It's always fun to try to predict the results of sporting events, even when they're incredibly unlikely to be correct (case in point: the NCAA tournament). I get such a satisfying feeling when I make a great call on a game result or the performance of a particular player, and I think that's why I like fantasy football so much as well. And since the Major League Baseball playoff matchups were set yesterday, I figure that this seems like an appropriate time to handicap the 4 matchups in the Division Series, and then go on to predict how the rest of the playoff picture will shake out. I will NOT, however, pick the winner of the World Series. I'm doing this for the specific reason that I don't want to potentially say that the Phillies, for example, will win the whole thing, and then they get swept in the division series and I feel like I jinxed them. Not gonna happen. Anyway, here's how I see the playoffs working out:
The Phillies appear to have the edge on the mound, but I'm not so sure how big of a gap there will be. They have had trouble with Johnny Cueto this year, and Edinson Volquez is capable of dominating Phillies hitters. The lineups look to be pretty similar in effectiveness, and at least the Phillies' bullpen isn't as much of a question mark as it was last year.
Prediction: Phillies win in 4 games, winning games 1,2, and 4.
The Braves eeked into the Wild Card despite having to pitch their top two starters on short rest and not having Martin Prado or Chipper Jones in the lineup, and I'm not sure how much longer they'll be able to keep themselves afloat. The Giants' pitching is outstanding; they allowed more than 3 runs just three times in the last month of the season, and in two of those they allowed just 4. Their lineup, once a concern, has been bolstered by the additions of Pat Burrell (really), Jose Guillen, and Buster Posey. But really, this is all about the Giants' pitching and the Braves' tired arms and missing bats.
Prediction: Giants win in 4 games, winning games 1, 2, and 4.
The reigning World Series champs limp into the postseason with concerns about their starting pitching after CC Sabathia. Andy Pettitte is coming back from injury, Phil Hughes is on an innings count, and AJ Burnett is wildly inconsistent. Their lineup is still as potent as any, though, and nobody has the security at the back end of the bullpen that the Bronx Bombers do. The Twins, consistently getting into the postseason despite not usually having the best roster, come in with a pretty solid rotation of comeback kids (Liriano off injury, Pavano off injury and bad-ness, Duensing from out of the bullpen). Their lineup is missing 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau due to a concussion, but they haven't missed a beat without him, and I'm not sure he would have been able to help much anyway.
Prediction: Twins win in 5, winning games 2, 3, and 5.
The marquee starting pitching matchup of the Divison Series is right here, between the 2008 playoffs bullpen phenom David Price and the 2009 playoffs' star, Cliff Lee. Lee has not done as well in Texas as he did in Seattle earlier in the year, but he showed last year that he is money when the chips are down. The Rays lineup will be without Evan Longoria for a little bit, and that lineup has shown that it can have very good and VERY bad days (they've been no-hit three times in the last season and a half). The Rangers' lineup is impressive, and got a big boost by the return of AL MVP candidate Josh Hamilton from injury at the end of the season.
Prediction: Rays win in 5, winning games 1, 3, and 5.
CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES PREDICTIONS
This series would be all about pitching, with the best and deepest rotations in the playoffs facing off. The Phillies have done reasonably well against the Giants' staff, though, and the fact that Lincecum and Cain are both righties helps their cause. The Giants' back end of the bullpen (aka crazy-person Brian Wilson) is solid, and will serve to protect any 2-1 leads that their starters may give them.
Prediction: Phillies win in 6, winning games 2, 3, 4, and 6.
Two small-market teams just playing good baseball. David Price could be the defining factor in this series if he pitches well in his (likely) two starts, but a hot Joe Mauer or Jim Thome might do a number to cancel out such an effort. I also prefer the Twins' pitching depth right now, although I don't have as much confidence at the top.
Prediction: Twins win in 7, winning games 2, 3, 6, and 7.
So this means I'm calling a Phillies/Twins World Series. I'd like to get another shot at the Yankees, but I don't think that they will be able to mash their way through the playoffs to get there.