AL Divisional Series Outlook

The last night of the season has set a pretty high mark for the postseason to follow, and while the next few weeks might not exactly match that excitement, I’m still looking forward to the playoffs.  The current 5-7-7 playoff format is an easy one to hate when your team is 0-6 in their last two playoff appearances, but it applies a great pressure to win early, and to win at home to protect home field advantage.  Over the past few years in the MLB, the playoffs have been great to watch, and I don’t think this year will be any different.

 

-Tampa Bay Rays (91-71, Wild Card ) vs. Texas Rangers (96-66, AL West Champions)

Well, this looks familiar doesn’t it?  Last year the Rays won the AL East and faced the Rangers who won the AL West that year as well, the difference between last year’s series and this year’s is that the Rangers have home field advantage.  Last year’s Divisional Series was one of the oddest series that I had seen in a while- a five game bash fest, in which the away team won each game (Rangers won that series).   The road team scored at least 5 runs in all five games of the series last year, and this year I simply don’t think the same thing will happen.  The Rays are trotting out “super stud” rookie pitcher Matt Moore who made quite a meteoric rise from AA Montgomery to Tampa Bay, tying the AAA Durham Bulls single game strikeout record with 13 Ks along the way, and the Rays will follow him up with David Price tomorrow.  Looking at those two pitchers together brings me to this comparison: In 2008, the Rays made a lot of waves calling up a left handed fireballing pitcher from the minor leagues late in the season (Price), and this year the Rays brought up another left handed fireballing pitcher from the minor leagues late in the season (Moore).  In 2008, Tampa made their first franchise World Series appearance, could Moore’s call up propel the Rays to their second WS appearance and possibly first Championship?

Tampa is going to have to pitch carefully to Texas’ lineup, the Rangers finished the regular season second in the league in home runs with 210 (Yankees were 1st with 222).  At the same time, the Rangers are going to have their work cut out for them at bat, the Rays had the league’s 8th best team ERA (3.58), so this series will put the “Good hitting vs. Good pitching” question into action.  My pick: Rays get revenge from last year and win this series in 4.

 

-Detroit Tigers (95-67, AL Central Champions) vs. New York Yankees (97-65, AL East Champions)

It’s certainly a welcome sight to see the Detroit Tigers in the playoffs again after a five year absence, and they’re carrying a great cast of players with them.  That cast is led by their pitching ace Justin Verlander who paced the league with his 24 win season, 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, and is followed by first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.344 batting average, 30 home runs), catcher Victor Martinez (.330 avg, 103 RBI), and shortstop Jhonny Peralta (.299 avg, 21 home runs).   The Yankees are a similarly built team, and will be sending one of the worst fantasy baseball pitchers CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) to keep the Tigers at bay, and hopefully put the Yankees up in the short series.  As I referenced earlier, the Yankees led the league with 222 homers; the reigning Home Run Derby champion Curtis Granderson led the team with 41, followed by Mark Teixeira with 39, Robinson Cano with 28, and Nick Swisher with 23.

We know both of these teams have great starting pitching and great hitting, I feel this series is going to come down to the relievers- especially Detroit’s hyper energetic closer who converted a perfect 49 saves in 49 opportunities, and the legendary Mariano Rivera who converted 44 saves in 49 opportunities, and oh by the way set the league’s all time career record of 603 saves.  My pick: due to the rest of the Yankees bullpen showing themselves to be suspect this season, I’m going to pick the Tigers to win in 5.

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