2010 MLB Playoffs Previews

UPDATE: My World Series Pick: Philadelphia Phillies (sorry it isn’t more risky)

With October here, the marathon that is the Major League Baseball season begins the final sprint to the finish. Quick starters that did not have the endurance have been left behind; true contenders have separated themselves from the pack.

This year’s postseason features some familiar faces, young teams with something to prove, and other that weren’t expected to be here at the beginning of the year.

So let’s get you set by taking a look at the first of the Divisional Series. Check back as I prepare preview for all the series over the next couple days. And leave you comments on who you think will move on the ALCS and NLCS or why you think I’m full of crap.

Game 1 – Thursday, October 7 9:37 p.m.
Game 2 – Friday, October 8 9:37 p.m.
Game 3 – Sunday, October 10 TBA
Game 4*- Monday, October 11 TBA
Game 5*- Wednesday, October 13 TBA

I have been way too busy to give this series the attention it deserves. So I’ll keep this brief, but I think it will be accurate too.

This series is all about pitching in my mind. Both teams have good pitching, but San Fran is that much better. Led by two-time Cy Young winner, Tim Lincecum, the Giants will win this pitching duel.

Add to that, that in the second half Frisco seemed to find the offensive swagger, increasing the HR totals dramatically.

If I had to bet: Giants in 4

Game 1 – Wednesday, October 6th 1:37 p.m.
Game 2 – Thursday, October 7 2:37 p.m.
Game 3 – Saturday, October 9 5:07 p.m.
Game 4*- Sunday, October 10 TBA
Game 5*- Tuesday, October 12 TBA

Despite being the AL West Divisional Champion, the Texas Rangers come in to the playoffs with the lowest expectations. Playing in one on the weaker divisions in baseball, the Rangers face off against a Rays team that just barely inched out the Yankees to win the toughest division in baseball.

The Rangers team led the AL with a .276 team average and finished fifth in homers and RBIs. The Rays had two less homers than the Rangers and ranked 26th in terms of batting average (.247). Despite those numbers, the Rays managed to score the third most runs in the Majors thanks in large part to their ability to use their speed when they did get on base.

The Rays led the Majors in stolen bases with 172 swiped bags this year. Their speed puts tremendous pressure on defenses to make plays and forces pitchers to constantly have one eye focused on the base paths. It’s that extra burst of speed from guys like Carl Crawford and BJ Upton that help score extra runs: beating out infield singles; sac flies not deep enough to score average runners; easily scoring from first on doubles; and getting into scoring position late in games without having to give up outs.

Both team have put together solid rotations. The Rays will lead of Game 1 starting David Price, followed by James Shields, Matt Garza and Wade Davis respectively. Tampa’s pitching staff was second only to the Oakland A’s in team ERA throughout the year.

Cliff Lee, 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA, a 0.818 WHIP and a 5.50 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five starts for the Phillies last postseason (those are some crazy numbers), will try and keep those Rays speedsters off the bases in the first game, and be followed by CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter. The Rangers ranked (3rd) just below the Rays in team ERA

Unfortunately for the Rangers, as mentioned above, unless you can shutdown the Rays enitrely and keep there speed on the bases, they will maximize every opportunity to score runs. It leaves a very small margin for error for the Rangers pitching staff.

If the Rays’ pitchers can control the power of the Rangers bats, led by AL MVP front runner, Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero they’ll be in good shape. On the other hand if, Rays ptiching falters, the Rangers will make them pay.

One X-factor could be the health of Evan Longoria who missed the final 10 games of the regular season with a strained left quadricep muscle, but…

If I had to bet: Rays in 4

Game 1 – Wednesday, October 6th 5:07 p.m.
Game 2 – Friday, October 8 6:07 p.m.
Game 3 – Sunday, October 10 TBA
Game 4*- Monday, October 11 TBA
Game 5*- Wednesday, October 13 TBA

For some Canadian fans this could be a tough choice. As Toronto Star columnist, Morgan Campbell asked on Twitter: Who gets your support during the playoffs — Halladay or Votto?

While I would love to see Joey Votto go deep into the playoffs and make his mark on the Baseball world, I’ll be rooting to to see Roy finally get a ring. It doesn’t hurt that Halladay will be anchoring a three headed monster of a starting staff along with Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. The Phillies even have a schedule that will allow to run out one of the three for the entire NLDS.

The Reds will send Edison Volquez to the bump to counter the 2010 NL Cy Young winn…oh, they haven’t given that to Roy yet?…alright the soon to be 2010 NL Cy Young winner. Bronson Arroyo Arroyo and Johnny Cueto would round out the start for the first three games. Clearly the edge goes to the Champs.

Despite putting together a young powerful lineup, success has been rare for the Reds facing the Phillies. Philadelphia has defeated the Reds in five of the seven match-ups this year, and have held them to less than four runs per game. It won’t be any easier with Cerberus on the hill.

And the runs will be needed as the Phillies have an equally imposing line-up of sluggers that have been here before and won’t be awestruck by the hoopla. They are finally getting healthy and have seemed to hit their stride late in the year.

Votto will have to be comforted by his 2010 NL MVP awar…What? He hasn’t gotten it yet? Could someone freakin’ check these things out for me. Okay, Votto will have to be satisfied with his FIRST NL MVP Award. I still believe he will have a good series and make sure those that haven’t heard of him yet, know about the bashing canuck. I won’t be surprised to see this series repeat next year and be even better, but…

If I had to bet: Phillies in 3

Game 1 – Wednesday, October 6th 8:37 p.m.
Game 2 – Thursday, October 7 6:07 p.m.
Game 3 – Saturday, October 9 8:37 p.m.
Game 4*- Sunday, October 10 TBA
Game 5*- Tuesday, October 12 TBA

This truly is David versus Goliath. The Yankees boast a powerful line-up with Jeter, Texiera, Rodriguez and Cano, while the Twins get by with with a balanced offensive attack anchored by perennial MVP candidate, Joe Mauer and sound defense and pitching.

The Yankees won the season series 5-2, and despite the Twins having the best home record in the AL (53-28), took three out of four at Target Field.

For the Twins to have any chance of knocking out the Yanks, their pitchers are going to have to neutralize the Bronx Bombers bats. According to Manager Ron Gardenhire, the Twins will start Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, and Brian Duensing in the first three games respectively. Interestingly, Nick Blackburn, who recorded the Twins’ only two wins against the Yankees, won’t start until Game Four, if necessary.

It will be interesting to see if the Yankees can remedy some of the consistency issues they’ve experienced throughout the year. C.C. Sabathia has been named the Game 1 starter, and it will likely be veteran Andy Petitte and youngster Phil Hughes (not necessarily in that order) for the next two. Hughes’ start could be the pivotal one.

The Yankee pitchers will have the good fortune in not having to face Justin Morneau, who has been ruled out for the entire postseason due to the aftereffects of a concussion sustained in early July. The positive is that the Twins have proved they can be successful without him, but they would certainly love to have his bat in the lineup.

In the absence of Morneau, the Twins will have to continue to rely on Joe Mauer to lead the way. Hopefully following in his wake Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel will continue their strong performances at the plate to match that of Rodriguez, Cano and Texiera.

Offensive X-factors: For the Yankees, of course it is the postseason, and therefore Derek Jeter will likely do something special. While veteran slugger Jim Thome has been a revelation for the Twins in the latter half of the season, and certainly has the potential to shift the tide of a game with one swing.

As is often the case, this series will likely come down to which team gets the better pitching performance. Will New York’s high priced, experienced hurlers pitch like they are capable? Or will the Twins pitching and defense be able to minimize a powerful lineup? I’ll be rooting for the Twins, but…

If I had to bet: Yankees in 5


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