Tales of the Tape – The Divisional Series

By Aaron M Smith

As we are in the first days of  October, I have this vision of Vin Scully out walking his dog, describing the beginning of fall.  It goes something like this: “As the leaves turn, so does the chapter in this novel we call the 2010 Major League Baseball season.” I am sure his dog would be to busy trying to figure which tree to mark his/her territory to listen, but for me – it is poetry that I could listen to all day. Now this vision didn’t really happen,  but  October is here – so are the Divisional series. 8 teams remain and only 3 games stand between them and a trip to their respective League Championships series. But before we get too far ahead, let’s take a look each Divisional series:

American League:

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins – When Boston beat New York yesterday, which team was happier – Minnesota or Texas?  My money is on the Texas Rangers.  In the 2000s, the Yankees have faced Minnesota in the ALDS 3 times – 2003, 2004 and 2009 with a record of 9-2. Game 1 will feature a pair of lefties – Francisco Liriano and C.C. Sabathia.  After Game 1, the Twins will follow with Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn. The Yankees answer with Andy Pettite, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett.  Much of the Twins ability to knock off the Yankees will depend on the health of All-Star Joe Mauer.  With Justin Morneau out for the season, the Twins cannot afford to lose their MVP for any part of this series.  Games 1 and 2 take place in the spacious Target Field – the Yankees will have to rely on the feet of Granderson, Gardner and Jeter to engineer runs.  Jorge Posada is slightly under 15% in throwing runners out – will the Twins put runners in motion to create chaos on the base paths?
Prediction :  Yankees in 5 games.

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays –  When the Texas Rangers made the trade early in 2010 for Cliff Lee – they envisioned him being the horse that got them to the World Series. Game 1 will be that first step as Lee will face David Price. Bad new for the Rangers  – the Rays have the second best W-L record when their opponent starts a left-hander. Texas starters for Games 1 and 2? Lefties. The Rays beat Lee three times this year – once when he was with Seattle.  However – the Rays leader, Evan Longoria is battling an injury – will he be effective? The Rangers got a HUGE piece of their puzzle back with the return of Josh Hamilton. Not only is Hamilton their best player, he also provides protection for Vladimir Guerrero in the batting order. Rangers bullpen won 32 games during the season and was a key to the Ranger’s success during the regular season. Can their success carryover into the postseason? The Rays bats have disappeared at times during the season – having 2 no-hitters thrown against them in 2010. October is not the time for one of those slumps.

Prediction:  A shocker – Texas in 5 games.

National League:

Atlanta Braves vs.  San Francisco Giants – Bobby Cox’s retirement tour continues, and this makes the Braves dangerous. This series features 2 teams that rely heavily on their pitching as neither offense can be labeled with the title “juggernaut.” The Giants will send out Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez. That leaves former Cy Young winner, Barry Zito as the 4th option in their rotation. The Giants closer, Brian Wilson, has been dominant. The Braves send out playoff veterans, Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson. Throw in Tommy Hanson and the Braves have a formidable starting 3.  With injuries to Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, the Braves will rely on an aging Derrick Lee and rookie Jason Heyward to carry them to the NLCS. One name to watch in the Giants lineup – Buster Posey,  possible NL Rookie of the Year.

Prediction:  Atlanta in 5 games.

Cincinnati Reds vs. Philadelphia Phillies – The surprise team against the hottest team in the National League. The Phillies, probably the favorite to win the World Series, will send a formidable starting rotation of Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Equally dangerous is two of those starters have not won a World Series – look for Halladay and Oswalt to pitch lights out in the playoffs. The Phillies lineup is healthy, but the key is Jimmy Rollins. When Rollins is healthy, he is the catalyst for a potentially dangerous lineup. The Reds have done of an amazing job of mixing youth with veterans to provide the right chemistry. Playoff baseball is back in Ohio!! The Reds will send youngsters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.  The Reds lineup features MVP candidate Joey Votto, Scott Rolen, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips. If either team has a weakness, it is their bullpens. Can both hold up? Will rookie flame thrower, Aroldis Chapman provide stability in the Reds bullpen? Both ballparks are hitter friendly, so anticipate a high scoring series.

Prediction: Phillies in 3 games.

Got a Prediction? Let’s hear it!

66 Responses to "Tales of the Tape – The Divisional Series"

  1. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    Well, yes, don’t you?? Larsen was a pretty pedestrian pitcher, wasn’t he? Unless something really tragic happens, who DOESN’T think Halladay has AT LEAST 50 more wins in that arm of his???? Probably at least 70.

  2. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Talk about a flash in the pan, Larsen was a mediocre 81-91 for his career! But he had one really special game… and certainly more than 2 minutes of fame because of it.

    Halladay is 33 now … I’d say he’s got a good 4-5 years left … appears to be on a Hall of Fame track. That and WS titles should keep him enthused for another 5 years.

  3. Casey   October 7, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Oh yeah. Without any unforeseen circumstances, Halladay will win more. I was being facetious. Funny to think Halladay at 33 has more wins left in him than Larsen had at 26.

    Thing is, as I watched yesterday’s post-game events I wondered if Philly, not Cincy, will benefit more from the day off. That was a lot of celebrating for one playoff win, especially the first one. I know they are professionals and everything, but they are humans first. I just wonder if yesterday’s no hitter might work as a detraction in the long run. Ah well probably over-analyzing.

  4. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I think you’re over-analyzing. I REALLY hope the Reds recover and win Game 2, but the Phillies have a lot of very experienced pros who know better than to get overconfident. If the Phillies lose, it’ll be because the Reds beat ’em .. they won’t beat themselves.

    Phillie great Mike Schmidt was on Mike & Mike this morning and he said that yesterday’s no-hitter by Halladay was “The BEST moment EVER in Philadelphia sports history”. Really?!? Now that’s saying something. Until now, I thought their best moment was Rocky Balboa beating Apollo Creed.

  5. Casey   October 7, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    Hahaha.

    That is the danger of our media saturated society. Best ever? Geez…I’ll leave this to Rey, but I’m thinking a few hoops fans might disagree. The 76ers over the Lakers was pretty big. The Flyers (I am hurling) winning back to back cups was pretty big. The Phillies winning it a couple of years ago? Tug McGraw and the Phillies?

  6. Casey   October 7, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Have the Rays come completely unglued?

    Everybody second-guessed Maddon starting Shields in game 2. Now, we know why. Of course, that strike three call would have helped.

  7. Casey   October 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    If the Rangers were the Yankmees, we would be all over that call. 🙂

  8. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    If there’s an “officiating conspiracy” … and I’m sure there’s not … it would be anti-Rays instead of pro-Rangers. I’m pretty sure the networks and MLB don’t want the Rays anywhere near the ALCS or World Series. Nobody gives a crap about this team … they even struggle in their hometown.

    Good team, too … don’t want to denegrate them in that respect.

  9. Casey   October 7, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Remember when the Giants threatened to leave San Fran for the Tampa area? Yeah, that would have worked well.

  10. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    True. And the White Sox also threatened to move to Tampa in late ’80s as leverage to get the “new Comiskey Park” built with a whole lotta state money.

  11. Wally   October 7, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    Pretty soon, the Rays are gonna threaten to leave Tampa for New York and change leagues to give the Big Apple a second team. Hasn’t been the same there since the Dodgers and Giants left. Reportedly, they will either be called the Brooklyn Bridgers or the New York Muts 😉

  12. Smitty   October 7, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    Wow.. I thought the Rangers would win the series – I didn’t think Texas would be heading back to Arlington up 2-0.

    So Andy Pettite gets the called third strike on the corner, but Carl Pavano can’t get a called strike down the middle? Okay, it wasn’t down the middle, but it does seem like those breaks always seem to go the Yankees way during the playoffs. Not saying there is a conspiracy or anything of that sort – but it does add to the Yankee mystique.

    The last time I remember it not going the Yankees way it was 2004 and A-Rod was slapping the ball out of Bronson Arroyo’s glove… Ahhh, good memories.. 🙂

  13. Smitty   October 7, 2010 at 9:50 pm

    I do want to add that Pettite was absolutely fantastic tonight.. His couple of starts at the end of the year were awful, so this has to be a great sign for the Yankees.

  14. Casey   October 8, 2010 at 7:36 am

    6 games, 3 shutouts, another game with the loser scoring one – ah the defense. 🙂

    Home field disadvantage in the AL

  15. Wally   October 8, 2010 at 7:50 am

    It ain’t the defense, Casey, it’s the pitching. Separate from “defense” in baseball and certainly more important 😉

  16. Casey   October 8, 2010 at 11:03 pm

    Hahaha-HELMET STICKER! A busy day kept me from commenting on this one sooner.

    So much for the Reds gold glove infield. HOLY CRAP!

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