Friday, September 30, 2011

LDS Preview

Baseball is by no means an error-free sport. The DH, game stoppages, and lack of time limits make the game so unbelievably dragged out that even true fans need to break up the monotony of pitcher to catcher. But the second season is undeniably fantastic. Why? Because baseball is probably the perfect watch-at-a-bar sport. You can converse with your friends and not feel like you're missing anything. And it's very easy to pay attention because if you do miss something, the rest of the bar will alert you with the proper sound effects. Commercials aren't even a problem because the bar will replace it with music. And finally, towards the later innings, when you would normally get into the is-this-game-still-happening mode, you're too buzzed to care. Kinda like now, when you're too bored at work to care that you're wasting time educating yourself on this sports blog.

American League Division Series:

YOUR New York Yankees in FOUR
KOBEsh: Because Justin Verlander is only one man. He might be my MVP pick, but he can only pitch two games in the series. Also because Doug “I Can’t Believe This is My Real Name” Fister,  and Crazy Eyes Scherzer have both never pitched a big game in their lives and are now counted on to shut down the Yankees lineup, with Fister pitching one, potentially two, games in the Bronx to win the series.

A lot is being made of Verlander being able to beat teams single-handedly. If there’s anyone in the American League that can go pitch for pitch with Justin Verlander, it’s CC Sabathia. He doesn’t have to be better than the AL Cy Young-elect, he just has to keep pace.

Why the Tigers could push it to FIVE
Bocker: If Verlander beats CC tonight, the Yanks will either get swept, or they'll win in 5. This is because we have yet to see how SuperNova will react to the weight of an entire city upon his shoulders. Does he have the moxy to outlast the red-hot Doug Fister? Or will he fold under the bright lights, just as an average rookie would do? The most likely event is that Freddy Garcia is losing to Max Scherzer in Detroit. If Verlander wins tonight, and if Nova successfully counters, CC will probably lock up Game 4 against Rick Porcello. That would leave a somewhat frightening Game 5 matchup of Verlander against Nova. But not for me: this Yankee team is too gritty to lose a deciding game at home.

Rangers in FOUR
B: The Rays will always be the "feel-good" story of baseball. A phenomenal scouting department leads to a great farm system, which allows them to keep a low payroll every single year. Furthermore, Joe Maddon is probably the best manager in baseball, leading his team to the playoffs after losing such key guys as Carl Crawford, Matt Garza, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, and Carlos Pena. Unfortunately, this year's team was just the beneficiary of an epic Red Sox collapse. They're not really that good. For them to pull off the upset, their starting pitching has to be lights out. Big Game James Shields can be counted on for a win, but Game 1 starter Matt Moore was just born yesterday, and hasn't faced an "A" lineup yet. Game 3 starter David Price is so wildly inconsistent, which isn't the recipe for a loaded lineup, featuring the likes of KOBEsh favorite Adrian Beltre.

Why the Rays could push it to FIVE
K: Because neither team is particularly dominating. Both teams have their flaws, most notably in their rotations – the Rangers will throw out CJ Wilson, but beyond that, an unproven Derek Holland, inexperienced Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis will not come together like Voltron to make a Cliff Lee. Adrian Beltre hasn't played a playoff game since 2004, when Jeremy Hellickson was 3 years old. This series is going to be like going a reputable comedy club around 6 pm; you're going to see a lot of terribly imperfect play, you're going to feel excruciatingly uncomfortable, but you're going to find out who's good and who's not. Big proving ground and undoubtedly the best series out of the four.

National League Division Series:

Brewers in THREE
K: First and foremost, they have home field advantage, which bodes well for the Brewers, as Milwaukee is often referred to (in Algonquin) as “the Good Land”. Much like the Cincinnati Reds last year, I see the Diamondbacks getting blitzed in what will be, for most of them, their first-ever postseason appearance. Arizona, despite a feeble-looking offense on paper, actually had one of the highest walk-rates in the National League, fulfilling their offseason goal of striking out less and walking more. They grind out at-bats, much to the delight of their manager Kirk Gibson, wear down opposing pitchers and play excellent defense. They are the inverse reflection of Mark Reynolds; as if removing him from the team was penicillin to the team’s syphilis. Not that I know anything about that.

HOWEVER – The Brewers give up the 2nd least amount of walks in the National League and are 5th in strikeouts. Even if their stellar starting pitching wears down (a rotation rounded out by Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo and Randy Wolf), their bullpen has weapons like K-Rod, My Father the Hero Takashi Saito, Jon Axford and Jon Axford’s moustache. Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders are a formidable trio, but I don’t see them winning any games in Milwaukee.

Why the Diamondbacks could push it to FOUR
B: I usually reserve hate for guys who fail in the Bronx and go on to achieve success elsewhere. But I'm all-in on Ian Kennedy. I'm backing him regardless of the fact that he'll go up against any of the elite 3 Brewer pitchers.

Phillies in THREE
B: Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels. Kyle Lohse, Jaime Garcia, Chris Carpenter. No need to write excess words.

Why the Cardinals could push it to FOUR
K: I’m giving the Cards a game because if Halladay, Hamels and Lee hold the Cardinals to one run a game, it’s still going to be hard to win because the Phillies' offense has been a shadow of the machine it was once was. Eventually, it should be enough to get around Carpenter’s rotation mates. With Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals could be the favorites in the National League. Without him, they are a first round pain in the ass for the Phillies. Carpenter could give them a game, even though Halladay, Hamels and Lee all are experienced, fearless and determined.

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