2011 MLB Playoffs: Who, Why, and How They Will Win
They say baseball is a game of inches.
After centuries of play, including Wednesday night's fiasco, nobody can ever dispute that claim.
What if Dan Johnson's line drive went a few inches right? Does it go foul? What if Evan Longoria's line drive was a few inches lower? Does it still clear the fence? What if Carl Crawford's glove was just a few inches lower? Does he make the catch and keep Boston's playoff hopes alive for another inning? What if Jonathan Papelbon's pitch was a few inches off? Does Robert Andino even hit it? On that note, would anybody even know who Robert Andino is?
Anyone who tuned in to a baseball game late Wednesday night watched arguably the best hour of baseball in the last decade, if not longer.
What Wednesday night did was something baseball desperately needed—action and attention. It had diehard Yankee fans praying the Bombers would lose to a division rival, and Red Sox fans flashing back to 1918, 2003, and everything in between. People, let's face it, baseball is not the easiest sport to just sit and watch. It is, for the most part, a relatively boring game...with the exception of last Wednesday night.
With the playoff field set, baseball goes into the postseason with its highest anticipation in years. And without further adieu, here are my predictions for who will win, why the will win, and how they will win.
Enjoy, and play ball!
ALDS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
WHO WILL WIN? Texas
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because the Rays should have never been there in the first place
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Shake off Game 1
Let me just start off by saying, yes, I know this is being written as the Rays/Rangers game is on, but I had work and the Rangers (projected) loss doesn't change my outcome.
Tampa definitely has the pitching advantage with a Cy Young winner in Price, and two young studs in Hellickson, and Shields, who has been unbelievable this year.
Texas definitely has the offensive advantage with all stars at pretty much every position.
Even though "the best offense is a good defense," I don't see it applying here; even with Tampa shutting down the Rangers in game one. As good as Price is, he has been shaky and unreliable all year. Hellickson is still very young, and very raw. Shields is the ace this year, but can he carry a team past the defending AL champs?
Tampa may win the pitching side, but the Rangers offense outweighs the Rays pitching. In fact, it smothers it. Like the Yankees, almost every one of the Rangers can yack one at any given time. Note: I said "almost" every player.
Add in the fact that the Rangers not only made it to the World Series last year, but lost, and to a team many people thought they should have obliterated; and the Rangers have a bulls-eye set on that title. The Red Sox are out of the picture, which only helps their cause. They have the lineup, and a good enough rotation to at least get them through the divisional series. Even with a Game 1 shellacking.
PREDICTION: Tampa Bay clings, but Rangers win 3-2 in a gritty series.
ALDS: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
WHO WILL WIN? New York
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because they're the Yankees
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Forget the Verlander hype
Justin Verlander has been the best pitcher in baseball all year; no question about it. He's already won the pitching Triple Crown, he will win the Cy Young, and he'll possibly even win the MVP award in the AL; again, no arguments here. But that was then, this is now, and all the playoffs consist of is, "What have you done for me lately?"
Those are the facts you probably know about Justin Verlander. What you probably didn't know is that, despite his incredible 12-win run, he is a career first-half pitcher. He's done okay against the Yankees in his career (4-3, 3.97 ERA), but not at Yankee Stadium in his only game. You can say, "It was only one game," but the fact remains that's what he did in that game. He could've pitched another no-no, but he didn't. Plus, that was regular season. As if Yankee Stadium wasn't nerve-wracking enough, add in the post-season and it becomes a full-fledged zoo.
Like the Rangers, the Yankees are stacked top to bottom in their lineup. They can expect to see Verlander at least once, if not twice. If they survive the first round, the second round might not even matter by the time it comes around. If the Yankees go up 2-0, a Verlander win in game three will still be meaningless.
The Yankees rotation is a mess. The only reliable guy you have their is CC, the rest are all coin flips. Freddy's off-speed style can easily go from no-no to oh-no, and depending on his motivation, medication, or both, you never know what the hell you're going to get from Burnett. Nova is talented, but young, so it wouldn't surprise me to see him snag a W in the series.
Detroit's lineup is nothing to sleep on either, but there's a reason the Yankees are called the Bronx Bombers and the Tigers aren't (other than the fact they're not from New York, but you get my point). I've always said that Miguel Cabrera is the most dangerous hitter in the AL. He is a younger, slightly lesser version of Albert Pujols. I'll give you five minutes to compare their career stats. Satisfied now? Victor Martinez will also provide some pop, but after that, there isn't much.
I say Detroit will have one game where they hit the bejesus out of the ball and score like 11 runs on 16 hits, but not much else.
PREDICTION: The damn Yankees are too damn good, 3-1
NLDS: Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals
WHO WILL WIN? Philadelphia
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because they still haven't showered off the embarrassment of last year's NLCS
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Just pitch
There really isn't much to say here, because everyone already knows what I'm going to say because their saying the same.
The Cards have Albert Pujols and little else. Matt Holliday is a haus, I'll give you that, but there's no way in hell I'm sold on Lance Berkman.
He could very well just be a great NL hitter, like Holliday, who both didn't do anything noteworthy in the AL; but there's just something about him that doesn't have me convinced.
One stud can possibly carry you through a divisional series on his own. Two studs could possibly get you to the World Series if your lineup is good enough. Three studs should definitely get you to the Series. But four?! There's really no reason the Phillies don't win the whole damn thing this year.
Halladay is a freak of nature; he throws some of the most unhittable pitches in the majors and he doesn't walk a soul. Unlike most of the pansy pitchers in baseball, Doc doesn't hope to get though six innings and then pass it off to the bullpen to try and finish it off. I honestly wouldn't be surprised to see him throw 13 innings in a game depending on the circumstances. I once pitched 25 shutout innings with him in a game of MVP Baseball 2005—true story.
To make matters worse, not only do you have almost a clone of him, but he's a lefty! Cliff Lee and Halladay are two of, if not, the two most accurate pitchers in baseball, and now they're teammates.
Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, or Roy Oswalt can be an ace on any other team, but here, you have the last back-to-back 20-game winner in MLB history (which was only six years ago) as a No. 4.
The scariest part of all this is that unlike the 2005 Astros (which, Oswalt was a part of), Houston relied on their pitching because that's all they had. They had no offense to pick them up or to drive in 12 runs to give the starter a breather. The Phillies have Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and Jimmy Rollins when he's not trash-talking, on the DL or in a mental coma.
Everyone said it in the beginning of the year and it's the truth—the Phillies are scary!
PREDICTION: Phillies own the Cards, 3-0
NLDS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers
WHO WILL WIN? Milwaukee
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because they're facing the Diamondbacks
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Just show up
I just want to point out and throw out a big, "IN YOUR FACE!" to all the people, mainly friends, who laughed when I said the Brewers would make the playoffs.
I love this team—Braun, Fielder, Greinke—something about these three made me just know they would make the postseason. Braun and Fielder provide plenty of pop in what shouldn't be a very competitive contest.
The most impressive thing about the Diamondbacks are their jerseys; I'll admit, they're sick. But as far as their team goes, nada. Chris Young and Justin Upton don't show me any signs of players that are capable, or ready to carry their team deep into the playoffs.
Of course this could still be bitterness from 2001, but I highly doubt it.
PREDICTION: Diamondbacks head back to the desert, 3-1.
ALCS: New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers
WHO WILL WIN? New York
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because they have a chip on their shoulder
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Mariano Rivera
Texas snuck past the Yanks last year, thanks in large, make that very large part to Cliff Lee and a whole lot of hitting.
Texas still has the offense, no doubt about it, but it's not the same offense. Vlad Guerrero is gone completely, Hamilton always has the possibility of going into a Rollins-like slump/coma, and everyone has been hurt at some point this year.
Unfortunately for the Yanks, that was then, and the Rangers are healthy now. But fortunately for the Yanks, they don't have to worry about Vlad, and won't have to worry about Cliff Lee until the World Series.
Both lineups can hit the hell out of one another, especially with questionable rotations. That is why this series will be won by the bullpens, and few, teams are better than the Yanks at that.
Don't even mention the Rays game—the Yanks threw it and anyone who tells you otherwise is in denial. I'm thrilled they lost and I'd be thrilled a million times over. But when it comes down to business, the Yanks don't mess around.
To quote Jon Hamm in The Town, "This is the not f*cking around crew" and you better believe it.
You don't get to 602 saves by being "good", you don't record a 0.71 career postseason ERA by being lucky, you do it by being the best. Not the best in the majors, not the best of your generation, but the best...ever.
PREDICTION: "Gotta Go To" Mo locks down game six at the Stadium, 4-2.
NLCS: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies
WHO WILL WIN? Philadelphia
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because the Milwaukee 'buck' stops here
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Time
The Phillies are going to beat the Brewers and that's all there is to it.
They have a better offense. They have a better pitching staff. They have better coaching. They have a million times more experience. They're better. 'Nuff said.
The Phillies will win, it's only a matter of time; and seven games is a long time.
PREDICTION: Phillies show sympathy, 4-2
World Series Rematch: New York Yankees vs. Philadelphia Phillies
WHO WILL WIN? Philadelphia
WHY WILL THEY WIN? Because they're too well-rounded, embarrassed and out for revenge
HOW WILL THEY WIN? Play their game, ignore the Yankee fans, don't give away runs
If and when this 2009 rematch comes to fruition, I can guarantee you that there isn't a single Philly from that Series that forgot about the Yankees ending their chance for back-to-back titles and watching the celebration.
Like I mentioned before, they're still embarrassed for losing to a Giants team that had no business even being in the series. They have too much revenge in them to just let another opportunity slip away.
The "Core Four" is now a trio, and with the exception of Mo, are dwindling. I love Jeter, but let's face facts, he's not the Jeter of old. He won't make that leaping throw that Jeter has all but copyrighted, he most likely won't be stealing a key base to completely change the dynamic of the game; it's just not gonna happen.
I've never cared for Posada, ever. I can't stand him and I think he was just a guy who got lucky to ride the coattails of Jeter, Mo and Pettitte amongst other Yankee greats to a handful of rings. Don't give me the, "Who clinched the East for you this year?" bull. One hit that really didn't mean all that much doesn't make up for years of choking. The Yanks were going to the playoffs no matter what, and they probably would have won the East no matter what. Posada just helped them do it earlier. Whoo hoo.
Back to the Series, the Phillies' staff is too good, too young(er), and much more reliable than the Yanks. Their bullpen might be a different story, but when you have a rotation like that, you might not need your bullpen all that much.
The reality is that the Phillies are too deep to really blow this. So long as their offense can put up anything, they should win. Granted, the Yankees do have the lineup to compete and the Phils' lineup has a habit of going M.I.A. But even if the Yanks do push a game seven, if the Phillies really wanted to they can split all four of them over the course of nine innings.
Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong, but this is what I'm going with:
GAME ONE: Phillies have hot bats out of the gate, win 7-2 (PHI leads 1-0)
GAME TWO: Lee shuts the Yanks down at home, win 3-1 (PHI leads 2-0)
GAME THREE: Yanks get tired of being smacked around, 9-4 (PHI leads 2-1)
GAME FOUR: Walk-off magic perhaps? 6-5 (Series tied 2-2)
GAME FIVE: El doctor es no bueno en Nueva York, 5-1 (NYY leads 3-2)
GAME SIX: Lee owns the Yanks in their own house, 6-0 (Series tied 3-3)
GAME SEVEN: Hamels is a World Series hero again, 5-2 (PHI wins 4-3)
WORLD SERIES MVP: Chase Utley, PHI—I wrote an article (feel free to check it out) on how the WSMVP has become like the Madden Curse in that the last few winners have done next to nothing after winning. I have a feeling Chase's prime time is fading away; maybe one more big year then he's done.