Friday, October 11, 2013

Joey's Soapbox: My 2013 Unbiased LCS Picks

How's everybody doing?  This is Joey Beartran, your fearless and unbiased prognosticator and masticator.  (I'm having a delicious piece of cake right now, but typing with my mouth full is not as rude as talking with my mouth full.  After all, I wouldn't want to offend any of my readers.)

It's that time of year again - the League Championship Series is upon us!  Thirty teams began the season hoping to play for a pennant.  Four teams are left, including three teams I picked to lose in the division series.  (Why did you have to make me look bad, Tampa, Pittsburgh and Oakland?)

The Rays, Bucs and A's do not have a long tradition of advancing in the playoffs.  Tampa has won one division series in four attempts.  Pittsburgh hasn't won a postseason series since 1979.  And Oakland has been eliminated in the ALDS in six of their last seven playoff appearances.  The four remaining teams, however, have quite a history of being successful.

The Dodgers and Cardinals rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the National League in terms of postseason appearances.  Los Angeles (and Brooklyn before 1958) has made 27 trips to the playoffs, which includes 12 division titles, 18 pennants and six World Series championships.  St. Louis has appeared in the postseason 26 times.  The Cardinals have won 11 division titles, 18 pennants and have won it all 11 times.

Meanwhile, Detroit and Boston have both won 11 American League pennants.  The Tigers have qualified for the postseason 15 times, winning three straight division titles (six overall).  They have also won the World Series four times.  The Red Sox, on the other hand, have won 11 American League pennants and seven Fall Classics.  They have appeared in the playoffs 21 times and have won seven AL East titles.

For those of you who aren't mathematically inclined, that's 89 playoff appearances, 36 division titles, 58 pennants and 28 World Series championships between the four teams that are still standing.  And by the time I'm done eating my Halloween candy corn, those numbers will be up to 60 pennants and 29 Fall Classic winners.  As great as the Yankees have been over the last century, even they can't boast those numbers.  (Sadly, neither can the Mets, but they will ... someday).

But enough with the baseball history lesson and me fawning for late October confectioneries.  It's time for me to give you a lesson on how to properly pick LCS winners.  Are you ready?  Here we go!

National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. St. Louis Cardinals

A smart person would never go against the Cardinals in October.  After all, St. Louis has been invited to ten of the last 14 postseasons, winning three pennants, two World Series and 13 playoff series.  But I'm not a person.  I'm a bear.  And I'm going against the Cardinals this October.

The Dodgers have the modern version of Koufax and Drysdale in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.  The current Dodger dynamic duo combined to allow three earned runs in three starts against the Braves in the division series, with only 14 Atlanta hitters reaching base in 19 innings.  Closer Kenley Jansen made a ninth inning appearance in each Dodger victory, retiring seven Braves hitters - all via the strikeout.

Meanwhile, St. Louis collected six hits in 11 at-bats versus A.J. Burnett in the first game of the NLDS.  After Burnett hit the showers, the Cardinals batted .184 (27-for-147) the rest of the series.  And that wasn't against the likes of Kershaw, Greinke and Jansen.

In the four games with Atlanta, the Dodgers batted .333 and had a .572 slugging percentage.  Los Angeles collected ten doubles, a triple and seven home runs against a formidable Braves pitching staff.  St. Louis has good pitching, but it's going to have a tough time keeping the Dodgers' bats under wraps.

Carlos Beltran has made four trips to the postseason in his career.  Each of his first three playoff appearances has ended with a loss in the seventh game of the League Championship Series.  Why mess with a good thing?

Prediction:  Dodgers in 7.

American League Championship Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox

The Tigers have replaced the Yankees as the most consistent winner in the American League.  Detroit is making its third consecutive appearance in the ALCS - the first American League squad to accomplish the feat since the Yankees went to four straight from 1998 to 2001.  But they struggled at times to hit Oakland's young and inexperienced pitching staff.  Boston's staff has a little more experience.

Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz match up quite favorably with the Tigers' top two starters (Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander).  But Verlander won't be available to pitch until Game 3 of the ALCS.  By then, Boston's lineup might have battered the Tigers into submission.

How balanced is Boston's lineup?  Consider this.  Eight players reached double digits in home runs, while two others ended the season with nine homers.  The two players who fell one homer short of reaching double digits combined to hit 73 doubles and 10 triples.  They also scored 183 runs, drove in 137 and stole 69 bases.  Those players were Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury.  That's how good the Red Sox lineup is.  The Tigers are going to have their hands full in this series.

Detroit finished second in the league in runs scored during the regular season, but they only managed to score 17 runs in the five games versus Oakland.  Fortunately for them, the A's don't boast a Murderer's Row lineup.  Seventeen runs against Boston in the ALCS will just not get it done.

Prediction:  Red Sox in 5.

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