In celebration for the MLB Playoffs, I figured that I would take a break from the usual video game discussion and reviews and go into some analysis of the 2010 Playoff picture! 162 games have come and gone for all teams in the 2010 Season, and the field has been whittled down to the final eight squads.
Here is the breakdown of the Divisional Series’ for the MLB Playoffs.
NL East – Philadelphia Phillies
NL Central – Cincinnati Reds
NL West – San Francisco Giants
NL Wild Card – Atlanta Braves
Reds vs Phillies
Braves vs Giants
AL East – Tampa Bay Rays
AL Central – Minnesota Twins
AL West – Texas Rangers
AL WildCard – New York Yankees
Rangers vs Rays
Yankees vs Twins
Let’s begin in the NL Divisional Series’ first. We begin with the team with the best record in the NL (and the MLB), the Philadelphia Phillies, against a team making their first appearance in the playoffs in over a decade, the Cincinnati Reds. On paper, it would appear that the Phillies have the advantage, as they have a starting rotation highlighted by one of the best pitchers in the game, along with one of the strongest lineups in the game. Thanks to a somewhat injury-plagued season, the Phillies lineup also appear to be rather well-rested going into the playoffs as many of them came off the DL within the past month. Jimmy Rollins, Ryan Howard, Shane Victorino, and many others of the starting lineup all spent some time on the DL this season, and as such, should be in prime form for the playoffs by now. However, that being said, nobody should count out the Reds. They have simply been incredible this season, as their starting pitching led by Bronson Arroyo have been able to keep the opposing bats quiet enough for their lineup to produce the means to win. Their main strength lies within their starting lineup. NL MVP Candidate Joey Votto and the Adam Dunn-esque outfielder Jay Bruce have been simply crushing opposing pitching, and with the speed of Brandon Phillips and the solid comeback season for Scott Rolen, expect the Reds to cause some damage. Unfortunately, the sheer talent of Halladay, and the rested lineup of the Phillies should send the Reds to an early exit after what was an incredible season.
Prediction: Phillies over Reds in 4 games.
Up next, we have the NL Wild Card Atlanta Braves facing off against the NL West Winning San Francisco Giants. The Braves put on a fantastic show in the final month of the season to finally pull away from the rest of the Wild Card pack, thus enabling them to continue the career of their Manager Bobby Cox for at least one more playoff series. The Giants also put together a rather impressive run at the end, effectively knocking off the San Diego Padres for the NL West title. After being stuck in the myriad of Wild Card teams for most of the 2nd half, it was pretty much a win the division or go home situation. After taking the divisional lead late in September, the Giants found themselves in a tough situation dropping the first two in the final series against the other NL West title contender, and a fantastic performance by Jonathan Sanchez in the final game clinched the Divisional Title in the final game of the season. The Giants come to the mound with a decent pitching staff led by Sanchez and Barry Zito, but if they are to make it anywhere this year in the playoffs, they will need to find some run support in their lineup, which doesn’t really rank too high in the league in terms of stats across the board. The Braves, on the other hand, have a rather strong lineup with Jason Heyward leading the way, and a strong pitching staff led by Derek Lowe. They also have the NL Comeback Player of the Year in Tim Hudson, though they won’t have him available until Game 3 of the series. Overall, while the Giants put in a fantastic performance in the 2nd half to get here, the drain of the final month, combined with the Braves playing to give Cox one final ring, might just be too much to overcome in the end, though it will be close.
Prediction: Braves over Reds in 5 games.
Now, we shall move into the AL where the Tampa Bay Rays make a return to the playoffs, this time with the AL East Champions title, against the Texas Rangers, who are making a return to the playoffs after years of being stuck on the sidelines behind the Anaheim Angels. The Rays have simply been playing some incredible baseball throughout the season, and as the Yankees started to slip up near the end, the Rays proceeded to take advantage of the opening presented to them behind the raw youthful talent of their starting staff and their lineup. AL Cy Young candidate David Price has simply been amazing the entire season, showcasing the talent that he has been mentioned to have over the past few years. Their lineup could be considered to be one of the most complete lineups in the league as they have the legitimate MVP candidate in Evan Longoria tearing the cover off the ball, and the resurging speedster Carl Crawford finding his swing once again. Unfortunately, while they rank 3rd in runs scored, they rank 27th in team batting average. The Texas Rangers, after last appearing in a playoff game in 1999, look to make an immediate impact in their return to the postseason, boasting one of the best, if not the best, batting lineup in the league which ranks highly across the board. In fact, while the Rays rank as one of the lowest Batting Average teams in the league, the Rangers boast the #1 Team BA. Behind the bats of AL MVP Josh Hamilton and the resurgent Vladimir Guerrero, and the pitching excellence of Cliff Lee, the Rangers look to upend the AL East Champion Rays. This series could easily go either way, but the Rays should be able to squeak by in the end.
Prediction: Rays over Rangers in 5 games.
Finally, we have the matchup between the AL Wild Card New York Yankees and the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins. Both teams are practically limping into the playoffs, and to fans of both squads, this matchup is the best for both of them. The Yankees, after leading the AL East for most of the season have gotten beat up with an absolutely brutal final month as they faced not only the Rays multiple times, but also their rivals the Boston Red Sox, and the strong Toronto Blue Jays. While this could have been the opportunity to show that they were the best team in the league, the Yankees simply revealed that they were human this year. The Yankees pitching staff has also left a lot to be desired, as they really only have one proven Ace this year in C.C. Sabathia. While Phil Hughes had an incredible start to the season and could be considered an Ace, he has yet to find that same spark over the past couple starts. As per usual, the bridge to the legendary closer Mariano Rivera is filled with holes as no reliever has proven to be too solid of a setup, as the Yankees have one of the worst bullpen ERAs again. However, all is not too bad as the Yankees bring to the table one of the deadliest lineups in baseball, with every batting spot able to produce an immense amount of runs in any given day, and as such, come into the playoffs boasting the most runs scored, as well as the highest On-Base Percentage. Also, hitters who were cold in the first half, like Curtis Granderson, have been finding a resurgence in their swings, and will attempt to simply overpower the opposition into submission as their pitching tries to find an answer to their own woes. The Twins, while they didn’t have to face as much of a brutal schedule, will be without their star first baseman Justin Morneau in the playoffs once again, in a repeat of last year’s playoff scenario. However, they have an overall better pitching staff than the Yankees, as Francisco Liriano has found his stride once again, and will be looking to put any demons from the past few seasons behind him in this series. Homegrown star Joe Mauer also is looking to do some damage as he tends to feed off of Yankees pitching every chance he gets. Overall though, after Liriano, the pitching staff just lacks the sheer dominance needed to truly counter the Yankees lineup, and after Mauer, the lineup just can’t compare to the lineup of Yankees without Morneau. So, this divisional series will most likely end up as it did last season, with the Yankees advancing on.
Prediction: Yankees over Twins in 4 games.
There you have it, the analysis of all four playoff matchups. Expect a League Championship round analysis come then, but until then, enjoy some fantastic playoff baseball!