Friday, September 30, 2011

ALDS Preview

Today is the beginning of the American League playoffs and I'm absolutely certain the drama will not match that of the last day of the year. It can't, there won't be four must-win games going on at the same exact time in these playoffs. There will be a spacing of these games for television purposes, so it's not built to equal the excitement of the opening weekend of March Madness, which Wednesday night was (and will be next year now that Gus Johnson no longer will call that).

Now, we are down to 4 teams left in the AL and they are very similar to the teams last year as a result of the Tampa Bay Rays incredible comeback win Wednesday, giving the Red Sox the worst collapse in history, an 11 on the Choke-O-Meter. Now, they get their rematch with the Texas Rangers with two major differences. One, Texas has the home-field and last year, home-field meant nothing as the road team won each game. And two; no Cliff Lee, the main reason the Rangers won 2 games in Tampa. Instead, it's C.J. Wilson who heads the staff with Derek Holland pitching Game 2 and some combination of Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis in Tampa. The Rays might be a little stronger in their rotation, despite the struggles of David Price this year as James Shields is much improved and Jeremy Hellickson has been tremendous in his first year. However, the surprise is how Matt Moore will make his second career start later in Game 1. One thing's for sure, if all the managers in baseball dropped their pants, Joe Maddon I guarantee you will end up with the biggest set of balls. Bar none.

The lineups are a contrast, just like last year. The Rangers, led by Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre can mash with anyone. Meanwhile the Rays have Evan Longoria as their biggest threat, with a lot of guys who can do anything and are opportunistic. This results in Matt Joyce and Dan Johnson with season saving home runs in back-to-back games. The Rangers have the clear edge in the bullpen because Neftali Feliz is a MAJOR upgrade at closer than Kyle Farnsworth. The Rays have been up and down with their relievers, only they are pitching very well as of late. Texas now will have Alexi Ogando in the bullpen, joining Mike Adams and Mike Gonzalez as quality arms in the bullpen (I don't care how good Darren Oliver is, I'll never trust him, though he could succeed against Tampa). It comes down to this, Tampa is hot, very hot in the past week, however, they might have better served playing Boston yesterday and keeping the momentum going. The day might kill it, like it did last week in NY and I think Texas wins this series in 4 games.

The other series is the Yankees once again, facing the lone newcomer in the AL, the Detroit Tigers. The script for this series could be the Game 1 matchup of CC Sabathia against Justin Verlander, the man who will win the Cy Young and dare I say, likely MVP winner. You'd think that the Game 1 winner sets everything up for the series, but the Yankees have Ivan Nova and Freddy Garcia going in Games 2 and 3 and you won't know who either man will pitch. The Tigers trot Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello and that's not exactly a Phillies rotation full of arms either, though Fister has been very good and if Verlander should fall tonight, Fister is more than capable to winning Game 2 and getting a split.

Both teams lineups are good offensively, even though the number of household names is less on the Tigers. I will say that the most feared hitter on either team is Miguel Cabrera, yes, even more than Robinson Cano, though not by much. However, no team will have an easy time getting through Curtis Granderson, Cano, Alex Rodriguez (if he's healthy) and Mark Teixeira (if he finally can hit in the postseason). Lineup wise, A-Rod is the key, just like every other postseason the Yankees have been involved in since his arrival. It's funny that the one year A-Rod hit like he does in the regular season, the Yanks have won his lone World Series. Detroit has Victor Martinez alongside Cabrera, with Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta also with terrific years. Looking at the bullpens, the Yankees have the advantage, but not by much since Jose Valverde is perfect in save opportunities. We all know Mo, that's the advantage, plus when you add the ridiculous year David Robertson posted. Tough series and if this goes 5, the Tigers win. I think it goes 4 and the Yankees take it, setting the rematch in the ALCS.

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