2010 MLB Postseason Preview


American League Division Series

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins

Hitting: The Yankees have an All-Star lineup to throw at the Twins.  Derek Jeter will be looking to create some more postseason magic in pinstripes for what could be his last season in New York.  Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira are healthy and will be counted on solidifying the power for the middle of the lineup.  Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher have been spectacular for the Yankees all year long.  That trend should continue going forward.
The argument could be made for the Twins not winning this series with former AL MVP first baseman Justin Morneau out for the postseason, but the Twins have been winning without him most of this year.  Joe Mauer is fully healthy and ready to lead the way in the Twins new ballpark.  Orlando Hudson has been an important piece at the top of the order and must get on base.  Michael Cuddyer, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel have picked up the slack with Morneau being out.  All three must be up to par to keep up with the Yankees.  Jim Thome has had a great season and must come up in clutch situations again for the Twins to get past the Yankees.
Edge goes to New York

Pitching: New York will go with a three man rotation that still has C.C. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte.  However, A.J. Burnett has struggled too much this year.  Joe Girardi will go with Phil Hughes as the third starter.  Will it hurt them?  Probably not since Hughes is set up to pitch at Yankee Stadium, a comfort zone for him.  The key will be getting to Mariano Rivera and the Yankees have two capable arms to do that in Kerry Wood and Joba Chamberlain.  Both must not blow a lead when setting up for the best postseason pitcher ever in Rivera.
Francisco Liriano has been superb this season.  He seems to have returned to form before having Tommy John surgery.  Him and Carl Pavano have carried the starting rotation all year.  Pavano interestingly enough is going against the team that paid him nearly $50 million for five years once again in the postseason.  Brian Duensing will be given the ball in the third game and is the crafty left-hander who has to work the corners and rely on his defense to get through an inning.  Matt Capps has been nearly flawless since he was acquired from the Washington Nationals back in July.  With Jon Rauch and Brian Fuentes the Twins have three capable closers in their bullpen.  Minnesota prides themselves on their pen, but will it be enough?
Edge goes to New York

Outcome: Minnesota has been one of the best teams in baseball this year and it’s no fluke.  They play great defense and their pitching has been great.  Offensively they haven’t missed a beat playing in an outdoor stadium.  New York has been playing in the toughest division in baseball (AL East) and they are the defending champions.  When in doubt, look to your established veterans i.e., Jeter and Rivera.  That is very comforting for a Wild Card team like the Yankees.

Yankees in 4 games

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

Hitting: When in doubt, the Texas Rangers have turned to their offense to win games.  It resulted in their first division title since 1999.  Josh Hamilton is one of the favorites to win the AL MVP this year and it showed down the stretch when he missed some games that the Rangers need him in the middle of their lineup.  Vladimir Guerrero has exceeded all expectations and the Rangers hope it continues in the postseason.  Nelson Cruz and Michael Young have been the consistent force in the order.  Both are playing in October baseball for the first time.  Speedsters Elvis Andrus and Julio Borbon will have to get on base consistently to wreak havoc on the Rays pitching.
It starts with Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford.  If they’re on, the Rays are tough to beat.  Just look back at their run to the World Series in 2008.  Both were big parts of hitting onslaught that postseason.  B.J. Upton has been getting warmer in September and he could have a big October for Tampa Bay.  Carlos Pena and Dan Johnson are the big power bats that Texas will need to keep in check.  Super utility players Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez are always ready to play at an instant and manager Joe Maddon will be doing that a lot this postseason.  It’s just his style.
Edge goes to Texas

Pitching: C.J. Wilson has been the Texas Rangers best pitcher all year long.  Had Cliff Lee not been acquired, the Rangers would still be in okay shape, but it just looks better with a former AL Cy Young winner.  Lee and Wilson form a nice 1-2 punch to start the series, but how is Texas going to finish it?  They will need to count on a bullpen that has a veteran left-hander in Darren Oliver and a rookie closer in Neftali Feliz to help seal the deal on their victories this series.  Lee can’t pitch every inning of every game and Wilson rarely goes past 7 innings.
Tampa Bay has their Cy Young candidate in David Price ready to go.  Funny how he was the secret weapon out of the bullpen two years ago and now he’s there ace on the staff.  James Shields and Matt Garza are still around and both are more than capable of getting the job done for the Rays.  One thing in Tampa Bay’s favor is their bullpen this year.  Rafael Soriano is a stud and will finish games.  Setting him up won’t be a problem either with Joaquin Benoit.  Who by the way was with the Texas Rangers for his first 8 seasons in the majors.  Interesting subplot for this series.
Edge goes to Tampa Bay

Outcome: Ultimately pitching wins in the postseason.  It’s a tired, but true cliche.  You have to have offense too, but Tampa Bay has it covered.  Sure they don’t have the potential to score 5 or more runs on you an inning like Texas does, but the Rays won the AL East.  The proclaimed toughest division in baseball.  Texas dealt with a sub-par AL West this year and had it in the bag pretty early.  The Rays have experience too.  It’s pretty much the same team from two years ago.  That counts for a lot in the postseason.  Just ask the Yankees.

Rays in 4 games

National League Division Series

Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Hitting: Cincinnati has had a great season and they deserve all the credit.  Unfortunately they start the postseason against the two time defending National League champions.  They are led by MVP candidate Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips.  Both are the unquestioned team leaders and they lead by what they do on the field.  Orlando Cabrera was a great pickup before the season and his leadership on the field has helped turn around the Reds defense and has helped the pitching staff gain confidence.  Scott Rolen has returned to his old ways and has been crushing the ball.  His glove hasn’t left him yet and teaming up with Cabrera on the left side of the infield has benefited both players.
The quartet of Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth are all healthy and ready for another postseason celebration.  That’s a scary thought for the other three playoff teams in the National League.  Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco have awoken their bats and the Phillies lineup is as balanced as ever.  You add Mike Sweeney to the mix during the season to be a pinch hitter at this time to go along with your top prospect Domonic Brown and you have yourself a lot of quality depth.
Edge goes to Philadelphia

Pitching: The Reds have three quality starters to go against the Phillies order.  Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto.  The problem with all three is that if they get into a jam, it’s difficult to get them out of it.  It’s a lot to ask of Volquez and Cueto who both have no postseason experience to stop the Phillies lineup from scoring at least 4 runs in their respective starts.  The wild card in all this is Aroldis Chapman.  The 100mph phenom is going to have the entire world watching to see what he can to stifle the Phillies’ bats.  Francisco Cordero might not be seen much in this series, but if he does pitch he can save a game with the best of them.
The Phillies have without a doubt the best starting pitching of any team going into the postseason.  When you can throw out Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt in succession, you will not lose any sleep if you’re manager Charlie Manuel.  Halladay is the only one without any postseason experience.  Which in itself is amazing.  Hamels has a ring and Oswalt nearly received one with Houston.  All three complement each other well and the Phillies are blessed to have this staff.  Of course the question will be if Brad Lidge is right going into October.  He looked good down the stretch and with the three starters able to go the distance if need be, Philadelphia has nothing to worry about.
Edge goes to Philadelphia

Outcome: I would like to see Cincinnati in the NLCS, but alas it won’t happen.  They’re playing the Phillies.  It would be a great story if the Reds were able to knock out the defending National League champions, but I just don’t see how it will happen.  Unless one of the Phillies starters doesn’t pitch up to par, the hitting quartet doesn’t produce and Brad Lidge blows every single game he pitches in.  If just one of those scenarios happens, then the Reds do have a chance.

Phillies in 3 games

Atlanta Braves vs. San Francisco Giants

Hitting: Atlanta has been right at the top for most of the season, but struggled down the stretch and lost the division title and almost lost the wild card spot in the process.  Thankfully for them they get a chance to send manager Bobby Cox out on top and it starts with their infield.  Troy Glaus has been exactly what the Braves needed when he was signed.  He hasn’t been too bad either on defense.  Derek Lee struggled to get acclimated after he was acquired, but has found his niche at the right time.  Martin Prado has been one of the best hitters in the league this year and Alex Gonzalez was an instant spark when he was acquired from Toronto.  Jason Heyward was the overwhelming favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award, but struggled during the summer.  Potentially he could be ready to breakout again in the postseason.
San Francisco waited til the last day of the season to clinch the NL West.  The San Diego Padres were leading the division throughout most of the year and the Giants held firm and caught up with them.  Waiver pickup Pat Burrell was a magnificent acquisition.  He has plenty of postseason experience.  He has a ring to prove it with the Phillies.  Like what Glaus is for the Braves the same goes for Aubrey Huff and the Giants.  They needed a consistent bat in the middle of their lineup and he provided that.  Juan Uribe provided a lot of power in crucial situations.  Andres Torres was the catalyst at the top of their lineup.  Buster Posey, their rookie catcher, is everything they expected from him and more.  He handles himself very well with the pitching staff and is the future cleanup hitter.
Edge goes to San Francisco

Pitching: The Braves are thankful that Tim Hudson has fully returned from Tommy John surgery to become the Braves ace once again.  He will be counted on to get the Braves through another tough stretch against an equally great pitching staff in San Francisco.  Hudson won’t be alone as Derek Lowe will be putting his stuff to the test and take another shot at a getting a second ring.  Atlanta’s bullpen is anchored by Billy Wagner who is pitching his final season and he hopes to go out with a ring too.  Setting up Wagner is side-winder Peter Moylan who is tough to hit on his bad days.
The Giants have a good rotation that starts with 2 time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum.  “The Freak” as they call him will get a chance to show his talents in the postseason for the first time.  The same goes for Matt Cain who has been in the shadow of Lincecum, but Cain has just as good if not better stuff than Lincecum when he’s at his best.  Jonathan Sanchez will be given the third spot over Barry Zito who is too inconsistent to warrant the chance.  Sanchez has filthy stuff, but must keep control in order to succeed.  Brian Wilson is no fluke.  He lead all of baseball in saves while striking out nearly 100 batters.  He is quite the character too, but you have to if you want to be the closer.
Edge goes to San Francisco

Outcome: As much as I respect and love how Bobby Cox has managed throughout his career.  I can’t see the Atlanta Braves winning this series.  Yes, they do have the right pieces together to beat the Giants.  Atlanta has the experience, which will go a long way.  They have the better story in Bobby Cox.  They just don’t have the youth factor.  If the Giants didn’t have the kind of pitching that they do, the Braves would win easily.  I just don’t see San Francisco losing to the Atlanta Braves especially with the kind of closer the Giants have.  The Braves, like the Reds are the better story, but I can’t go against my head

Giants in 5 games

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