A Division Series first occurred this year, with all 4 series going the full 5 games.
One conclusion we can draw is that the field of teams was rather evenly matched – which carries over into trying to predict the LCS winners.
Another thing that the even playing field did was force several advancing teams to use their aces in Game 5 of the Division Series, which makes it likely that the aces will square up in Games 3 and 7 of the League Championship Series, and keeps the mound matchups more likely in their current sequence.
American League: Tigers at Yankees
So I missed on both my predicted winners, opting to go with the teams sho got the most out of what they had (A’s and O’s), rather than the teams that are better on paper, but did not pull away they way they should have in the regular season.
I will say that in the Yankees-Orioles series, I felt that the Game 3 winner would win the series and questioned whether the Orioles’ bullpen would keep putting up zeroes. When Baltimore’s bullpen excelled, the O’s won. When they – notably Jim Johnson – failed, they lost Game 1 and the pivotal Game 3 as well.
The Yankees-Orioles series was also more pitching-dominant than expected. In order to make it to the World Series, the Yankees will have to bring their bats to the ALCS.
My call on the Tigers-A’s series was nearly correct in terms of picking it as the series where the home team would win every game (which was true of the first 4 games, but Justin Verlander would probably have won Game 5 anywhere on any planet with gravity).
So will the Yankees’ home field help them prevail?
Will C.C. Sabathia go on short rest to match up with Verlander in Game 3 – or will he go in Game 4 on regular rest and come back for a potential Game 7 on short rest?
I know I would rather have my ace on regular rest when taking on the other team’s ace – and we don’t know if there will be a Game 7, so I would spot the Tigers the edge in Game 3 unless down 2-0, and reclaim the edge in Game 4. It will be interesting to see what Joe Girardi does – the broadcast media is making it a foregone conclusion that they will get the Game 3 matchup they crave.
What about the bats? The Tigers looked better hitting than the Yankees did – but that could be dictated by the opponent.
And what about the bullpens? The Yankees looked quite good in the ‘pen – and if Joba Chamberlain doesn’t get hurt by a broken bat in Game 4, maybe the Yankees win that game and close out the Orioles in 4. The Tigers were a lot uglier in their Game 4, as Jose Valverde completely imploded – it looked like he was fatigued and throwing straight-as-an-arrow 92 mph fastballs.
And the bullpens will likely decide this series on days Verlander and Sabathia don’t pitch. If the Yankees can hang 2 losses in 5 games on Jim Johnson, it’s sick to think of what they will probably do to Valverde.
Prediction: Yankees in 6
Cardinals at Giants
I need to stop picking against the Cardinals. It’s clear you can never count them out. How interesting is it that the last 3 teams to knock the Phillies out of the postseason are all still alive this postseason?
As impressive as the Giants’ comeback was from down 2-0 to the Reds, it’s also fair to question whether the Giants make it out of the NLDS at all if Johnny Cueto – the Reds’ best starter – doesn’t get hurt at the beginning of Game 1.
Chris Carpenter is a major x-factor for the Cardinals, after missing nearly the entire regular season. It looks like Carpenter is just about at peak form. Kyle Lohse is effective, too – which is pretty important, since Adam Wainwright looks very shaky.
On the Giants’ side of the ledger, Matt Cain is the ace, but is not looking as dominant as he did mid-season. Madison Bumgarner had a horrible outing in a 9-0 Game 2 loss. Barry Zito got pulled early, but the silver lining is that Tim Lincecum‘s solid relief outing in the same game may have vaulted him right back into the rotation.
The lineups are good – with a slight edge to the Cardinals, while the bullpens are also good – with a slight edge to the Giants.
As much as I liked the battle-tested Giants relative to the not-ready-for-prime-time Nationals and Reds – there is certainly no stage fright among the Cardinals, who have won 6 straight elimination games in postseason play. I figure they will add to that total in the NLCS.
Prediction: Cardinals in 7