October is one of my favorite times of the year. Not only is the weather cooler (finally), college football and the NFL are in full swing and it’s time to crack out the long sleeves. Best of all, it’s time for Major League Baseball’s postseason. It’s always bittersweet; the playoffs are the most exciting time of the baseball year, but it’s also sad that another regular season is in the books. (Full disclosure: one of those 2010 highlight deals aired on ESPN last night and I nearly teared up watching it. Notice I said “nearly”. But still. You get the point.)
I’ll be posting later in the month about some of my favorite October postseason memories. But I wanted to get my picks in before today’s playoff games begin. Here’s my quick analysis of each postseason series:
Rangers vs. Rays
I love Tampa. I mean, LOVE. I love their wealth of starting pitching (although I don’t understand why James Shields merits the Game 2 start — his ERA the final 2 months was in the 6’s.) I love the way they use speed and timely hitting to piece together an offense. And I love their crush blue unis. This team deserves better fans; it’s inexcusable that they couldn’t sell out a potential clinching game. I don’t think they’ll roll through this series; anytime Cliff Lee is on the hill, he gives his team a chance to win. But the rest of the Rangers staff can’t stack up to the Rays and with Josh Hamilton nicked up, the Texas offense isn’t as imposing as it was mid-summer. I think Tampa wins this one in four.
Yankees vs. Twins
I’d really like to pick the Twins in this one. I like them for the same reason I like Tampa. They’re a fundamentally sound squad with solid pitching and timely hitting. And to be fair, the Yankees have not pitched well in the last month. Outside of Sabathia, this rotation is fairly pedestrian. And even Mo has been a little too hittable of late. But I just can’t bring myself to do it. No matter how good the Twins have been in the second half, the loss of Justin Morneau is huge for them. And the Yankees lineup is deep enough to overcome — at least for one series — their average starting pitching. I see the Yankees veteran bats providing enough offensive spark to push the Bombers past the Twins. But I suspect it’ll take them five games to do it.
Reds vs. Phillies
Is there a better team in baseball right now than the Phillies? They’re the total package as evidenced by their incredible September run. This is looking like a dynasty if you ask me. Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels are an incredible threesome; your only hope is to scratch out some runs against Joe Blanton in Game 4 or hope for another Brad Lidge implosion late in the game (which, granted, is very possible). Still, they have the deepest lineup in the league; everybody is finally healthy; and they’re motivated to make it a World Series trifecta. Personally, I’d love to see Philly sweep the Reds, but I’d simply be satisfied with a Jayson Werth take out slide that decks Brandon Phillips and a Cole Hamels fastball up and in to Johnny “Dropkick” Cueto in Game 3. Philly wins this one in three.
Braves vs. Giants
This may go down as Bobby Cox’s best managerial job ever. I can’t remember a team that dealt with as many injuries as the Braves have this season: the entire Opening Day starting infield has either been injured (Chipper, Glaus, Prado) or dealt away (Escobar); Jason Heyward, Jair Jurjenns, and Nate McLouth also spent considerable time on the shelf. Yet, the “win it for Bobby” mentality seemed to work for this club. It’s been a nice story, but I think it comes to an end in this series. Lincecum, Cain, and Sanchez actually match up favorably with Philadelphia’s Big Three of Oswalt, Halladay, and Hamels. And San Fran has a veteran lineup that, while not overly imposing, rarely gives away at-bats. They’ve been scratching out enough offense to win lately and I see that trend continuing. Backed by their great pitching, I think the Giants win this one in four.