ALCS – Detroit Tigers v. New York Yankees
For the second straight year the Tigers and Yankees will be matched up in postseason play, but this year despite having the better regular season record, the Yankees seem to be the underdogs following their five-game series with Baltimore.
This matchup will undoubtedly come down to pitching, and it appears that Detroit holds a distinct edge in this category. Yes, Yankee pitchers were fantastic against Baltimore, with their starters’ collective ERA under 2.4, but the big question will be their consistency. Phil Hughes, Hiroki Kuroda, and the old warhorse Andy Pettitte have all shown signs of inconsistency throughout the regular season, and expecting each of them to continue to pitch lights-out may not be realistic.
CC Sabathia was phenomenal in the two games he pitched against the Orioles, but he will not be starting until Game 3, at which point the Yankees could be in a 2-0 hole if Pettitte (Game 1 starter) and Kuroda (no official announcement yet, but presumably the Game 2 starter) are unable to keep their hot streaks going. On the flip side, Detroit starters have also looked fantastic thus far, and as demonstrated in last year’s ALDS against New York, they are able to pitch at a very high level come playoff time.
Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Sherzer all turned in stellar performances in the ALDS, and they can be relied upon to do the same against New York. As we all know, Justin Verlander is quite possibly the best pitcher in baseball, and he will be starting Game 3 and also Game 7 if necessary where he will be going head-to-head with Sabathia both games. Unlike against Baltimore, the Yankees will not be able to bank on two wins from their ace CC this series, and it could certainly be the swing point to determine who will advance to the World Series.
Currently five Yankee starters (Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriquez, Nick Swisher, and Robinson Cano) are hitting well under .200, with stud second baseman Cano hitting an abysmal .091. If these key figures are unable to step up their games and produce at even an acceptable level, it may make for a short series.
Raul Ibanez and Derek Jeter have been heroes thus far for the Yanks, but they will not be able to carry the load on their own. The Tigers are a dangerous hitting team, with Miguel Cabrera, the first Triple Crown winner in over four decades, leading the way. It should be a good series, but I think Detroit’s pitching will prove too much. After being benched in the Yankees’ Game 5 win, it appears that delusions of adequacy are finally over for A-Rod in the playoffs.
Prediction: Tigers in 6
NLCS matchup – San Francisco Giants v. St. Louis Cardinals
The Giants fell down 0-2 in their NLDS matchup and the Cardinals were a strike from elimination. And yet, here we are, as these two resilient teams will square off in San Francisco Sunday night. On paper, this head-to-head seems to favor St. Louis, though their starting pitching has been a little shaky. Kyle Lohse has been great, but ace Adam Wainwright has struggled in his two outings, with the rest of the Cards pitching staff combining to put together a couple average games.
Lucky for the Cardinals, Chris Carpenter is fully recovered from his shoulder injury, scattering seven hits through five innings in a workman-like performance in Game 3. Giants starting pitching has been average at best, with the notorious Barry Zito failing to make it through three innings in his start, Mason Bumgarner failing to make it through five, and ace Matt Cain’s ERA standing at a very poor 5.06.
A key factor could be the potential return of Tim Lincecum from the bullpen to the starting rotation. Lincecum, former Cy Young winner, had a year to forget, posting his worst-ever ERA 5.18, and struggling to a 10-15 record. He was demoted to the bullpen, but after coming in and pitching six innings while only surrendering one run in the NLDS, Lincecum could conceivably start for the Giants in this series. For the Giants, a return to the Tim Lincecum of old would be more than welcome, and two quality starts from him could well help the Giants advance to the World Series.
Turning over to hitting, St. Louis appears to hold the upper hand in this aspect. Carlos Beltran has been unstoppable, hitting over .400 with 2 homeruns, and the rest of the Cards lineup is an excellent mix of players who can hit for average and power. Last year’s postseason hero David Freese is up to his old tricks hitting .381, and both Allen Craig and Matt Holliday provide serious power for the middle of the order for St. Louis.
If catcher Yadier Molina can break out of his post-season slump, Cardinal hitting could be overpowering for Giants pitchers. Despite the hot start by Pablo Sandoval, the majority of San Francisco hitters have struggled, hitting around or under .200. They will face a tall task against the Cards' big three starting pitchers (Lohse, Wainwright, and Carpenter), and unless they can step their games up it could be a short series.
It is clear the desire to repeat is burning strong in these post-Pujols Cardinals, and I cannot see the Giants standing in their way. I think St. Louis will make quick work of San Fran; I just cannot see a team that has Barry Zito as a starting pitcher winning a World Series.
Prediction – Cardinals in 5