The Obligatory Postseason Prediction Column

After reviewing my mid-season predictions in yesterday’s post, I didn’t really want to write another prediction column.  Let’s face it – I was terrible.

But there is also something inherently fun about making predictions, so here I am, unable to resist.  So without further stalling, here is one man’s take on who will advance out of the first round of the MLB Playoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

Playoff History

This is the Rangers fourth ever appearance in the playoffs, and the first since 1999 and the days of Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Rafael Palmeiro.  They have never won a postseason series.

Tampa is back for the second time in three years after losing in the World Series in 2008.

Regular Season Notes

A lot has been made about Texas finally winning with pitching, after years of having mound presence as their downfall.  They finished third in the AL with a 3.93 team ERA, just behind Tampa Bay’s 3.78.  But hold on – let’s not forget they played the inept offenses of Oakland, Seattle, and Los Angeles a total of 57 times.  Tampa Bay finished second while playing the huge bats of Toronto, New York, and Boston.  Advantage Rays.

Top Pitching Battle

David Price vs. Cliff Lee – the winner of these starts likely wins the series.

Top Player Battle

Evan Longoria vs. Josh Hamilton – two superstars who were injured a large portion of September.  Whoever appears to be healthier might be the biggest difference maker.

Prediction

All signs point to a close series, but I’ll take Tampa Bay because of home field advantage.  At 39-42, Texas has the worst road record of all AL playoff teams.  Rays in 5.

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

Playoff History

The Twins are back for the sixth time in nine years.  New York is always here. 

Regular Season Notes

Minnesota opened up Target Field this year, and all worries about them losing their Metrodome home field advantage quickly evaporated.  The Twins dominated at home, going 53-28, and have home field in this series.  But….they can’t beat New York.  A 2-4 record this year was actually an improvement over recent seasons.  The Yanks own the Twins, and that dominance could be in the Twins heads. 

Top Pitching Battle

Mariano Rivera vs. Matt Capps – New York hasn’t had a quality start from a pitcher not named CC in a LONG time, but Minny’s rotation doesn’t strike fear either.  The battle of the closers may be the most important matchup in the series.  If Capps falters, the Twins are done.

Top Player Battle

Robinson Cano vs. Delmon Young – Cano was horrendous in the postseason last year (.167 ALDS, .193 all playoffs), but Young was worse (.083 average).  With Jeter struggling, Teixeira banged up, and Morneau out, these two players are key.

Prediction

The Yankees have a better offense, a better closer, historical dominance, and the fact that they are the Yankees.  But they also have almost zero starting pitching, and the Twins have Target Field.  Call it an upset.  Twins in 5.

Philadelphia Phillies vs. Cincinnati Reds

Playoff History

Philly won the NL East for the fourth straight time and are looking to reach their third consecutive World Series.  Cincinnati is the Cinderalla of the playoffs, making the postseason for the first time since 1995 and finishing over .500 for the first time since 2000.

Regular Season Notes

The Phillies were banged up much of the year.  But after acquiring Roy Oswalt and getting healthy, they dominated, going 23-7 from September 1.  Their pitching is the best in the game, they can win with speed or power, and they owned the Reds this year.  But Cincinnati lead the NL in runs scored, so they have the ability to compete.

Top Pitching Battle

Ryan Madson vs. Aroldis Chapman – Philly’s starting rotation trumps Cincinnati’s, no doubt.  But if games are close, the series might rest with the set-up men.  Madson has been inconsistent in the playoffs, and Chapman – though he is a rookie – is a lefty who can throw 105 MPH.  Howard, Utley, and Ibanez all hit left-handed.

Top Player Battle

Jimmy Rollins vs. Brandon Phillips – Utley and Votto will get their hits.  It might boil down to which of these scrappy middle infielders performs better.  Rollins was hurt most of September and Phillips plain stunk.  Who gets it going first?

Prediction

With their starting three there’s no way Philly can lose.  Can they?  The Reds are overmatched, but Votto will not allow a sweep.  Phillies in 4.

San Francisco Giants vs. Atlanta Braves

Playoff History

Atlanta used to live here, but this marks their first appearance since 2005.  The last time San Fran was here a ‘roided buffoon named Barry Bonds was batting cleanup. 

Regular Season Notes

San Francisco had the top team ERA (3.36) in the National League, with a dominant top-3 of Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez.  But Atlanta (3.56) wasn’t far behind in third, so the pitching edge isn’t as big as you might think.  The biggest stat might be this: Atlanta was under .500 on the road, losing 21 more games than they lost at home.  Guess who has home field advantage?

Top Pitching Battle

Derek Lowe vs. Tim Lincecum – the Giants ace definitely has the edge, but Lowe has been to the playoffs six times and knows what to expect.  If San Fran’s playoff rookie has any jitters, they are in trouble.

Top Player Battle

Buster Posey vs. Jason Heyward – both are rookies and both are the most dangerous hitters on their respective teams.  Whoever cracks first loses.

Prediction

If Atlanta can steal game one, they will win.  If not, the Giants take it.  Giants in 4.

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