NLDS: Milwaukee Brewers v. Philadelphia Phillies
While all eyes were on CC Sabathia in September, the Brewers offense was more difficult to watch than Caddyshack II. With Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun at the center of the Brewers’ lineup (30+ homers and 100+ RBI), they should have an explosive offense. However, they limped to the finish as they were ranked dead last in runs per game in the NL in September. Still, with Sabathia pitching two games in a five game series, the Brew Crew (first playoff berth since 1982) has to like their chances. Assuming Sabathia wins both of his games, the burning question is who wins that third game for the Brewers? With Ben Sheets now out for the remainder of the playoffs the answer is no one. Led by underrated stud Cole Hamels (3.09 ERA) and Grandpa Jamie Moyer (who pitches well against young teams like the Brewers), the Phillies will squeak by the Brewers and win their first playoff series since 1993.
The Fighting Phils in 5
NLDS: L.A. Dodgers v. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs were by far the best team in the NL this year and the 84-win Dodgers are by far the worst team in the playoffs. That being said, the Dodgers have a very good chance of winning this series. Believe it or not, the hottest pitcher in baseball is the Dodgers’ Derek Lowe who has a 0.94 ERA in his last nine starts. Their lineup also has a solid player in every spot highlighted by the career postseason home run king (25) in Manny Ramirez. If the Dodgers had played any other team I would pick them in an upset but Bartman’s Boys are just too good. Everyone points to fireballer Carlos Zambrano as the key to the Cubbies playoff success, however, Ryan Dempster (2.96 ERA), Ted Lilly (no-hitters into the 7th inning two of his last three starts), and Rich Harden (1.78 ERA in 71 innings with the Cubs) have been just as good or better this year. With four aces and home-field advantage (55-26 at Wrigley), the Cubs win a tight series.
Cubbies in 5
ALDS: Boston Red Sox v. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
This is a battle of the best two teams in the playoffs. The Red Sox got the best of the Angels last year when they swept them in the Division Series. So will anything change? They match up evenly every way you look at it. Both teams have dominant closers in Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Rodriguez. Both teams have great managers and can score runs. Jon Lester and Daiskue Matsuzaka are strong counters to John Lackey and Ervin Santana. Right now, the only thing that separates these two teams is health. Like the Angels last year, the Red Sox head into the playoffs with an array of injuries to key players. Maybe Mike Lowell and JD Drew can come right back and put up the same numbers they did the first two-thirds of the season. Maybe Josh Beckett can be the same Josh Beckett with a right strained oblique muscle. Those are some big “maybes.” The 100-win Angels win a nail-biting series.
Halos in 5
Tampa Bay Rays v. Chicago White Sox
After golfer Paul Azinger (who?) throws out the ceremonial first pitch at Tropicana Field, the Rays will have tough competition in their first ever playoff series. The more experienced Chicago White Sox head into the playoffs having won three straight elimination games. The White Sox have a huge edge in the power department as they hit more home runs than any other team in the majors (234). Also, they must like having Ozzie Guillen in the dugout who in every October cleans himself up and looks like a genius. Alright, I’m done leading you on. This is the most one-sided series in the playoffs in favor of the Rays. The reason: pitching. James Shields, Matt Garza, and Scott Kazmir (sorry Mets fans) all had ERAs under 3.70 which gives Tampa Bay a dangerous 1-2-3 punch. On the other hand, the White Sox cannot be too confident about throwing Javier Vazquez in game 1, who was 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA. On top of it, the Rays led the majors with 142 steals and White Sox catcher AJ Pierzynski only threw out 10.3% of opposing base stealers. This is not good news for the White Sox. If the bullpen can hold it together, the Rays should dominate Chicago.
Rays in 3
ALCS: Troy Percival blows a couple games but Scott Kazmir outduels John Lackey in the pivotal game 7. Rays over the Angels in 7.
NLCS: A pigeon keeps a Derrek Lee home run shot in the ballpark that would have won game 5. However, the Cubbies avoid the curse of the Pigeon. Cubs over the Phillies in 6.
World Series: The wait is over. Jack-of-all-trades Mark DeRosa wins the MVP award. Cubs over the miracle Rays in six games.