By Mike Ivcic
So by now, you’ve hopefully read our three part preview of the six divisions and seen our projections for all 30 major league teams. As a result, you should also know which ten team we see advancing to the MLB postseason in October – you know, because we have a crystal ball and all. Still, it’s what you asked for (and what we do), and since we’ve gotten this far, it’s only fair that we finish it all off with our look at who will be celebrating a World Series championship.
AL Wild Card
Texas Rangers over Toronto Blue Jays
In a one-game, do-or-die postseason format, pitching is always critical, and despite the loaded Blue Jays rotation on paper, I’m not sold on any of them in a pressure-packed postseason game except for Buehrle. Texas didn’t perform last year, but Holland, Harrison, and Lewis all pitched well two postseasons ago, and that’s not even counting Yu Darvish. Our projections have them at the exact same record, but regardless of venue Texas moves on here.
NL Wild Card
San Francisco Giants over Atlanta Braves
Same philosophy applies here – in a must-win game, trust the team that’s “been there, done that.” The Braves blew the Wild Card two years ago, then lost that fluky infield-fly-rule Wild Card game last year, so the question of finally getting over the hump has to be plaguing the players that have gone through the last two years in Atlanta. Those questions don’t exist in San Francisco.
AL Division Series
Los Angeles Angels over Texas Rangers
Detroit Tigers over Tampa Bay Rays
If this actually develops, the Angels-Rangers ALDS would be phenomenal with the underlying rivalry will almost certainly develop with Hamilton and Wilson now earning paychecks in Anaheim. The fact that they now play in SoCal, though, is enough to lift the Angels over Texas. Meanwhile Tampa hasn’t won a playoff series since beating Boston in the 2008 ALCS, and while Price can match Verlander, the Rays just don’t have the horses in the lineup to mash with Cabrera and Fielder.
NL Division Series
Washington Nationals over San Francisco Giants
Cincinnati Reds over Los Angeles Dodgers
Trust me, the Dodgers investment will ultimately pay off with a World Series title, especially if their spending trends continue. They’re just simply not as talented yet as the Reds or Nationals. An argument can be made that with their starting pitching, the Giants are better too. But offense is still needed to win in the playoffs even with all that pitching, so Washington is just a better bet than San Francisco this year, and Cincinnati is due for a playoff series win. They get it this year.
AL Championship Series
Los Angeles Angels over Detroit Tigers
I like the trio of Verlander, Cabrera, and Fielder, but quite frankly the Angels roster is just littered with stars that Detroit cann’t match. Yes, LA’s starting rotation does have its share of question marks, but a team this talented should be the favorite to win it all, so picking them to simply get to the World Series shouldn’t be considered that big of a reach. And yes, this exact same thing was written in this exact same space last year. Take it for what it’s worth.
NL Championship Series
Washington Nationals over Cincinnati Reds
Clearly MLB would love to see the Dodgers and Giants playing here, but there’s a much better chance that Washington and Cincinnati find themselves as the final two NL teams standing in mid-October. Seeing Joey Votto on the national stage would be a true treat for the casual baseball fan that doesn’t watch many Reds game, and they’ll put up a good fight here, but like the Angels, the Nationals are just a bit better and deeper, and they’ll capture their franchise’s first-ever NL pennant.
Last year, our preseason preview picked the Angels over the Giants, and the Angels missed the playoffs while the Giants won the World Series. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen this year, because while the Nationals have built a good, young team that should be competitive for years to come, the Angels are built to win now – and they know it. Hamilton, Pujols, Weaver, Wilson… this is not a young team that’s going to get more than two or three years out of this core group. After watching the 2011 World Series, it will certainly be strange seeing Pujols and Hamilton celebrating together after winning a championship, but it definitely beats the alternative – there would just be no living with Strasburg or Harper if they win a World Series title this young.
Los Angeles Angels over Washington Nationals
Three series to watch this week…
1) LAA @ CIN (4/1, 4/3-4/4) – The way Opening Day should be – in Cincinnati. And what better way to jump start the “every week is interleague” schedule than to put two projected division winners into battle in the city that always hosts the first series of the year.
2) SFG @ LAD (4/1-4/3) -.The Giants have won two of the past three World Series, so the Dodgers offseason acquisitions will mean little if they can’t push past their division rivals. They’ll get a chance to make a statement right out of the gate.
3) BAL @ TAM (4/2-4/4) – These are the two low-payroll underdogs in a division that now has three teams of big-name stars. Getting off to a good start is critical for both groups, especially for the Orioles as they try to repeat their 2012 playoff season.
Three series to watch this weekend…
1) NYY @ DET (4/1, 4/3-4/4) – The Tigers took down the Yankees in last season’s ALCS before falling to the Giants in the World Series. Depending upon how the Yankees decide to handle the rotation, Sunday could be Sabathia against Verlander – must see TV.
2) WAS @ CIN (4/10-4/12) – The two best teams in the NL last season meet early in 2013. The series should give pundits a good look at the head-to-head matchup between two potential playoff teams.
3) BOS @ TOR (4/13-4/15) – Did the offseason trading-spree work for the Blue Jays? They’ll host Cleveland to open the year before their first real test against the division-rival Red Sox. Beating Boston early would be a nice boost to start Toronto’s season.
Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday at ultimatecapper.com
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