MLB Division Series Predictions

Posted: 10/04/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

As I mentioned earlier, I was away from Monday-Thursday, so I wasn’t able to predict the play-in-games or game one of the two NL series’. But I’m back early enough to make still-relevant predictions for each series, starting with the NL.

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers:
This series has already started, and the Dodgers beat the Braves 6-1 behind Clayton Kershaw. I have said that I love the Dodgers postseason chances, giving them the best chance of ANYONE to win the World Series, even though they will likely be without home field advantage in both the NLDS and the NLCS. They also have a terrific match-up against the Braves. Their top pitchers, Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, all have the ability to miss bats, and, more importantly, great offspeed pitches. Kershaw’s curveball may well be the best pitch in baseball, Greinke has a killer changeup, and Ryu also has a nice curve. That is important because the Braves can pound fastballs, but they also strike out a ton. And that showed in game one, when Kershaw struck out 12 in seven innings and the Braves struck out a total of 15 times. The Dodgers offense also hit on all cylinders in game one, pounding out 11 hits and six runs, which included Adrian Gonzalez’s first postseason homer (it’s easy to feel good that A-Gon is finally getting his chance in the playoffs).

I was surprised when the Braves chose Kris Medlen to start game one over lefty Mike Minor, who has been the ace of the staff all season long. The Dodgers were slightly better against right handers this year, so it didn’t make sense to start Medlen. Actually, it seems pretty clear why they started him:  Because he ended the season on an absolute tear, allowing four runs in his last 43 innings. But he is more of a finesse than power pitcher, while Minor has better strikeout stuff which normally works better in the playoffs.

Bottom Line: I expect the Braves big bats to be nullified by the Dodgers’ three headed monster. I would have said this before game one, and I’m certainly saying it now..
Dodger Sweep

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pittsburgh Pirates:
I don’t think it’s fair to say that the Pirates are just “happy to be here” after making the real playoffs after beating the Reds in the play-in game, but they just got drubbed 9-1 in game one. Adam Wainwright shut down the Pirates offense, striking out nine in seven innings of three hit, one run ball. The Pirates have a problem: They have no lineup protection for Andrew McCutchen, who picked up two of the Pirates hits last night. It might be hard for them to score runs against the Cards.

The Pirates didn’t play well in this game, but I’d rather talk about the Cardinals, who are just amazing in October. They live for these moments, and although they did win 97 games, it always seemed like they were saving themselves for the playoffs. And they’ve started with a bang. And by “they”, I mean mainly Adam Wainwright and Carlos Beltran. Wainwright has five career playoff starts, and nine relief appearances. He has pitched in all or part of 44 playoff innings, and has been scored on in just five of them. He is 3-0 with a 2.27 playoff ERA in 39.2 innings, and also has 51 strikeouts and four career playoff saves. He might be the best active playoff pitcher.

And then there is Beltran, who could very well be the best playoff performer ever. He now has 35 playoff games and 156 plate appearances (a good playoff sample size) in his resume, and he has the highest playoff slugging percentage (.783) and OPS (1.245) of all time. In the third inning, he broke a 0-0 tie with a three run homer off of A.J. Burnett, and the game was never in doubt after that. Check out this stat, courtesy of Jayson Stark:
Carlos Beltran — 15 postseason home runs in 129 at-bats.
Babe Ruth — 15 postseason home runs in 129 at-bats.

So yeah, Beltran is the best playoff performer since at least Babe Ruth, and maybe of all time.

Bottom line: The Pirates are a good team, but the Cardinals are going to be really hard to beat, especially if Allen Craig can come back later in the playoffs.
Cardinals in Four

Now to the American League…

Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics:
Now here is a series that has not started yet, and it should be a good one. It is star power (the Tigers) against all-around talent. Game one is Max Scherzer, he of the 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts, against Bartolo Colon, he of the 2.65 ERA and 117 strikeouts. That is the epitome of this series. Flashy or dependable? Both of these teams are great, but I’m going with the A’s, in large part due to their homefield advantage.
Athletics in Five

Boston Red Sox vs. Tampa Bay Rays:
The Rays are hot now, and the Red Sox need to watch out. Tampa Bay has won 15 of its last 20 games, including two straight elimination games. The Sox are also a really good all around team, though, and they have been much more dependable throughout this season, so I’ll pick Boston to win this in five games.
Red Sox in Five

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