Tomorrow is the start of the Division Series and it seems like while the NL favorite is clearly the Phillies, the AL is wide open, which is a reversal of recent years when the AL's favorite was defined and the NL had four potential winners. Of course, even in those years with a prohibitive favorite (usually the 02-07 Yankees), that team usually didn't win. That's usually because the crapshoot of the MLB playoffs is this round, due to the best of five. Let's take a brief look at each series.
Philadelphia Phillies-Cincinnati Reds
This is a series which the Reds will need to overachieve to beat the best team in the majors. They also will need to forget about their series from July which the Phillies had three straight walkoff wins, including one from a seven run deficit which Cody Ransom was a key player. The Reds are also facing a Phils team that has Roy Oswalt now and have Cole Hamels almost back to being the pitcher from 2008. The only chance I can see for the Reds is if Joey Votto explodes and/or Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto can outpitch the Phillies starters. Can't see that happening. Phillies win in 4.
San Francisco Giants-Atlanta Braves
Very interesting with a team that can pitch with anyone in the Giants, but have trouble hitting, while the Braves to a lot of things good, but nothing great. Lineups are basically a wash, including the dueling Rookie of the Year candidates and have very good managers in Bobby Cox and Bruce Bochy. The Braves have to pitch with the Giants and if Derek Lowe is on, they could with Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson. I think the deciding factor is that Hudson will only start Game 3, while the Giants will have Tim Lincecum for two starts, and a hot Lincecum at that. Giants will win in 5.
Tampa Bay Rays-Texas Rangers
Texas was going to be a sexy first round team because of Cliff Lee. However, looking at the starters, the Rangers don't have Lee going in Game 4, a huge disadvantage. Also, Lee hasn't been particularly effective against the Rays this year. So the Rangers will need to hit and after David Price, they'll have their chance to hit. The toughest issue for the Rays is that with Lee and C.J. Wilson, the Rays lefties will be neutralized, so Evan Longoria and B.J. Opton will have to step up. With Lee being saved for a Game 5, I happen to think the Rangers won't be able to win starts without Lee and with the Rays at home and able to use their awful stadium to success on the basepaths, Tampa should win. Rays will win in 4.
Minnesota Twins-New York Yankees
The biggest series of the round will involve the one AL team with no concerns over pitching in the Twins. The Yanks will need Andy Pettitte to be ready soon in order to not only pitch, but also pitch well enough to steal Game 2 in Minnesota. This series will be interesting to see outdoor baseball in October in Minneapolis and to see if the Yanks lefties can hit HR's to right, like they will in NY. Francisco Liriano had a strong year this year and deserved the top spot in the rotation, while Carl Pavano and Brian Duensing have complimented well. The Yanks will hope Phil Hughes pitches well and if so, the Yanks will win. I think the Twins have a better bullpen than we thought they would have when Joe Nathan got hurt. This helps the Twins (except Brian Fuentes) because their bullpen is better and might not have the fear when they come in. The keys for the Yanks are the same, hit, hit for power am? The Yankees should still be the favorites but they need to hit better which I'm sure they they can do, but dealing with a spacious stadium will hurt the Yanks, not to mention they have struggled in general since the All-Star break; don't think they can just flip a switch. Twins will win in 5.