ALCS: New York Yankees (1) vs Los Angeles Angels (2)
Both the Yankees and Angels swept their first round opponents, the Angels in a more suprising manner. LA swept the tougher Boston Red Sox while the Yanks swept the floundering Twins. New York and Los Angeles each took 5 games from the season series. Alex Rodriguez has apparently busted his career postseason slope, but will it be enough to stop the crafty Angels?
Catcher: The Yankees have the edge here between two mediocre catchers. Jorge Posada (.285, .363, .522) is worse defensively, but is a bigger offensive threat then Mike Napoli (.272 AVG, .350 OBP, .492 SLG).
Corner Infield: The Yankees are a bit better on the corners. Mark Teixeira (.292, .383, .565) and Alex Rodriguez (.286, .402, .532) have been great during the regular season, and A-Rod finally showed up in the playoffs. Kendry Morales (.306, .355, .569) and Chone Figgins (.298, .395, .393) are no slackers, but they don’t have the firepower that Tex and A-Rod have.
Middle Infield: Again, New York gets the edge here, but this one has the biggest margin. Maicer Izturis (.300, .359, .434) and Erick Aybar (.312, .353, .423) are bottom of the order hitters for the Angels. Robinson Cano (.320, .352, .520) and Derek Jeter (.334, .352, .520) form perhaps the best up the middle combo in the AL.
Outfield/DH: Los Angeles is a bit better here, and mostly because of the addition of former Yankee Bobby Abreu (.293, .390, .435). Juan Rivera (.287, .332, .478), Torii Hunter (.299, .366, .508), and Vladimir Guerrero (.295, .334, .460) complete a very strong hitting Angels outfield that has become much more patient, with the exception of Vladi. For the Yankees, Johnny Damon (.282, .365, .460), Melky Cabrera (.274, .336, .416), Nick Swisher (.247, .371, .498), and Hideki Matsui (.274, .367, .509) have been solid, but that may be partially due to their homer-friendly home stadium.
Bench: The Angels have the edge on the bench with Howie Kendrick (.291, .334, .444) and Gary Matthews Jr. (.250, .336, .361), both of whom could start for several other teams. The Yanks have Brett Gardner (.270, .345, .379), Jerry Hairston Jr. (.237, .352, .382) and Jose Molina (.217, .292, .268).
Starting Pitching: The Halos have an edge in starting pitching. With John Lackey (11-8 3.83 ERA), Jered Weaver (16.8 3.75), Scott Kazmir (10-9 4.89), and Joe Saunders (16-7 4.60), the Angels have a very deep rotation, not to mention Ervin Santana (8-8 5.03) if he’s needed. The Yankees are going with a three-man rotation featuring CC Sabathia (19-8 3.37) and A.J. Burnett (13-9 4.04), both of whom have struggled in the playoffs, along with steady vet Andy Pettitte (14-8 4.18). The Yankees pitchers will on three days rest on most starts.
Relief Pitching: By keeping their three man rotation, they moved low-pitch count Joba Chamberlain (9-9 4.75) to the bullpen, giving the Bronx Bombers the edge. They also have Phil Hughes (8-3 3.03) and the greatest playoff closer Mariano Rivera (3-3 1.76). The Angels have a very shaky bullpen with only Darren Oliver (5-1 2.71), Kevin Jepson (6-4 4.94), and Brian Fuentes (1-5 3.93).
Coaching: The Angels have much better coaching with manager Mike Scioscia and pitching coach Mike Butcher. The Yankees don’t have much going well in the way of managing with Joe Girardi and Tony Peña, both coaches who benefit from a $200 million payroll.
Final Thoughts: You can never underestimate the power of will, and the Angels certainly have it. They still are still getting over the death of fallen teammate Nick Adenhart, and they are trying to win it all for him. It’s as if this is set up for a Disney-esque ending. Also, with a three-man rotation, all the starters will be on three days rest. I already don’t like A.J. Burnett in crunch time, but on three days rest, no thank you.
Prediction: Angels in 7
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers (1) vs Philadelphia Phillies (2)
In a rematch of last year’s NLCS, the Phillies and Dodgers will fight again for the right to represent the National League in the World Series. The two teams split the season series 4-4. The last two times there was a LCS repeat was Boston/New York in 2003-2004 and St. Louis/Houston in 2004-2005. The good news for the Dodgers is that they split both serieses, so does that mean it will be the Dodgers?
Catcher: Although he had a horrific regular season, Russell Martin (.250, .352, .329) and the Dodgers get the edge over the Phillies. Carlos Ruiz (.255, .355, .425) is a below average catcher, and has an upside about as high as Martin’s low point.
Corner Infield: Philadeplhia has the better corner infielders in MVP Ryan Howard (.279, .360, .571) up-and-down Pedro Feliz (.266, .308, .386). LA’s James Loney (.281, .357, .399) and Casey Blake (.280, .363, .468) are on the rise, but don’t have anywhere as much power as Philly.
Middle Infield: The Phillies win here, too, by far. All-Stars Chase Utley (.282, .397, .508) and Jimmy Rollins (.250, .296, .423) are probably the best double-play combo in the NL. After supplanting Orlando Hudson for the starting second base job, Ronnie Belliard (.277, .325, .451) has been really hot lately and he and Rafael Furcal (.269, .335, .375) are solid.
Outfield: The Dodgers have a great outfield of Manny Ramirez (.290, .418, .531), Matt Kemp (.297, .352, .490), and Andre Ethier (.272, .361, .508). They have a great playoff veteran and two stars rising quickly. The Phillies have Raul Ibañez (.272, .347, .552), who is having a career year, Shane Victorino (.292, .358, .445), and Jayson Werth (.268, .373, .506), who are very good, but not as good as the Dodgers.
Bench: The Dodgers have the deepest bench in the league with forme starters Jim Thome (.249, .372, .493), Orlando Hudson (.283, .357, .417), Juan Pierre (.308, .365, .392), Mark Lorreta (.232, .309, .276), and Brad Ausmus (.293, .343, .368). Philadephia has Ben Francisco (.278, .317, .526), Matt Stairs (.194, .357, .379), Paul Bako (.224, .308, .336), and Greg Dobbs (.247, .296, .383).
Starting Pitching: The Phillies have a huge edge here with Cole Hamels (10-11 4.32), Pedro Martinez (5-1 3.63) , Cliff Lee (7-4 3.39), and J.A. Happ (12-4 2.93). They have two former Cy Young Award winners, another ace quality starter, and the potential NL Rookie of the Year. The Dodgers have young Clayton Kershaw (8-8 2.79), Vicente Padilla (4-0 3.20), Hiroki Kuroda (8-7 3.76), and Randy Wolf (11-7 3.23). With Chad Billingsley in the ‘pen, the Dodgers’ rotation does not look solid at all.
Relief Pitching: LA has a better bullpen with All-Stars in Jonathan Broxton (7-1 2.61) George Sherrill (1-0 0.65) Chad Billingsley (12-11 4.03) and lefty specialist Hong-Chih Kuo (2–0 3.00). They are very deep, especially towards the back, and the lefty relievers will really help against the lefty-heavy Phillies lineup. The Phillies are very shaky with no good closer between Brad Lidge (0-8 7.21), Ryan Madson (5-5 3.26), and J.C. Romero (0-0 2.70).
Coaching: Los Angeles has a great playoff coach in Joe Torre, whereas the Phillies’ Charlie Manuel isn’t a great a coach. Coaching won’t be that big in this series, but the Dodgers definately have the edge here.
Prediction: Phillies in 6