What's going on? Have you been enjoying the baseball playoffs yet? In case you don't know who I am, I'm Joey Beartran, your fav'rit Studious Metsimus prognosticator. And if I'm not your fav'rit, I should be. After all, who correctly predicted that Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay would win their respective wild card games, huh? Me, that's who!
So let's not waste any more time on idle chitchat and dive right into my picks for the four division series. Will I be right on all four? Does a bear poop in the woods? (Actually, I poop in the bathroom of a Citi Field luxury suite, as you can see here.) Here are my unbiased division series picks!
National League Division Series
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals
How great was it to see the Pirates win the wild card game in front of a packed house at PNC Park? And how sweet was it to have former Met Marlon Byrd get the action started with a home run? Word indeed!
Every few years, we see a team of destiny. The 1969 season had the Miracle Mets. Thirty-five years later, the Red Sox said goodbye to the Curse of the Bambino. And who can forget the Rockies and Rays making unlikely runs to the World Series in back-to-back seasons just a few years ago?
Yes, St. Louis has far more playoff experience. And yes, they also have home field advantage in the series. But despite St. Louis going 46-30 against the NL Central, Pittsburgh won the season series, 10-9, giving the Cardinals one-third of their losses within the division. The Pirates took one more game than St. Louis did in their head-to-head matchups during the regular season. They'll do the same in the postseason.
Prediction: Pirates in 5.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
After winning 14 consecutive division titles in the '90s and '00s, the Atlanta Braves did not win another division crown until this year, eight years after their last one. But the Braves won the NL East despite having two everyday players (Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton) fail to hit .200 for the season. They also had very little speed on the team, as only two players (Upton, Jordan Schafer) stole more than eight bases. And how about their hefty strikeout total, as five players struck out 116 or more times, contributing to their league-leading total of 1,384 whiffs.
Basically, a case can be made that Atlanta won the division because of their 13-2 start and their 14-game winning streak shortly after the All-Star Break. They went 69-64 in all other games. But they also won because they hit a lot of home runs (a league-leading 181 HR) and had an unreal bullpen (Craig Kimbrel, David Carpenter and Luis Avilan combined to go 13-4 with 50 saves, a 1.50 ERA and a 0.94 WHIP).
The Braves are too one-dimensional with their offense to expect to beat the Dodgers. If they can't hit the ball out of the park, they can't score. And if they can't score, their vaunted bullpen can't protect any leads. Los Angeles should have no problem handling Atlanta.
Prediction: Dodgers in 4.
American League Division Series
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
Can both teams win this series? Absolutely. And I wish both teams could. But since only one can, it will come down to which team has destiny on its side (see Pirates, Pittsburgh).
Boston had the best record in the American League. They also defeated Tampa in 12 of their 19 regular season meetings. But most of that came during the first half of the season, when Tampa was struggling to stay above .500 (Boston won nine of 12 meetings prior to the All-Star Break).
Tampa Bay is red hot right now. Including the wild card tiebreaker game against Texas and the wild card game versus Cleveland, the Rays have won 15 of their last 20 games. Meanwhile, Boston took it easy over the season's final three weeks, going 10-8 after September 7.
Meanwhile, Tampa has three aces in their starting rotation in Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA), David Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA) and Alex Cobb (11-3, 2.76 ERA and a scoreless outing against the Cleveland Indians in the wild card game. Pitching wins championships. But before you win a championship, you have to win a division series, and Tampa Bay will ride their starting pitchers into the ALCS.
Prediction: Rays in 4.
Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A's
Last year, the Tigers won a hard-fought division series against the A's, going the distance before defeating Oakland in Game 5. This year, they'll have to put up a bigger fight if they want to return to the ALCS and World Series. But how much fight does a wounded team have?
Detroit's big bopper, Miguel Cabrera, has been battling aches and pains over the last month. And Justin Verlander, although seemingly healthy, has not looked like himself this year, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA. As a result of Cabrera's maladies and Verlander's inconsistencies, the Tigers went 16-16 over their final 32 games, barely holding off the Indians in the AL Central race.
Prediction: A's in 5.