October 6, 2010

Playoffs start today

The Major League Baseball playoffs start today, and alas, it's the 17th consecutive time they will be contested without the Pirates' participation. Yet playoff baseball, four hour games or not, brings with it enough drama and excitement that I'm already excited for the Pirates' 2011 WFC run. You owe it to yourself as a baseball fan to follow this postseason.

Rangers at Rays
Game 1, 1:37 p.m. today

The Rangers (90-72) perenially field one of baseball's best scoring teams, and were fourth in this year's AL in runs. Josh Hamilton (.359/.411/.653) was ridiculous this year and would have been the MVP if not for injuries - but it's unclear how healthy he is heading into this series. Veterans Vlad Guerrero (.300/.345/.496) and Mike Young (.284/.330/.444) are proving the value of brevity in writing, as they played for perennial losers back when they were Vladimir and Michael. The Rangers give the ball to Cliff Lee (12-9, 3.18) who put up one of the best postseasons in history last year.

I remember mocking the move at the time, but dropping the 'Devil' from their name propelled Tampa into perennial contenders, 96-66 this year. Carl Crawford (.307/.356/.495) and Evan Longoria (.294/.372/.507) lead an offense that somehow scored better than 800 runs despite Ben Zobrist (.238/.346/.353) and Carlos Pena (.196/.325/.407) being complete busts. David Price (19-6, 2.72) established himself as Tampa's ace this year and deservingly starts Game 1.

With the exception of Indian Shores Beach, I've had quite a few personal disagreements with the Tampa Bay area, so it's hard to be objective here. Bay to Bay is a nice road name, but I'm taking Cliff Lee and the Rangers in this one. After a 2009 postseason in which Lee went 4-0, 1.56, I find it hard to pick against him. For the series though, I see the Rays winning in five.

Reds at Phillies
Game 1, 5:07 p.m. tonight

Pittsburgh saw a lot of the Reds (91-71) and presuming we can pretend none of their fans are also Cincinnati Bearcats fans, they're one of the nice stories this year. Joey Votto (.324/.424/.600) is the presumptive MVP and leads a strong, deep lineup that led the NL in run scoring. Scott Rolen (.285/.358/.497) hasn't hit so well since his 2004 career year, and young outfielder Jay Bruce (.281/.353/.493) is a defensive standout and a strong power/speed threat on offense. On the mound, the Reds feature a deep bullpen but no clear #1 starter. Thus they'll go with Edinson Volquez (4-3, 4.31), by far the least accomplished Game One starter but also one who strikes out more than a batter an inning.

Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the Padres' late season losing streak gave the wild card to Atlanta forcing the Reds to face the Phillies (97-65). This might be a last hurrah year for Philadelphia as their top hitter Jayson Werth (.296/.388/.532) will no doubt be in navy blue pinstripes next spring. Chase Utley (.275/.387/.445) and Ryan Howard (.276/.353/.505) both had poor seasons by their standards, great by anyone else's, while Carlos Ruiz (.302/.400/.447) quietly became the league's second best hitting catcher. The Phillies give the ball to Roy Halladay (21-10, 2.44), who will certainly win his fourth Cy Young. The bullpen is still a little suspect but less so than last year.

You have to pick the Phillies in this game as there's no sign yet that Halladay is mortal. And I'm picking Phillies in four for this series.

Yankees vs. Twins
Game 1, 8:37 p.m. tonight

Target Field hosts its first ever playoff game tonight in a rematch of last year's series - memorably decided in favor of the Yankees on one of 4,000 blown calls in the playoffs. You know the Yankees (95-67) - Alex Rodriguez (.270/.341/.506), Derek Jeter (.270/.340/.370), Mark Teixeira (.256/.365/.481), and Robinson Cano (.319/.381/.534) again are the core. If those first three guys' numbers looked low to you, it's because we're dealing with another aging team that like the Phillies may have their best chance at another title this year. CC Sabathia (21-7, 3.18) gets the ball and is hard to hit until you realize his given name is 'Carsten Charles'.

The Twins (94-68) were sputtering along this year until losing the MVP-caliber bat of Justin Morneau (.345/.437/.618) from the middle of their lineup. Freed of that encumbrance, they went on a tear and won the AL Central easily. Jim Thome (.283/.412/.627) of Aurora, Ohio, the best clean power hitter of our time, had an unbelievable year while Joe Mauer (.327/.402/.469) diminished from MVP form to mere "best catcher in the league" form. The Twins go with Francisco Liriano (14-10, 3.62) for Game 1.

I want the Twins to win this more than anything, but it's hard to pick against the Evil Empire. My head is going with the Yankees in this game and Yankees in four for the series. The time will come when this gang can't get it together in the postseason, but they're only a year older than last year when everybody played the best ball of their lives.

1 comment:

  1. Twins over Phillies. It's going to be great.