Thursday, October 9, 2014

Joey's Soapbox: My 2014 Not-So-Biased LCS Picks

How's it going, everyone?  This is Joey Beartran, and I'm happy to say that I correctly predicted three of the four division series winners.  The only things that kept me from being a perfect four-for-four were Clayton Kershaw allowing the Cardinals to do a couple of seventh inning conga lines around the bases and this little Puig-gy going wee-wee-wee all the way back to the bench.

But hey, I batted .750 in the division series round, which would probably make me too expensive to sign a contract with the Mets.

Players who weren't too expensive for their teams were members of the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals - two small market teams who spent wisely and are now just four wins from their first World Series appearance since Twisted Sister couldn't take it anymore.  (That's 1983 and 1985, for all you kids out there.)

As rare as it's been for Baltimore and Kansas City to play deep into October, it's become commonplace for the National League pennant chasers in St. Louis and San Francisco.  The last time a team other than the Cardinals or Giants represented the Senior Circuit in the Fall Classic was 2009, when the Phillies appeared in their final World Series before becoming a bunch of overpaid curmudgeons.

Who will I pick to square off in this year's Fall Classic?  Let's find out!

American League Championship Series

Kansas City Royals vs. Baltimore Orioles

As difficult as it may be to predict this series, there is one thing that I know for sure about it.  Neither team is going to escape with a sweep, as both the Royals and O's did in the division series.  That being said, both teams are going to win at least three games, just as they did against the Angels and Tigers.  So clearly, I'm saying this series will go the distance.  But who has the edge in Game 7?

The seventh game would be played at Camden Yards, where the Orioles won 50 games during the regular season.  But Kansas City's 47 road victories were the most of any team in the American League.  So let's toss that one aside.

What about those homers everyone keeps talking about?  Baltimore's 211 home runs led the major leagues, while Kansas City's total of 95 was the fewest.  Of course, the Royals hit some pretty big home runs in extra innings against the Angels, proving that what happened in the regular season didn't necessarily stay in the regular season.  So what are we going to use to determine who wins that seventh game?  The answer is something many talented prognosticators such as myself have used to determine the future.  We play checkers.

My Studious Metsimus colleague (who picked the Royals, by the way) cheated, trying to take advantage of the fact that I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair by moving his pieces twice while I was fidgeting in my seat.  Therefore, I'm saying that the Orioles are going to win a decisive Game 7.  It's not because I feel the Orioles' starting pitcher in the seventh game is going to pitch beautifully.  Nor is it because Nelson Cruz is going to continue to be as dominant as the Nationals were against the Mets.  (But just like the Mets, the Nats will be watching this series on TV - ha ha!)

The reason why I'm picking Baltimore is because no one takes advantage of Joey Beartran.  The Orioles will put the "O" in October and advance to the World Series.

Prediction:  Orioles in 7.

National League Championship Series

San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals

So tell me, baseball fans.  Aren't you tired of seeing the Giants and Cardinals play for a spot in the Fall Classic?  San Francisco and St. Louis have alternated World Series appearances since 2010, with the Giants playing for the title in the even-numbered years and the Cards representing the National League in odd-numbered years.  Two years ago, San Francisco defeated St. Louis in the NLCS to advance to the Fall Classic.  Revenge may be on the minds of the Redbirds, but that means nothing in this series.  In fact, St. Louis could have a tough time just winning one game.

For one thing, the Cards batted just .238 in the division series against the Dodgers and had a paltry .294 on-base percentage in the four games versus Los Angeles.  So how did they get by Don Mattingly's squad?  Seven of their 30 hits left the park, including three by Matt Carpenter - the same Matt Carpenter who has just 25 regular season home runs in 1,785 lifetime plate appearances.  The Cardinals got some once-in-a-lifetime performances in the division series.  That's going to be hard to replicate in the league championship series.

In the four games against the Dodgers, St. Louis had a 3.86 ERA and 1.46 WHIP.  Consider this.  In the other division series, Washington posted a 1.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIP versus the Giants.  San Francisco still won the series in four games.  Imagine what they could do against a team that's three times more likely to give up a run and allows nearly 50% more base runners.

St. Louis scored 18 runs in the four-game division series.  However, 15 of those runs scored in the seventh inning or later, with nine of the 15 late-inning tallies coming against Clayton Kershaw.  Meanwhile, San Francisco allowed eight runs to Washington in their four-game series, or one fewer run than Kershaw allowed in both of his seventh innings.  The Giants pitchers (all of them - starters and relievers) are ready for any hitter who dares to try to hit out of his mind in this series.

Finally, there's the Bruce Bochy factor.  The man is one of the most underrated managers of this or any other era.  Did you know that Bochy won four division titles as manager of the Padres?  He did that for a San Diego team has only won one other division title in its history.  And of course, Bochy was the manager for the only two Giants' World Series victories since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958.  In 20 seasons as a manager in the big leagues, Bochy has made the playoffs seven times, winning six division titles, three pennants and two championships.  With four wins over St. Louis, he will have guided his teams to four pennants.  To put that into perspective, there have been 22 managers who have won four pennants.  All of them are in the Hall of Fame.  Don't think the Giants players aren't aware of that.

Prediction:  Giants in 5.

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