Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Monday, October 03, 2005

MLB Playoff Preview

Don't really care right now... very few teams are in this whole thing that I will cheer for... but here goes nothing...

National League:

St. Louis Cardinals vs San Diego Padres

Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Chris Carpenter vs Jake Peavy
Game 2: Mark Mulder (probable) vs ?

The Cardinals overcame a lot of injuries (Jason Isringhausen, Scott Rolen) to run away with what was supposed to be a close chase in the NL Central. They have been on cruise control for the last month now, and have to be considered the prohibitive favorites to win it all. This also might be the last good chance for St Louis, as Larry Walker and Jim Edmonds are slowing down, Rolen is a constant injury threat, and Matt Morris may walk away in free agency. Because of all these factors, there is quite a bit of pressure on the Cardinals to get past the Padres. On paper, the Cardinals have a tremendous offensive attack. David Eckstein may not be half the player most sportswriters believe him to be, but he doesn't strike out much, works the count, and runs the bases well. If Ichiro could learn from him, we might actually see an ignitor. Anyways, after Eckstein comes the beasts of Larry Walker, Jim Edmonds, and of course Albert Pujols. Contributions will be needed by Mark Grudzielanek and an x-factor player. Defensively, St Louis can pick it with the best of them, which benefits the ground ball pitching staff they've assembled. Speaking of that staff, Chris Carpenter could win the Cy Young, although with a 5+ ERA in September, he enters the playoffs with something to prove. After Chris comes Mark Mulder and then some combination of Jeff Suppan, Matt Morris, and Jason Marquis. Marquis might have an edge because of his bat. No forseeable weakness there, and no weakness in Isringhausen as well. This is one heck of a team and one heck of a challenge for San Diego.

Speaking of the Padres, they have a giant chip on their shoulder. Either they prove everyone right about how weak the NL West is and meekly roll over to the Cardinals, or they step up to the plate and play with passion. To compete, they will need terrific offensive series from Dave Roberts, Brian Giles, Ryan Klesko, and Ramon Hernandez. Giles might be playing in his last series for the Padres (before going to Seattle?) and since May 1 has been one of the top five hitters in the NL, even in the extreme pitcher's park at Petco. Can Mark Loretta show up after a disappointing injury plagued 2005 campaign? He would be desperately needed. How about Joe Randa (a major bust) or Khalil Greene (disappointment)? Are we going to see Miguel Olivo? For the Padres to win, this offense, which looks good on paper, is going to have to average four runs a game. The major question mark is starting pitching. After Jake Peavy (who could help steal two games for this club) who is going to start? Woody Williams? Adam Eaton (pitched very well on Sunday, won't be available until Game 3)? Brian Lawrence (please God, no!)? If the starters can keep this team in the game, the Padres can depend on a terrific bullpen, anchored by the incomparable Trevor Hoffman, to slam the door shut. This is a team built on the possibility of a five game upset. They have what it takes.

Prediction: Jake Peavy takes Game 1 but loses Game 5. Cardinals in 5.

Houston Astros vs Atlanta Braves

Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Andy Pettite vs Tim Hudson

I was looking through ESPN.com and noticed something wierd. The Astros, who won quite a few less games than Atlanta, are favored to win by 9 of the 10 ESPN experts. That seems a little wrong (especially since I'm leaning towards Houston as well). Atlanta spent another year proving people like me wrong. They had their weakest team in what could have been the strongest NL East since their run started and won it all easily. They won it by sticking in players like Wilson Betemit and Jeff Franceour. Can this continue? Interesting question. Offensively, the Braves have solid playoff tested veterans like Rafael Furcal, Andruw Jones, and Chipper Jones. In fact, as the Joneses go, so will the Braves playoff hopes. Andruw especially became a viable MVP candidate this year, taking a much waited-upon step forward. He is the big bopper. Furcal provides the base-stealing threat so needed in a playoff run. Defensively the Braves don't have too many holes, especially in the outfield. The most glaring weakness has to be the bottom of the order, where players like Adam LaRoche and Ryan Langerhans get at-bats. I probably shouldn't omit Marcus Giles, who many had considered the Braves best offensive player prior to the year and who didn't really disappoint as much as Jones blew everyone away. From a pitching standpoint, the Braves have a terrific one-two punch in Tim Hudson and John Smoltz. Then it gets a little hazy. Probably starter will be John Thomson in Game Three. I would classify that a weakness. The bullpen is a bit shaky as well. Chris Reitsma slowed down near the end of the year, Danny Kolb has been a year-long mess, and Kyle Farnsworth is untested as a postseason closer. This is a team of youth and postseason inexperience. It worked in the regular season and is a question mark now.

The Astros have to feel fairly confident because they have the best rotation in the postseason bar none. Any combination of Andy Pettite, Roy Oswalt, and Roger Clemens is one no team desires to face, especially in a five game series. It puts a ton of pressure on the opposing offense to take advantage of every scoring opportunity. The pressure only escalates with the knowledge that Brad Lidge is available to shut down the scoring in the ninth. Pitching wins games in the postseason and the Astros know this. Still, can their offense support this pitching? Craig Biggio, Lance Berkman and Morgan Ensberg will be called upon for firepower, but who is scared of Willy Tavares, Jason Lane, Adam Everett, Mike Lamb, and Brad Ausmus? No one. That's what is hard to know about this team. They had stretches of scoring prowess followed by stretches of complete ineptitude. I see a lot of sacrifice bunts and two run bombs being the only way of getting the 3-2 wins Houston desires. Still, this offense is better than the one Anaheim trotted out there a few years ago.

Prediction: Those three pitchers are too much for the Braves, but it still goes five. Houston in five.

American League:
Boston Red Sox versus Chicago White Sox


Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Matt Clement vs Jose Contreras

I hate both these teams. With a passion. Read Colin's blog below for further details on this. I wish nothing but plagues of mediocrity upon these overhyped behemoths. Who are the lesser of these evils? I have no idea. Where are the Indians, for crying out loud? Anyways, the White Sox backed their way into the playoffs because of their starting pitching, which is four deep (and will be an interesting side note if the series goes five). Contreras has been the hot hand, Mark Buehrle could win the Cy Young, Jon Garland found himself, and Freddy Garcia is Freddy Garcia. Regardless of who you choose, each of these pitchers can go deep into a game and provide a quality start. Each of these pitchers can shut down any lineup in the league. After those starters comes the real question marks. Bobby Jenks hasn't been much of a closer, surrendering lead after lead. Damaso Marte is shaky, and Dustin Hermanson is hurt. Cliff Politte is the closest sure thing out of the pen. The offense is the worst in the playoffs, completely dependant on the three run home run, especially since Scott (overrated) Podsednik quit stealing bases. This team will go only as far as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Carl Everett, and AJ Pierzynski take them, which isn't much to hope for. Look, there's a reason this team had the same record as the Colorado Rockies after the All-Star break. They have holes. Luckily, they're facing a team with huge holes as well.

The Red Sox have an insane lineup. We all know the story. David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez might be the best one-two punch I've ever seen. Johnny Damon is healthy now. Kevin Millar is even hitting. The hitting is there. They will get to Chicago's pitching, if not early in the game, definitely late in the game. Boston has a knack for the comeback, and can definitely exploit that weakness in Chicago's game. They will have to comeback at least twice in this series, though, because their starting pitching is just that bad. Matt Clement has sucked after the All-Star break. Curt Schilling barely got an ERA under 6.00. Bronson Arroyo has been shelled. Tim Wakefield has been the best starter, and that is not a sentence Red Sox fans wanted me to write. After these starters who is going to shut it down? Untested rookies? Yep. Them, and Mike Timlin, who scares no one at the end of the game. This is not the recipe for playoff success. The Red Sox came back against the Yankees because their bullpen held off charges and allowed for comebacks. Keith Foulke slammed the door. Curt Schilling came through twice. The pieces just aren't in place this time around, and if the Indians hadn't choked, we wouldn't even be talking about the Red Sox in the postseason.

Prediction: The Red Sox pitching staff just doesn't get it done at all, and the White Sox take it in four.

New York Yankees versus Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles California proper

Pitching Matchups:
Game 1: Mike Mussina vs Bartolo Colon

I suppose I do know who to root for in this series, as part of my "Anyone against A-Rod, and Anyone against the Yankees" mentality. Why does it have to be the Angels? I don't like the Angels? Again, see Colin's blog below. The Yankees shouldn't be in the playoffs. They rode the backs of Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small to get there. You heard me. Shawn Chacon and Aaron Small. Now that the Yankees have arrived, opposing teams can begin to be terrified, because that lineup is still filthy. 200 million can buy you a few sluggers. Derek Jeter is Derek Jeter. Jason Giambi is juiced-up and ready to go. Gary Sheffield is feared. Alex Rodriguez will hit three meaningless home runs and strike out with the bases loaded in the ninth. They are not the top-to-bottom threat of the 90's. Jorge Posada looks lost. Robinson Cano is a question mark. Bernie Williams is done... maybe... but overally there is enough to be competitive. The pitching isn't a huge question mark in a five game series, when you have Mike Mussina and Randy Johnson. Randy especially has come on strong at the end of the season. I would have picked it the other way, for him to tire down, but again, that's why I don't get paid to do this. Who knows who the other starter(s) will be, and that is going to be a story if the Yankees get past Anaheim. The biggest weapon? Tom Gordon and Mariano Rivera, who can probably be considered the best bullpen combo in the playoffs. Anaheim needs to jump out to a lead on this team or goodnight.

The Angels are not a good offensive team. They gave too many at-bats again to Darin Erstad. They gave too many at-bats to Adam Kennedy. Vladimir Guerrero wasn't anything near his 2004 production level. Garrett Anderson is hurt. Steve Finley was a bust. Where is the offense going to come from? Chone Figgins has to get on base and then move around. Guerrero has to be a monster. Benji Molina has to show up huge at the plate. The Angels somehow scored enough to win but might have more questions than the White Sox. They can be shut down easily by good pitching. Look for the Yankees to pitch around Guerrero and dare others to beat them. The pitching story is slightly better. Bartolo Colon continues to expand but continues to win. This might be the last season the Angels can depend on their behemoth ace before he collapses in on himself, so they need to make it worthwhile. John Lackey found his stuff this season and if Jarrod Washburn's shoulder's healthy, he is a suitable #3 starter. The bullpen is solid with Scot Shields and Francisco Rodriguez. I just haven't been a fan of the Angels from the beginning and don't see it happening again.

Prediction: The Angels do nothing and get swept by the Yankees.

National League:
Houston versus St Louis... Houston in six
American League:
New York versus Chicago... New York in five

World Series: Houston over the Yankees in six

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