Bob and Weave

Musings of an impostor. Welcome to the masquerade.

Division Series picks

Posted by flyingbk on 10/04/2010

Picking postseason series in baseball can be a very pointless exercise. Anything can happen in a short series; IMO, the only major pro team sport that crowns the best team at season’s end is the NBA. In the NFL, one fluky game can send a very good team home (or a mediocre team to the promised land). Both baseball and the NHL are meant to be played over long seasons in order to wash out the element of luck. What you’ve seen in the baseball playoffs since the advent of the wild card (which adds an extra round, and consequently, more luck) is that rarely does the best team win the whole shebang. That’s not because of bad managing, or players choking, or whatever nonsense narrative that sportswriters and fans want you to believe. It’s simply because you need to be good AND lucky to hoist the World Series trophy.

Allow me to provide a couple recent, local examples:

2004 ALCS, Game 5. We all remember this series in which the Red Sox made an epic comeback from being down 3 games to 0. But rewind to the top of the 9th inning of this game, with the Yankees and Boston tied at 4. Ruben Sierra is at first, and Keith Foulke is pitching to Tony Clark with 2 out. Clark laces a double into right field; Sierra is sure to score the go-ahead run, but the ball one-hops into the stands for a ground-rule double. The next batter, Miguel Cairo, meekly fouls out, inning over, and the Red Sox go on to win in 14 innings. If that ball stays in play, the Yankees have a one-run lead with Rivera already in the game and the Red Sox may get bounced in 5 games instead of winning their first championship in 86 years. Of course, who knows how things play out once the variables change. But you can’t deny that luck clearly plays a factor here.

2006 NLCS, Game 7: The Mets are down to their final 2 outs, trailing St. Louis 3-1. They have two good baserunners, Jose Valentin and Endy Chavez, on 2nd and 1st, respectively. Jose Reyes times a Adam Wainwright pitch well and drills it to the outfield. Unfortunately, the line drive is hit directly at centerfielder Jim Edmonds, who makes the catch. A few feet to the left or to the right, and that ball is in the gap for a game-tying 2-run double (or triple). But bad luck results in a lineout and the Mets go down to defeat, and ignorant Mets fans continue to believe to this day that somehow Reyes, David Wright, and Carlos Beltran are the ones responsible for the Mets’ struggles since that series.

Those are just two examples, and you can find many more in every single postseason. That’s just how baseball is, and its innate unpredictability is part of what makes baseball great. You truly never know what will happen. That’s why picking baseball short series is a fool’s errand. Therefore, here are my picks for the Division Series 😉

AMERICAN LEAGUE

Yankees vs. Twins: As much as it pains me to write it, the Yankees were clearly the best team in baseball in 2009. However, in this year’s AL, there is more parity. I’d put the Yankees, Rays, and Twins at about the same level, with the Rangers lagging. The problem for the Twins is that they are not specifically built to win short series. Short series are about luck, but they’re also about frontline talent. The Twins have a very solid team, up and down the roster, but their lack of stars could be a major impediment here. I expect to see a couple shootouts with both teams scoring multiple runs in the middle to late innings. But the Twins should have major trouble keeping that Yankee offense from scoring late, due to their weak pen and below-average defense. Yankees in 4.

Rays vs. Rangers: I said that the Rangers are a notch below, but then again, they have Cliff Lee. It also appears that Josh Hamilton is back, giving Texas another star. The Rays are the pick, however, because of their strong pen, an ace in David Price who matches up with Lee, a terrific defense, and a lineup that never quits. They’re the most complete team in the AL. Rays in 5.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Reds vs. Phillies: I really, really want to pick the Reds here. They have a great offense, and I would give my left kidney to avoid another Phillies-Yankees World Series (please God no!!!). But the Phillies possess a hellacious 1-2-3 starting pitching punch, a top-notch lineup (Carlos Ruiz is highly underrated; his high on-base percentage is a big reason the Phillies still performed well when their stars were injured–take notes, future Mets GM!), and Brad Lidge is back on track. Also, you just know that Dusty Baker will make a terrible managerial move or four. Phillies in 4.

Braves vs. Giants: I hate the Braves. I want to see Bobby Cox go out meekly. Fortunately, I think I’m going to get my wish. The Braves are a shell of the strong team they were for most of the year; their lineup has been eroded by injuries, and their starting pitchers are wearing down too. The Giants’ rotation strength is a little overstated, but their lineup is better than people think and their bullpen is terrific. Giants in 3.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: