2011 ALDS preview

Friday, 30 September 2011, 11:24 | Category : MLB
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The most improbable and heroic homerun I have ever seen.

The last night of the baseball season was absolutely incredible. I have never seen a more improbable comeback than what the Rays did against the Yankees. The homerun by Dan Johnson (who had a miserable year) with 2 outs AND two strikes after having hit only one all year deserves a tear-jerking movie of its own (as long as it leaves out the part where Johnson was then left off of the post season roster). I do think the beauty of the comeback is a bit tainted since the Yankees took out all of their starters. If they cared about the game, they would have thrown David Robertson and Mariano Rivera at the end of the game. Nobody scores 7 runs in two innings off of those two. Other already clinched teams may have done the same but I also like to think that the Yankees just wanted to stick it to the Red Sox.

I also think it was hilarious how badly the Orioles wanted to beat the Red Sox in the last game. They stormed the field like they had just won the World Series. There was a definite difference in the mindset between the Orioles and Yankees during those last three games. The Ray’s schedule worked out quite nicely for them. Still, Boston should have taken care of business.

When is the last time the Orioles celebrated like this on the last day of the season?

The roles were reversed in the NL as the Braves played the already clinched Phillies and the Cardinals played the last place Astros. The difference is the Phillies threw their best pitchers (even Cole Hamels pitched) and their position players stayed in the entire game. They wanted to win that game, the Yankees didn’t care about their’s. The Cardinals played an Astros team that just stinks. The ‘Stros at least tried to win their game though. It may be unfair that the Cardinals get to play the horrible Astros and Cubs more than the Braves did during the year, but it feels like the better team advanced…in both leagues. It was a wild last day (and I was dead tire the next day…stinkin’ East Coast timezone).

Anyway, I wasn’t planning on writing that much but it is too late. Here are a few quick thoughts and predictions on the first round of the playoffs.

 

ALDS

Tigers vs. Yankees

The Yankees have an offense that would scare anyone. They have a 40 homer-guy (Curtis Granderson), a guy who has averaged 35 homers a year during his career (Mark Texeira), a guy with 629 career bombs (A-Rod), this year’s home-run derby winner (Robinson Cano), 3 others who have hit at least 30 round trippers in a year (Nick Swisher, Jorge Posada, Andruw Jones), a guy with 3,000 hits (Jeter), and an All-Star catcher (Russel Martin). Yet few people feel like these Bronx Bombers are going to be the champs because of their pitching.

CC Sabathia has been hit or miss for much of this year (especially the latter part). If he doesn’t bring his best, the Yanks could be in trouble. Ivan Nova (Game 2 starter) has an impressive record, but his other stats aren’t that great and he is only a rookie. Freddie Garcia (Game 3 starter) doesn’t scare anyone. The bullpen is solid but the Yankees don’t have anything that resembles a World Series pitching staff. Especially since their ace is going against the probable AL Cy Young winner (Justin Verlander)

The Tigers have one superstar (Miguel Cabrera), one solid All-Star (Victor Martinez), an up and coming star (Alex Avila), and a bunch of solid contributers who complement each other well. The offense isn’t spectacular, but they have their moments. The Tigers also seem like a team that is full of those unspectacular players who shine during the post season (like Cody Ross last year). They will need to play very well to be successful in October. They definitely have the weaker offense in this series.

Verlander, the most dangerous weapon in the AL

The Tigers can throw Verlander twice and Max Scherzer has the potential to shut down any lineup despite his eradic season. The bullpen is also very good (especially lately). I would not want to face the Tigers in a 5 game series.

Verdict: If this were a 7 game series, I would probably pick the Yankees, but I am going with the Tigers in 5.

Rays vs. Rangers

The Rangers have been very consistent this year despite suffering through a lot of injuries on the offense. Like the Yankees, this offense is scary good. Unlike the Yankees, most of the guys who are scary good are in their prime. They don’t have a single easy out in their lineup and they are full of guys who would scare the heck out of you with runners on base. I personally wouldn’t want to see Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler, or Mike Napoli (owner of what has to be the quietest .320/30 homer season in history). They are all healthy right now too.

The pitching reminds me a little too much of the Yankees. C.J Wilson is turning into an ace (but still a below a Sabathia level) while the rest of the starters (Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, Alexi Ogando, and Colby Lewis) are solid (better than the rest of the Yankee starters) but not great. The success of the Rangers will definitely rest on their shoulders. The bullpen is much improved after their trade deadline moves but can this staff shut down an elite lineup? Cliff Lee will be sorely missed, but these guys can still be successful.

In one year the Rangers went from an inexperienced team to playoff veterans.

The Rays meanwhile have probably all had one of the best weeks of their lives. They have that “never say never” aura and they have been playing playoff-like games for a month. The pressure shouldn’t rattle this young group. However, they still don’t have the talent on offense to be successful. They are similar to the Tigers in that they have one superstar in Evan Longoria and a couple of talented players in BJ Upton and Ben Zobrist among others. However, they have too many easy outs at the bottom of the lineup and they only have two regulars who batted over .270 this season. They can string together a couple of solid games, but it will be difficult against October pitching. This won’t be those 8th inning Yankees.

The pitching may be able to save the Rays but the starters and bullpen have had to work so hard just to get into the playoffs. The Game 1 starter is Matt Moore (he of the 9 career major league innings) followed by James Shields (stud), Jeremy Hellickson (upcoming stud), and David Price (who I think is a little overrated at this point in his career). The fact that they were unable to set their rotation may work out to be an advantage. Moore is actually intriguing because he has electric stuff and the Rangers don’t have much of a scouting report to work with. He could be sneaky good. The other three will have dodged CJ Wilson and will be the better starters in each matchup. I may have just changed my mind after writing this paragraph… Anyway, the bullpen is the least reliable unit but they may be good enough. It’s obvious Joe Maddon trusts those guys.

Verdict: I still have to go with the Rangers. Their offense is too strong to be shut down by the Rays. Rangers in 4.

 

 

College Football Picks: Week 5

Thursday, 29 September 2011, 16:03 | Category : College, Football
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BYU Cougars, Utah State Aggies, rivalry

Can Utah State really beat BYU two years in a row?

I managed to score a ticket to the BYU game this Friday, so I’m going to get to see Heaps in person, for whatever that’s worth.  I wrote on Facebook before the Utah game that I was more scared of Utah State, and that stills holds up.  For some reason, our friends in Logan really hate BYU.  They seem to think there’s a really big rivalry between the two schools.  What’s funny is I think most BYU fans root for Utah State when they’re not playing the Cougs.  Utah State, having their best year I can ever remember, fueled by that hate for BYU can be very dangerous in down year for BYU.  This isn’t going to be a cake walk.

On a brighter note, I recently realized that Michigan has a really good shot at going 9-0 if they can just get past Michigan State.  They play Minnesota, at Northwestern, at Michigan State, Purdue, at Iowa, and at Illinois before playing Nebraska then Ohio State at home.  Illinois and Ohio State are both winnable games.  And if Michigan can somehow find a way to get by Nebraska, they’d head to the conference championship game.  That may be a long shot, but definitely not impossible.

Now that we’re beginning conference play, we’ve got plenty of good match-ups.  Things should be pretty interesting from here on out.  This week we’ve got four top 25 match-ups.  Who do you think will win?

Trevor Jimmy Spencer Karl Lindsey
25/40 30/40 20/40 20/40  23/40
14 Texas A&M vs. 18 Arkansas A&M Arkansas Arkansas A&M A&M
Toledo at Temple Temple Temple Temple Toledo Toledo
Auburn at 10 South Carolina SC SC SC SC Auburn
15 Baylor at Kansas State Baylor K-State Baylor Baylor Baylor
Washington State at Colorado Colorado Wazzu Wazzu Colorado Wazzu
Michigan State at Ohio State MSU Ohio St MSU MSU Ohio St
13 Clemson at 11 Virginia Tech Clemson Clemson VA Tech VA Tech Clemson
3 Alabama at 12 Florida Bama Bama Florida Florida Florida
8 Nebraska at 7 Wisconsin Wisc. Wisc. Wisc. Wisc. Nebraska
Ole Miss at Fresno State Fresno St Fresno St Ole Miss Fresno St Ole Miss

Wild Wild Card Race

Thursday, 29 September 2011, 8:31 | Category : MLB
Tags :

Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, brawl, Wild Card race

And David takes down Goliath on the final day of regular season.

Wow, the Wild Card race in both leagues came down to the very final day of the regular season.  This is an argument to be made in favor of not expanding the playoffs to two Wild Cards in each league.  We’ll get more into that another time, but if you want to check out past discussions on possible changes to MLB, check out this post.

Anyway, congrats to Cardinals and Rays fans.  Those are the two teams I wanted to squeeze in to the playoffs.  The Cardinals because I didn’t want Spencer to get all mopey.  I was rooting for the Rays because they represent the little guys.  Any time they can squeeze into the playoffs when they play in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox it’s a good thing.  Now Red Sox fans feel dirty for wasting all that energy rooting for the Yankees over the Rays.

I’m excited for the playoffs to begin.  I really wish the Tigers had the Rays in the first round so the Rangers and Yankees could duke it out first.

Who are you rooting for to win it all?

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