Friday, October 2, 2009

Playoffs? Playoffs??!!

Major league baseball playoffs are almost upon us. I was tempted to simply copy and past last year’s preview and just ‘Find and Replace’ Tampa with New York, but that’s just lazy.

Besides, it looks like the Tigers will get in which sort of ruins any Detroit jokes I had in last year. Not sure if there are any, but I’m taking no chances.

Before we get started, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that baseball needs a salary cap. This is fucking ridiculous. Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Angels in the AL. Phillies, Dodgers, Rockies (not official), Cardinals in the NL. These teams sound familiar? They should as they are the same teams that have been in the playoffs the last few years.

Enough! Let’s switch things up, huh? As much as it benefits my Red Sox teams, it’s time to level the playing field (pun alert!). How many more Red Sox – Angels series or Red Sox – Yankees series or Phillies – Dodgers do we need? I feel like it’s 2007 all over again.

And if the Sox wind up meeting either St Louis or Colorado in the World Series I’m going to lose my shit. By ‘my shit’ I mean ‘any interest in baseball’. I don’t need a replay of 2004 or 2007 (except the Yankees losing part).

Say it with me, MLB: Salary Cap.

It’s time.

NEW YORK YANKEES

Summary: Considered by most to be the favorites heading into the playoffs for good reason. Solid starting rotation, killer lineup, actual defense this year, and just seem to have their shit together for the first time in several years. It’s time to give Joe Girardi his due. He did a fantastic job keeping the distractions (Hi, A-Rod) off to the side and keeping things loose. If it wasn’t for what Scioscia did on the west coast, Girardi might have won his second Manager of the Year.

That said: Need I remind the Yankees of Sabathia’s post season struggles? No? How about A-Rod disappearing until spring training? Heading into a five game series the Yankees rotation looks like this: Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, and possibly Chamberlain. Do any of those names scare you much? Me neither. I should point out that Sabathia has pitched deep into the playoffs the last two seasons. This means he’s been shouldering (get it? He’s a pitcher?) a massive load (get it? He’s fat?) for three different teams the last three years. You can’t tell me that won’t catch up to him at some point.

Bottom line: Despite their stellar regular season, there are a lot of question marks about this team. If Sabathia and Burnett can pitch just decently expect the Yankees to make a big run. If not...


BOSTON RED SOX

Summary: As I stated before, there is an emotional void with this team. As if they’ve all channeled their inner JD Drew for every game. (That’s a bad thing, if you’re wondering). Technically proficient team with little spunk.

That said: They ARE in the playoffs. They are also a team built for the post season. Beckett, Lester (who looked great last night), Buchholz, and even Dice-K are a formidable rotation.

Bottom line: Who the hell knows. I’m hoping the adrenaline and emotion of being in the playoffs will light a fire under these guys, but it’s tough to tell how they’ll react. They have the pitching, they have the lineup, all they’re lacking is some interest in what’s actually going on.


ANAHEIM ANGELS (refusing to call them Los Angeles)

Summary: Man, considering how this season started for this team, I’m amazed they’re here. Teammate killed in accident, superstar slugger injured for majority of season, depleted starting rotation until June. Now they have a lineup in which every single player was hitting .300 or above a month ago and, in a five game series, they can throw Weaver, Saunders and Lackey at you.

That said: There’s the entire ‘Brian Fuentes’ thing lurking in the background. Sure, he led the league in saves most of the season, but he’s also a walking heart attack for every Angels fan in the country, sports a nifty 4.05 ERA, and will not be trusted by anyone when he trots into the game in the ninth inning with his team leading by a run.

Bottom line: Despite the Fuentes storm, this sure seems like a team on a mission. They’ve come together at the right point in the season, they have the pitching, they have the lineup but more importantly they’re the only team that has a theme: Win it for the dead dude. Tough to top that kind of motivation.


DETROIT TIGERS (not official)

Summary: Leyland certainly mopped up last year’s mess rather nicely. It’s basically the same team only they’ve decided to play. Miguel Cabrera has had no problem adjusting to the American League and, don’t look now, but Ordonez’ average is now above .300 and he’s been hitting the holy shit out of the ball the last month. Polanco, Granderson and Inge provide the grit and (some) speed.

That said: There are a lot of holes in this lineup; guys you wouldn’t mind pitching to with the bases loaded. That could mean Cabrera is walked. A lot. After Edwin Jackson and Verlander the rotation isn’t very intimidating, either.

Bottom line: They have a staff built for a five game series (Verlander and Jackson four times will be tough for anyone), but it’s difficult to envision this team getting to the World Series. You should all take this opportunity to bet your life savings on the Tigers. You’re welcome.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

Summary: Last year’s champs are better in nearly every way heading into the playoffs. Cliff Lee is flourishing, Hamels is healthy, Rollins looks like himself, they replaced Pat Burrell with Raul Ibanez, got a better year out of Ryan Howard and still have Werth, Victorino, and Utley to fall back on. And! They have Pedro who has been pitching very well. Shit, man!

That said: Brad Lidge is basically the opposite of what he was last year. He actually had a 1-2-3 save the other night and it made SportsCenter highlights. That’s right, their closer didn’t give up any hits, walks or runs and it was an important story. Good luck with that.

Bottom line: The Phillies can always throw Ryan Madson into the closer spot if Lidge self destructs during the playoffs, but they can’t wait long before making that move. One blown save is crushing in a five game series. They have the fire power to hang with any team and should be the favorites to make the Series, but Lidge is the wild card.


LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Summary: Turns out Manny should have just stayed away from the team. During his 50 game suspension the Dodgers were tearing up the league; running away with the best record. Since then they’ve come crashing down so far that the Rockies could actually win the division outright if they sweep the Dodgers over the weekend.

That said: They still have a potent lineup with Kemp, Hudson, Manny, Ethier (who’s been struggling massively) and Loney. Starters Billingsley, Wolf, and Kershaw are nothing to sneeze at, either.

Bottom line: Let’s see: Good pitching? Check Powerful, patient lineup? Check. Defense? Check. Manager who’s been here before? Check. Certainly looks like everything is in place.


ST LOUIS CARDINALS

Summary: The temptation is to simply point to Albert Pujols, laugh at his name while marveling at his play. But this team is much more than just Pujols (snicker). Holliday has been a beast since arriving, Julio Lugo (are you fucking kidding me?) is hitting line drives around the park like he’s Nomar from 10 years ago, and Yadier Molina has quietly had one of the best offensive and defensive seasons a catcher has ever had. Oh, and they have not one, but TWO possible Cy Young winners in the same rotation.

That said: John Smoltz has been struggling (been there) and their third starter is Joel Pineiro who, while doing well in the NL, certainly doesn’t strike the fear in anyone’s heart. Minor weaknesses for such a loaded team, but it’s something to consider. Especially in a seven game series.

Bottom line: Between Carpenter and Wainwright dueling for the Cy Young Award and Pujols, Molina, and Holliday crushing the ball, I’m tempted to place the ‘Favorite’ label on this team. Then I remember Philly and I balk. It’s that close, though.


COLORADO ROCKIES

Summary: In 2007 the Rockies won about 33 games in a row (approximate) to squeak into the playoffs. They rode that momentum all the way to the Series before playing punching bag to the Red Sox. Since Jim Tracy took over the Rockies, they have been the best team in the National League. Tulowitzki has put up MVP numbers, Helton has found the fountain of youth and every move Tracy makes turns platinum. Amazing.

That said: Can this keep up? They have three starters with ERAs over 4 and four every day players who barely hit .250. Pitch around Tulowitzki and Helton and there isn’t much danger.

Bottom line: Even in a short series they can only throw Jiminez (3.52) and Marquis (3.95) at you. Neither are over powering and will have to face off against their opponent’s best. If that turns out to be the Phillies, it means Hamels and Lee. Which two would you bet on?


PREDICTIONS

AL: Tigers over Yankees, Angels over Red Sox
Angels over Tigers

NL: Phillies over Rockies, Cardinals over Dodgers
Phillies over Cardinals

WS: Angels over Phillies


Today’s distraction: A photo collection of the best office pranks of all time. The jello molds are great. Wonder how long it took to tin foil that cubicle.

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