With the new playoff format instituted by Major League Baseball before the year began, it’s safe to say that this postseason has been more exciting than ever. While I’d like to see the wildcard round be a best-of-three series rather than a ridiculous do-or-die game, I must applaud commissioner Bud Selig for the first time in my life for making October baseball just that much better. It’s been mostly positive (that is, if you take away that infield fly rule debacle during the Cardinals/Braves game) and now we’re down to only four teams. Which two clubs will advance to the World Series?
The Yankees are currently down 2-0 at press time and are facing some dude named Justin Verlander in Game 3. Soothsayer I’m not, but with the way these Yankees are hitting—or should I say, not hitting?—Verlander might pitch a perfect game. Their best player all year long, Derek Jeter, went down in Game 1 after shattering his ankle and without him, I don’t think they have much of a chance to win this series unless “star” third baseman Alex Rodriguez finds the Fountain of Youth. With the way things are looking, A-Rod may become the first player ever to strike out on just one pitch.
New York is averaging just over two runs per game if you take away their seven-run Game 1 performance in the ALDS. They’re striking out entirely too much, leaving runners on base as they have all year long, and A-Rod, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson are all hitting under .200. The only bright spots for NY have been their surprisingly strong starting pitching and Raul Ibanez, who should have a statue built for him outside Yankee Stadium for his postseason heroics. He’s driven in a quarter of their runs thus far while playing sparingly and has come up clutch time and time again. That being said, no one else has stepped up so far with the exception of Ichiro Suzuki, who’s been nothing short of spectacular since his arrival. The Yankees are forced to win Game 3 against Verlander because if they go down 3-0, stick a fork in them.
Not to just harp on many of New York’s flaws right now, the Tigers are proving why I thought they were the most dangerous team going into the playoffs. Prior to Game 3, Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have given up a total of five runs in seven starts. That is just pure domination. They haven’t received much help from Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder so far, and that’s the scary thing. These sluggers are too good to simply go unnoticed. Jose Valverde has bogged them down with his atrocious ninth innings but if he gets either replaced for someone decent or rights the ship, Detroit may win it all.
The matchup between the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals will be a battle to the end, I feel. San Francisco has the pitching edge, the Cardinals have the hitting edge, and both teams showed they can overcome any obstacle in the NLDS. The Cardinals were within one strike of being bounced out of the opening round (twice) against the Nationals while the Giants came back to win three consecutive games on the road and stun the Reds. In addition, this Giants-Cardinals meeting is the first time ever that the previous two World Series champions are playing each other for the right to go to the World Series.
If San Francisco’s lineup can actually manage to score 3-4 runs a game, I like their chances to advance. But that won’t come easy seeing as how only three of their batters are hitting .210 or better in the playoffs. Unlike the Yankees, who primarily rely on mashing homers to account for the majority of their runs, the Giants depend on superb pitching and playing small ball to get the job done. St. Louis, on the other hand, scored the second-most runs in the NL in 2012. The ageless Carlos Beltran had a very good year and in his postseason career, he’s a magnificent .370 hitter. Second baseman Daniel Descalso has also been a surprise the last two weeks, spraying hits all over the field.
Game 1 was a surprising slugfest early on, as Madison Bumgarner and Lance Lynn pitched only 3.2 innings each. The Cardinals won what turned out to be a close game and I think the remainder of the series will be relatively low-scoring.
In the end, I’m picking the Tigers to win in five and the Giants in seven. While the NLCS could go any which way, I think San Fran’s home-field advantage and strong bullpen will be major factors down the stretch. The ALCS seems to firmly be in Detroit’s favor but if Verlander somehow gets lit up in Detroit, the Yankees could make things very interesting.
Who do you like advancing to the World Series? Shoot me a line at email@example.com.
(Photo credit: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)