Monday, October 02, 2006


None-Too Accurate Playoff Predictions

Predicting postseason outcomes is an exercise that makes calling the order of regular-season finish look like an exact science. -Dave Pease, Baseball Prospectus

As "Host of Seraphim" plays in the background, I slowly turn my back on the rainy saga that was the Giants' 2006 season and look toward the postseason, something that figures to be much more entertaining than watching Steve Finley sleepwalk through any more games.

Before I get into my predictions, I just want to mention something interesting I noticed after the season ended yesterday.

In the American League, there were five teams with 90 or more wins and eight teams above .500. In the National League, there was one team with more than 90 wins and just six teams over .500. That's a lot of mediocrity. I think we all expected the NL to be bad, but this bad?

These things tend to occur every so often in weird little cycles. The AL of the early-1970's was pretty abysmal (other than the Orioles), leading to the adoption of the DH, and there were some pretty mediocre division winners in the NL in the early-80's. In about three years, with free agency and the like, the talent pool should be spread out a little more evenly. At least, I hope that's the case. It really isn't good for baseball if we get one dominant league and one AAAA-type thing that wallows around in mediocrity, like what is going on in the NBA right now.

Anyway, onward with some predictions:

Yankees 3 Tigers 0

Perhaps I'm being too pessimistic, but let's just take a glance at the facts. The Tigers have been playing like absolute dogs since the All-Star Break. Their lineup is undisciplined and two of their best starters, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander, have been horrible the past month. One other starter, Kenny Rogers, is useless in Yankee Stadium.

Contrast that to the Yankees, who have been demolishing everybody lately and have one of the most ridiculous batting orders the game has ever seen. For crying out loud, the lowest OPS of anybody in the lineup is .806, from Gary Sheffield, and that's only because he was hurt all year; his lifetime OPS is .923. Their pitching is alleged to be their weak point, but they still managed to finish with the 6th-best ERA in the AL, and with Mariano Rivera around, all bets are off in the late innings.

I'll certainly be rooting for the Tigers, but reality has to set in at some point. The Yanks, as much as I hate to say it, are probably the best team in the playoffs, while the Tigers are quite clearly the worst, at least behind the Cardinals. Anything can happen in a short series, but I think the Tiger rotation is going to get slaughtered in Yankee Stadium, and their bats aren't good enough to win a slugfest. The Tigers are a great story, their fans should be proud, but they're dead meat.

Twins 3 A's 2

This is probably the best matchup in the first round. It's hard to find two teams more evenly matched. Both have underrated lineups, solid defensive units, and terrific bullpens. The A's probably have a better rotation one through four, but no one they have matches up with Johan Santana, who has absolutely owned them the past two years.

It comes down to this: the A's have to win Games 2, 3, and 4, because Santana is an absolute nightmare to face in the Metrodome, and I just don't think they can best him. In those middle games, the Twins throw out the inexperienced (Boof Bonser), the injured (Brad Radke), and the just plain sucky (Carlos Silva), so the A's need to take those three games. If Oakland had home-field advantage, I'd probably pick them to win this series, but with three games in the Terrordome, and having Santana pitch two of them, the Twins have the edge.

Mets 3 Dodgers 2

My visceral hatred of the Dodgers prevents me from being very objective here, but screw 'em. If there's one team that doesn't merit objectivity it's the Bums. I have to admit, though, that they look about as good as any team in the NL. Strong, balanced lineup with team speed, power, and patience, a deep bench, three strong starting pitchers, and a great bullpen. Ugh, why do I feel so dirty?

The Mets roll in without their ace, Pedro Martinez, which is a huge loss, but their remaining three starters (Tom Glavine, Orlando Hernandez, and John Maine) should be good enough to support what is probably the best playoff lineup behind the Yankees. This should be a close, exciting series, and at least with the Dodgers around we have a clear villain. Shea Stadium is always a rough place for opposing teams in the playoffs, so if it goes five expect the Mets to prevail.

Padres 3 Cardinals 1

It's a rematch of last year's NLDS, only this time it's the Cardinals who are the crappy team that took advantage of a horrible division. I actually like the Padres a lot in the postseason this year. Their offense is underrated and their starting rotation is deep and imposing. If Jake Peavy and Chris Young are both on, watch out. The Pads have decent depth and have been playing very well in the last month or so, and at this point they're my pick to come out of the NL.

The Cards, on the other hand, just stink. Any lineup with Albert Pujols in it can put runs on the board, but their pitching staff, behind Chris Carpenter, is just bloody awful. Carpenter can probably get them one game, but behind him there's Jeff Suppan, who isn't a guy you want starting big games, and then nothing...just nothing. If you want Jeff Weaver to be your third playoff starter, be my guest.

If the Padres beat Carpenter in Game 1, it's over. With their horrid starting pitching, the Cardinals figure to be facing a lot of early deficits, and with San Diego's rotation and bullpen, that's a recipe for an early October vacation.

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