It’s come down to this. The only month of the season that truly matters to most Cardinals fans. The time of year that seems tinted in red to much of the National League.
If you’ve been following along all week, you know that we’ve been participating in the United Cardinal Bloggers (UCB) annual predictions project. And up until now, that’s meant predicting who will finish where in each division.
But all that’s come to an end. Now it’s time to place the big bet, the World Series bet. Who will advance in the playoffs, and who will claim MLB’s ultimate prize?
Before we present those predictions, check out last year’s playoff and end-of-season awards predictions, just to see how we did. Hint: We did NOT pick the Red Sox to win it all.
Now…let’s get to it.
(Note: This post is gonna’ make me look like a homer, considering my WS/Cy Young/MVP picks, but if you’ve read my predictions through the years, you’ll know I wouldn’t make a pick if I don’t believe in it.)
AL Wild Card Play-In Game: Kansas City Royals vs. New York Yankees
Whew. Talk about starting out with a toughie. I believe in the Royals’ ability to make the playoffs this season. Sure, I picked them for this very spot last season, but this year they get it done. The front office in KC is going to be motivated and hungry for a playoff push in mid-July, and the Royals’ farm system gives the FO the ability to reinforce the major-league roster either through acquisition or promotion. Too bad for the Angels and Indians.
New York looked to be in a dangerous nose dive in 2013…but then those deep Yankee pocket books brought Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Masahiro Tanaka to the Bronx. Boom! Suddenly the Yanks are relevant again — and by the looks of the rest of the division, beating out the aging Red Sox and hapless Blue Jays for the second spot in the division and number one seed in the Wild Card game. That puts the crazy-crazy-crazy Wild Card game in New York’s Yankee Stadium. Advantage: Yanks.
Look for the boys in pinstripes to win for the Captain. Derek Jeter helps his squad advance to the ALDS by taking advantage of that magical, hometown advantage in Yankee Stadium (Beltran’s LH power stroke in Yankee Stadium and amazing postseason statistics don’t hurt either).
ALDS 1: New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers
This match-up has the makings of a titanic face off. With Scherzer and Verlander against CC and Tanaka, these games will be must-see TV. And with the crazy contract Detroit just gave Miggy, it’s going to be a circus.
Look for Beltran and Cabrera to slug it out, but the Yankee mystique and hometown advantage in games three through five will allow Jeter to extend his career one more series. Yankee fans may practically will him to victory.
ALDS 2: Oakland Athletics vs. Tampa Bay Rays
There’s just something about the Rays and A’s that prevents them from advancing in October — at least in recent memory. That ends this year for Tampa Bay against weakened Oakland pitching. Longoria will come up big, and Wil Myers will show why he was such a top-rated prospect all those years. Oh…and don’t forget David Price.
ALCS: New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays
This match-up is bound to be an emotional one. Not only is it Jeter’s last season, but it very well could end up being Ichiro’s last year too. Add to that the animosity the Rays fans feel towards the Evil Empire, and this ALCS looks to be one of the most entertaining series of the season.
However, this is the season of Jeter, and the pinstripes will find a way to overpower the mighty Rays in October in a way they couldn’t quite do during the regular season.
Yankees Win…and Jeter goes to the World Series in his last MLB season.
NL Wild Card Play-In Game: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Washington Nationals
The Pirates were on a roll last season, and to an extent, that momentum will carry them into October in 2014…but then the “buc” stops there. The Nationals may not be able to get together and push in the same direction long enough to overtake the well-oiled machine that is the Atlanta Braves in the division, but in a one-game playoff, that potent lineup and the Strasburg Effect will prevail.
NLDS 1: Washington Nationals vs. St. Louis Cardinals
In a best-of-five series, the pitching match-ups from these two behemoths could be LEGEN…DARY! But don’t forget the Nats spent Strasburg on a one-game playoff against the Pirates. That means Wainwright and Wacha get to match up against the Nationals’ numbers 2 and 3 pitchers. And then, depending on how the regular season goes, they may get to throw Carlos Martinez against Stephen Strasburg in Game 3. With the latent dominance of Martinez lurking in the Cardinals’ rotation, they may very well lock up the series win in three games. But if not, look for Waino to shut them down in four.
NLDS 2: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
Because of the Dodgers potential personality problems, the Braves will likely finish the season with a better record…which gives them home field advantage. But the Braves’ pitching injuries, perhaps overcome over the course of the regular season, will really become apparent in a short, postseason series with Kershaw, Ryu, and Grienke.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Let’s get ready to rumble! In 2013, the most entertaining postseason match-up — to some — was between St. Louis and LA in the NLCS. Here we go again. If the Dodgers can truly come together in any way, shape, or form, it’s likely going to be in the mold of Yasiel Puig (just because I don’t see them having much success trying to change Puig). That’s not going to play any better in 2014 than it did in 2013 against the Redbirds. The big difference this year, however, is experience.
Last year, the Cardinals had experience on their side, and the Dodgers were still struggling to define themselves in October. This year, the teams could very well meet on common ground. The Dodgers are bound to be smarting over last year’s defeat at the hands of the stuffed-shirt Cardinals team, and the Redbirds are likely on a mission to win the World Series championship they came so close to grasping last year. The result is going to be a big game of chicken between two great ball clubs.
But…the Cardinals’ depth and balanced offensive attack, as well as their uncanny ability to get to Kershaw, will overcome the Dodgers’ energetic assault. And…don’t expect Grienke to be quite as effective this time around.
World Series: New York Yankees vs. St. Louis Cardinals
Banking on the National League to win the All-Star game behind superior pitching, home field advantage goes to the Cardinals this season. That may be all they need to overcome a Yankee rotation dependent on an aged CC and a worn-out-by-the-end-of-his-first-MLB-season Tanaka. But that’s not all…
When Matt Adams gets a look at that short porch in right field of Yankee Stadium…whoa boy. And I won’t be shocked to see Kolten Wong and/or Matt Carpenter knock a few off the wall either. That said, the Yankees aren’t exactly going to roll over. Look for the series to go at least 6…but the Cardinals will win their 12th World Series Championship behind a deeper, seasoned rotation in the end.
MVP and Cy Young Awards
NL Cy Young: Adam Wainwright. This is his year…Kershaw will be awesome yet again, but putting up the season he did in 2013 in 2014 is going to be very, very tough. Wainwright, on the other hand, is poised to dominate.
AL Cy Young: David Price. I really have no idea what I’m saying here…but Verlander threw a ton of innings last year while Price finished off with a light load of 186.2. Let’s call Price the guy with the fresher arm. (And no, I don’t think Scherzer can repeat this season).
NL MVP: Yadier Molina. I know, I know…those dudes in Arizona and Pittsburgh might have something to say about it. But…a few things in Yadi’s favor. First, the narrative is there. He’s been worthy the last two seasons and been snubbed in each. He’s due. Second, Pittsburgh winning will be nothing new in 2014, so McCutchen’s narrative will be less than special. Third, the Cardinals are the hottest pick in baseball this year, and that means Yadi is going to get tons of attention. In fact, it’s already started with Yadi on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s baseball preview issue. Put it all together, and this could be Molina’s year.
AL MVP: Mike Trout. With his contract extension behind him, this is likely the year Trout relaxes, takes off, and overcomes Miggy — who could experience a bit of post-31 contract hangover, ala Pujols. Also, expect Pujols and Hamilton to pull it together and take some of the heat off Trout in the Angels’ lineup this season. Finally, the Angels will likely look like the playoff-contending team they were built to be, satisfying the silly unspoken requirement that the MVP be from a playoff contender. In 2014, the best player will finally be recognized as the most valuable player.
That’s going to put a wrap on the UCB predictions project for 2014. Baseball is just around the corner, and it’s about d*** time. Don’t forget to click here and read the rest of the predictions from around the UCB.