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    October 2008
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World Series Pick

The result of the ALCS has severly diminished my interest, though I would love to see the Rays get crushed. I don’t see that happening though, my pick is Rays in 5.

A few interesting observations:

1. Through two rounds, the Phillies are 0-2 when Jamie Moyer starts, and 7-0 when Cole Hamels, Brett Myers, or Joe Blanton starts.
2. The Rays, 57-24 at home during the regular season, are 4-2 in the ALDS and ALCS at the Trop, the same record they have on the road.
3. Philly has dropped Game 3 of each series, but are undefeated at home.

What does this all mean? Probably nothing. Tampa has a deeper pitching staff (Garza and Sonnanstine are a huge edge over Moyer and Blanton). They have a deeper lineup, especially when the DH is in play for Games 1,2, 6 and 7. And David Price is looming as a huge x-factor – a fresh, overpowering arm whose impact looks to be similar to K-Rod’s in the 2002 playoffs.

Philly’s best chance is for Cole Hamels to give them 2 shut-down performances, get a good start out of Myers in Games 2 or 6 and hope for Moyer or Blanton to steal one in Game 3, 4 or 7. And they need Ryan Howard to hit. He’s struggled in the playoffs, and if he gets going they’re lineup will be able to pile up a ton of runs.

But this feels like the Rays year. The next time they’ll be flying back to Tampa they’ll bring the World Series trophy with them. Carlos Pena will be the MVP.


Baseball Predictions, LCS

The NLCS starts tomorrow, with the ALCS opening up Friday night.

In the first round, I correctly called 3 of the winners (missing Philly), and even called Tampa Bay’s win in the correct number of games. Let’s see how I do this round.

NLCS: Philadelphia vs. Los Angeles
Both teams looked impressive in round one, and showed enough to make you think they could easily win the NLCS.

For Philadelphia, they need to do two things. First, their low-ball hitters have to get to the Dodgers’ low-ball pitchers.

Second, they need a good effort out of their rotation. Cole Hamels needs to pitch like the ace he is, Brett Myers needs to be closer to the pitcher he was in Game 2 of the NLDS than the one he was in his last two regular season starts, and Jamie Moyer and Joe Blanton need to give them quality starts. Philly has a deep bullpen, which unlike the Dodgers’ one, is not banged up. Get into the 6th or 7th inning tied or leading, and the Phils have good odds. Though I still don’t trust Brad Lidge to not blow a save at a critical time.

For Los Angeles, they need Raffy Furcal and Manny to keep hitting. And if the Phils pitch around Manny, they need guys like Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to step up. Citizens Bank is a hitters park, and they could knock around a pitcher like Myers in Game 2 if they get some good at bats. They need Broxton or Saito, whoever closes, to be on the mark. Derek Lowe and Chad Billingsley need to pitch well in Games 1 and 2. If they can split or win both, the Dodgers have an advantage going home.

I’m giving this one to the Dodgers in 5. I think Hamels wins Game 1 then the Dodgers come storming back. They have that team of destiny look, and between strong pitching, good hitting, and the expertise of Joe Torre on the bench, they’re a little above the Phils. Most, if not all the games will be close in score, but the Dodgers will wrap it up at home.

ALCS: Tampa Bay vs. Boston
I’m going to pick the Red Sox in 7, because I have to. I have no doubt this will be a hard fought series that will go at least 6 games, if not 7. And if the Rays don’t get over the hump and make the World Series this year, they almost certainly will in ’09 or ’10.

The Rays took the season series 10-8, and the teams seem pretty even. Boston’s starting pitching probably has a slight edge (at least 1-3), but the Rays bullpen is deeper. The lineups and defense are pretty even, possibly tipping to Tampa Bay now that Mike Lowell is out.

The key for Boston is to get ahead early, and get the pitch count of the youngsters like Kazmir and Garza up so they don’t go much if any past the 5th inning. The middle relief for the Rays is a huge advantage, so if the Rays can get an early lead or keep it even they’ll be in good shape. They need Pena and Crawford to stay healthy and productive, and for their kids to relax and just play ball. Joe Maddon will have them ready to go and this will be a heck of a series. But Boston knows how to win, and they’re getting a boost from youngsters like Justin Masterson and my boy Jed Lowrie.

In the end, loyalties say Sox in 7, while the Rays immediately become everyone’s pick to win in 2009.

Baseball Playoff Predictions

Not much time to write, nor will I get to watch any of the baseball playoffs until Saturday afternoon at the earliest, but as an avid baseball fan I wanted to throw out my predictions for the Divisional Round that starts tomorrow.

American League

Tampa Bay over Chicago in 4

Despite their status as Barack Obama’s favourite team, I don’t have a lot of love for the White Sox (their 2005 team has to be the worst world series champion in my memory).

Hey, did you know this is Ken Griffey Jr.‘s first time in the playoffs since 1997? My how his career took a turn for the worse after the trade to Cincinnati.

I would have liked the odds of the ChiSox’s winning better had they not been forced to use Gavin Floyd and John Danks – arguably their two best starters down the stretch – in a makeup game Monday and a tiebreaker tonight. That leaves Javy Vasquez, who has been brutal down the stretch, to start Game 1 against James “Don’t Call Me Jamie” Shields, and Mark Buehrle in a tough Game 2 outing against Scott “Jewel of” Kazmir. Floyd figures to pitch Game 3 Sunday against Matt Garza, who will either throw a gem or get shelled and be pulled within the first 3-4 innings.

Add in the strong Rays’ offense, which could be bolstered by the return of Carl Crawford, and this looks like a tough draw for Chicago. Unless you put a premium on playoff experience, I don’t see a lot of weaknesses in this Rays’ club.

But somebody should wake up the fans in Tampa and remind them that they are watching a championship-caliber team. For a team this good, Montreal would be drawing 30,000 a game with no problem.

Boston Red Sox of Boston over Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 5
Were I not a Sox fan, I’d pick the Angels in 5, but I have to go with my boys to pull this one out despite questions about their middle relief, and the health of JD Drew and Mike Lowell. Now, if Josh Beckett can’t go in Game 3, then….we have a problem. No Beckett, no chance in all likelihood.

Thing is, though they’re not as good as the ’07 championship team, there is still enough talent there to win 3 of 5 against anyone. I’m calling a K-Rod blown save in Game 2, and an Angels meltdown in Game 3 to turn this one around. Lackey will win Game 4 in Fenway, but Dice-K steals one on the road in Game 5.

National League
Brewers over Phillies in 5
If the Brewers remind me of anyone, it’s the 1995 Seattle Mariners (except that Seattle got hot down the stretch and made up almost 15 games against the Angels, while the Brewers stumbled down the stretch, and were saved by CC Sabathia’s superhuman effort, and the Mets’ even greater collapse).

But in form, they’re quite similar. They have a dominant left-handed power pitcher (Randy Johnson/CC Sabathia), and a slugging young lineup that has people buzzing. And, just like how the Mariners never lived up to their potential and got over the hump, neither will the Brewers.

Still, as much as the Brewers strike me as underachievers, the Phillies do more so. Cole Hamels is an ace, and Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley are two of the best at their respective positions. But Brett Myers has been abysmal his last two starts, and even though he’s been perfect to date, I don’t trust Brad Lidge not to blow a save at some point.

So…Phillies take Game 1 behind a commanding Hamels performance. Sabathia dominates Game 2. They split in Milwaukee and Sabathia pitches the Brewers to victory in Game 5. Upon which they will proceed to the NLCS and get crushed by whoever wins the Cubs/Dodgers series.

Dodgers over Cubs in 5
Hey, did you know that October 14 is the 100th anniversary of the Cubs’ last world series-clinching win? Expect to hear lots about it in the next week. Also, the Dodgers have won one playoff game since 1988. Expect to hear less about that.

The Cubs are the class of the NL, despite their lack of a left-handed bat. The Dodgers came on strong after the Manny Ramirez trade and the Jeff Kent injury. Both teams have questions…Harden’s speed is down, and Zambrano has been shaky his last couple of outings. Meanwhile, Saito doesn’t look like himself and Furcal may or may not be ready to go.

In any case, either team could bomb and go out in 3, or could go on to win the World Series. Really, anything could happen with either of these teams and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Peter Gammons was bullish on the Dodgers, so I’m going to give the edge to them based on that.

Storylines you will get tired of this round:
1. The Cubs’ 100 year drought.
2. Where will Sabathia sign?
3. Is this the year Ozzie Guillen finally snaps?