These are just my predictions for what will happen in this year's MLB playoffs. If last night is any indication of how the playoffs will unfold we are in for a heck of a ride. So, without further ado, here's what I think will happen:
Tigers 3, Yankees 2
Rays 3, Rangers 1
Phillies 3, Cardinals 2
Brewers 3, Diamondbacks 1
Tigers 4, Rays 2 - Alex Avila MVP
Phillies 4, Brewers 3 - Cole Hamels MVP
Phillies 4, Tigers 2 - Cliff Lee MVP
The Tigers-Yankees series will be close and I think higher scoring than some people think. If it goes 5, three of those games will be played in Yankee Stadium. Leyland has said they'll go with a 4 man rotation so JV can pitch game 5 if necessary. I'm not sure that's the best strategy. JV gets a lot of fly ball outs and hasn't pitched particularly well against the Yankees this season. Fister would do better in New York because he gets a lot of ground ball outs and hardly gives up any homer runs. Verlander does. Still, I like the Tigers to rake against the Yankees starting pitching. They've even hit CC fairly well (Cabby 9-16 career) and I think they have a chance of winning any game against the Yankees.
I'm taking the Rays over the Rangers because they are riding high right now, but mostly because pitching. The Rangers team ERA at home isn't very good (4.37) but is excellent on the road (3.19). The Rays team ERA is excellent at home (3.16) and fairly good on the road (4.04) - many of those games were in Yankee Stadium and Fenway. People like to bash the Rays lineup and how they can't score, but they have scored the 2nd most runs in the AL on the road. They can put up enough runs to keep pace with one of the best offenses in the league and their rotation will keep them in most games.
The Cardinals have played the Phillies tough this year and have gone 6-3 against the best team in baseball. I think the Cardinals rotation is fairly underrated. Carpenter, Garcia, and Lohse have all pitched very well against the Phillies this season. They have the best offense in the NL as well. I don't think it's a stretch to think they could beat the Phillies because they match up very well against them. The difference, to me, is the bullpen. I trust the Phillies pen over the Cardinals' in this series and I think they'll eventually put up more runs at the end of the day. I'm not expecting a lot of runs in this series and if it goes 5 I'd trust Cliff Lee to have a great performance at home. It's really hard for me to pick against the Phillies rotation as a whole even though it's tempting to take the Cards in this series.
The Diamondbacks were a nice story this year, but the Brewers are just a better team and they have home field advantage. Their home record speaks for itself. Offense is essentially a wash, but the Brewers have a better team ERA both at home and on the road as well as one of the best closers in the game. I think the games will be relatively close but I think Milwaukee's offense will eventually wear Arizona's pitching down and put up a lot of runs. You can only keep Fielder and Braun down for so long. Eventually they will rake against anyone....well almost anyone (keep reading).
I'm taking the Tigers over the Rays because the Tigers lineup is better, their rotation and bullpen has had success against them this season, and they took 6 of 7 against the Rays this season - the only loss coming in extra innings. I do like the Rays to take a couple games, though. JV's worst start this year was against the Rays in Comerica - 6 ER in 6 IP and if he starts game 1 or game 2 it will be in Detroit. I already pointed out the Rays can score as well as anyone on the road, so beating the Tigers in Comerica and ultimately taking a couple games in that series wouldn't be a surprise at all. I'd just take the Tigers in a 7 game series against the Rays and think their offense will eventually put a lot of crooked numbers up on the scoreboard. Alex Avila has also hit Rays pitching really well this season and I think he'd have a monster ALCS should this match up occur.
The Phillies-Brewers series, should it happen, will likely be the best of the playoffs. I'd take the Brewers lineup over the Phillies' and I'd take the Phillies rotation over the Brewers'. Milwaukee crushed Halladay in one of his starts this year (6 ER in 6.1 IP in a 9-0 win in Philadelphia) but the rest of the games have been fairly close. The season series was kind of backwards from what you'd think it would be. The Brewers took 2 of 3 in Philadelphia and the Phillies took 3 of 4 in Milwaukee. This has the potential to be a back and forth, very exciting series. Gallardo and Wolf have pitched very well against the Phillies this year (I don't think Greinke faced them at all) and Halladay (aside from that one start), Lee, and Hamels have all pitched well against the Brewers. But, again, whoever pitches for the Phillies in game 7, should it get that far, will have a decided advantage over anyone the Brewers throw out there. All three guys in the Phillies rotation are decidedly ground ball pitchers. That should keep the power bats of Braun, Fielder, and co. at bay for much of that series. They should win but I think it would be very close. Cole Hamels has pitched one game against Milwaukee this year and completed the game giving up 2 ER. That game was in Milwaukee. You could choose any of the three starters, but I'm going with Hamels.
Should the Phillies and Tigers collide in the World Series this year it would definitely be great drama for any baseball fan. Halladay VS. Verlander. Lee VS. Fister. Hamels VS. ....umm, Scherzer? - That alone would decide the series. Max has been incredibly inconsistent this year and is definitely your X-Factor for this series. I'd trust him against the Yankees 3rd starter (whomever that may be), but not against a guy like Hamels. He can turn it on and pitch just about as well as anyone when he has his good stuff (aka no straight fastball that flattens out when it crosses the plate), but it's just as likely that he serves up meatballs and gets knocked out in the 3rd inning. Porcello is the same way if Leyland decides to go that route. Halladay VS. Verlander and Lee VS. Fister are tossups IMO. Hamels VS. Scherzer/Porcello is a decided advantage for the Phillies. At the end of the day the Phillies are the best team in baseball. Even though they may have gotten the worst draw possible in terms of who they'll play in the ALDS and who the'll likely play in the NLCS, they should and will win the WS this year. Cliff Lee will have another dominant playoffs and save his best for last in the WS. He wins MVP and the Phillies win the thing at home in Philadelphia.
Well that's it. Don't kill me if I didn't pick your team or perhaps overlooked something in regards to match ups and potential match ups. This is just the way I see it. Whatever happens I'm just looking forward to some postseason baseball. Good luck to everyone and may the best team win.