I’m Awesome; Central Teams Are Not

I guess I could have skipped the caveat. In a post about how hard it is to predict baseball games, I correctly predicted the winners of all four ALDS, two in the right number of games, two in one more game than the actual result. Is this where I claim that my correct picks were due solely to my brilliance, with not a dash of luck mixed in? I’ve had a few good rounds in the first round of the NCAA Tournament too. That doesn’t mean my wallet is full of pool money.

Looking back at my LCS picks, I see no reason to change anything. Texas’s pitching matches up well with New York’s. The problem for Texas, though, is that the Yankees have a lineup full of beasts and the Rangers will need to get through a lot of innings not pitched by Cliff Lee. Sure, CJ Wilson was CC Sabathia’s equal this season, Colby Lewis can hold his own against Andy Pettitte, and just about anyone has to have an edge over AJ Burnett at this point, but pitchers don’t face pitchers; they face hitters.

The Rangers, who have been built to launch balls out of the Bandbox in Arlington for a decade, are becoming more of a pitching-and-defense team in Michael Young and Vlad Guerrero’s twilight years. They scored enough runs to beat the punchless Rays, but they may need to get five or six a game against New York. It doesn’t help that they only have one Josh Hamilton in their lineup, and they may not even have one of the Josh Hamilton that may have locked up the AL MVP Award by the end of August.

I’d love to see the Rangers win this one, and they can if Hamilton rebounds from a weak division series, Nelson Cruz stays hot, CJ Wilson shuts down the brutal New York lineup a couple times, and the bullpen (which was pretty good this year) can get the job done when non-Lee starters leave a few big outs in their hands. I think that’s a lot to ask, though, so I’m sticking with:

New York in five

In the NL, the Phillies looked at least as intimidating in dismissing with the Reds as they did at the end of the regular season. Sure, the Giants’ pitching staff has been lights out for six weeks, but they’re about to run into a lineup the likes of which they don’t see much in the NL West.

Again, anything can happen in a short series, and if Tim Lincecum can outduel Roy Halladay in one of the more anticipated playoff match-ups of my lifetime, Posey and Huff can get some hits against Oswalt and/or Hamels, and the Giants can take advantage of their pitching advantage in game four, this can be an interesting series. Just as likely, though, the last interesting thing we’ll see is Halladay closing out a 1-0 win on the way to a Phillies sweep. Or, as I said a week ago:

Philadelphia in five

One last note: it was nice of the central divisions to show up for this year’s playoffs, wasn’t it? The Twins and Reds looked as formidable as anyone picking on the teams in their own weak divisions all season, then folded in three games apiece in October. Last season, the Twins and Cardinals were both swept in the first round as well. In 2008, the White Sox took one game against the Rays, while the Cubs were swept by the Dodgers.

A three-game sweep is a small sample, and may not tell us much about the relative talent of the teams involved, but over the last three seasons, central division teams are 1-17 in the postseason. In a sport where wins and losses are so closely tied to revenues and payrolls, that 18-game sample may say as much about the effect this recession has had on flyoverland as it does about baseball. Just a thought.

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