At long last, the 2011 Major League Baseball postseason is only a few days away.
The dog days of summer are a thing of the past as eight team's will wipe the slate clean and start anew in October.
It's not every year that we enter the final day of the regular season with two playoff spots still up for grabs. In light of the late-season collapses coming out of Boston and Atlanta, as well as the No. 2 seeds in each league still undetermined, I had to break everything down using each possible scenario.
This is an all-inclusive breakdown of every possible first round match up, so whether it's the Cardinals or Braves in the NL, or the Red Sox or Rays in the AL, I've got it covered.
Here is my attempt at "Breaking Down Every Potential Playoff Series."
Season Series: Cards lead 6-3
Phillies: SP - 2.87 ERA (first NL), RP - 3.53 ERA (seventh)
Cards: SP - 3.81 ERA (seventh), RP - 3.77 ERA (12th)
The Cardinals had to fight their way through the Phillies to stay alive in the NL Wild Card race, taking the season series from them rather handily.
The playoffs are a whole new ballgame, though. I don't see Chris Carpenter, Edwin Jackson and Jaime Garcia matching up well with the Phillies' trio in October.
Phillies: 698 R (seventh), 149 HR (eighth), .252 BA (ninth)
Cards: 741 R (first), 159 HR (sixth), .272 BA (first)
The Cards scored the most runs in the National League on the strength of a very potent and very efficient offensive attack. Albert Pujols has been on a tear since the All-Star break, and Lance Berkman has enjoyed a career resurgence this season.
Phillies pitcher's don't give up a lot of hits, so the Cardinals wouldn't be able to base-hit them to death. However, depending on which Phillies offense shows up in the postseason, the Cardinals may not have to score many runs to steal a couple games.
Phillies: Charlie Manuel; 27-19 in five playoff appearances; one World Series championship
Cards: Tony LaRussa; 59-51 in 13 playoff appearance; two World Series championships
Phillies Series X-Factor:
Phillies pitcher's have allowed only 291 hits while runners are in scoring position, third fewest in all of baseball and a key in stopping the Cardinals' attack.
Cards Series X-Factor:
On the flip side, the Cardinals lead all of baseball with a .286 BA with runners in scoring position. They will need to capitalize in these situations to have a chance against the Phillies.
The Cards have been the hottest team in baseball during the month of September, and it wouldn't at all be shocking to see them take down the Phillies, especially seeing as the Cardinals have had their number this season.
In the end, Phillies pitcher's have been consistently dominant this season while Cardinals pitcher's have been consistently inconsistent, to say the least. The Phillies will be able to get the job done when it counts.
Winner: Phillies in four games
Season Series: D-Backs lead 4-3
Brewers: SP - 3.73 ERA (sixth NL), RP - 3.36 ERA (fifth)
D-Backs: SP - 3.83 ERA (ninth), RP - 3.64 ERA (10th)
Again, I can't say enough about how well the Diamondbacks' pitchers have performed this season, but other than Ian Kennedy, none of their starters match up well with the Brewers in the postseason.
The Brewers certainly have a better one-two punch at their back-end with John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, but the Diamondbacks have much more bullpen depth. Five D-Backs relievers currently sit with an ERA of 3.10 or less.
If the two teams get into an early-innings shootout, the advantage moves over to Arizona.
Brewers: 700 R (sixth), 178 HR (second), .261 BA (third)
D-Backs: 717 R (fourth), 169 HR (fourth), .251 BA (10th)
This series will host three of the top four NL MVP candidates in Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and Justin Upton, so it would no doubt be an exciting series.
Upton is the heart and soul of the D-Backs offense, and they'll only go as far as he carries them, so he will have to be on top of his game against a well-rounded Brewers club.
Brewers: Ron Roenicke; first playoff appearance
D-Backs: Kirk Gibson; first playoff appearance
Brewers Series X-Factor:
The Brewers own a .267 BA through the first six innings while the Diamondbacks sit at only .246, so it would behoove them to score plenty of runs early before Arizona's bats heat up.
D-Backs Series X-Factor:
That is especially true seeing as the Diamondbacks lead the NL with a .339 OBP from the seventh inning on, so it may not be wise for the Brewers to enter the late-innings tied or trailing.
Kirk Gibson may win NL Manager of the Year honors, but Ron Roenicke will have bragging rights when the Brewers are playing in the NLCS.
The D-Backs are close behind in many facets of the game and have a chance to make this series interesting, but the Brewers are a better team across the board and tough to beat at home.
Winner: Brewers in four games
Season Series: Tigers lead 4-3
Yankees: SP - 4.03 ERA (sixth AL), RP - 2.99 ERA (first)
Tigers: SP - 4.11 ERA (seventh), RP - 3.93 (11th)
The pitching in this series would be fairly even, with the Tigers having an advantage in the rotation while the Yankees boast the best bullpen in all of baseball.
The Tigers are much more comfortable heading in to the postseason with Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer as their starters than the Yankees are with CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and (fill-in the blank).
Yankees: 855 R (second), 217 HR (first), .264 BA (fifth)
Tigers: 759 R (fourth), 164 HR (seventh), .275 BA (third)
As good as the Tigers' pitching may be, it is very unlikely they'll be able to contain the offensive juggernaut that is the Yankees' lineup.
Verlander is sometimes prone to giving up home runs, and the Yankees hit more of them than anyone. If it turns into a shootout, there will be no way the Tigers offense can keep up with them.
Yankees: Joe Girardi; 16-8 in two playoff appearances; one World Series championship
Tigers: Jim Leyland; 27-22 in five playoff appearances; one World Series championship
Yankees Series X-Factor:
The Yankees hit 55 home runs from the seventh inning on—second in the AL—which should bode well for them against the Tigers' pitching attack.
Tigers Series X-Factor:
Through 70.1 innings with Detroit, Doug Fister is 8-1 with a 1.79 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP. If he can pitch like that against the Yankees, the Tigers will be in business.
The Yankees offensive prowess should more than compensate for their lack of pitching against the Tigers.
The playoffs start on Opening Day in the AL East, so you can bet New York is looking forward to October.
Winner: Yankees in four games
Season Series: Rangers lead 5-4
Rangers: SP - 3.67 ERA (third AL), RP - 4.17 ERA (12th)
Rays: SP - 3.50 ERA (first), RP - 3.82 ERA (eighth)
The Rays easily boast the best three-man rotation in the AL with James Shields, David Price and Jeremy Hellickson. The trio would definitely be a tough obstacle for the Rangers to overcome.
The Rangers have an edge with their revamped bullpen. If they can take a lead into the seventh inning their bullpen should have no problem shutting down a lackluster Rays offense.
Rangers: 838 R (third), 202 HR (second), .282 BA (first)
Rays: 694 R (ninth), 167 HR (sixth), .243 (13th)
There is really no comparison. The Rays breed pitchers better than anyone, though their offense has taken yet another step back this season.
Desmond Jennings has provided a spark to the offense since being called up earlier this summer, yet the Rays don't even come close to matching up with the Rangers powerful attack.
Rangers: Ron Washington; 8-8 in one playoff appearance
Rays: Joe Maddon; 10-11 in two playoff appearances
Rangers Series X-Factor:
The Rangers' 3.22 ERA away from home is the best mark in all of baseball. This will be huge considering they scored nearly 500 of their 838 runs at home this season.
Rays Series X-Factor:
The Rays need B.J. Upton to return to his 2008 postseason form, where he hit seven home runs with 15 RBI during the ALDS and ALCS alone.
The Rangers are too powerful on offense for the Rays to stand in their way of the ALCS.
The Rays scored a lot more runs during their other two playoff years and no longer have the offense to take advantage of the Rangers' pitching.
Winner: Rangers in four games