankees, but both teams have momentum after their Division series wins. The 2011 ALCS should be a great one, that see's big hits from Dustin Pedroia, Mark Texiera, Adrian Gonzalez and of course David Ortiz. Ortiz will put together an impressive series against a team he has handled in the past, and the Red Sox will edge out this nail-biting series.
My Prediction: Red Sox in Seven Games
National League Championship Series
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies
In another Eastern division Championship series, the strong Phillies rotation will face the young rising stars of the Atlanta Braves. Unlike the Braves, the Phillies have the experience factor, making the playoffs each of the last four seasons, while the Braves were eliminated by the Giants in the 2010 playoffs. Like most, the Braves will be unable to hit the Phillies aces, in what should be a less competitive series than the American League Championship Series. The Braves have improved, but not many teams could beat the 2011 Phillies, the Braves are no exception.
My Prediction: Phillies in Four Games
2011 World Series
Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Like most predicted, the Boston Red Sox will face the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2011 World Series. In what should be a classic battle of Offense vs. Defense, both teams will push each other to the limit. The Boston Red Sox, led by Adrian Gonzalez, will face the Phillies, led by Roy Halladay. Expect clutch hits from rising stars like Shane Victorino and Jacoby Ellsbury, as well as continued offense from David Ortiz and Ryan Howard.
In what could be their greatest season in franchise history, the Phillies will win their second title in the last four years. Cole Hamels will win the World Series MVP, repeating his performance from the 2008 Fall Classic. The Red Sox will put up a strong fight, but the pitching of the Phillies will prove to be too much for Boston.
My Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies in Six Games