And so it has come to this…the final piece in the UCB Predictions Project. After spending the entire week attempting to predict the 2012 final standings in Major League Baseball, we are ready to conclude our ill-advised prognostications with a look at how the postseason will play out as well as who will win major awards such as the Cy Young and the MVP in each league. And this year is even more difficult to pick due to the changes in postseason play.
Remember, not one, but two Wild Card (WC) teams will emerge from each league in 2012. The two WCs will then face each other in a one-game playoff match-up that will determine who moves on to the Division Series (DS). To accomodate such a ludicrous format this year – and this year only – the “home field advantage” in that DS will mean the lower seeded team gets the first two games in their home park while the higher seed gets the final games (up to 3) in their stadium.
Before we get started, make sure to read the predictions of my UCB brethren by CLICKING HERE.
Now, let’s get into it:
Wild Card Play-Off Game: Angels vs. Rays
I really, really want to pick the Angels here…maybe just because of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols…but I just can’t shake the feeling that the Rays would take this game. So on gut alone, I’m gonna’ go the Rays over the Angels. (Or maybe it’s just because I read the Extra 2% last year…)
ALDS 1: Rays vs. Tigers
I think the addition of Pujols and Wilson in the Rangers’ division is going to make it tougher for them to field the top record in the league this year. It’s possible the East could produce the number one seed, but with all the competition in that division, it’s unlikely it happens again. With Fielder on the Tigers, and the plethora of sub-.500 teams to beat up on in their division, I’m gonna’ go with the Tigers vs. the Rays.
Having said that…this could be a highly entertaining series, but the only way I see the Rays beating the Tigers is if they push it to 5 games…a scenario that could see Verlander pitch Game 1 and Game 5. Game 5 would be in Detroit. Tigers win this series and advance to the ALCS.
ALDS 2: Yankees vs. Rangers
I see the Rangers finishing with a better record than the Yankees, therefore earning the home field advantage in the ALDS; however, home field advantage may not be what it should be in this series. This year, the lower seeded team would get the first two games of a best of three series at home. That means the Rangers would have to start with two games in New York. It’s highly possible the Yankees could take a two games to none lead before the series appears in Texas. But let’s not forget the power in that Rangers lineup. That short right field porch in Yankee stadium doesn’t just benefit the Bombers…Hamilton & Co. will be swingin’ for the fences as well. I see a split in New York and a Ranger victory in Texas. Rangers win and advance to the ALCS.
ALCS: Tigers vs. Rangers
Ooooo…this should be a fun series to watch. A lot of offense and quality starting pitching will turn this into a lengthy series. The casual fan may think Verlander gives the Tigers the advantage here…but I remember watching Verlander in postseasons past. My gut tells me the meltdown/hittable Verlander shows up in the ALCS, and the Rangers take this series for a trip to the World Series…yet again.
Wild Card Play-Off Game: Braves vs. Giants
The return of Buster Posey will make the Giants dangerous again, but it won’t give them enough to overcome the D-Backs in their own division. Expect them to meet the Braves in the Wild Card game this season. Also expect the Giants to manipulate the regular season rotation to place Lincecum on the mound against the Braves in game *163. With Posey behind the plate, Lincecum will shut down McCann and the Braves and pitch the Giants into the NLDS.
NLDS 1: Giants vs. Phillies
This one could be titanic…or something similar, at least. Two great pitching staffs go head to head…capable but not great offenses…postseason experience and recent championships. I would really look forward to this series if all parties involved (Halladay, Lee, Lincecum, Cain, etc.) were healthy. Howard and Utley should be healthy by this point, so the Phillies’ offense should be clicking. Combine that with the three aces and the huge chip on the Phillies’ shoulder after last season’s early exit, and I have to go with last year’s favorite – the Philadelphia Phillies.
NLDS 2: Cardinals vs. Diamondbacks
I really think the D-backs stand a good chance of finishing with a better record than the Cardinals…giving them the home field advantage. That means the Cardinals should get two games at home – likely Waino and Garcia – to start the series. Throw Carp in Game 3 in Arizona with Waino available for a possible Game 5, and I like the Cardinals’ chances. Of course, all of this is predicated by the belief that the Cards will be offensively healthy at this point – a big assumption. Perhaps the one thing that concerns me is the Diamondbacks’ aggressive play on offense and ability to step up at home. But I have to say, if Spring Training is any indication of how Matheny plans to run the bases this season, the snakes won’t corner the market on baserunning and aggressiveness. I like the Cardinals to take the series and move on to face the Phillies.
NLCS: Cardinals vs. Phillies
This series would be huge. I had the privelege of traveling to Philly to visit family after we won the Series in 2011. I can tell you, Philly fans were not fond of the Cardinals. If we face the Phillies again in the postseason – especially with a World Series appearance on the line – this will be one intense playoff series. It could honestly go either way; however, if the Cardinals can get past the Diamondbacks in four games…they could be set up to throw Waino in Game 1, Carp in Game 2 (both in Philly), and then head home to St. Louis. In Busch, they would throw the home-lovin’ Garcia, Lohse, and then Waino again. Carp would be waiting for them in Game 6 back in Philly.
Considering the Phillies rotation of Halladay, Lee, and Hamels – and the Cards rotation of Waino, Carp, and Garcia – I have to believe this series could go seven games. If that happens, Game 7 could come down to Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia combining to throw a split start against Worley and Blanton. Honestly, with the game being on the road for the Cardinals…that could end up being a coin toss. But I’ll tell you what I like for the Cardinals…I like that they came into Philly last season and won. They know they can do it. They know the atmosphere. They know the stadium in the postseason. And they won’t quit.
That being said…it’s awful hard to pick against the Phillies this time…assuming Utley and Howard are on the field. When you combine the giant chip on the Phillies’ shoulders with the home field advantage for Games 6 and 7…and factor in the health concerns for Waino and Carp at that point in the season…I have to give the edge to the Phillies. Yes, their offense could actually be weakened from last season, but our rotation has some significant health questions…too many to expect all of the starters to be there and healthy at that point in the season. Sorry, Cards fans…but I have to pick the Phillies. The good news is…I picked Philly over the Cards last season too ;).
World Series: Rangers vs. Phillies
I think this is the year the Rangers get it done. It could be the last season the team has Josh Hamilton, and that could lead them to make a huge pick up mid-season. There’s no telling what this franchise will do to go all in to win in 2012. No one wants to be the next Buffalo Bills. After the Phillies emerge broken, battered, and exhausted from their NLCS series against the hard-pressing Cardinals, repeating their performance in another best of seven will prove too difficult. The Rangers offense will batter the back end of the Phillies rotation and possibly crack Halladay/Lee the second time through. Rangers should be World Champions in 2012.
AL Cy Young: Justin Verlander. I just don’t see anyone significantly challenging him this season.
NL Cy Young: Whew…this one could be tough. Kershaw could, once again, be the man. Halladay could come back and snatch another. I honestly think Waino will be so focused and motivated that he’ll get some consideration, but his likely lower innings total will prevent him from winning it. But in the end…perhaps the dark horse candidate will win it…so I’m going to go with a renewed, refreshed, and relieved-to-have-his-batterymate-back Tim Lincecum. Go ahead…laugh at me.
AL MVP: As much as I hate to say it, I think Albert Pujols is going to arrive on the scene and swing with a purpose. By switching to the American League, he’s going to be able to keep his momentum going and play DH on achy, breaky days where his legs need a break in the field. That, plus his desire to show his new city what he can do, will push him to MVP status in the AL. Ugh.
NL MVP: I thought on this one a bit…and I’m sure I’ll be called a homer…but with both Fielder and Pujols out of contention, I really believe Matt Holliday is poised to crush the ball this season. Sure, Ryan Braun and Matt Kemp will be candidates, but I don’t know that Kemp will repeat his stellar season from 2011 nor will Braun shed the PED pressure and perform up to his 2011 numbers. He’ll be good…but not quite as good. That leaves Matt Holliday – swinging from the three spot in front of Berkman, Freese, Yadi, and possibly Beltran – primed to take home MVP honors for the Cardinals.
That’ll do it for the annual predictions project. Opening Day is coming up on Wednesday…and a fresh, new State of the Nation podcast is due up Sunday. So come on back for more Cardinals baseball talk from Cards ‘N Stuff this weekend.