The San Francisco Giants celebrated their World Series victory with president Barack Obama at the White House in July. No one expected that before the 2010 playoffs.
The 2011 MLB Postseason is nearly here. Get ready. October always brings excitement. It brings unexpected twists and turns. October is where champions are made. October separates the men from the boys. It's go time.
In 2010, no one expected that the World Series would be a battle between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants. It was supposed to be the New York Yankees vs. the Philadelphia Phillies (much like the predictions for the 2011 World Series).
But the unexpected will happen again. That is one thing that is for sure. With that in mind, here are five bold predictions for the 2011 MLB playoffs:
This was the team many projected as the 2011 World Series champions during spring training. This was the team that had it all: A talented offense, loaded pitching staff, and a bullpen that had been battle-tested.
Boston has owned the wild card position for most of the season and looked ready to live up to the hype. But that was before September.
In September, Boston has won only five games out of 21. Its No. 1 and No. 2 starters, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, have struggled this month. Lester boasts a 1.478 WHIP. Beckett has a 4.24 ERA.
With those two struggles, the latter part of the rotation has never been impressive in 2011. The Red Sox will be hard-pressed to make it to the postseason with Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on their tails.
Yes, the New York Yankees own the best record in the American League. Yes, the New York Yankees own arguably baseball’s best offense (214 home runs leads MLB, 810 RBI is second in MLB, .447 team slugging percentage is third, .265 team batting average is sixth in MLB).
But the pitching staff isn’t what it needs to be to make a long postseason run. CC Sabathia (19-8, 230 strikeouts, 1.23 WHIP, and 3.00 ERA) is an extremely talented pitcher. He is an ace who can lead a team to a World Series. But his support staff isn’t strong.
The Yankees have relied on players who are beyond their prime (Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon) and continue to throw A.J. Burnett out there despite his struggles throughout the 2011 season.
The offense is there to do damage but the pitching staff will allow too much damage—especially if it has to go against the Texas Rangers who also boast one of MLB’s best offenses.
Not many predicted the Texas Rangers would represent the American League in the World Series in 2010. Not many people expect the Detroit Tigers to represent the AL in 2011. But it will happen.
Justin Verlander is MLB’s best pitcher in 2011 (24-5, 2.29 ERA, .91 WHIP, 244 strikeouts in 244 innings pitched). He can anchor a pitching staff as the ace and be counted on for two wins in every series.
There are questions about the No. 2 pitcher, but Max Scherzer can serve as a good No. 2. His season numbers aren’t impressive (4.37 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 167 strikeouts and 14-9 record in 189.1 innings pitched). But over four September starts Scherzer posts a 3.38 ERA, 1.125 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched. He has saved his best for last.
The offense is anchored by first baseman Miguel Cabrera who leads the team in batting average (.336), home runs (27), RBI (100), on base percentage (.443) and hits (185). He is one of the best hitters in MLB and has been since 2004.
The bright lights don't phase Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. At age 20 he helped the Florida Marlins knockoff the New York Yankees 4-2 for the 2003 World Series crown.
Cabrera has been a MLB star ever since then. He's never hit less than 26 home runs, 103 RBI, a .512 slugging percentage, or beneath a .349 on base percentage in seven full MLB seasons (excluding 2011).
Cabrera struggled in that first World Series appearance going 4-for-24 (.167 batting average) with one home run, three RBI, a .200 on base percentage and .292 slugging percentage).
He's now a maturer 28-year-old, although there were concerns over his battle with alcoholism. He wants to show the world that all of that is behind him and that he is truly one of the best hitters in baseball.
The Detroit offense has talent around him with catcher Victor Martinez (.322 batting average, 11 home runs, 97 RBI, .374 on base percentage and .455 slugging percentage), shortstop Jhonny Peralta (.297 batting average, 19 home runs, 81 RBI, .345 on base percentage and .469 slugging percentage) and catcher Alex Avila (.300 batting average, 17 home runs, 77 RBI, .392 on base percentage, .517 slugging percentage).
But Cabrera is the stud of this offense. And if the Tigers are to make it to the World Series then they need a big postseason from him.
The average person might predict that the Philadelphia Phillies or New York Yankees—the teams with the best two records in the National League and American League, respectively—but the Milwaukee Brewers flew under the radar for the 2011 season.
Quietly, the Brewers own one of the best No. 1 and 2 starting pitchers in Yovani Gallardo and Zack Greinke.
Gallardo did not rock the world throughout the season. But over his last three starts Gallardo has 36 strikeouts, a 1.77 ERA, and .639 WHIP. And Zack Greinke has 191 strikeouts, a 1.16 WHIP, 3.75 ERA, and 4.9 strikeout to walk ratio in 160.2 innings pitched—his numbers could be better had he garnered better help from the defense.
The offense…well it speaks for itself. With outfielder Ryan Braun (31 home runs, 104 RBI, .330 batting average, .393 on base percentage and .584 slugging percentage) and first baseman Prince Fielder (34 home runs, 112 RBI, .293 batting average, .408 on base percentage, and .544 slugging percentage) hitting third and fourth, the lineup has the firepower to compete with anyone in MLB.