Thursday, October 3, 2013

Division Series Preview

Division series play begins tonight, so here's my abbreviated look at the first round of postseason matchups.

Red Sox (97-65) vs. Rays (92-71)
I think Tampa Bay holds the slight edge with their starting pitching, but the well-rested Red Sox should be able to hold their own with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, and Jake Peavy. Whatever advantage the Rays hold on the mound is more than made up for by Boston's bats, which scored more runs than every team in baseball this year. That, plus their homefield advantage, should be enough to put them over the top in what will be a hard-fought series between these divisional rivals.

Red Sox in 5

A's (96-66) vs. Tigers (93-69
Not only does Detroit have the best hitter in baseball (Miguel Cabrera) anchoring a top-shelf offense, but they also boast what may be the most fearsome rotation in these playoffs with likely Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, former Cy Young winner/MVP Justin Verlander and AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez (plus the always-underrated Doug Fister). Better yet, they're not missing any major pieces because of injuries. The Moneyball A's are well-constructed for the regular season (read: super-deep), but the Tigers have so much more talent. Besides, Billy Beane's teams almost always lose in the Division Series.

Tigers in 4

Cardinals (97-65) vs Pirates (94-68)
The Pirates have the better narrative, but St. Louis is clearly the superior team. Their 101-61 Pythagorean Record speaks for itself. They have a devastating lineup that paced the NL in runs, doubles, and OBP, a legit MVP candidate (Matt Carpenter) and a bona fide ace in Adam Wainwright. Pittsburgh has the likely MVP in Andrew McCutchen, but will he have enough help? I don't see Neil Walker, Starling Marte, and the strikeout-prone Pedro Alvarez having much of an impact. I'm not ready to trust either A.J. Burnett or Francisco Liriano, either.

Cardinals in 3

Dodgers (92-70) vs Braves (96-66)
Even without Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Josh Beckett, the star-studded Dodgers still have more than enough talent to make a World Series run. Injuries to Kemp and Ethier make the lineup more top-heavy, but it remains dangerous with Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez. LA's rotation, spearheaded by former Cy Young winners Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke, is truly frightening.

Atlanta's all-or-nothing approach at the plate produced the most home runs and strikeouts in the Senior Circuit in 2013, but given that a) the cold weather makes it harder to go yard and b) strikeouts are more prevalent in the postseason due to superior pitching, this trade-off will likely hurt the Braves more than it helps them. And while Atlanta's arms posted the best ERA in the National League, I still prefer LA's big guns on the mound in a short series such as this.

Dodgers in 4

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