Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Brief thoughts on the MLB Playoffs

Roy Halladay pitched a no-hitter in Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Cincinnati Reds today. 'Twas the first postseason no-hitter since Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series. In fact, Larsen and Halladay are the only pitchers to ever throw a postseason no-hitter in the entire history of baseball.

This is stunning. We've witnessed history. Though, sadly, I still haven't witnessed it yet because I'm currently watching a DVR recording of the game and I'm only in the 2nd inning.

After a long, fun, exciting and eventful weekend in San Francisco, I haven't had the chance to sit down and write an MLB postseason preview and now a couple of games have already been played. I'm unhappy with myself but, since I didn't get home until Monday night, I really haven't had a chance to analyze the postseason matchups as much as I'd like to. I haven't even been able to read any of my favorite writers' playoff previews.

But I feel the need to say something about it. After all, I've already written so much about baseball on this blog that I can't just neglect to offer some predictions on the final deciding games of the season.

So, here are some thoughts on the first round matchups. (Unfortunately, they're a bit tainted by the timing of this post.)

AL Division Series

Tampa Bay Rays vs Texas Rangers
An interesting matchup between two very different teams. The Rays work the count, the Rangers hack the ball all over the place. Cliff Lee's dominance today portends disaster for the Rays as they'll surely have to get through him in another start if they are to win this series. The Rays haven't gotten much from their #2 and 3 starters down the stretch and, while I picked Tampa Bay in the preseason to play against the Phillies in the World Series, I think the Rangers will knock them out in the first round with their extremely powerful and deep lineup.

New York Yankees vs Minnesota Twins
This is a very familiar first round matchup. Previously (in 2003, 2004, and last year) the Twins didn't put up much of a fight against a powerhouse Yankee squad but now the Twins have home field advantage throughout the series and they've also got a much stronger lineup than they had in those days. They'll face a mediocre Yankee pitching staff led by workhorse lefty C.C. Sabathia (134 ERA+) with the same old stalwart Mariano Rivera at the back end. I like this Twins team very much and I think they'll push through the Yanks on their way to their first World Series in 19 years.

NL Division Series

Philadelphia Phillies vs Cincinnati Reds
I cheated by watching Roy Halladay's no-no already but...I'll take the Phillies. With Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt (three guys who could each be the ace of any major league team), nobody will beat this team. Their lineup is deep, powerful, patient and rugged; they've all been through this before. The Reds have a talented ball club and one of the best hitters in baseball (Joey Votto) but this might even be a sweep for the Phils. Yeah, I'll go with a sweep.

San Francisco Giants vs Atlanta Braves
Sigh...poor Padres. It's amazing that, completely unrelated to their final weekend series to decide the NL West, I found myself in San Francisco for the weekend. A blessing, really, although I didn't get to go see any of the games since they were all completely sold out, standing-room included. It's nice that the Padres made the 162nd game an interesting one but (perhaps this reveals that I'm not a true Padres fan), I think the Giants will be a much more fun team to watch in the postseason. Tim Lincecum alone makes this team a fun one to watch. I rooted for the Padres all year (and went to more of their games than I've ever gone to see any team in my life) but this San Francisco squad belongs in the playoffs. Their pitching is just ridiculously good and their lineup is pretty solid. And the fans actually care, in fact the city was going wild after the Giants won on Sunday. People were driving around beeping their horns and waving flags, excited orange-clad college girls roamed the streets, and I caught a glimpse of a Spanish-language news channel covering the festivities. It's a big deal for the city. San Diego didn't seem to give a shit about the Padres, sadly.

I think this will be the real "wild card" of the postseason and fittingly it's the Wild Card-winning Braves who are involved. This looks like a great matchup to me and I look for an exciting, back-and-forth series that goes the full five games. Jason Heyward will probably do something awesome, we'll undoubtedly have some great pitcher's duels with guys like Tommy Hanson, Matt Cain, Lincecum, Tim Hudson, and even rookie Madison Bumgarner on the mound. It's really gonna be fun. In the end, I'll take the Braves to go to the NLCS for a division rival battle with the Phillies.

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