Thu, 29 September 2011
We didn’t get a chance to talk about the impending playoff matchups on our last show, since they were still being decided by one of the most exciting nights of baseball in recent memory. So here’s a quick breakdown of each matchup and where we think the smart money will fall.
Tampa Bay (+145) vs. Texas (-165)
Hitters: Despite health issues, Texas holds a big edge here. Beyond Longoria and Zobrist, the Rays have been a light hitting squad all season. Whether you consider Upton or Jennings their third best hitter, either guy would rate only about seventh best for this deep Rangers group. EDGE: RANGERS
Starting Pitching: The Rays have maybe the best 1-2 punch on the AL side in Shields and Price. They will certainly have a pitching advantage in Games 1 (Shields vs. Wilson) and 2 (Price vs. Harrison). After that it gets tricky, because it isn’t entirely clear who will pitch for the Rays. But regardless, the advantage will likely swing to the Rangers with Ogando taking the hill. EDGE: RAYS
Bullpen: Tampa’s bullpen has been an issue all season, but it’s hard to say how they’ll look in the playoffs with Wade Davis moved out of the rotation and the phenom Matt Moore added to the postseason roster. Texas has made great strides since last year in the ‘pen, though it’s worth noting that Neftali Feliz saw a spike in his walk rate and a reduction in his strikeout rate this year…not a great sign. EDGE: RANGERS
Other Factors: Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in the majors. He’s not afraid to think outside the box when it comes to deploying his personnel, which is a big advantage in the playoffs where every at bat counts for so much. Ron Washington is fine…he doesn’t really add or subtract much from his team. The Rangers enjoyed a substantial home field advantage (as most teams do) this year, posting a 52-29 record in Arlington.
The Pick: The Rays are a great story, coming from behind to grab a playoff spot on the last day while eliminating the rival Red Sox. At +145, they’re a tempting pick. But it’s hard not to think that they used up their magic just making the playoffs, and the run differential advantage for Texas (+178 compared to +93 for Tampa) indicates that the Rangers are really the better team here. TEXAS -165
Detroit (+130) vs. NY Yankees (-165)
Hitters: The Yankees are known for big name veteran hitters like Alex Rodriguez and Mark Texeria, but it’s been Robbie Cano and Curtis Granderson leading the way in 2011. New York is definitely blessed with a deep lineup, but the question is whether some of the older hitters will contribute against playoff pitching. Hold on to your drawers, because I’m about to drop a knowledge bomb on you: the Tigers’ top three hitters have been more valuable than the Yankees’ top three this season. Seriously. Look up the season Alex Avila is having...the guy is a stud. Throw in Cabrera and Peralta and you have one of the best middle of the order groups in the playoffs. Where Detroit is lacking is depth, as they get very little production at the bottom of their lineup. EDGE: YANKEES (but not by much).
Starting Pitchers: You may have heard about this Justin Verlander guy. He’s good. Really good. As in maybe AL MVP good. The Yankees sport the second best pitcher (Sabathia) in the AL postseason, but he’s second by a WIDE margin. The Tigers will also start the astonishing Doug Fister and the slightly disappointing Max Scherzer in this series, while the Yankees will counter with Ivan Nova and Bartolo Colon. Translation: Detroit will have the better starter in every game of this series. EDGE: TIGERS
Bullpen: The Yankees bullpen was in shambles earlier this season but has come around of late, and they still have Mariano Rivera, who has attended this little postseason dance once or twice before. Detroit’s bullpen is more of an unknown commodity given manager Jim Leyland’s penchant for using his starters until their arms fall off, though Valverde remains one of the best closers in the business. EDGE: YANKEES
Other Factors: Girardi and Leyland are mostly “by the books” guys, so don’t expect any surprising tactical decisions. Girardi is just hoping his team doesn’t blow this series so he doesn’t get blasted by the New York press, and Leyland is too busy applying Nicotine patches to care what’s happening on the field. Like the Rangers, the Yankees were 52-29 at home, so having the home field advantage will be big.
The Pick: A lot was made of the Red Sox collapse, but this Yankees team is slumping into the postseason as well. The only effective starter in their rotation will be matched up against Verlander twice, and the veteran lineup is looking old and gimpy right now. I have a lot of respect for Cano and Granderson, but they’ll need help against a tough pitching staff and I don’t think they’ll get it. New York was the better team in July, but the Tigers are the better team now (and the worst possible matchup the Yankees could have drawn). DETROIT +130
Arizona (+135) vs. Milwaukee (-155)
Hitters: Arizona features a young nucleus in Upton, Montero, and Parra that should keep the future bright in the desert for quite some time. But for the Milwaukee hitters, their time is now. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder constitute the best middle of the order of any team in baseball, and yes that includes the Cardinals. Throw in the rest of this deep lineup (minus an even replacement level shortstop…yikes!) and it’s not hard to see which offense is more potent. EDGE: BREWERS
Starting Pitchers: If you’re looking for a reason for the Diamondbacks enormous improvement this season, look no further than their starting rotation. Kennedy, Hudson, and Collmenter all took huge steps forward this year despite pitching in a tough home park. As for the Brewers, Greinke and Gallardo got off to tough starts but have been huge for Milwaukee in the second half, while Marcum and Wolf remain very steady options for Games 3 and 4 of this series. EDGE: DIAMONDBACKS
Bullpen: The Arizona fans are wincing at this point, because they know what’s coming. This has been a major problem area all year for the Diamondbacks, as their main strategy has been to get leads early and then hold on for dear life in the late innings. J.J. Putz is a capable closer though. Bullpen issues hurt the Brewers in the first half of the season as well, though the acquisition of K-Rod to pair with John Axford have solved those to some extent. Regardless, expect some late game heroics in this series. EDGE: BREWERS
Other Factors: Kirk Gibson and Ron Roenicke are the postseason noobs this year, so it’s a bit ironic that they’re matched up against one another. More importantly, the Brewers sport baseball’s biggest home field edge (57-24 in 2011), so Arizona will need to steal one in Milwaukee to win this series.
The Pick: The turnaround in Arizona has been impressive this year, and Gibson gets my vote for Manager of the Year (even despite the second half that Tony La Russa coaxed out of the Cardinals). But the Diamondbacks feel like the “happy to be here” team in the NL, and as impressive as their young pitchers have been in the regular season, they saw a steady diet of terrible lineups from their NL West counterparts. We’ll hear more from Arizona in the future, but with Fielder headed to the free agent market, the Brewers need to win right now before their window of opportunity closes for good. MILWAUKEE -155
St. Louis (+245) vs. Philadelphia (-290)
Hitters: You’ve probably heard of these St. Louis guys – Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday are a productive trio in the middle of the lineup. Not surprisingly, the Cardinals rode their Big Three to the highest run production in the National League. As for Philadelphia, the dirty secret about this team is that their offense has been in decline for years. Shane Victorino posted a career year, but the rest of the team had major issues, including more injuries for Chase Utley and a career worst on base percentage for Ryan Howard. The addition of Hunter Pence is the wild card for Philly. Still they were only 5th in the NL in runs scored, despite playing in one of the best run-scoring parks in the majors. EDGE: CARDINALS
Starting Pitchers: Do I have to do this? Really? Carpenter continues to be a workhorse for St. Louis, while Lohse and Garcia are above average pitchers. But the Phillies counter with Halladay, Lee, and Hamels, who would all be the staff ace of the Cardinals (and many other teams). The Phillies will have the edge in starting pitching against any team they face in the 2011 postseason. EDGE: PHILLIES
Bullpen: The Cardinals have improved their ‘pen markedly in the second half, which is a good thing considering they traded away their best young player to do so. Salas has looked good in the closer role and they’re deep with a variety of arms, so expect plenty of pitching changes as Tony La Russa engages in his textbook over-managing. Like the Tigers, it’s hard to say much about the Philadelphia bullpen since they rarely need it. Expect to see a lot of Charlie Manuel sitting calmly with his arms crossed while his starters pitch deep into games. EDGE: CARDINALS
Other Factors: While we’re not overly enamored with Tony La Russa’s managerial style here in Doctor and Dude land, it’s hard not to admit that he seems to get the most out of his teams. But really, both the Phillies and Cardinals are veteran squads…they know what they need to do, so this series will mostly be decided on the field. The Phillies posted a 52-29 home record, though they also won 50 games on the road so it’s hard to tell whether they have a home field advantage or are just an awesome team no matter where they go.
The Pick: This is actually the easiest series to analyze for one specific reason: the lines. -290 is just a stupidly high number for a five game baseball series. Are the Phillies the best team left in the postseason? Yes, definitely. But that line implies that Philadelphia would win this series over 70 percent of the time, and there’s no way that’s right. Strange things happen in a short series...the Cardinals just swept Philly earlier this month. It makes no sense to bet on Philadelphia, so either give this one a pass or make the gutsy move and take St. Louis. ST. LOUIS +245
Category:general -- posted at: 8:51pm CDT