Sports

October’s Back: 2013 MLB Playoffs Preview

Well, we made it to October. The NFL continues to dominate sports headlines, but the magic isn’t there right now. Nope, not in football. It’s all in the diamonds. October is all about the baseball magic. This postseason promises quite a bit. The wild card craziness is over and there is now a full postseason slate primed for autumn drama. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the playoffs if you haven’t paid adequate attention during the regular season.

The American League:

Oakland A’s vs. Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers
Regular Season Record: 93-69
Key Players:
3B: Miguel Cabrera
1B: Prince Fielder
SP: Max Scherzer

Why they will win: The Tigers are built for the playoffs. Period. They have arguably the best pitching staff in baseball, with four top-tier starting pitchers, led by Scherzer and Verlander, any of whom could toss a shutout on a given night. The middle of their lineup is stacked with the best hitter in baseball: Miguel Cabrera, who hit .348 with 44 homeruns and 137 RBIs this year. He is a world-eater. Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter bring great experience and hitting to the mix. Some would say this is the Tiger’s to lose.
Why they won’t win: Cabrera has been banged up. They won’t win without Cabrera. Period. Their bullpen is the weakest part of the team and they are lacking a consistent closer, something every team wants come playoff time. Lastly, they have a tough matchup with the A’s. No one wants to play road games in Oakland, and the A’s can hit.

Oakland A’s
Regular Season Record: 96-66
Key Players:
3B: Josh Donaldson
OF: Coco Crisp
SP: Bartolo Colon

Why they will win: They want to win. Okay, all these teams want to win, but the A’s are a team in every sense of the word. This team has the “it” factor. There are no stars, just a bunch of guys with goofy haircuts and beards who know how to get on base and score. Everyone is comfortable in his role. The A’s also have one of the best closers in the game in Grant Balfour. They won’t be rolling out the same lineup everyday and this squad is okay with that. They won 96 games. That’s a lot.
Why they won’t win: The Tigers’ pitching could overwhelm them like it did last year (The Tigers won in 5 games). Scherzer and Verlander are a tough one two combo to deal with and the A’s don’t want to be down 2-0 going to Detroit.

Prediction:
Chuck Swag: A’s in 5
Phinny Cent: Tigers in 5

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Boston Red Sox
Regular Season Record: 97-65
Key Players:
2B: Dustin Pedroia
DH: David Ortiz
OF: Jacoby Ellsbury

Why they will win: The Red Sox were the best team in baseball this season in the best division in baseball. They are a great team with a phenomenal manager in John Farrell. Their hitting is deadly. They have power (Ortiz, Mike Napoli) and lots of speed in Ellsbury and Shane Victorino. Their bullpen, led by Uehara, is strong, as well.
Why they won’t win: Starting pitching. The Red Sox had a great season; there is no denying that. That being said, their starting pitching is a bit mushy. They could definitely win the whole shebang this season, but Jon Lester, Jake Peavy and whoever else starts start must be on their game. The Rays have an edge in starting pitching, but if the Red Sox starting staff can keep the games close, then the Red Sox bats can win it late.

Tampa Bay Rays
Regular Season Record: 92-71
Key Players:
The whole starting pitching staff
3B: Evan Longoria
OF: Desmond Jennings

Why they win: Momentum, starting pitching and clutch hitting. It seems like an easy formula, but the Rays will need some luck. This team actually reminds me a lot of last year’s World Series Champion San Francisco Giants: great starting pitching and timely hitting. Going into the Red Sox series, the Rays had two elimination games in a row. They gave up a total of two runs in those games. Any one of their starting four can go the distance and strike out 10 batters in a game (similar to the Tigers). However, their hitting is worse than the Tigers, so they can’t afford to get into offensive battles. Evan Longoria, Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings can only cause so much damage.
Why they won’t win: The Rays are 7-12 against the Red Sox this season. That statistic does not bode well for them. If the Red Sox pitchers can go deep into games and keep games close, I don’t like the Rays’ chances because the Red Sox have an offensive edge and a deeper bullpen. Longoria must produce runs if the Rays want to win. The good news is that Longoria powered the Rays through the two elimination games.

Prediction:
Chuck Swag: Rays in 5
Phinny Cent: Boston in 4

The National League:

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Atlanta Braves
Regular Season Record: 96-66
Key Players:
RP: Craig Kimbrel
OF: Jason Heyward
SP: Kris Medlen

Why they will win: The Braves are a great baseball team. They are streaky. When they are hot, there aren’t many teams out there beating the Braves. Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton possess some serious power. Throw in Jason Heyward and you have three players who can carry a lineup. They will go as far as their power hitting takes them. They have a fantastic bullpen let by Craig Kimbrel that can hold off teams late in the game. The Dodgers are not a hugely offensive team so the Braves have a chance.
Why they won’t win: Because they are the Braves. They have a classic issue of losing in the first round of the playoffs. Atlanta hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001. The starting pitching is quite good, but the Dodgers pitching is better and more experienced. If Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran pitch poorly, the Braves don’t have much of a chance.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Regular Season Record: 92-70
Key Players:
OF: Yasiel Puig
1B: Adrian Gonzalez
SP: Clayton Kershaw

Why they will win: They have the best pitching in the National League, by far. In addition to Kershaw (the best starter in baseball) and Greinke (real effing good), the Dodgers can throw out Hyu-Jin Ryu as a third starter, which is a nice problem to have. Their lineup finally meshed this season and they have threats from top to bottom with speed, power and pizzazz (see Yasiel Puig). Puig is the motor of the Dodgers, so keep your eye out for him.
Why they won’t win: This is a hard question because I don’t know how any team will beat Kershaw and Greinke. If the Braves can win the first game of the series then they have the edge. Everyone and their mother are expecting Kershaw to shut down the Braves. If everyone is wrong, then we have a great series on our hands. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are injured, which certainly hampers Dodger power.

Chuck Swag: Dodgers in 4
Phinny Cent: Braves in 5

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates

St. Louis Cardinals
Regular Season Record- 97-65
Key Players:
OF: Matt Holliday
SP:Adam Wainwright
C: Yadier Molina

Why they will win: Because they are the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals, according to me, are the best organization in baseball. They find ways to win. They are the clutchest hitters in baseball. Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday are hit machines.
Why they won’t win: The Cardinals pitching staff is good, but they are young. Rookies Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha have no postseason experience and are worn down from the season. The most clutch hitter in baseball, Allen Craig, is most likely out for the playoffs, which does not bode well. Lastly, the Cardinals are playing the Pirates, who will have the most hostile home environment in baseball because they haven’t been in the playoffs in 20 years.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Regular Season Record: 94-68
Key Players:
OF: Andrew McCutchen
3B: Pedro Alvarez
SP: Gerrit Cole

Why they will win: The Pirates are back! After 20 straight losing seasons, the Pirates not only pulled off an above .500 record, but also managed to secure a playoff berth. The Pirates have a balanced offensive attack, led by OF Andrew McCutchen, the frontrunner for NL MVP. In terms of pitching, the Bucs posted an impressive team ERA of 3.26, best for 3rd in the MLB. Their top three pitchers—A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano, and rookie Gerrit Cole—all have the capacity to pitch deep into games and closer Jason Grilli has proven himself to be a formidable ninth inning opponent. If they can keep their momentum going, the Pirates have the potential to surprise some people in the coming weeks.

Prediction:
Chuck Swag: Pirates in 5
Phinny Cent: Pirates in 5

Chuck Swag Final Four: A’s, Rays, Pirates, Dodgers
Phinny Cent Final Four: Tigers, Red Sox, Pirates, Braves

CS AL: Rays in 7
PC AL: Tigers in 6

CS NL: Dodgers in 6
PC NL: Braves in 7

World Series:
CS: Rays in 6
PC: Tigers in 6

CS: The Tampa Bay Rays: Your 2013 World Series Champs. Don’t forget, they could also get swept by the Red Sox.
PC: The Detroit Tigers: Nobody messes with Miguel Crushbrera. Unless he’s injured.

October 4, 2013

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