Friday, October 5, 2012

2012 Postseason Preview

With the addition of two extra playoff teams,

October  Baseball looks to be even better than before
I can’t believe that the 2012 Major League Baseball Season has come to an end. It wasn’t a dream season for the Blue Jays, as they were plagued by many important injuries. There were high hopes for the Blue Jays back in June, but it pretty much went downhill from there. Injuries to Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and J.P. Arencibia insured that 2012 wasn’t our year.

Now, for 1 month, we are not Blue Jays fans, we are baseball fans, and we will watch the 2012 playoffs. It’s truly the greatest time of the year, as we get to watch the 10 best teams in baseball, battle it out to determine the World Series Champion.
I must say, the 2012 MLB was one of the most exciting seasons that I’ve ever experienced. This year brought us 7 no hitters, including 3 perfect games, pitched by Philip Humber, Matt Cain, and King Felix Hernandez. We may have experienced the best rookie season of all time, performed by Mike Trout. Perhaps the most amazing thing we saw this season was witnessing Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown, a feat that hadn’t been achieved in over 45 years!
If the regular season was any indication, we’re in store for quite an exciting postseason. I’m here to preview it for you. I will give you guys an in depth look at each team, and series, along with some predictions.
American League
 Wild Card Game: Baltimore Orioles @ Texas Rangers
Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Friday, 8:30 PM. Yu Darvish vs. Joe Saunders.
We’re in for a fun one here. These two teams could have very easily been division winners. Instead, they play one game, to decide who will advance to the playoffs. It’s actually hard to believe that one of these teams will be eliminated this Friday. On paper, the Rangers win this one. They probably have the best lineup in the major leagues, in terms of offence. 7 of their 9 hitters are true game changing players. (Kinsler, Andrus, Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz, Young, and Napoli) If the Rangers won the division, and finished strong, they were the World Series favourites, in my opinion. Now, it’s not so easy, as they have to get through the wild card, just to face the red hot New York Yankees.
As for the Orioles, they are the luckiest team in all of baseball. They have the best record in one run games in the Major Leagues. If you were to look at their team on paper, you would probably think that they are still the OriLOLes. Yet, this team, under Buck Showalter, have a knack for winning important ball games this year. Adam Jones leads the way for this team, with a career year this year. They have a big power threat in Mark Reynolds and the red hot Chris Davis. Matt Wieters is a very solid catcher defensively and offensively. Surprisingly, Nate Mclouth has done very well in the leadoff spot filling in for Nick Markakis. Their bullpen has been their real strength this year, as Jim Johnson led the AL in saves, with Pedro Strop doing a stellar job in the set up role. I think that the problem for the Orioles (if they win the wild card game) will be starting pitching. I don’t think I trust them in a playoff series with that rotation, featuring Wei Yin-Chen, Jason Hammel, Chris Tillman, and Miguel Gonzalez, especially when their offence isn’t too potent.

Prediction: Rangers: 7 Orioles 6
I really think that Darvish will struggle early, it’s just a gut feeling. I think that Ron Washington will pull him early and give way to his bullpen. After Darvish struggles, twitter will go crazy, as O’s bandwagon fans everywhere will be overjoyed. Meanwhile, the Rangers will chip away at the O’s lead, and eventually will tie the game. I think this game will go into extra innings, ending in an Adrian Beltre walk-off home run. The Rangers will move on to face the Yankees.
Baltimore Orioles or Texas Rangers Vs New York Yankees ALDS. Starts Sunday Oct 7.
If the Rangers move on: The whole baseball world will be watching this one. These are 2 of the most popular teams in the majors facing off. This is very possibly a battle of the 2 best offences in the big leagues. The Yankees come into this series red hot, where as (even though they won the WC game) the Rangers are riding a cold streak.
 I don’t think I have to explain to you what the Yankees are all about. Their core has essentially been the same for many years, a core that includes Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, CC Sabathia, and Curtis Granderson. You can hate them all you want, but they are still one of the best teams in the majors.
Prediction: Yankees win in 4 games
I think that this series will come down to how CC Sabathia fares after recent struggles. If he can win both of his games, I think that the Yankees Offense will power them to win one more. I think Jeter will be hitting .400 after this series concludes. (I have a man-crush on Derek Jeter).
If the Orioles move on:
If this occurs, this will be a series that most baseball fans will be really interested in, as “Cinderella Story O’s vs Big Bad Yankees,” headlines will be all over the internet. I think that it would be a very disappointing series, and the Yankees will run right over the O’s. I think the O’s will have trouble winning 1 game, as the Yankees lineup and rotation will show their true strength.
Prediction: Yankees win in 3 games
I think in this one, even if CC isn’t in his rhythm, the Yanks offence will score enough to take the pressure off. The Orioles won’t even put up a fight. Their rotation will show its true colours, and the offence certainly won’t put up as many runs as the Bronx Bombers.
Oakland Athletics Vs Detroit Tigers. ALDS. Starts Saturday Oct 6.
Oakland really appears to be a team on a mission. I like them this postseason, they’ve been playing some great baseball, and are very, very fun to watch. Billy Beane is a genius, and there’s no other way to put it. He traded away his stud closer, Andrew Bailey, for a guy who really had no success as a big leaguer, Josh Reddick. Bailey was injured for the majority of this season. Reddick, on the other hand, smacked 32 Home Runs and drove in 85 runs, to go along with a cannon for an arm in right field, in an amazing breakout season. Beane also traded away Gio Gonzalez in a huge deal, which already has resulted in a mid-rotation starter and their starting catcher, and there are more prospects from that deal in their system. Another A’s acquisition was Jarrod Parker, who Beane traded away for Trevor Cahill, Parker is now a high end starter, and might already be better than Cahill. Lastly, I think the move that put the A’s over the top, was the signing of Manny Ramirez… Nah I’m just kidding. It was the signing of Yoenis Cespedes, the Cuban star. Cespedes has impressed in every facet of his game. This was a signing in which people believed that it really wasn’t the right fit. A power hitter in a pitchers ballpark didn’t seem like such a genius signing. These people were horribly wrong. The A’s are a team to watch this year.
The Detroit Tigers are just so good. Their record this year didn’t really represent how good of a team they are. Their lineup is scary, which includes Mr. Triple Crown himself, Miguel Cabrera, and then just when you think you have dodged a bullet and gotten Miggy out, you have to face the mighty Prince Fielder. It’s a very deep lineup to go along with the 2 in the middle. Austin Jackson is a very good (not great) leadoff man. I loved the Infante trade, as he is a very serviceable second baseman, which is something they certainly hadn’t had before. Delmon Young, although I hate the anti-Semite, is a very nice option behind Miggy and Prince. Quentin Berry is a very exciting player, he should be a sparkplug for their offence, and Alex Avila is Mr. Solid.
I’ve written this much about the Tigers and I haven’t even gotten to their pitching, that’s how good they are. Where do I start with this pitching staff? Well, the best pitcher in baseball seems like a good place to begin. Justin Verlander has gotten better as the year has gone on. His abilities are untouched by any pitcher in the game. He can dial it up to 100 MPH any time needed, and goes deep into the game every time Leyland throws him out there. Trailing Verlander in both the rotation and the AL strikeout race is Max Scherzer. Scherzer is lights out, it looks like after years of inconsistency, he has finally figured it out. Doug Fister has done very well for the Tigers this year, and had great success in the playoffs last year, if that’s any indication. Lastly, the newly acquired Anibal Sanchez will be pitching in the playoffs for the first time. The future Blue Jay has pitched really well these last few weeks, but pitching in the playoffs is a different animal. We’ll just have to wait and see how he fares.
Prediction: Tigers win in 5 games.
But I don’t want either of them to be eliminated! This will go down as one of the greatest division series’ ever, in my opinion. Every game will be closely contested. Both teams will play their best baseball. I just think that the Tigers’ best baseball is slightly better than the A’s. I’m very excited for this one to start.
New York Yankees Vs Detroit Tigers, ALCS. Starts Saturday, Oct 13.
The Yankees are a great baseball team, with their hitting and the back end of the bullpen being their true strengths. I have learned to respect the Yankees over the years, because as a team, they play baseball the right way. Their organization represents class and history. I’m just not sure that they can beat the Tigers.
I predicted the Yankees to get past the Rangers, but the Rangers at this point, aren’t quite the Tigers. If you put into a calculator, “Rays pitching + Rangers hitting,” your answer would be the Tigers. I’m not sure the Yankees can compete with that.
Prediction: Tigers win in 6 games.
The Detroit Tigers are my pick to win the American League Pennant. This series will be a good one, but Verlander will be the difference, defeating CC in both of their matchups. The Tigers are the most complete team in the American League, they have everything.
National League 
Wild Card Game: St. Louis Cardinals @ Atlanta Braves.
Turner Field. Friday, 5:00 PM Kyle Lohse Vs. Kris Medlen.
The first thing I would like to say, is that if this game goes into the 9th inning, and the Braves are winning, the Braves win. Craig Kimbrel is a specimen that can’t be explained. His numbers as a closer are unlike we’ve ever seen before. He has struck out 49% of batters that he’s faced! Now that that’s settled, let’s go into what the Braves are all about. Michael Bourn has really struggled in the 2nd half, but if he gets on base, he’s a game-changing player. I can see Andrleton Simmons really affecting this game, just a gut feeling of mine. One thing about Atlanta’s offence is that it’s very deep, no real holes, especially if Dan Uggla is hot. Of course there is Chipper Jones, and Brian McCann, 2 players who have been stars in Atlanta for a long, long time.
I really respect all that St. Louis has done this season. They were expected to be much worse this year, after winning the World Series last year, mainly because of the departure of Albert Pujols. I give a lot of credit to Yadier Molina and Carlos Beltran, as they not only helped ease the pain of losing Pujols, them combined amounted to more value than Pujols, here’s why: Pujols’ WAR (wins above replacement) last year was 5.1. Yadier Molina’s WAR this year was 6.7. Beltran’s was 3.6. Since Pujols had Molina playing on his team last year, we must subtract Yadier’s WAR of last year from his WAR of this year. (6.7 – 2.6= 4.1) Now, we add Beltran’s WAR to Yadier’s WAR (4.1+3.6=7.7) Beltran’s WAR combined with Yadier’s modified WAR is greater than Pujols’ 2011 WAR of 5.1, and it’s not really close. I’m not saying that WAR means everything, but it’s certainly an interesting way of looking at things.
The Cardinals apart from Beltran and the emergence of Molina are basically the same team that they were last year, and they won the World Series. So who says they can’t do it again?
Prediction: Braves 4, Cardinals 0.
I do, I say they can’t do it again. Mainly because they are running into Kris Medlen. Medlen has been the best pitcher in the 2nd half. I’m not quite sure how he does it, but he is shutting down offences like no one else. It’s a shame for the Cardinals that they have to run into Medlen in a one game playoff, but things like this will go on for years and years with this wild card system MLB has in place. As for the game, I think it’ll be quite boring. I think that Chipper will go deep. The Braves will just build a lead gradually with no sign of a comeback from the Cards.
Atlanta Braves or St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals NLDS. Begins Sunday Oct 7.
If Braves move on: The Nats will be a World Series contender for years to come. Their core will be the best in the MLB, in my opinion, eventually. Their lineup is very strong, with the likes of “The Phenom,” Bryce Harper, ageless Adam Laroche, Mike Morse, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth.  But, unfortunately for the Nats, this is their first time in the playoffs. Regular season wins are one thing, but winning in the playoffs is a whole different world. The Braves on the other hand, are a team that has been in the playoffs almost annually.
Prediction: Braves win in 4 games,
The Braves will win it pretty handedly too. The Nats rotation isn’t even as good as people make it out to be, especially with no Strasburg. Gio will be outdueled by Medlen in the first game, Zimmermann will win the 2nd game, then the Braves will put the foot down and blow out the Nats in games 3 and 4. The fact that Washington’s even considering using Lannan is absurd.
If Cardinals Move on: This one would be a little more interesting, although I think it won’t happen. Yes, the Cardinals have just as much playoff experience as the Braves, but I think that the Braves are a more complete team. The lineups are similar, but I think when it comes to pitching, (bullpen included) the Braves are much better. I think experience will come into play, but it won’t have as much impact as it would in a series with the Braves. I think the Nationals match up better with the Cardinals than they do with the Braves. I’d go as far to say that these are the 2 most similar teams in the Major Leagues, when it comes to talent.
Prediction: Cardinals win in 5 games.
If you hadn’t noticed, I’m not a firm believer in “Natitude” this year. This would be a fun series to watch, with 2 teams that don’t like each other at all. Experience will be the difference here, again. I can see a Chris Carpenter vs Gio Gonzalez game 5, NLDS 2011-esque.
San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds NLDS, starts Saturday Oct 6.
This will be another fun one. The Reds really haven’t struggled all season. They are consistently awesome. Some doubt if their playoff rotation can keep up, but I actually think that Cueto, Arroyo, Latos is lethal. Latos has been one of the best pitchers in the National league since the All Star Break, with a 2.84 ERA. Johnny Cueto has been the 2nd best pitcher in the whole National League all year, finishing the year 19-9, with a 2.78 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. The Reds offence is very overlooked. They have who may be the best pure hitter in the game, in Joey Votto, as well as All-Star 2nd baseman, Brandon Phillips, and the wildly underrated Jay Bruce. Watch out for the Reds.
The Giants, on the other hand, aren’t to shabby themselves. They have the NL MVP this year, catcher Buster Posey. Pablo Sandoval is a top 3 (perhaps) 3rd baseman in all of baseball, and Hunter Pence in right field, whom they acquired in a trade with the Phillies, so the middle of the order is as good as it gets. What concerns me, is the rest of the lineup. The lineup contains a platoon of Brandon Crawford and Joaquin Arias at shortstop, Marco Scutaro at 2nd base, Brandon Belt at 1st base, and a platoon of Gregor Blanco and Xavier Nady in Left Field. I can’t see a team getting very far with those 6 in the lineup consistently. The only way that the Giants go further than the first round, is if their pitching really amps it up in a big way, which it is capable of doing, mind you.
Prediction: Reds win in 4 Games.
Posey, Pence, and Sandoval will do what they can, but in the end, the Giants just won’t score enough runs. The Reds will out-hit the Giants, and it’s really as simple as that. Their pitching staffs are similar enough that the games will be close, but the Reds will be in command all series.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Atlanta Braves NLCS. Starts Sunday Oct 14.
The Reds have the ability to win this series. That’s a fact. Their rotation is strong, their bullpen is strong, their lineup is strong. I can’t take anything away from them.
The Braves have the ability to win this series. That’s a fact. Their rotation is strong, their bullpen is strong, their lineup is strong. I can’t take anything away from them either.
I guess what I’m trying to say here is that this series could go either way. There are no glowing flaws in either of these teams. All I know is that it’s going to be fun.
Prediction: Braves in 7 games.
I don’t have a reason for it here. I think Chipper will come up with a big hit. I’m just going with my gut. The Braves are my pick to win the National League Pennant.
World Series
Detroit Tigers vs. Atlanta Braves. Starts Wednesday, Oct 24
By this time in the playoffs, most of my predictions will most likely be proven wrong, but nevermind that, I’m here to break down what I think will happen in this year’s Fall Classic. This year, unlike other years, I believe that the 2 best teams in the MLB will make it to the World Series. They are the 2 most complete, the 2 most well managed, and the 2 most talented teams in all of baseball.
Like before, my high praise for Detroit continues. In terms of starting pitching, they are superior to the Braves. In terms of hitting, they are about equal, and I’d give the edge to the Braves when it comes to bullpen. When it comes to the managers, both are great, but I’ll give Leyland the slight edge over Gonzalez.
Prediction: Tigers win in 6 games!
Justin Verlander will be the difference as he’ll outduel Medlen in this thriller of a series. Chipper Jones will have a series to remember, but fall short in his last career playoff series. Miguel Cabrera will get hot, scorching hot. I think that he will hit a walk-off home run at some point in the series. The Detroit Tigers will win the World Series in 2012.
Isaac Boloten

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