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2011 Division Series Preview

September 30, 2011

Way back on March 30th, I made my predictions for the 2011 season. Let’s just say they were a bit off as I correctly picked 25% of the playoff participants when I correctly guessed the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies would participate. I am sure this will likely be equally inaccurate.

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
The Tampa Bay Rays had an incredible run to catch the Boston Red Sox and win the American League Wild Card. Not only did the Rays come from being nine games back in September, but they also came back from being down 7-0 in the eighth inning in what could have very well been an elimination game against the New York Yankees. That is why I am picking them to sneak by the Rangers in five games. This series will be a tough one for either club. Tampa Bay just doesn’t go away, they are gritty, they are tough but they are good. Joe Maddon is taking quite a risk in starting Matt Moore in Game One but I like Maddon and this team’s moxie, they aren’t afraid of anyone. The Rangers are good, they can mash, they have proven they aren’t so bad on the mound either I just think that in a series that looks to be a war of attrition, the Rays can outlast Texas. Here are some things I said about the two clubs in my preview way back in March:

  • “A minor-league system ready to churn out the next big thing, should keep the Rays well above .500 but ultimately not up to speed with their AL East big money rivals” (sort of wrong, they indeed kept up and surpassed)
  • “I expect a good year from new-additions Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez” (more than half wrong)
  • I expect “continued greatness from recent AK-47 theft victim Evan Longoria” (right)
  • “The loss of Cliff Lee in my mind has been overblown” (right)
  • “The problem really is the injury to Tommy Hunter and the ramifications of that to everyone else in the rotation including the movement of Alexi Ogando to the rotation” (wrong)
  • “I think [Michael] Young is a professional, and even if he is upset it won’t effect his performance, furthermore if he still does in fact want out (and I presume he does) he knows his contract is an albatross and has to know that further accompanying it by poor on-the-field performance will only deteriorate his value further” (right, he played like a pro exceeding everyone’s expectations)
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
This has the makings of a great series. C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander are probably the two top pitchers in the American League and they may square off more than once in this series. Verlander is the better of the two so I think Detroit gets the edge in this series. I like Detroit in four. The Yankees pitching much derided all year really came through, but these Yankees teams don’t scare people the way they once did and that’s because they aren’t as scary. Here are some things I said about the two clubs in my preview way back in March:
  • “Aggressive in the offseason with the acquisitions of Victor Martinez and Joaquin Benoit [the Tigers are] an odd lineup equal parts very good (Martinez, Magglio OrdonezAustin Jackson, and one of the best in baseball and MVP-candidate Miguel Cabrera) and very weak (Jhonny PeraltaWill RhymesAlex Avila)” (wrong when two of the “weak” links end up All-Stars)
  • Justin Verlander is relatively quietly one of the best pitchers in the American League” (right, but everyone knows for sure now)
  • “[The Tigers’] chance at contention becomes much more a function of White Sox or Twins missteps” (sort of true, it certainly didn’t hurt that those two clubs stumbled so severely)
  • “The Yankees Achilles heel will be their starting pitching” (wrong)
  • “I just don’t see many [starting pitchers] available and the overpay in prospects [for the Yankees] would likely be huge so I doubt they make a significant move” (right)
Philadelphia Phillies vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals had a similar great comeback to catch up from being eight and a half back from the Braves in September. They are a good club who surprised me this year, I did not think much of them at all. That said, I still think the Phillies far surpass them as the best team in baseball. Cardinals have proven me wrong before this year and have a winning record versus Philadelphia this year but despite that: Phillies in three. Here are some things I said about the two clubs in my preview way back in March:
  • “The Phillies are the best team in the National League and the difference between them and anyone else is significant” (right)
  • “Despite the loss of Chase Utley for who knows how long and the loss of Brad Lidge into May, this club still is head and shoulders better than the rest” (right)
  • “This isn’t an offense that’ll score a ton of runs, the loss of Jayson Werth will hurt, but they are capable enough to backup that strong rotation” (right)
  • “The injury to Adam Wainwright is huge” (sort of wrong, he would’ve been helpful but didn’t keep them out of the postseason)
  • Lance Berkman is potentially beginning to show his age” (wrong)
  • “Offensively the Cards aside from the duo of Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols are a little thin as well” (wrong)
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Who would’ve thought the Arizona Diamondbacks would be here? Not I. The Brewers were far more believable as contenders and this should be an interesting matchup. Can’t ever discount the D-backs, but I like Milwaukee to win this one. The kids in Arizona get their first taste of the postseason for many of them and that cuts both ways, sometimes those teams are incredible dangerous and sometimes they fold quickly. Milwaukee is in now or never mode to a degree, they’ve been in the playoffs before, they are hungry, they will win in five. Here are some things I said about the two clubs in my preview way back in March:
  • The “injury that befell Zack Greinke and the uncertainty surrounding the health of Shaun Marcum put this club at a disadvantage to the Reds.” (wrong, it wasn’t the Reds to be worried about)
  • Yovani Gallardo continues to be one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, but look for him to get a bit more attention this season as the Brewers contend and he plays a major role in it.” (right, but still no one knows him)
  • “This [Brewers] lineup will continue to hit” (right)
  • “The Diamondbacks really aren’t that far away from the Dodgers, though moving in the opposite direction as they are improving as opposed to declining.” (sort of right)
  • Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson appear to be decent pitchers” (right, an understatement if anything, they combined for 9.8 WAR)
  • “There are few strong contributors here [in Arizona’s bullpen] once the non-dominant starters are pulled” (wrong)
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