American League Division Series
Detroit vs Oakland
The biggest news is that Matt Scherzer was picked over Justin Verlander to start game 1 of the NLDS. Detroit has most of its core back from last year and faces an Oakland team that may not wow you by stats (.254 team batting average) but are great at situational hitting, get on base, have timely pitching (opponents bat .242 against them) and may have the best chemistry of all the teams in the playoffs.
The main issue I am concerned with is that Detroit has nobody to consistent close in their bullpen while Grant Balfour is pretty solid closing at the end of the A’s bullpen. This series is very evenly matched, however I think Oakland wants to and will make some serious noise this year. The other big story is Miguel Cabrera has been hurt since July and not hitting like himself. Will he return to in time to move the Tigers to the next round? I don’t think so. Oakland is for real and proving last year was not a fluke.
Prediction: Oakland in 4
Tampa Bay vs Boston
Beating Texas was not very impressive to me because I felt the Rays were the better team. Beating a red hot Indians team at their home? Now that is a surprise. Joe Maddon was always a great manager and he is quickly becoming known as an elite one. The Rays just handle the business at hand and go about their job, flying under the radar, outplaying you in the process.
Now they face a Red Sox team they have seen plenty of times this season. One of the biggest stats during these two matching up is that both team’s batting average was under .240.
The Red Sox are good and solid, however momentum means everything in this playoffs so far this year. Pitching will control this series and they if the Rays can steal a game in Boston, they have David Price and Alex Cobb pitching at home most likely.
Rays proved me wrong already getting here. Can they make it to the ALCS? Sure. This series will be all about the pitching.
Prediction: Rays in 5
National League Division Series
Pittsburgh vs St. Louis
So much intrigue with this series. Both teams have played each other several times so they should know their strengths and weaknesses. The Pirates are the best underdog team going into the playoffs since it has been 21 years since they have been successful. The Cardinals definitely have the edge as it comes to pitching, clutch hitting and veteran leadership.
Side note: It just amazes me how the Cardinals may have broken the record for least stolen bases of a 97 win team ever (they had a team total of 45 and Jon Jay led the team with 10)!
The Cardinals also will be heavily favored since this is the 3rd straight year the team has made the playoffs.
The Pirates are among the best defensive teams in the league. I feel this is one series that could go either way. In the end I think home field will win out. Cardinals just better not underestimate how much the Pirates team is believing and getting energy from their fan base. See Johnny Cueto for an example.
Prediction: Cardinals in 5
Atlanta vs LA Dodgers
What are the Braves doing? I really don’t understand their focus. Here has been their September in a nutshell:
First of all they get upset that the Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez admired his first home run and almost get into a fight with him after they were admiring base hits off him earlier in the game. Then last week due to some history between the Brewers Carlos Gomez and Pat Maholm, Brian McCann and half the infield find offense to Gomez running around and yelling as he ran the bases. I argue that these unfocused issues affected the way they played in September which was poor.
Are some of these issues they made a deal about worth fighting these non-playoff teams for? Yes as you can say Fernandez and Gomez broke some baseball etiquette rules.
However let’s not kid ourselves, it cost them home field through the entire NL playoffs. Now comes word that their highest paid player Dan Uggla is off the postseason roster. And I almost forgot Chris Johnson being cursed out in public by his first base coach Terry Pendleton after he tossed his helmet in the dugout after a loss last Saturday. This team can’t go a week without some controversy.
If they want to show they are prepared for the playoffs and not distracted, they must steal a game in LA. The Dodgers are well rested after easily clinching the NL West. Then they have the 1-2 duo of Clayton Kersaw and Zack Greinke. These two have been pitching as good as any dual in the league during the 2nd half.
And that offense. Some teams would die to have that many top all-star caliber players in the lineup (Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez. And don’t forget about Puig. Yasiel Puig does like playing in the limelight and he may be the X factor to this series. Look for the Dodgers to win this series. Vin Scully will once again state that “the magic continues” in Chavez Ravine!
Prediction: Dodgers in 4