LCS Predictions

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!

-SB

Thoughts and Predictions for the DS #MLBplayoffs

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.

-SB

3 Thoughts on Today’s Wild Card Game #royals #athletics #mlbplayoffs2014

Maybe it’s because the Giants are in the Wild Card Game this year, maybe it’s because I know a lot of A’s and Royals fans, maybe it’s because I’m having a hard time getting into the football season, but whatever the reason I am pumped for two ridiculous baseball games here over the next two days.

Knowing as many A’s and Royal’s fans as I do I’m bound to tick off someone here, but I’d like to offer 3 thoughts on tonight’s game:

1. Big trades led to this moment. The A’s made several big trades this year, but the controversial move of sending Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester will only be able to be fully appreciated and evaluated in light of tonight. If Lester pitches the A’s through this game, and if the A’s go on to make some noise, perhaps even get to the World Series, no one will moan and complain about this trade anymore. They shouldn’t complain about it anyway. The irony of the A’s moves this year was that they actually built a roster that could succeed in the playoffs (as opposed to strong regular season teams that weren’t designed well for short playoff series). Now, it’s time.

The Royals traded Wil Meyers to the Rays for James Shields. There were other players involved, but this was the heart of the trade. Big Game James gets an opportunity to live up to his name and bring joy to Kansas City that hasn’t been felt there in a long time. Many people thought it was a bad trade, but it made sense for one reason: this moment. No one will question the trade if the Royals win tonight and go on to make some noise in the remainder of the playoffs.

2. Someone will be very sad. All season the Royals fans expected the “other shoe” to drop and the bottom to fall out. You can still sense their reluctance to give their heart to this team. One thing, though, about not making the playoffs for 25 years (as depressing as that is) is they haven’t faced the sadness that A’s fans have faced since 2000. The A’s have lost in every conceivable way in the postseason over the last 14 years, and losing this Wild Card Game would only bring a new level of misery to the east bay.

3. And the winner is…I wan to pick the A’s so badly, I really do. I can see a world where they win this game, and go on to exact their revenge against the Angels and Tigers. It would be so, so sweet. But, all year long I have loved this Royals team. They remind me in many ways of the 2010 Giants. Strong starting pitching, unbelievable bullpen, just enough offense at just the right times. I think the Royals get an early lead and their nasty bullpen makes it stand up.

3-2 Royals.

-SB

Windows of Opportunity?

There is much debate over the validity of “windows of opportunity” for major league franchises. Yankees fans will point out that their window is always open, and fans of, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates, will roll their eyes as they’ve heard rumors of this proverbial window for two decades now but have yet to see anything like it.

That being said, there seems to be some validity to the fact that teams build towards something. My hometown Giants have been building a post-Bonds franchise around pitching and defense, suspecting their window to be 2010-2012 (an era where their young pitchers would mature and where some homegrown position players would emerge). They just happened to strike gold in the first year of that window. Even here in Boston, GM Theo Epstein controversially labeled 2010 a “bridge year” indicating that while the team could be competitive (and they likely could have won the division this year if healthy) they were really working towards making a splash and big push for 2011 and beyond (and boy was that the understatement of the decade).

So now we come to the hand-wringing over the Zack Greinke-to-the-Brewers trade. For some reason I know a lot of people from Missouri who grew up rooting for the Royals and they, to a person, seem to see this trade as “classic Royals.” “Just when we get a good, homegrown player who has had some success and who we like, the team trades them or lets them go in free agency claiming some future payoff down the road.” They will then cite the all-star team of players who were prospects with the Royals but played their prime years elsewhere: Johnny Damon, Jermaine Dye, Carlos Beltran, etc, etc.

There is also hand-wringing in Milwaukee, where some see this move as another overpay for a small window of opportunity (i.e. trading several prospects to Cleveland for three months of CC Sabathia in 2008 when they made the playoffs but got swept out of the first round). The window, they argue, is only for one year, and when Prince Fielder leaves after the 2011 season, others (Greinke, Marcum, Weeks) will soon follow leaving a few good players (Gallardo and Braun) with no prospects left to fill in the blanks. It’ll be ugly!

I would argue, though, that this is exactly the trade both teams should be making given where they are at in their “window” cycle. It is, quite possibly, the most perfect baseball trade in recent memory. This is not a small market team dumping a soon to be expensive player in the laps of a perennial powerhouse with resources to absorb the financial hit. Nor is it a mid-market team trying to make a foolish off-season splash to generate interest among its fan base. It is EXACTLY the kind of move each team should be making right now.

There are other articles out there on the interweb that explain each team’s situation better than I will here, but consider this while I build to the point I want to make about the Giants.

1) Milwaukee: There is a very good chance that they lose Fielder at the end of the year. I get that. However, even if they do they still will have three guys in their rotation who are beasts (Greinke, Marcum, Gallardo). They also will still have a middle of the order force in Ryan Braun. If 2011 even goes remotely to plan and they can get in the playoffs, the revenue bump should make keeping Greinke/Weeks/Marcum a whole lot easier especially if they DON’T go all in on Fielder (just think of the cheap and decent 1B options out there right now and it’s easy to see how they could deal with his loss). As Ken Rosenthal points out, the Brewers have every small and mid-market teams dream: a core of under 30 pitchers and position players together for a 1-2 season run at glory (possibly longer if they play this right). This is the window that every team in their situation is working towards and they should be commended for going for it even if 2013 could be awful.

2) Kansas City: Despite the track record, the Royals are actually doing things the right way behind the scenes. Drayton Moore has been building a farm system that is now the envy of baseball. Just as the Rays did from 2008-2010 and the Twins have done for years, the Royals are about enter into a phase starting in 2012 where they will roll out excellent young players at almost every position (and throughout the starting rotation). Nothing, obviously, is guaranteed, and my cynical KC friends will tell you that the Royals will figure out a way to mess this up, but they just added four pretty good guys to a mix that could flip the power structure of the AL Central around over the course of the next five seasons. This is exactly the kind of move the Royals should be making [note: some will point out that the Royals could have received better players from other teams who were interested, but it seems that Greinke would not have been a fit with those teams, either because of wariness on the part of other other team (Yankees), or Zack not wanting to go there (Blue Jays, Nationals)].

What does this have to do with the Giants? This is all about a team accurately assessing where it is at in its competitive window and being able to make shrewd moves given the current market situation. My argument is not that this was a good or bad trade vis a vis the players involved, but that it is the PERFECT type of trade given where each team is at in its window.

In my last post I debated whether the Giants have done enough this off-season. My conclusion (given the market and what was available to them in resources) is: yes. That being said, since they are right in the middle of their window of opportunity there is some logic to leveraging their situation and getting even better. I just don’t know that there has been as perfect a situation for the Giants as the one the Royals and Brewers just took advantage of.

(-SB)