Sadly the 2011 baseball season is winding down but hey, the playoffs are set to begin very shortly and so it is time for the annual playoff prediction notwithstanding the fact that two spots are still up for grabs. I’ll go out on a limb and predict the final two spots and then who the ultimate winner will be. Of course I’m not putting any money on it which I’ve always held to be a wise thing to do considering the anything can happen today normality which is major league baseball.
The Boston Red Sox are fading fast and having to use Tim Wakefield to start games sure isn’t helping any. I’m pulling for Tampa Bay to get the wild card spot but logic tells me that Boston will survive. Despite their pitching problems, they are simply too talented not to get in. Tampa Bay are running out of games and have to face the New York Yankees in their final three. Even thought the Yankees have clinched the division, they have memories of Tampa Bay beating them and would like a little revenge. They can worry about the RedSox later, if and when.
St. Louis are chasing Atlanta and simply don’t have the pitching or the real Albert Pujols. Baseball is all about pitching and Atlanta have enough to capture the wild card. St. Louis are running out of games and need to hope Atlanta stumble again. Tony LaRussa has over managed the Cardinals lately and Fredi Gonzalez has just like his guys play. There have been too many off field distractions for St. Louis this season with Pujols and LaRussa rumored to be leaving, Gonzalez has replaced a legend and handled the pitching staff, (overused the relievers a bit), to get Atlanta here.
So I’m guessing Boston and Atlanta get in as the wildcard.
I’m also guessing that no one will be able to defeat Philadelphia. The starting four are simply too good and too experienced in big games. The trade for Hunter Pence rejuvenated this team and gave the offense the lift it needed. Jimmy Rollins is cocky in big games and how do you defeat Roy Halladay more than once, if at all? That is the simple math of it all. In order to defeat the Phillies, a team will have to win three games against Halladay, Lee, Coles and Oswalt and in the same series. The next series that number moves up to four games. The going gets tougher.
Who will play Philadelphia in the World Series? Does it really matter?
The New York Yankees are the only team which could defeat Philadelphia. On paper even that matchup doesn’t seem fair as the Yankee pitching is very suspect after C.C. Sabathia. But the Yankees have that mystic legendary quality about them even if they seem to be nothing but a bunch of hired guns supporting home grown talent such as Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano. But the Yankee ghosts of teams past seem to haunt even the new Yankee Stadium and distracting those ghosts can get in the way of getting those 27 outs. The Yankees are still the team which grinds it out, slow down every big game and doesn’t allow mistakes to go unpunished.
There is no other American League team which can stand up to the Philadelphia Phillies. Texas have the World Series experience and Boston certainly have proven to be ring worthy. Detroit have only Justin Verlander who can’t start every game and all of the games will be do or die against good teams. There are no breathers or easy series against weaker teams in the playoffs. The three and four starters simply can’t matchup against Philadelphia.
Philly can put up a number one starter each and every game and no other team can match that. This is a pitching staff built for the playoffs and built to win.
This blog primarily focuses on baseball history, but every Monday, Doug Bird writes “Baseball Present” on the current state of the game.