2009 MLB Playoff Predictions: LCS Update

Jake WestrichSenior Writer IOctober 14, 2009

With our computer on a roll after correctly picking North Carolina to win it all before the 2009 NCAA tournament, the 2009 Stanley Cup champion, the Lakers over the Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals and the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLIII (by four points), we at WhatIfSports.com focus on baseball.

Just as we did with those previews and our original MLB Playoff Preview, we have used our free MLB simulation technology to "play" the rest of the 2009 MLB Playoffs 10,000 times and determine the exact likelihood of each of the four remaining teams making it to any level.

The Division Series ended a little sooner than predicted, but our computer successfully predicted three of the four winners and its favorite to win the World Series is still alive.

The simulations expected a Yankees sweep over Minnesota in the American League Division Series and, while the computer anticipated a closer matchup between Boston and the Los Angeles Angels, it had the Angels moving on to face the Yankees in the Championship Series more often than not.

On the National League front, we thought it might take the Los Angeles Dodgers a few more games to oust the St. Louis Cardinals, yet did predict the eventual winner.

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Our only falter came in the Colorado/Philadelphia series—where we predicted the Rockies moving on in five games. Three of the four games were decided by one run, the Rockies were one out away from forcing a Game Five and lost the final two games of the series in the ninth inning. Nonetheless, the Phillies move on.

It's no surprise the Yankees remain the computer's favorite. But how will it play out?

Here is what we found:

MLB Playoffs (Winning Percentages from 10,000 simulations)

Team LCS Win Percentage
WS Win Percentage
New York Yankees6041
Los Angeles Angels4018
Los Angeles Dodgers5624
Philadelphia Phillies4417

The New York Yankees' chances of winning their first World Series since 2000 have increased slightly with their American League Division Series victory.

Winners of the World Series 33 percent of the time in our 10,000 simulations before the MLB playoffs began, the computer now predicts the pinstripes will come out on top 41 percent of the time.

Their most likely opponent and still the second-favorite to win it all? The Los Angeles Dodgers. Given a 13 percent chance of winning the World Series heading into the NLDS, they now take the title almost one quarter of the time (24 percent).

The Los Angeles Angels have increased their World Series winning chances from 11 percent to 18 percent, while the Philadelphia Phillies, first given just a seven percent chance of defending their crown, now win 17 percent of the time.

But the teams have to get there first...

The Yankees and Angels open their seven-game series on Friday. The teams split their regular season meetings, each winning five times. The Angels actually outscored the Yankees, however, by 10 runs total over those 10 games.

The Angels, who won their only World Series title seven years ago, swept away Boston thanks in part to solid pitching. John Lackey and Jered Weaver each pitched into the eighth inning as the Angels made quick work of the Red Sox in the opening two games in L.A.

The Angels needed some late heroics and clutch hitting to close out the sweep, but it's the pitching that they'll need to top the Yankees.

During the regular season, no Angels starter beat the Yankees more than once, but both Joe Saunders and Weaver beat New York's Andy Pettitte and Lackey topped New York ace C.C. Sabathia.

The Yankees were 0-2 in games started by the likely Games One, Four, and Seven (if necessary) starter Sabathia against L.A.—though he did just pitch a gem against the Twins in the ALDS.

In the Yankees' five victories over the Angels in the regular season, two games were won by current reliever Phil Hughes. Two of those games, and three of the 10 overall, were decided by the bullpen, and if the games go that direction in the ALCS, that would favor the Yankees.

The Angels scored more runs this year than they ever had before, but the Yankees still scored more and have the most potent offense, top to bottom, of any team remaining in the playoffs.

That offense didn't necessarily show its strength against the Twins, but Alex Rodriguez did, busting out of his career postseason slump to hit .455 and drive in six runs. The Yankees need him to maintain that consistency, but get more help from his teammates, in what should be a closer series with L.A.

The Angels are deep on offense as well and finished the regular season ranked in the top four in the American League. Ten different players scored and seven drove in runs during L.A.'s three-game series with Boston and its strongest hitters—Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero, were red hot.

Put all of that together and the computer likes the Yankees to advance to the World Series 60 precent of the time to the Angels' 40 percent chance. The Yankees move on (most likely in six games).

The NLCS between Philadelphia and the Los Angeles Dodgers begins Thursday and should be a closer, likely seven-game, series. The Dodgers won four of the seven regular season meetings and outscored the Phillies by three runs total in those contests.

These teams are a little closer to judge head-to-head than those in the ALCS—not only because they met fewer times, but also because they haven't played each other since the first week of June.

That said, the Phillies beat Dodgers' youngster Clayton Kershaw both times they faced him and the Dodgers took three of their four victories with the use of their bullpen, Jonathan Broxton winning twice.

Kershaw is 5-4 since his last meeting with the Phillies and has lowered his earned run average from 4.26 to 2.70. And the Dodgers rotation was able to match, and even beat, what many thought was the toughest starting staff in MLB with the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.

The Phillies will continue to go with their stable of left-handers that were able to get by the Rockies. Cole Hamels was 1-0 against the Dodgers during the regular season and will start Game One. Cliff Lee will get his first look at the Dodgers as he wasn't with the Phillies when the teams met early in the year.

The Phillies ranked ninth in the National League in batting average and eighth in on-base percentage, but still scored more runs than any other NL team.

They couldn't have been much hotter in four games against Colorado, however. Six of Philadelphia's eight offensive starters hit at least .300 and every one of them had at least three hits. And its 2-6 hitters in the order were 27-for-74 with four home runs and 17 RBI.

The Dodgers had a much different regular season, ranking first in the NL in batting average and on-base percentage, but were just seventh in slugging percentage and fourth in runs.

Against the Cardinals, the Dodgers didn't post eye-opening numbers, but certainly hit in the clutch. All but one regular starter drove in at least one run and L.A. got a huge series from youngster Andre Ethier. They’ll need more, however, from James Loney and Matt Kemp to get past the Phillies.

The computer suggests those players will deliver and that the Dodgers advance to the World Series, but it could very well take seven games to get there. Los Angeles wins the series 56 percent of the time.

There is a 33.6 percent chance that the Yankees and Dodgers meet in the World Series, with the Yankees winning that matchup 63.1 percent of the time.

The chance of a Yankees-Phillies World Series is 26.4 percent and the Yankees win the World Series in that case 70.7 percent of the time.

An all-Los Angeles World Series occurs 22.4 percent of the time, with the Dodgers coming out on top 57.1 percent of the time.

And the Angels and Phillies meet up on baseball's biggest stage 17.6 percent of the time, with the Angels topping the Phillies 51.4 percent of the time.

Eric Schmoldt is a writer and Paul Bessire is the Product Manager of Content and Quantitative Analysis for WhatIfSports.com, a division of FOX Sports Interactive specializing in free mlb matchup analysis and baseball sim leagues. With any comments, questions or topic suggestions, Paul and Eric can be reached at BtB@whatifsports.com. Thanks!

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