I was planning to post earlier this morning, but I've been getting sidetracked all day. It's going to be a bit of a rush job, but I have to provide my analysis and predictions for this year's MLB postseason...
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees
Congratulations to the Twins on pulling out an incredible victory over the Tigers in last night's one-game playoff, but their playoff run will likely be short-lived. I'd love to see David slay Goliath, but it's very unrealistic given the personnel on both sides.
With the exception of RHP Nick Blackburn, I don't think any of Minnesota's starting pitchers can succeed against the potent Yankee lineup. Brian Duensing, Carl Pavano, and Scott Baker are all average (or worse) in the "stuff" department, and it doesn't help that some of them will be pitching at the Yankees' little league park. There's less pressure on Alex Rodriguez than there has been in the past, as Mark Teixeira is there to inherit some of the RISP situations.
Do I have my concerns about A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and the possible fourth starter for the Yankees? Absolutely, yes. They are far from locks for lights out performances. However, there's a strong probability that the Yankees' offense will mash throughout the series, a scenario that would lower the expectations for New York's starting pitching. The Yankees have a clear bullpen advantage in this series, as well.
Prediction: Yankees win the series, 3-1.
Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This should be a much more competitive series. The Red Sox have the starting pitching advantage with Jon Lester and Josh Beckett at the top of their rotation, but the Angels are right up there with the Yankees offensively. This is the best Angels' lineup that I've seen since they won the World Series with Garret Anderson, Troy Glaus, Tim Salmon and those fellas.
The Angels have pop dispersed throughout their lineup, and even their little guys -- guys like Maicer Izturis and Erick Aybar -- are having career offensive seasons and providing timely hitting when called upon. This is a unit that is clicking on all cylinders, and they have dangerous bats like Vladimir Guerrero, Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter, and Kendry Morales.
The Red Sox, on the other hand, haven't been as prolific as they'd like to be offensively. That doesn't mean they can't scratch and claw for runs, though, and I expect them to stay tight with the Angels because of their pitching. In the end, it's going to be a coin-toss series, with the Angels having the higher postseason ceiling.
Prediction: Angels taking it, 3-2.
Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies
Like the Red Sox/Angels series, I expect this one to be extremely tight and competitive. The Rockies are similarly structured to the Tampa Bay Rays of last season, which makes them a popular upside pick. I think they are certainly capable of pulling out this series, but it's difficult to argue against Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins, Raul Ibanez, Jayson Werth, and Shane Victorino. The Phillies have an American League-style lineup, and they can explode at any time.
What also makes the Phillies dangerous, is the fact that the playoffs represent a fresh start. None of their regulars had batting averages over .300, and Rollins in particular had a forgettable year. That means they can start anew in the postseason, and shake off the cobwebs of a 162-game stretch of offensive inconsistency and frustration. They may strike out a lot, but no other NL team can rival the Phillies in pop.
Cliff Lee is the best starting pitcher on either team, but he's far from a safe bet against this hungry and talented Rockies' lineup. I think the rotations will cancel each other out, so it will come down to bullpens and timely hitting. While the Rockies have the clear advantage in regular season bullpen stats, the playoffs are a totally different animal. Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson will get a tabula rasa (clean slate), and all it takes is a little luck and momentum. I don't particularly trust CP Huston Street with the game on the line, either. I think his stuff is underwhelming for a one-inning reliever.
Prediction: Phillies squeak it out, 3-2.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks had Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The 2004 Red Sox had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling. I don't think the Chris Carpenter/Adam Wainwright combination is quite as good as those, but they're the closest out of this year's playoff teams. The middle portion of St. Louis' rotation worries me, but I expect them to silence the Dodgers' lineup in games 1 and 2.
I much prefer the Dodgers' bullpen to the Cardinals, but that's their only advantage in this series. St. Louis -- with an excellent mix of power, discipline, and bat control -- has a significantly more dangerous lineup. Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday will carry the load in the power department, but Mark DeRosa, Ryan Ludwick, Skip Schumaker, and Brendan Ryan are appropriate complements in Tony LaRussa's batting order. In addition, at this stage in their respective careers, LaRussa is a far superior manager to Torre. Joe is a regular season manager (patient for the long haul), while Tony is better prepared for specific situations and high-pressure, make-or-break decisions.
This could be an ass-backwards series in which the away team wins the first three games, but any way I look at it, the Cardinals seem to come out on top.
Prediction: Cardinals win comfortably, 3-1.
I wish you all the best of luck with your favorite teams.
Hear me discuss the MLB postseason on an AaronTorres-Sports.com podcast.
("JFro," aka John Frascella, is the author of "Theo-logy: How a Boy Wonder Led the Red Sox to the Promised Land." It's the first full-length book centered on Boston Red Sox's popular general manager Theo Epstein. Preview or purchase it online at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or Borders. It's currently stocked in Barnes and Noble stores throughout the U.S. Also, check out John on Twitter.)