The Rangers finished their season today with a record of 87-75, twelve games over .500. If they were in the AL Central, they would’ve won it. In fact, they have the 4th-best record in the AL. This was a great season. The pitching and defense were great, but the offense let them down. They played great against the good teams, but struggled against the bad teams. That’s the sign of a talented young team, but it cost us the playoffs, because ultimately it’s hard to make the postseason when you’re losing to teams like the A’s. But nothing should take away from the fact that it was a great season. I can’t wait for 2010, when the Rangers will win the AL West.
Following are my playoff predictions.
Colorado vs. Philadelphia: Colorado in 4
The Rockies will have a good #1 starter in the playoffs. Ubaldo Jimenez was on the ’07 playoff team for the Rocks and had a 2.25 ERA in his three postseason starts. This year he is 15-12 with a 3.47 ERA and 198 strikeouts. The Rockies will have a solid (not great, but solid) #2 starter. Aaron Cook was also on the ’07 team, and had very similar numbers this year. He had a 4.12 ERA (4.16 this year) in 166 IP (158 this year). They will also have good #3 and 4 guys. Jason Marquis is 15-12 with a 3.95 ERA this year, and even though he has given up four or more runs in 3 of his last 4 starts, he has three years of playoff experience and should get back on track. Jorge De La Rosa is 16-9 with a 4.38 ERA. He has also pitched well of late, pitching 6 quality starts in his last 8 games. The Rockies can also hit, as they are 2nd in the AL in runs scored.
Unlike the Rockies, the Phillies might not have a shut-down #1 guy. Cole Hamels has really struggled this year, as he is 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA. And even though he did well in the playoffs last year, he was hot going into them then. He isn’t now. He has had three straight bad outings. And Cliff Lee, after a hot streak after the trade to the Phils, has really struggled since. He has had only one quality start in his last seven outings. He’ll need to get it back on track in his first year of the playoffs (and I don’t think he will). The #3 starter, Joe Blanton, has a 4.05 ERA and has allowed five runs in six innings of work or less in both of his last two starts. J.A. Happ, a rookie, might be the best in the group. But he probably won’t even pitch if they’re behind in the series when it comes to his turn. He has a 2.85 ERA this year, and is hot. He has allowed three runs or less in 9 of his last 10 starts. The Phillies have won games off of their NL-leading offense, but that doesn’t help as much in the playoffs. That’s why I think the Rockies will win.
St. Louis vs. Los Angeles: St. Louis in 3
Chris Carpenter is an NL Cy Young candidate and the NL ERA leader. Adam Wainwright is an NL Cy Young candidate and is the MLB wins leader. Joel Pineiro is 4th in the NL in wins. They have Albert Pujols. They have Matt Holliday. They have allowed the 3rd least runs in the NL. That is all it takes and more to beat a team that is 38-35 since the All-Star break. The Cardinals are 42-28 since the All-Star break. I think that pretty much explains my prediction.
The Dodgers, as I said above, are only 38-35 since the All-Star break and are extremely cold. They are 3-7 in their last 10. They also don’t have great pitching. Their number one starter has a 4.03 ERA (Chad Billingsley), and although that’s a good number 2, it’s not a good number 1. And even though Randy Wolf has done well this year, he has never been to the playoffs, so he might struggle under the pressure. And while Kershaw has done well, this is his first full season in the majors and also his first playoffs. Hiroki Kuroda is out for the first round. Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier are all in slumps. They just don’t have a good team.
Detroit/Minnesota vs. New York:
The Yankees are not going to get by the Tigers or Twins in my opinion. The Tigers have great pitching and the Twins are hot. The Yankees’ playoff rotation consists of CC Sabathia, who has struggled mightily in the playoffs in his career, AJ Burnett, who has gotten only two wins in his last ten starts, and Joba Chamberlain, who is still young, unpolished, and inconsistent. That is not good. And you just can’t live off the home run, and runs in general, in the playoffs like you can in the regular season. I think that they have a great regular season roster, but that when it comes to the playoffs, they don’t have a very good team. It would be different if CC had pitched better in the playoffs before, or if AJ Burnett wasn’t pitching the way he has been lately.
Boston vs. Los Angeles: Boston in 4
The Red Sox have a good playoff pitching staff. Josh Beckett just came back from injury, and Jon Lester is still pitching well. Clay Buchholz is also pitching well. Those three are solid for the playoffs, but compared to the Angels’ rotation, they are incredible. The Red Sox also have a pretty good offense. Here are the first six:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury
2. Dustin Pedroia
3. Kevin Youkilis
4. Jason Bay
5. Victor Martinez
6. Mike Lowell (.353 AVG with 2 HR’s and 15 RBI’s in ’04 playoffs)
Normally, pitching wins you series, but, against the Angels, it could be either pitching or hitting.
The Angels have some of the worst pitching in the AL. It’s the 5th worst in the AL and worst in the playoffs. John Lackey has allowed 12 runs in his last 13 innings (three starts). Ervin Santana has a 5.10 ERA. Joe Saunders has a 4.62 ERA. Jared Weaver has the lowest ERA of the group (3.75), and he’s the #4 guy. Plus, their offense is old. Very old. They depend too much on guys like Vladimir Guerrero, and Torii Hunter, who’s coming off an injury. I just don’t see them going anywhere playoff-wise.
St. Louis over Colorado in 6
Detroit/Minnesota over Boston in 7
St. Louis over Detroit/Minnesota in 6
Come back next week for my Championship Series Analysis.