I did terrible with my LDS predictions, so it is with some hesitation I share what I think will happen in this next round. Here we go:
Royals vs. Orioles
- Offense: The Orioles have the more traditional offensive weapons, being able to hit home runs and all. That said, if Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer keep hitting home runs, maybe we will hear less about all the steals and small ball that the Royals employ. The series will be an interesting contract in styles, but I have to give the edge to the Orioles over all because of their power hitting ways.
- Starting pitching: The edge goes to the Royals here. I just don’t have very much confidence in the Orioles starters, which is why I picked them to lose. I think James Shields will get stronger the longer the Royals stay alive and the rest of their starting arms are pretty good too.
- Bullpen: Again, a contrast in styles. The Royals like to get 6 innings from the starter and then go Herrera, Davis, Holland for the last three. The Orioles have several great arms in their pen and no fear of mixing and matching. For pure stuff I give the edge to the Royals, for strong utilization the edge belongs to the Orioles.
- Manager: Huge edge here to the Orioles. Buck Showalter (who Jeff Passan is in love with) is the closest thing in the American League to Bruce Bochy, and Ned Yost will cost the Royals a game at some point in this series.
- Pick: based on my simplistic breakdown I should be picking the Orioles, but the Royals are hot and have a little bit of that destiny feel to them. I wanted to pick them so badly last round, so I’m going with the Royals in 7.
Cardinals vs. Giants
- Offense: Neither of these lineups are world beaters, but both are loaded with good hitters, any of whom could be a hero. THe Cardinals pound fastballs, which is good news for a Giants’ staff that doesn’t rely on the fastball the way other’s do. The only starter who seems vulnerable because of his reliance on the fastball is Ryan Vogelsong, but he’s pitched well against the Cardinals before. The Giants have a lot of left-handed hitters and the Cards will only start righties in this series so that bodes well for an uptick in runs. A couple of “ifs”: if Michael Morse is available and good, that’s a huge boost for the Giants. If the Cardinals power surge against LA is real then they become a much more dangerous opponent. I’m calling this a wash.
- Starting Pitching: Coming into the postseason neither rotation was looked at as all that menacing. Both teams feature an ace (Bumgarner/Wainwright). After that there’s some mixing and matching. I’d give the Giants an edge with Peavy over Lynn, Hudson over Miller/(injured) Wacha, and Vogelsong over Lackey.
- Bullpen: Both pens are very good. A slight edge to the Giants perhaps?
- Manager: Mike Matheny was a rookie manager the last time these teams met in the LCS. His career trajectory suggests the Cards will win it all this year (LCS loss, World Series loss, World Series win), but despite his improvements the edge goes to the Giants and Bochy.
- Prediction: this postseason is absolutely wide open a this point. There is no reason to be surprised at any of these four teams winning it all. In these kinds of scenarios we’ve seen the Giants take advantage. It’s an even-numbered year, they can do this. Giants in 6.
I will have a breakdown of how I see the NLCS playing out up tomorrow!
1. Tigers vs. Orioles. These teams are mirrors of each other. Baltimore hits home runs, plays great defense, and has a stellar bullpen. Detroit has the THE STAR and the starters. This is going to be the ultimate test of postseason theories: do you need strong starting, defense, bullpen, or home runs to win?
- Prediction: Tigers in 4. The Tigers will not win the world series with that bullpen (we’ve heard this story before), but they have more than enough to get past an Orioles team that lacks dominant starting pitchers.
2. Angels vs. Royals. The Angels have the best record and offense in baseball. The Royals bunt and steal all the time and have the best bullpen in the postseason. Will this be bedlam in KC or Mike Trout’s national coming-out-party?
- Prediction: I want to pick the Royals so badly. I really, really do. Oh, I want to pick them. In fact, a couple of months ago when I was sketching things out, I thought they might have the best path to the World Series in the American League. That, though, was based on them winning the division, which they did not do. Furthermore, that game against the A’s revealed just how clueless Ned Yost can be. Sometimes, and it is rare, a manager can help win a series, usually they are fairly neutral, and there are some times where they are an all-out liability, and I fear that is where Yost is. Yikes. Angels in 4.
3. Dodgers vs. Cardinals. Of course they are playing each other, which means, if the Giants get through they will have to play their long-standing mortal enemies (the Dodgers, just in case you didn’t know), or the team Giants’ fans have learned to hate in recent years (the Cardinals, mostly for being the Cardinals). And even if the Giants don’t make it through it means one of these teams will play the Nationals (who we will then hate) in an absolutely awful NLCS. This is the most detestable of all possible matchups.
- Prediction: Mattingly is horrible, the bullpen is shaky, and the non-Kershaw/Greinke starters are a major liability. Plus Puig will do something stupid at some point. Otherwise the Dodgers are basically unbeatable. The Cardinals had a surprisingly bad offensive season, some shakiness in the rotation (that seems to have been shored up), and are here mainly because the Brewers faded so badly. And yet, they are the Cardinals, the team, other than the Giants, most likely to play flawlessly in October. I won’t be the least bit surprised if the Cardinals win this series, but I’m going with the Dodgers in 5.
4. Giants vs. Nationals. The Nationals are the best team, in my opinion, top to bottom in this tournament. So, of course, the Giants get them in a short series. Awesome. That being said, the only result here that would be shocking to me is a sweep by either team. Mostly, though I just don’t see the Giants laying down. It’s going to go 5 either way. I’ll have a bigger preview tomorrow morning, but for now a couple of silver linings for the Giants: the Nationals have a lot of right-handed starting pitching. They are really good, so that part stinks, but the right-handedness plays into the hands of a lineup that is heavy lefty right now. Second silver lining: Matt Williams is a rookie manager, and only 4 times has a rookie manager won a World Series. The last one to do it, of course, was another ex-Giant, Bob Brenly, whose team won in spite of him, not because of him. Loved Matt Williams as a third baseball in the black and orange, but he might be a liability.
- Prediction: The Nationals are too deep to go down to a Giants team lacking Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, and Matt Cain. Nationals in 5.