And now there are four, as we knew there would be, but these four? Everyone who predicted last April that the Rangers and Giants would still be playing baseball on the third weekend in October, raise your hands. Yeah, right. You should have gone to Las Vegas, where Texas was 22-1 to win the World Series, San Francisco 20-1.
So can the surprise teams get there? We asked Hardball Times writers, who said…
The Phillies will probably prevail over the Giants. Philadelphia’s regular season stats were only marginally better, but the Phils present a much stronger offense and a better-balanced set of weapons. Plus, the Phillies just flattened Cincinnati while San Francisco sweated out tight wins against the injury-depleted Braves.
Yet in their match-ups this year, the Phils and Giants played to a 3-3 draw, with the Phillies barely outscoring them 29-27. Ya never know.
Everyone knows the Philadelphia-San Francisco series will feature fantastic starting pitching. I will give the edge to the Phillies because I think they are just a little deeper in that department. While many will expect a lot of small ball in this series, as managers will likely bunt and put runners in motion to go for crucial runs here and there, I’ll predict a few key big home runs from the heart of the Phillies’ order will sway the outcome.
Since I don’t expect the Giants to beat themselves like the Reds in Games Two and Three vs. the Phillies, I will predict the Giants to win this series in six games. Sure, the Phillies have Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels with the occasional Joe Blanton, but the Giants staff can easily match them with the best four-man rotation in the playoffs. Also, the Giants have hit the Phillies fairly well this season (.290/.324/.463 in six games), while the Phillies have countered with a line of .226/.308/.362 over that same period.
Bottom line: Phillies bats are asleep and I don’t expect them to come alive against SF’s pitching corps.
Phillies fans are a confident bunch. They aren’t really concerned by any of the Giants’ weapons: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez or Buster Posey. But the true Phillies fans, the ones who know their stuff, are all secretly dreading the homecoming of Pat Burrell. Citizens Bank Park is Burrell’s comfort zone and Phillies faithful remember how his “one path swing” stole many a victory from Billy Wagner and the Mets over the years. Always a streaky hitter, he could be zero or hero in this series, but keep an eye out for him…. Phillies fans are. But the Phils are the pick.
The Phillies and Giants both have outstanding starting pitching. However, only Philadelphia has anything resembling a stellar offense. San Francisco may steal a game or two behind an overpowering start by Tim Lincecum, Jonathan Sanchez or Matt Cain, or perhaps by Madison Bumgarner out-dueling Joe Blanton in Game Four. However, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels can dominate, too, and their offense can put runs on the board in bunches, which will be the difference that leads Philly to the World Series for the third straight time.
Roy Halladay and the Phillies kicked off the NLDS by no-hitting the Reds. Tim Lincecum countered with a spectacular 14-strikeout, two-hit performance. In terms of pitching quality, both the Phils and Giants have spectacular 1-2-3 combos. Few teams can match a Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez trio or Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels. In terms of No. 4, however, the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner edges anyone the Phils plan to counter with.
But it is not pitching that will likely decide the NLCS. It will be the clear disparity in offense, which favors the Phillies.
As Kevin Dame noted last week, the Phillies are an all-around offensive threat. They rank top in the league in power, on-base percentage and speed. The Giants are merely middle of the pack in on-base percentage, bottom three in speed, and, to my surprise, the sixth best power team in baseball—albeit behind the Phillies. In my view, this series is going to be decided on the run- scoring side of the game.
The Phillies’ superior offense is primed to score runs and erase deficits, whereas the Giants’ inferior offense puts a premium on their pitching and defense’s ability to keep runs off the board. I doubt that the Giants’ inferior offense will able to effectively “answer.”
The Rangers would be a huge underdog against the Yankees even if Josh Hamilton wasn’t playing hurt. And he is, so all logic greatly favors the Bombers.
Still, Texas just defeated a Tampa Bay club it shouldn’t have. The Rangers have nothing to lose, while the Yankees fear defeat. It’s possible that this one could turn out to be a delightful surprise. All pure-thinking people hope so.
I’m going to take the Rangers. Their offense, though not as powerful as some other AL teams, still ranked in the American League top five in batting average (.276) and on-base percentage (.338). I think they’ll get plenty of baserunners on against the Yankees’ pitching and put a lot of pressure on the defense. Starting the series in Texas is huge, because finding a way to win the first two and sending Cliff Lee to the bump in Game Three 3 is a recipe for a dominating Texas series, something I believe is likely.
On the pitching side, a slight edge has to go to Texas since the Rangers have a deeper staff. In terms of Rangers offense, both Ian Kinsler and Vladimir Guerrero have given Yankees pitching their share of problems while Nelson Cruz could be seen crushing the occasional mistake (.211/.341/.539 vs. the Yanks in his career).
I do expect both Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano to continue hitting but I don’t think it will be enough for the Yanks to advance. Of course, a well-timed Curtis Granderson hit against either Texas lefty along with A.J. Burnett throwing seven shutout innings could change all of this, but that’s asking for a miracle. Texas in six games.
Cliff Lee doesn’t pitch on short rest, period. That puts him on the bump for Game Three and a potential Game Seven in the ALCS. That also puts significant pressure on C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter to keep Texas in the other games against the powerhouse Yankees. If they can, Lee will get that series-deciding Game Seven start. Unfortunately, the Bronx Bombers’ bludgeoning offense will have led New York to the series victory before then.
It’s hard to remember way back when, in times of yore, the Yankees swept the Twins. In those days long ago the Yankees pitching had a 1.074 WHIP in the ALDS and the 2010 team proved it had its usual postseason form. After all this time, the rested Yankees meet the tired Rangers, whose pitching had a 1.089 WHIP in the ALDS.
The teams will find the deciding factor in the ALCS series will not be starting pitching, but mistakes. Be it throwing errors, base running, or the bullpen, the Rangers have to be awake to beat the Yankees. I don’t think they will play as neat and tidy as the Yankees. The Yankees’ experience and depth will pounce on mistakes and take the series.