A quick reminder: We’re suspending our usual schedule this week in order to participate in the annual UCB Predictions Project. We’ll be back on track next week with our Tuesday edition of Bird Watching (the podcast may or may not go up considering the Easter holiday). Enjoy!
FINALLY! If you’re a Cardinals fan, you know it’s all about October baseball. Best record in baseball? Eh…you can have it. Win your division or earn a Wild Card spot? Who cares?! You’re both playing for a championship, right? And now, it’s time for the UCB Predictions Project to talk playoffs and awards…so let’s get to it.
AL Wild Card Play-in Game: Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles
That’s right. I’m picking the Royals to actually make the playoffs. When it comes right down to it, KC’s GM is feeling the pressure to win in 2013, and that means you could see something this July that we haven’t seen in a long time – a Royals team playing the trade market as buyers, not sellers. The result could be a spot in the Wild Card play-in game come October.
As for the Orioles, the rest of the NL East could be just bad enough to provide a few more wins for the Battling Birds of Baltimore than they accumulated last season. That could be enough to beat out the A’s for a spot in the AL Wild Card game. Look for the Orioles to make the postseason and use their experience last year to top the newbie Royals and advance to the ALDS.
ALDS – Part 1: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Detroit Tigers
While the Angels should finish with the best record in the AL, the Blue Jays won’t be too far behind. That puts them facing last year’s AL Champs, the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers have a habit of flopping in the World Series but pummeling teams in the ALDS and ALCS. But not this year. Expect Dickey and the Blue Jays to make some magic happen…especially after fine-tuning their bullpen at the trade deadline. The Tigers, however, may have peaked last season. Cabrera will still be a great hitter, and Verlander a great pitcher, but don’t expect another triple crown season from the Tigers’ slugger…and we all know how Verlander can be vulnerable to postseason bad luck. Combine all that with some potential bullpen vulnerabilities for Detroit, and the Blue Jays should be able to prevail behind their crazy-good knuckleballer.
Blue Jays win.
ALDS – Part 2: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles have changed the culture in Baltimore…but not enough to beat out a juggernaut Angels squad anchored by baseball’s best player in Mike Trout and two sluggers well-acquainted with the postseason in Pujols and Hamilton. Look for the Angels to upgrade their pitching depth in July, a move that will pay dividends in October as they march to the ALCS.
ALCS: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have a helluva squad this season, but when it comes right down to it, the Angels firepower and postseason experience (at the individual level) will see them through to the World Series. Sure, the Jays have a mystifying knuckler, but in a best of 7 series, the Angels bats will literally assault the rest of the Blue Jays pitching staff.
NL Wild Card Play-in Game: Atlanta Braves vs. Cincinnati Reds
Yes, yes…I know. Since I picked the Dodgers to win the NL West, this means the Giants don’t make the playoffs at all. Well…them’s the breaks. The Reds may not dominate the Central like they did last season, but they’ll still be impressive. And the Braves will continue to march along as they have the past two seasons and narrowly make the postseason with a Wild Card berth. But this time, they make some noise. Look for Hudson to shut down a Reds offense that peaked last season while Kimbrel shuts the door in the ninth.
NLDS – Part 1: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
This series could be, perhaps, the most difficult to pick. On one hand, the payroll edge certainly goes to the cash-happy Dodgers. And with Greinke, Kershaw, and that blockbuster trade from last season, the roster edge could go their way, too. But that’s assuming Greinke is healthy and himself – two clear question marks at this point – and key players like Ramirez can stay in the lineup and productive (again, a question mark). On the other side of the diamond, the Cardinals could be said to be struggling with several of the same questions. Will Garcia be around come October? Can Miller stay strong enough late in the season to give the Redbirds a stellar young playoff rotation? And can key contributers like Freese, Beltran, and Motte stick around to make an October showing? None of those questions can be answered at this point in the season, and all of them could go either way…so I’m going with playoff experience. When the rubber meets the road, the Cardinals’ roster of October-hardened veterans playing with a chip on their shoulders from last year’s early exit will win out. The Dodgers fall victim to “yay! I can’t believe we made it to October!” syndrome.
NLDS – Part 2: Washington Nationals vs. Atlanta Braves
The Nationals are driven. After the disappointing end to their season at the hands of the Cardinals – not to mention all the “if Strasburg had pitched, we would’ve won” talk all offseason – they want nothing more than to bust through the playoffs like a pack of rabid wolves. Sure, the Braves have a grudge of their own, but when it comes down to it, that roster from Washington is going to prevail.
NLCS: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Washington Nationals
Unfortunately for the Redbirds, the Nats won’t be stopped this year. Last year was the only mulligan the Cardinals will get. Werth, Harper, and the rest of the gang will live up to the hype and win in six, maybe five games. It’ll be hard to take, but sometimes these things happen.
World Series: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim vs. Washington Nationals
Remember when I said this is the year of the Halos? After tearing through the NLDS and NLCS, the Nats get the booby prize – an extended layoff waiting for the winner of the ALCS to emerge. Remember the Tigers. The Angels’ playoff-tested leaders in Pujols, Hamilton, etc. will keep their team pumping all the way to the championship…and fans all over Cardinal Nation will weep when Pujols wins a World Series in L.A.
AL MVP: Gotta’ go with Mike Trout here, right?
NL MVP: I’m gonna’ pick a doozy and go with Kershaw to pull a Verlander…Kershaw wins the MVP and the Cy Young.
NL CY YOUNG: Didn’t I just say Kershaw?
AL CY YOUNG: Who is willing to bet against Verlander?
That’ll do it. The season is ready to start in just over 24 hours. Wow. After a long Spring Training, it seems like the season kinda’ snuck up on us. Here’s to another season of fun in the sun with our favorite boys of summer.