Monday, October 03, 2005


Post Season Predictions

Well, the Indians coughed up a big hairball on the weekend and, as a result, are now planning their winter holidays. So, we get Yankees/Angels and Red Sox/White Sox in the ALDS and Astros/Braves and Padres/Cards in the NLDS. Let's break 'em down:

Yankees/Angels: By all rights, L.A. should win this series. The Yankees have major pitching issues, as Carl Pavano is on the shelf and Jaret Wright is pretty much useless. That means the Yanks will be using a rotation of Mussina, Chacon, Johnson and either Small or Wang in the DS with Mussina pitching either Game 4 or 5, depending on whether the Yanks are ahead or behind. The Angels set their rotation with Bartolo Colon going in Game 1, followed by John Lackey and Jarrod Washburn. If the Angels are up 2-1, I expect Ervin Santana will get the Game 4 nod, otherwise it'll be Colon. The Yankees are marginally better on offense and the bullpens are even. The Angels also know that they went through the Yankees to win the World Series a few years ago and they will likely believe they can do it again. One key is the fact that Francisco Rodriguez has never closed games in the playoffs before, so if he falters, the Angels are in trouble.

Yankee keys to success: A-Rod, Sheffield and Matsui must be hot. Johnson and Mussina must be healthy and able to get to the 8th inning (Gordon/Rivera time) and the bullpen needs to have their A-Game to bridge the gap from the starters to the 8th in the event the starters falter.

Angels keys to success: Chone Figgins must set the table for Vlad and the other big hitters, Steve Finley needs to produce, the bullpen must hold up and K-Rod needs to show he can handle playoff pressure.

The line: I just cannot see a way for the Yankees to come out ahead here, but I can't go against them either. So, I'll say Randy Johnson earns his money and pitches two wins and Chacon gets the third win, supported by Chien Ming Wang. Yankees in 5.

Red Sox/White Sox - This should be good. The Red Sox are the best-hitting team in the AL and the White Sox must win with pitching. Boston plans to start the series with the mercurial Matt Clement, which tells me they plan to use four pitchers (Tim Wakefield, Curt Schilling and David Wells along with Clement) because there's no way they use Clement on short rest. I would be surprised if Ozzie Guillen uses three pitchers, since he's got a pretty good starting 4 in Mark Buerhle, Freddy Garcia, Jose Contreras and Jon Garland. A bigger question is the two bullpens, both of which are in tatters, and Chicago's offense, which simply cannot keep pace with Boston.

Red Sox keys to success: Johnny Damon's shoulder cannot keep him from producing and setting the table for Ramirez, Ortiz et al, Mike Timlin must be able to close when the pressure's on and Curt Schilling must be CURT SCHILLING.

White Sox keys to success: Consistent hitting up-and-down the order. Garland and Buerhle must get back to mid-season form and Bobby Jenks has to be able to close the door under the glare of the playoffs.

The line: Chichago's pitching has been going slowly south all through the second half. If this is the July White Sox, this is a close series. However, it isn't and these Red Sox now know how to win in the postseason. Red Sox in 4.

On to the NL.........

Braves/Astros: This should be a no-brainer, but the Astros can be scary in a short series. With Andy Pettitte, Roger Clemens and Roy Oswalt as the top three starters and Brad Lidge waiting in the 8th or 9th, the Astros can be on the good side of a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games. Andruw Jones had an amazing season (51 jacks) but he has a history of vanishing in the playoffs. That puts the load on Chipper Jones, Macrus Giles, Rafael Furcal and a cast of kids. Plus, JORGE SOSA pitching the crucial game 3? Pretty brassy of Bobby Cox to make that call.

Braves keys to success: Hudson and Smoltz must win to take the pressure off Sosa. Kyle Farnsworth must step up when the money's on the line and Andruw Jones has got to be there.

Astros keys to success: Pettitte, Clemens, Oswalt and Lidge. If they don't bring it, the series is over.

The line: More often than not, good pitching beats good hitting in the postseason. Great pirching swamps good hitting 99% of the time. The Astros have great pitching. Astros in 4.

Cardinals/Padres: Ah, the great mismatch. After barely making it to .500, the Padres get fed to the best team in baseball in the DS. Just think, if Houston loses yesterday, this spot would belong to Philly while the Padres would get a much more favourable matchup with Atlanta. But it ain't that way. Having said that, this is not as cut and dry as you might think. Two of the Cards' top pitchers, Chris Carpenter and Matt Morris, have looked very ordinary in September and the Padres' top two, Jake Peavy and Adam Eaton, have served notice they're ready to go with great September outings. The big difference here is the Padres' lack of consistent offense, which will limit their chances.

Cardinals keys to success: Carpenter and Morris must bounce back. The big bats must adjust to Petco.

Padres keys to success: Eaton and Peavy need to be huge. The bullpen must bridge the gap to Hoffman. The offense has got to hit.

The line: Are you kidding? This sucker's over by the weekend. Cards in 3.

My LCS predictions: Yankees-Red Sox in an AL rematch and Astros-Cardinals in an NL rematch.

Post-Season awards to come.