After being dead solid perfect in last year's baseball playoff predictions, maybe I should be putting some cash down on these picks. Then again, the odds of lightning striking twice are about the same as the odds of the Tigers blowing a three-game lead with four games to play....wait....
DIVISION SERIES Red Sox over Angels.....I'm going to keep picking Boston over the Angels until LAA actually steps up and proves they can beat these guys in the post-season. L.A. has the better and deeper team on paper, but history is too overwhelming in this case. Hilariously, the Angels dominate the Yankees, but just keep drawing the damn Red Sox in the opening round. I can almost see just how this one plays out: the Red Sox split in Anaheim and then win two aggravatingly close games at Fenway Park. Rinse, repeat, Boston wins in four.
Cardinals over Dodgers.....I realize that Randy Wolf has been revitalized in the kids' league known as the National League West, but c'mon, I cannot seriously pick a team that is sending him to the mount as a Game One starter in a playoff series. The Dodgers looked like NL favorites all season long, but St. Louis is just a bad matchup with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright going in the first two games. Ace + rising star > washed-up vet and virtually untested-in-the-playoffs rising star. St. Louis wins a tight one in the full five games.
Yankees over Twins.....Ok, time to reveal The Curse Of The Tickets. My buddy Trev bought Tigers playoff tickets last week, when it looked as if Detroit was just going to waltz into the post-season. So I've spent the last two weeks worrying that Game Three of the ALDS would fall on the 10th, and thus I wouldn't be able to attend due to the Toronto FC-San Jose Earthquakes match at BMO Field. However, the Tigers made it all moot with their massive chokejob. Fortunately, the tickets are refundable, so Trev isn't out any coin, but even still. Given the Jays' woes, that might've been our best chance to see live playoff baseball for years to come. Thanks a lot, Fernando Rodney. Anyway, the Twins are lucky to be here and as much as I'd love to see them just take New York apart, let's be honest, the Yankees are much, much better. Minnesota wins Game Three at the Metrodome but New York wins in four.
Phillies over Rockies.....Cole Hamels struggled for most of the year but finally seemed to get his act together in September (3.32 ERA and 1.08 in six starts). If he's on his game and does what he did in last year's playoffs, then the Hamels-Cliff Lee combo is even deadlier than Carpenter-Wainwright. Philly just has to make sure that they keep Brad Lidge the hell away from a save situation. My roommate thinks the Phils should just make Pedro Martinez the closer, which would be a brilliant move. Closing would extend Pedro's career for another couple of years and in this particular season, might be enough to put the Phillies over the top for another World Series. The Rockies, I dunno. I'm just not feeling them. Barring a major Rocktober revival, Philadephia wins in phour.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES Yankees over Red Sox.....Oh goody, the two most interminable-to-watch teams in baseball squaring off. When the media complains about how ballgames are too long or too boring, I hope they realize that it's basically just these two teams with the pitch-taking and the foul balls and the stalling and the GLAYVEN. Ideally, a meteor hits the stadium and Cardinals-Phillies becomes the de facto World Series, but since it's not 2012 and we don't know if the Mayans were right anyway, I'll just pick the Yankees and their crazy-good lineup. Their hitting is good enough to even withstand A-Rod's October fade-job that he's suffered through for his last three post-season appearances. The Josh Beckett-Jon Lester superduo that Boston send to the mound in the first two games won't quite be enough to withstand the Yankee bats. I'm just excited to see the debut of A.J. Burnett, Playoff Pitcher. The odds of a Rick Ankiel-esque meltdown are 8-1. Hopefully A.J. knows how to hit. Yankees in six.
Phillies over Cardinals.....Philly's playoff experience, superior overall pitching (Joel Pineiro is St. Louis' third starter? Yikes) and deeper lineup is enough to overcome the Cardinals. By this point I hope Pedro is closing, but just for kicks, if the Phillies get up 3-0 in the series and face a ninth-inning situation with Albert Pujols at the plate, Charlie Manuel should bring in Brad Lidge. I'd personally be interested to see if Pujols could top the cartoonishly mammoth homer he jacked off of Lidge in the 2005 NLCS. That homer was so devastating that it basically ruined Lidge's career for the next two years. Has a ball actually been hit out of new Busch Stadium? How about out of the hemisphere?
WORLD SERIES Phillies over Yankees.....Yeah, heart over head pick here, I'll admit it. But hey, the Phillies were the winners of my perfect 2008 playoffs, and obviously they're a good luck charm for me. I guess I should've mentioned this in my initial write-up about them, but Philly isn't going anywhere unless Chase Utley reverses his late-season slump. That bastard cost me a title in my one head-to-head fantasy league with his lousy September. Then again, his slump didn't cost me a title in the roto league I've been playing with my buddies for the last 11 years, and thus I finally won my first championship. Unbelievably, amazingly, for all of my baseball "expertise," I had never won a fantasy baseball league until this year. Not one. I'd won football, basketball, golf, hockey and even college basketball leagues in the past, but never a baseball league. Congratulations to my championship side, Whodat Singer (named after a vocalist on a 1990 Blue Jays K-Cel novelty album). If the planets aligned for long enough to deliver me a fantasy title, surely they might stick around to ensure a humiliating Yankees defeat in the World Series. Philadelphia wins in six, and Robin Roberts pumps his fist in satisfaction over his team avenging their defeat in the 1950 World Series. Wait, is Robin Roberts still alive? *checks Wikipedia* Yes, yes, he is. Good for him!
If I had a vote on baseball's award winners...
AL MVP: Joe Mauer, Twins. No-brainer. Not to diss Johnny Bench or anything, but Mauer is well on his way to becoming the best catcher in the history of the sport.
AL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Blue Jays. Yep. Doc had 17 starts against Boston, New York, Tampa Bay and Anaheim this season, posting a 2.93 ERA against those mighty bats. Zach Greinke? A mere five starts against those teams (none against the Yankees), and...well, okay, a 2.11 ERA, but still, seventeen is greater than five. As ridiculous as Greinke's season was, pitching against the AL Central is like a college pitcher throwing against grade-schoolers. If you put Halladay on the Tigers, he wins a minimum of 25 games. (If he pitches in the NL West, he might put up one of those crazy Old Hoss Radbourn 39-victory seasons.) Joe Posnanski may come after me with a shotgun for suggesting that anyone but Greinke should win the AL Cy, but the fact that Halladay is able to put up such stellar numbers in the toughest division in baseball makes him the pick.
AL Rookie of the Year: Andrew Bailey, Athletics. Guys like Gordon Beckham and Nolan Reimold had good, but not overwhelming, rookie seasons. Bailey had a 226 ERA+ and a 3.79 K/BB ratio as Oakland's closer. That's pretty goddamn overwhelming.
NL MVP: Albert Pujols, Cardinals. No-brainer.
NL Cy Young: Tim Lincecum, Giants. Lots of really good arms in the NL that you could make a case for, but Lincecum's 117-strikeout advantage over Chris Carpenter overcomes Carpenter's 0.24 ERA advantage. Just imagine how many games Lincecum could win if his team had more than one good hitter!
NL Rookie of the Year: Tommy Hanson, Braves. Atlanta quietly put together one of the best pitching staffs in the majors last season. Between Javy Vazquez, Jair 'The Dutch Dominator' Jurrjens, rookie star Hanson, back-from-injury Tim Hudson and....well, take your pick between the okay Kenshin Kawakami or the overall crappy Derek Lowe, but who cares, that's only the fifth spot in the rotation. These starters were the big reason why the Braves almost snuck in the NL wild card in the last week of the season. Hanson debuted with a 2.89 ERA and 2.52 K/BB ratio in 22 starts, so it looks like this big prospect will continue to deal the goods for years to come at Turner Field. Geez, who wrote that last sentence? Johnny Generic?