Thursday, October 03, 2013

The 2013 MLB Playoffs Predictions Column


Geez Louise, it’s been a long time since I’ve been able to write for SportsAlert.  Sorry.

Let me ask you a question: If a “round” of playoffs is the same length as a regular-season game – in other words, if a “round” lasts only one game – and if a team loses in that “round,” did that team actually make the playoffs?  Hell, no!  So congratulations to the Tampa Bay Rays and the Pittsburgh Pirates for reaching the “real” playoffs (specifically Pittsburgh, which is in for the first time in 21 years.  The postseason drought, in fact the consecutive number of seasons below .500, was old enough to drown its own sorrows in beer).  Now, will these Wild Cards make some noise in the playoffs?  Not this year.

American League

Boston Red Sox (97-65) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (92-71): So all it took for the BoSox to go from a cellar-dwelling embarrassment back to one of the power clubs of Major League Baseball is to change managers from one who tried to shut down Chicken-and-Beer Nights during games (9/11 blame-layer Bobby Valentine) to a guy who’s said to have the players’ backs (John Farrell)?  Guess that’s good enough for me.  For all the talk of how the Bay Rays continue to use its young corps to overachieve, this will be yet another instance where small ball is no match for getting what you pay for.  Tampa’s young starting rotation is awesome, but they’ll cool off here.  Boston in five.

Oakland Athletics (96-66) vs. Detroit Tigers (93-69): And speaking of small ball. …  The A’s are in a good spot, also contending with great players young enough (and willing) to compete for cheap for at least a couple years.  And Tigers Manager Jim Leyland says that their superstar, Miguel Cabrera, is “playing in a lot of pain.”  No matter; I think it’s a smokescreen.  As long as Detroit’s starters can give Leyland at least seven innings with the lead (and that includes ace-turned-weak link Justin Verlander), I don’t see the Athletics mounting a challenge against a team fortified for the postseason.  Detroit in four.

So what happens if two lucrative teams play each other?  This is where Cabrera’s injury, especially if the American League Championship Series goes the distance, affects Detroit.  As should the Tigers’ longtime weakness, the bullpen.  Jose Valverde is no longer there to eff things up, but the team has found no answers for their mediocre bullpen crew.  And assuming there are no surprise injuries to Dustin Pedroia or David Ortiz, expect the Red Sox to come from behind and win one or two games.  Boston in six.

National League

St. Louis Cardinals (97-65) vs. Pittsburgh Pirates (94-68): While it’s nice to hear more recognition that PNC Park rivals Baltimore’s Camden Yards and San Francisco’s AT&T Park as The Most Beautiful Ballpark in Baseball, credit really should go to those who lauded the stadium’s beauty (I think it’s the skyline, in particular the Roberto Clemente Bridge, that helps PNC stand apart) back when the Buccos sucked.  A stadium’s resplendence is timeless; the Pirates are now just being an outfit worthy of playing in it.  Saying that, I have a feeling that the Cardinals’ balance and veteran experience will dispatch the Pirates rather quickly.  No shame, really; I think Pirates fans are just happy that they’re in the “real” playoffs.  St. Louis in five.

Atlanta Braves (96-66) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (92-70): There are three reasons why I’m picking the Dodgers.  One, Clayton Kershaw, who should be automatic enough to win two games and could win a third if need be.  Two, the Braves are no longer playing in the regular season.  And three, first base coach (and Braves legend) Terry Pendleton grabbed and shoved third baseman Chris Johnson after a loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Saturday.  Initial speculation was the fiery, old-school Pendleton didn’t care for Johnson trying to beat out Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins’s fantastic throw to first by sliding instead of running through.  But apparently Johnson threw down his helmet after going back to the dugout, and that helmet hit Pendleton, which led to the grabbing and shoving.  I’m not saying that is a sign of disunity; Johnson and Pendleton have met nice and let bygones be bygones.  But hey, it’s something to keep an eye out for.  Los Angeles in seven.

I’m not sure if I like the fact that Edward Mujica lost his job as closer for the Cardinals.  He hasn’t been playing well late in the season, and Trevor Rosenthal has been good in Mujica’s place.  But, sabermetrics aside, I can easily see Rosenthal blowing a couple leads to the Dodgers’ timely hitting.  In a matchup of My Two Favorite Teams After the Minnesota Twins, I have to give it to the city of my alma mater.  Los Angeles in six.

World Series

Well, well, well, it’s a matchup of two teams that made a blockbuster of a trade just over a year ago.  This is one of those rare deals that turned out to be beneficial for both sides.  That it has paid dividends for both teams so quickly and at the same time is rarer still.  By trading away Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, the Red Sox were able to clear the way for key pieces such as Daniel Nava, Stephen Drew and Xander Bogaerts.  And the additions of Gonzalez and Crawford, widely panned (including by me) last year when they went bust, have jump-started the lineup.  Expect Yasiel Puig to run around the bases like a combination of Jackie Robinson and Ricky Henderson.  Nick Punto – yes, that Nick Punto – will make one diving stop in the hole to preserve a one-run lead late in a game.  And Most Valuable Player Kershaw will shut down the Red Sox and shut up the Fenway Park faithful in the last game of the 2013 season as The Bastard Brooklyn Dodgers win their sixth title.  Los Angeles in five.

Posted by WilliamSou at 12:39 AM

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