Tuesday, October 04, 2005
And Now, Your Obligatory Playoff Predictions!
Boston 3, Chicago 1
This is perhaps the most deceptively lop-sided matchup of the playoffs. Sure, the White Sox got here with good pitching, and good pitching supposedly always beats good hitting in the postseason, but would you feel confident with Jon Garland going against Manny, Papi, Jesus Damon, et al.? Yeah, didn’t think so.
The White Sox are sort of a sympathetic pick because of their long history of playoff misery (their championship drought dates back even longer than Boston’s did before last season!), but they played like an also-ran in the second half of the season after devastating the AL in the first half. The Red Soxs’ pitching has been crummy all year, but that’s going to be more of an issue against a team like the Angels or the Yanks, not one with an offense as piddling as the Chicago’s. The Pale Hose may get good marks from the old-timer baseball types for their hustle and their ability to “manufacture runs”, or some such, but when they’re down 8-3 for the third time in the series it’s going to take more than Scott Podsednik’s magic legs and Ozzie Guillen’s maniacal frothing to save them. Prediction: Kenny Williams is really going to be missing Carlos Lee by the end of this series.
Just a curio: This is the first time ever that the two Sox teams have met in the playoffs, although I guess that really shouldn’t come as much of a surprise since the Whites have made the postseason exactly four times since divisional play was introduced in 1969.
Angels 3, Yankees 2
This is going to be a helluva series, complete with star power on both sides and that extra-added ingredient known as anti-Yankeeism. Vlad vs. Arod? L.A. vs. N.Y.? I mean, isn’t this what playoff baseball is all about?
The Yankees have huge questions with their starting pitching, but they have the offense and the bullpen to make up for it. The Angels, on the other hand, have an equally frightening bullpen and solid starting pitching to make up for their fairly poor lineup. The Halos’ starters are a tad overrated, but what does overrated even mean when the other team is countering Bartolo Colon and John Lackey with Aaron Small and Jaret Wright? The Yanks should push it to five games regardless, but the only way I see them winning is if Randy Johnson can start two games. The Halos should squeak by based solely on the strength of their superior starting pitching and their home field advantage (courtesy of Buck Schowalter), but this should easily be the most exciting LDS.
Astros 3, Braves 2
This series looks like kind of a toss-up, until we realize it’s the Braves we’re talking about here. As is well-documented, the Braves and the first round of the playoffs go together about as well as Michael Rapaport and well-timed comedy. The last time the Bravos missed the playoffs, Arnold Scwarzenegger was kicking ass in T2 instead of looking like an ass in California politics, and George W. Bush was busy fucking up baseball organizations instead of world powers. However, in that time Ted’s boys have won just one championship, in 1995. The rest of the time, thanks to assorted Lonnie Smiths, Brad Clontzes, and Russ Ortizezes, they’ve dropped the ball more times than the 40-Year-Old Virgin.
Whatever the Braves’ recent postseason trauma, this should be a good series, featuring some great, great pitching. Facing the Astros’ Cy Young-caliber trinity of Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, and Roy Oswalt has to be a terrifying proposition to any opposing team in a short series. The Braves counter with their own terrific trio: Tim Hudson, John Smoltz, and the latest Leo Mazzone pseudo-miracle, Jorge Sosa. There won’t be too much hitting going on, but there should still be some fun baseball in the kind of matchup that usually features close and late nail-biters inexplicably being decided by guys like Pete Orr and Jose Vizcaino.
Cardinals 3, Padres 0
In the next day or so, whether it be over the airwaves or on the written page, you may run into some overzealous commentators insisting that the Padres are a dangerous team fully capable of upsetting an overconfident Cardinal team. Don’t buy it. The Pads are a team that floated Gump-like into the playoffs, and their 82-80 record looks considerably worse when you consider that they’d be lucky to win 75 games if they played in any other division in the majors. They’re not a group of red-asses riding a hot streak like the 1973 Mets, and they’re not a team with a fluky home-field advantage like the 1987 Twins. They’re just a bad team playing in a horrid division.
Meanwhile, the Cards are the class of the National League. They have no glaring weaknesses, and are as well-rounded as any team in the playoffs. They have the same strong lineup, strong bullpen, and the absolute best five man rotation in baseball. When Mark Mulder is your least consistent starter, you know you’ve got it made.
The Pads aren’t going to get demolished, but I doubt they’ll make it particularly interesting. They could even steal a game that Jake Peavy starts, but the Cards look like a good bet to sleepwalk right through this series in preparation for the NLCS.