Let’s keep the baseball picks rolling into the League Championship round!

Detroit (+120) vs. Texas (-140)

Hitters: Both of these teams feature stacked lineups that are hitting the ball well right now.  For that to continue in the ALCS, each side will have to step up their game against very tough starting pitching.  The Tigers would love to see Miggy Cabrera warm up and Delmon “Yankee Killer” Young stay hot in the second round.  And speaking of hot, Adrian Beltre was scorching against the Rays.  EDGE: EVEN

Starting Pitching:  Again, both sides have very strong rotations (it’s no coincidence these teams are playing deep into October), so we need to look at the matchups.  C.J. Wilson is a solid ace at the top of the Rangers rotation, and he’ll be followed by capable starters in Derek Holland and Colby Lewis.  But the matchups seem to favor the Tigers in this series.  It starts at the top with the best pitcher in the AL, Justin Verlander.  Then comes Doug Fister, who followed his breakout regular season with a Game 5 gem against the Yankees.  The Tigers are also solid at the back of the rotation with Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello, though this is where the advantage may swing in the Rangers’ favor.  Still, Detroit is so tough at the top that I have to give them the nod.    EDGE: TIGERS

Bullpen: Tigers closer Jose Valverde made good on his guarantee and shut down the Yankees for the series win.  That said, Detroit’s bullpen just can’t stack up against their counterparts from Texas top to bottom.  Feliz is the hard-throwing closer that gets all the attention, but Uehara and Adams bridge the late innings as well as any setup men in the business. EDGE: RANGERS

Other Factors: Ron Washington is a by-the-books guy, but at this point you have to give him some credit for getting his team to back-to-back ALCS appearances.  As for Jim Leyland, he’s cut out of the Tony La Russa mold with his constant lineup tinkering.  Neither guy is likely to make a big difference in this series.  The Rangers have home field advantage, though that’s at least partially mitigated by the fact that they’ll be facing Verlander in the first game.

The Pick: There are a lot of potential heroes in each of these lineups, but for me it comes down to the starting pitching matchups.  With a big pitching edge in Game One, Detroit has a great chance of taking this series home with at least one win, which would flip home field advantage in their favor.  While I do think the Rangers will ride their potent offense and dominant bullpen to a couple wins, the starting matchups line up perfectly for a Tigers upset.  The positive overlay on your wager is just the icing on the cake.  DETROIT +120

St. Louis (+125) vs. Milwaukee (-145)

Hitters: St. Louis led the NL in runs scored in 2011, so there’s no doubt they bring great bats into this series.  Pujols and Berkman were big for the Cardinals in their divisional matchup with Philly, while newly acquired Rafael Furcal had some big hits to fuel the upset.  The big question surrounding St. Louis is the status of Matt Holliday and his injured finger.  Holliday was basically a non-contributor against the Phillies. The Brewers are no slouches on the offensive side, with two of the best in the game in Braun and Fielder.  As we’ve mentioned before, the Brewers have a gaping hole in their lineup at the shortstop position, but otherwise are fairly solid.  If Holliday is healthy, the Cardinals have a pretty clear edge.  If not, things get a lot murkier. The current reports out of St. Louis are that Holliday is back to regular batting practice, so we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. EDGE: CARDINALS.

Starting Pitchers: The Cardinals are very solid throughout their rotation, though none of their starters was dominant in the regular season.  Chris Carpenter looked like his former Cy Young self against the Phillies, including a gem for the ages in Game 5.  If that continues, St. Louis may have the ace they need.  I mentioned in the divisional preview that Zach Greinke came alive in the second half, and he’ll be starting Game 1 for the Brewers.  Gallardo and Marcum are very capable starters as well.  EDGE: BREWERS

Bullpen: This was an area of weakness for both teams at the start of the season, but developed into a strength by the end.  The Cardinals ‘pen has the versatility that La Russa enjoys, and that will come in handy against the Braun/Fielder combo.  Milwaukee had a couple late meltdowns in their series against Arizona, but will likely have those issues straightened out coming into this matchup. EDGE: EVEN

Other Factors: The managerial matchup is a huge edge for the Cardinals, as La Russa has been under the bright lights of October many times in the past.  But that advantage is countered by Milwaukee’s home field advantage, which showed up again in the divisional playoffs (3-0 at home, 0-2 in Arizona).  Milwaukee just needs to hold serve at home to take this series.

The Pick: I’ve gone back and forth on this one.  The Brewers are great at home in general, and even tougher when Greinke takes the hill (11-0 at home) as he likely will in Games One and Five.  But the Cardinals are one of the few teams that can get to Milwaukee in Miller Park, as evidenced by their road sweep of the Brewers in August.  This has the potential to be a chippy series, because these teams don’t like each other much.  With an experienced manager, a veteran lineup, and a potential ace in Carpenter that seems to be rounding into form at just the right time, the Cardinals can ride their momentum to a World Series rematch with the Tigers.  ST. LOUIS +125



Category:2011 -- posted at: 3:00pm CDT