Archive for October 7th, 2009

MLB Postseason Preview: Cardinals vs. Dodgers

St. Louis Cardinals (91-71) at

Los Angeles Dodgers (95-67)

OVERVIEW

About four months ago, when LA held about a 15-game lead in the NL West, my only Dodgers’ fan friend asked me to assess their playoff chances. My response? “Who’s your Game 1 starter? Exactly. What you did to the Cubs last year will happen to you.” The Dodgers are built for the regular season with a deep lineup and egalitarian rotation. The Cardinals, meanwhile, have played tremendously since acquiring Matt Holliday in July, have the league’s two best pitchers in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, and the best hitter of the last four decades in Albert Pujols. St. Louis has been better than Los Angeles for some time, and that will be borne out rather quickly, I think, in this series.

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers’ lineup, like their pitching staff, is deep but not highlighted by any one star. And that includes Manny Ramirez, who has hit .290 with a pedestrian 19 home runs. Guys like Andre Ethier, James Loney, and Matt Kemp are dangerous but unproven, and I wouldn’t feel particularly comfortable counting on them. Russell Martin has had, by all accounts, a horrendous season. There’s very little difference between the Dodgers’ fifth hitter and their eighth hitter, which is both a good and bad thing.

The Cardinals have Albert Pujols. (Fine, some more: Matt Holliday and Mark DeRosa give the lineup more depth than it had when Ryan Ludwick, Rick Ankiel, and Colby Rasmus were protecting Pujols. Obvs. And Tony LaRussa stopped batting his pitcher eighth in late July. Sigh.)

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MLB Postseason Preview: Twins vs. Yankees

Minnesota Twins (87-76) at

New York Yankees (103-59)

(RIDICULOUSLY BIASED) OVERVIEW

YankeesTwinsThe Yankees are the best team in the AL, but they’re taking on the Twins, who just completed one of the most incredible comebacks to win a division (down three with four to play). Fortunately for them, that makes them hot. Unfortunately for them, that makes them spent. I can definitely foresee an’03 Yankees World Series type situation, where the Twins feel as if they’ve already won their crown just by getting this far. Plus, the division race has left their rotation a little out of whack, forcing them to use rookie pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 1.

THE LINEUPS

As I insisted repeatedly earlier this week, the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the best three-four hitters in the league, but the lineup is also deep with seven guys who have over 20 home runs. A lot of that, of course, is due to the new Yankee Stadium, but a lot of it is also great production from guys like Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.

The Twins, on the other hand, have Joe Mauer, the best hitter in the league in 2009, but not much beyond that. Justin Morneau is hurt. Their second best hitter now is Jason Kubel who, though he did have an impressive season in ’09, is not going to strike fear into a lot of pitchers’ hearts. And the fact the Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Jose Morales are all getting significant numbers of at-bats is not all that intimidating. Continue reading

MLB Postseason Preview: Rockies vs. Phillies

Colorado Rockies (92-70) at

Philadelphia Phillies (93-69)

OVERVIEW

The (sigh) defending champion Phillies open with a rematch of the 2007 Division Series, when a red-hot Rockies squad swept them out of the playoffs with surprising ease. To me, this is the most intriguing division series and has a chance to be one of the best we’ve ever seen. These are the two best offenses in the league (the Phillies led the NL in runs; the Rockies were second. The Rockies led the NL in OPS; the Phillies were second), and each team boasts a deep rotation. I think these are the two best teams in the National League, and that this series goes five games.

THE LINEUPS

As mentioned like three sentences ago, these are the two best offenses in the league. Everybody knows about Howard, Utley, Rollins, and Ibanez for Philadekphia; they might be less aware of how important Jayson Werth and Shane Victorino are to the Phillies’ offense. Werth had 36 home runs this season. Jayson Werth!

Colorado, meanwhile, is spearheaded by Troy Tulowitzki, who you could make a strong case deserves to finish second in the NL MVP race behind Albert Pujols. Tulowitzki has made the leap this season and is, in my book, the second-best shortstop at the plate in the NL (behind Hanley Ramirez) and probably the best all-around shortstop in the game right now when you take into account his Gold Glove fielding. Todd Helton has bounced back to his usual .325 form, and the top of the Rockies’ order is formidable now that Carlos Gonzalez has found his swing the last two months.

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The Sports Revolution: Fixing Baseball’s Playoffs

Let me set the scene for you: It’s the Division Series, and a team that’s 15 games better than the team it’s playing has just been eliminated in four days. Some people notice.

Let me reset the scene for you: It’s the Division Series, and a team that’s 15 games better than the team it’s playing has just survived quite the scare in a taut seven-game series that drew national attention.

We must face a simple truth, sports fans: Baseball’s playoff system is broken. In this, the Fifteenth Year of the Wild Card, it is time to finally discuss change.

The main flaw with Major League Baseball’s postseason is its reliance on Chip Caray as its announcer. Pierre kids…maybe.

The main flaw with Major League Baseball’s postseason is that the regular season’s best team rarely if ever wins the World Series anymore. My evidence: The team with the best record in the regular season has won the World Series just twice since the inception of the Wild Card in 1995. Those two teams are the 1998 Yankees, who won 114 games and are the second-best regular-season team in American League history, and the 2007 Red Sox, who won 96 games. I’m tempted to exclude the ’07 Red Sox from this “Best Team” discussion because their 96 wins not only tied them with another team (the politically incorrect Indians) but also marked the fewest wins by a league leader since at least 1978, and that includes the strike-shortened, 144-game 1995 season.*

*But not the strike-shortened 1994 and 1981 seasons, where winning 96 games would have been a remarkable achievement in each case.

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