LCS predictions and DS prediction wrapups
I went 2-for-4 in the Division Series, was one out away from going 3-for-4, and I’d argue one out plus one Johnny Cueto injury away from 4-for-4. I’ll take that.
The series I read best was DET-OAK. The A’s did in fact “win at least one game in the late innings,” but ultimately a very closely matched series came down to two Justin Verlander starts.
I was close-ish on NYY-BAL, in that I figured ultimately the Orioles bullpen would show some cracks. I didn’t figure how well the O’s starters would pitch, though. A cap tip to them; terrific series.
I’d pick SF-CIN the same way again. The Cueto injury was just such an enormous factor. It affected pretty much every starting pitching matchup in the series, not to mention the effect on the Reds bullpen. The Giants lineup really is better than it gets credit for, and the Reds lineup isn’t as good as its perception, but I honestly think that series never gets to a fifth game if Cueto doesn’t get hurt.
And, if you read the predictions, you know that even though I picked the Nationals, I did it with extreme reluctance. The key point from my Cardinals take on that series was that because of their lineup depth, they’re just extremely hard to kill and extremely tough on left-handed pitching. That’s what they showed, yet again, last night.
Before the picks, a reminder: anything can happen in a short series. Anything. The goal is to get the ideas right, because even if you get the ideas right, you’re STILL going to get the results wrong a pretty good percentage of the time. Anyone who claims to know with any certainty what’s going to happen in a best-of-seven between two good teams is a liar, a fool, or both.
On with the picks…
Tigers vs. Yankees: I don’t want to make too much of it, because as TLR always said, you go where the schedule takes you. But the one-day difference in the two teams’ schedules could be an absolutely huge factor in this series. Because of the off day between Detroit’s Division Series and the start of the ALCS, Justin Verlander can go on regular rest in Game 3, and then in regular rest in Game 7. Because the Yankees did not have an off day, they would have to pitch CC Sabathia on short rest in order to pitch him in Game 3. Given how hard he worked in Game 5 of the ALDS, I find it extremely unlikely he pitches in that game. So if he were to go in Game 7, it would then be on short rest.
All of which is to say, I think if the two aces were on equal footing, this series would look different. But they’re not, and that complicates things.
Still… I like the Yankees bullpen more than the Tigers bullpen. The Yankees are a better defensive team, though neither of these clubs is exemplary at catching the ball. And the Yankees lineup, well, it ought to be better than Detroit’s. OK, it is better. When you lead the league in runs, you’ve got a good lineup. It just didn’t look that way against the Orioles. And one other little thing: it doesn’t ALL work out perfectly for the Tigers, because they’ll only get to use Max Scherzer once in this series.
Overall, I think the Yankees have enough edge in the late innings and enough edge on offense to outweigh a non-optimized series of starting pitching matchups.
Yankees in 6.
Cardinals vs. Giants: There are things you know to be true, but you still have to see, again and again, to really have them drilled into your head. We all know that having a good, deep lineup is a serious asset. But when people do postseason analysis, so often it turns to pitching. The Cardinals have proved over the past two seasons that bashing your opponents into submission is every bit as good a way to win games as holding them down.
I still have some of the same questions about the Cardinals that I did before the Division Series: Adam Wainwright obviously did not look good last night, and while he could be great, he’s not a certainty. Chris Carpenter looks more and more like you can believe in him, which is enormous, and besides there’s no guarantee that Wainwright gets two starts even if the series goes seven.
It sounds like Tim Lincecum will be moving into the Giants rotation, which benefits them for two reasons. One, he’s better than Barry Zito, and two, you’d rather have a RHP than a LHP against the Cardinals if you have the choice. Meanwhile, the Giants are not especially well poised to exposed the Cards’ lack of left-handed relief.
This is, I think, a really close series. The rotations are close. The bullpens, as currently constructed, are close. The Giants are better defensively, but not by an enormous amount. The Cardinals have a better lineup, but not by an enormous amount — the Giants led the NL in OPS on the road this year. The ballpark hides how good an offensive team they are.
I think the deciding factor, ultimately, is lineup depth. The Cardinals have more ways to hurt you. I expect this to be a close series, but I think we’re going to see a repeat pennant winner in the NL.
Cardinals in 6.
(And btw, any angry Giants fans who want to scream “bias,” I picked the Cards to lose in the Wild Card round, to lose in the DS, and I picked them to finish third in the division. So, no.)