2009 MLB Playoff Picks

Now that the Twins dispatched with the Tigers (in 12 innings no less) to capture the AL Central, we can make some picks!

American League Division Series

  • Minnesota Twins vs New York Yankees: OK, sure, the Twins look a little overmatched. In Game 1, they face CC Sabathia and offer up, well, Brian Duensing. Not exactly a “fair matchup”. The same might be said for the rest of the respective teams’ parts: as I mentioned to Big Lou yesterday, any team that has Jose Morales as their DH might not have any business being in the postseason. That being said, I hate to pick against the sentimental favorite – and yes, the Yankees are only sentimental favorites in the minds of their players’ mothers (if that). So, I’m going to say that the Twins will scare the bejesus out of the Yankees … but fall just short. Yankees 3-2.
  • Boston Red Sox vs Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Maybe they need to start scheduling this series in April? I feel like the Sox and Angels have played in Round 1 since the dawn of time. Anyway, the Sox sort of scuffled to the finish line – or at least streaked to the finish line, with a sweep of Cleveland after being swept at the hands of New York and Toronto. Ah, that is the nature of baseball! Everyone says “the Angels get hits! the Angels steal bases!” Well, fine, they sure do. However, unless you’re Jacoby Ellsbury, you don’t steal home much. The last I checked, the Sox aren’t slouches with the bats either (unless you count Jason Varitek). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say the Sox starters show up for the series and quiet the free-swinging Angels. Red Sox 3-1.

National League Division Series

  • Colorado Rockies vs Philadelphia Phillies: The last time this happened, the Phils were favored to win the series and the Rockies, well, steam-rolled them. Will it happen in 2009? Neither time has what might classically be known as “good pitching” – both are adequate and beasts of their respective home parks. The Phils do have Chase Utley and Ryan Howard as the backbone of their lineup. The Rockies, although a lot of fun, have Todd Helton and Troy Tulowitzki. The Phillies – if they can find a closer – will scrape by this series. Phillies 3-2.
  • St. Louis Cardinals vs Los Angeles Dodgers: It seems wrong to me that the Dodgers have home field in this series – I mean, when was the last time the Dodgers seemed like a good baseball team? Who has the pitching advantage: Cardinals. Who has the hitting advantage: Cardinals. Seems to me that the Cardinals might be the better team here. Could it be that simple? Cardinals 3-0.

League Championship Series

  • Boston Red Sox vs New York Yankees: Has it really been five years since the last Sox-Yankees ALCS? What happened last time, anyway? The Sox won the first 7 meetings of these teams in 2009 and then the Yankees returned the favor by winning most of the rest. However, the teams are definitely well-matched. It will all boil down to which versions of the numbers 1-2 starters for each team decide to show up. I would say that Lester-Beckett in top form trump Sabathia-Burnett (remember, the Sox have beaten up on both of them), but the Yankees will have home field. The new Yankee Stadium bandbox plays into the strengths of the Yankees – that being “hit ball hard”. Will it be a grinder of a series? Indeed. Flip a coin ten times to try to pick a winner. Me, I’ll follow heart but with the caveat that brain says it might be otherwise. Red Sox 4-3.
  • St. Louis Cardinals vs Philadelphia Phillies: It is funny, comparing these two LCS. Likely, as an impartial observer, I might see the Yankees in the same light I see the Cardinals, i.e., the obvious favorite to win the League. However, in this postmodern world in which we live, one cannot deny context. The Cardinals have the shutdown pitching vs. the Phillies (well, unless Hamels and Lee get back on track). The batting order is pretty evenly matched – heck, I might even give Philly the advantage. Both teams have really questionable (or nonexistent) closers. If anything, the series might be wild. In the end, though, I might still have to lean towards St. Louis. St. Louis 4-2.

World Series

  • Boston Red Sox vs St. Louis Cardinals: Indeed, a rematch of 2004. Last year, I picked against the Red Sox and gave the Phillies the keys to the World Series. I have to admit, I feel the same way this year: the Cardinals will win it. However, as before, the Sox have all the tools to have the World Series for the third time in 5 years as well. However, the Sox need to have all their ducks in a row to make it through, while the Cardinals seem to already be in that “well-oiled machine” form. However, there are weeks of baseball to go before we get to the October (er, maybe November) Classic. St. Louis 4-3.

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Congratulations to the Phillies!

Now, I’m not going to say “I told you so”, but to every other baseball writer in the known universe (well, except Gammons, Stark and Crasnick), I say “Congratulations to the Phillies!”

Honestly, I had no real insight to why I picked the Phillies beyond a feel I had about the team (yeah, that is very anti-SABR and FJM would hate me), but here they are, celebrating on the field at Citizens’ Bank Park. I’m glad Philly won because after living in the city, I know that the city really needs something to feel good about, an the Phillies are definitely worth celebrating. And special congratulations to Jamie Moyer (as I told myself at the start of the playoffs, I’ll be picking up a Moyer t-shirt), who gets his World Series ring at the age of 46.

That was even worse for the Phils

So, I reran the Diamond Mind Online simulations of the Rays-Phils World Series with the new knowledge of the Rays rotation order, and well, Joe Maddon might be onto something.

This time, the Rays easily dispatched the Phils 4-1. The MVP was Evan Longoria, who crushed Phillies when it counted. Akonori Iwamura also had a good series, hitting over .400.

Quick Game Summaries:

Game 1: Philadelphia 4 – Tampa 0

  • W: Cole Hamels (9 IP/0 ER/8 K); L: Kazmir (6 IP/3 ER/8 K)
  • Jimmy Rollins: 2/5, RBI; Victorino 3/4, RBI. Hamels was dominant.
Game 2: Tampa 5 – Philadelphia 4
  • W: Chad Bradford; L: Chad Durbin; Sv: David Price.
  • Starters: Brett Myers 7 IP/0 ER/8 K; James Shields 7 IP/3 ER/10 K. The Philly bullpen imploded in the 8th, giving up a 2R pinch-hit HR to Rocco Baldelli.
  • B.J. Upton 2/4, RBI; Jayson Werth 1/4, 2 RBI; Pat Burrell 1/4 HR; Shane Victorino 1/4 HR
Game 3: Tampa 6 – Philadelphia 2
  • W: Matt Garza (6.2 IP/2 ER/7 K); L: Jamie Moyer (4.2 IP/5 ER/4 K); Sv: David Price
  • Akinori Iwamura 4/5, 2R; B.J. Upton 3/5, RBI; Dioner Navarro 1/3, 2 RBI; Victorino and Chase Utley, 2 H each. Moyer came unglued in the 5th, throwing 2 WP.
Game 4: Tampa 9 – Philadelphia 6 (Tampa leads 3-1)
  • W: Andrew Sonnanstine (5.1 IP/5 ER/5 K); L: Joe Blanton (2.0 IP/6 ER/1 K)
  • 2 IP of 0 ER relief from J.A. Happ and Ryan Madson; 3 IP of 1 ER relief from Grant Balfour.
  • Evan Longoria 2/3, 2 HR, 5 RBI; Carlos Pena 2/4, 3R, 3 RBI, HR; Iwamura 2/4; HR for Howard in 9th. Blanton was terrible.
Game 5: Tampa 3 – Philadelphia 1 (Tampa wins Series 4-1)
  • W: Kazmir (6.1 IP/1 ER/13 K); L: Cole Hamels (7 IP/3 ER/10 K); Sv: David Price
  • Longoria 2/4 RBI; Iwamura 2/5; Upton 2/5; Rollins 2/5; Feliz 1/4 HR. Kazmir struck out the first 11 batters he faced. Hamels was good, but not good enough.
If anything can be culled from this is that Philadelphia might strike its way out of the championship. The K totals for the Tampa starters: 8, 10, 7, 5, 13. Not pretty.

Simulated Phils don’t fare as well as I’d like

So, in my quest to not make my World Series pick based on gut and heart alone, I decided to simulate the World Series using Diamond Mind Online. Unfortunately for the Phillies, it doesn’t turn out as well as I had hoped.

Tampa won the series 4-3 for their first World Series championship. The Series MVP was none other than James Shields, who won games 3 and 7.

NOTE 10/20/08: Of course, the minute I did this, I read that Kazmir will start game 1. I will redo the sims considering Tampa’s revised rotation. Bah!

For your entertainment, here are the summaries of the 7 game series (remember, games 1,2,6,7 in Tampa and games 3-5 in Philadelphia):

Game 1: Tampa 6 – Philadelphia 4 (Tampa leads 1-0)

  • W: Edwin Jackson; L: Chad Durbin; Sv: David Price
  • Summary: Philly starter Cole Hamels was not at his sharpest, giving up 4 ER in 5.1 IP with 5K. Tampa starter Andrew Sonnanstine didn’t fare much better, surrendering 4 ER in 6.1 IP with 4K. Ryan Howard did put the Phillies ahead at one point with a HR, while Greg Dobbs went 2/4. However, that was no match for B.J. Upton, who went 3/4 with 2 HR and 4 RBI.
Game 2: Philadelphia 7 – Tampa 4 (Tied 1-1)
  • W: Brett Myers; L: Scott Kazmir
  • Summary: Brett Myers took over as the Philadelphia ace, throwing 6.1 innings with 3 ER and 7 K, holding Tampa off balance. On the flipside, Scott Kazmir imploded in the first inning, giving up 4 ER, but he did end up hanging around for 5 innings, giving up 5 ER with 3 BB and 6 K. Philly closer Brad Lidge gave up a 9th inning HR to Evan Longoria, too. Shane Victorino got 2 H and scored 2 R, while Pedro Feliz drove in 2 on 0 H.
Game 3: Tampa 4 – Philadelphia 2 (Tampa leads 2-1)
  • W: James Shields; L: Ryan Madson: Sv: David Price
  • Summary: James Shields was nearly outpitched by Jamie Moyer, both going 6 IP and giving up 2 ER (with Shields striking out 5 to Moyer’s 0), but Shields came out with the win when Ryan Madson gave up a PH HR to Eric Hinske. Chad Bradford added 2 innings of 0 H, 2K relief. The only real offense for Philly consisted of Pedro Feliz’s HR as they floundered at home.
Game 4: Tampa 5 – Philadelphia 3 (Tampa lead 3-1)
  • W: Chad Bradford; L: Chad Durbin; Sv: David Price
  • Summary: The Philadelphia bullpen blew another game, this time Chad Durbin did the damage, giving up a big 2 run hit to Jason Bartlett in the top of the 9th. Evan Longoria hit a HR earlier off Philly starter Joe Blanton, who went 6 innings and gave up 2 ER with 4 K. Matt Garza was good, but not great, allowing 3 ER in 6 IP with 4 K, while David Price racked up his third save. The Phillies got 2 RBI from Pat Burrell and 2 H from Shane Victorino.
Game 5: Philadelphia 10 – Tampa 2 (Tampa leads 3-2)
  • W: Cole Hamels; L: Andrew Sonnanstine
  • Summary: This was the type of game that Philly hoped it would get at home, it only took 2 games to get there. Ryan Howard also finally decided to show up, going 3/4 with 3 RBI and a HR. Jayson Werth added 2 RBI, 3 H and a HR, while Pedro Feliz went deep for his own 2R HR. Cole Hamels pitched well, striking out 11 over 6 IP with 1 ER and Sonnanstine fared poorly, giving up 5 ER in 4 IP. Carlos Pena was one bright spot for Tampa, going 2/4 with 2 doubles.
Game 6: Philadelphia 4 – Tampa 2 (Tied 3-3)
  • W: Brett Myers; L: Scott Kazmir; Sv: Brad Lidge
  • Summary: Scott Kazmir got bombed again, lasting only 4.2 IP, yielding 4 ER with 7 BB and 5 K. The biggest hit was Geoff Jenkins grand slam after Kazmir walked the bases loaded. Pedro Feliz also went 3/4. Brett Myers again pitched well, 6 IP with 2 ER and 5K. Carl Crawford went 2/4 and Longoria drove in a run in the losing effort.
Game 7: Tampa 4 – Philadelphia 1 (Tampa wins 4-3)
  • W: James Shields; L: Jamie Moyer; Sv: Chad Bradford
  • Summary: James Shields decided to take Tampa all the way to the top, coming 2 outs from a CG, striking out 7 and allowing only 1 ER. Chad Bradford came in to get the save and finish Tampa’s World Series run. The big hit was Rocco Baldelli’s 2R HR off Jamie Moyer, who performed admirably, allowing 3 ER in 6 IP with 2K. Philadelphia did get on base a lot, with Burrell, Utley and Victorino all getting 2 H, but none would score except for Burrell on a solo HR. If anything killed the Phillies chances to win the Series is Jimmy Rollins inability to get on base most of the Series.
So, there you have it. My heart says Philly will win, but Tampa does seem like a better team on paper. In any case, sounds like an exciting series.

Congratulations to the Rays

Well, on the plus side, I did correctly predict a Rays-Phils World Series, now didn’t I?

I give the Rays credit, they got the timely pitching (from Matt Garza) and timely hitting (from Willie Aybar) they needed to win the game and the series. The holes in the Red Sox lineup were huge tonight, with not much to fear from hitters 7-9. This will be an interesting challenge for the Sox to deal with in the offeason. What do you do about Drew? Or Lugo? Or Varitek? Or Lowrie? Or Ellsbury? (if either of them can’t figure out how to hit the fastball.) Or Crisp? The Sox need a another bat, but where will they find the space with Lowell and Youk at the corners? Ah, the questions.

Anyway, congratulations to the Rays for the 2008 AL Pennant. The franchise deserves the success after the mess they were from 1998-2006, especially with all the homegrown players that lead them to this championship.

That being said, I still say the Phillies will be the World Series Champions in 7 games. It will be exciting, I’m sure about that.

MLB playoff picks 2008

Now that the White Sox dispatched the Twins and were officially crowned the AL Central Champions (by the way, I was rooting for the Twins), we can get to my picks:

American League Division Series

  • Boston Red Sox (WC) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (ALW): Boston in 5 – Sure, I might be biased, but I think most people underestimate Lester and Matsuzaka, along with the Sox bullpen. The biggest question mark is the health of Lowell and Drew. This series will be a nailbiter
  • Chicago White Sox (ALC) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (ALE): Tampa in 4 – I’m not the first to dub them the “team of destiny,” but yes, the Rays are “the team of destiny” in 2008.
National League Division Series
  • Milwaukee Brewers (WC) vs. Philadelphia Phillies (NLE) – Philadelphia in 4 – Unless CC goes all Walter Johnson on us and pitches on 1 days rest, the Phillies are just too potent to be slowed down by the Brewers.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (NLW) vs. Chicago Cubs (NLC) – Chicago in 5 – Sweet Lou will outdo Torre to win the series, even with the fragile arms of the Big Z and Harden.
League Championship Series
  • Boston Red Sox (WC) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (ALE) – Tampa in 7 – I had to think long and hard about this, but with the home field advantage and the “team of destiny”, I can’t really justify picking against them. However, that being said, I wouldn’t mind if either team wins the series.
  • Philadelphia Phillies (NLE) vs. Chicago Cubs (NLC) – Phillies in 6 – Yes, yes, Cubs fans, get over it. The Phillies will win the series and your long suffering will continue. Sorry.
World Series
  • Philadelphia Phillies (NLE) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (ALE) – Phillies in 7 – Apologizes to you, too, Tampa Bay fans, but my hunch is that Philadelphia will walk away World Series champs this year. Utley and Howard will carry the team, especially when Howard can DH in Tampa. And Jamie Moyer will get his ring.