Are You Ready For Some October Baseball?!

8488__mlb_world_series-primary-2013

You play 162 games.

30 different cities.

You lace up your cleats 162 times, maybe even more.

From bullpen sessions, to batting practice, you never get a break.

It all comes down to this. One weekend for 10 teams to move into the promised land that they have been trying so hard to reach.

All but one spot are decided so far for this year’s playoffs. One American League Wild Card spot is up for grabs. Will the Texas Rangers bounce back and grab the spot? Or will the Cleveland Indians take what they have been fighting for?

If you ask me, the Texas Rangers are the better team, but they do not deserve that final spot. This was a team that looked like they had the Wild Card in the bag. They blew it. A dreadful end of August and start to September put this team in this position. While Texas was struggling, Cleveland kicked it into gear when it mattered. After all, isn’t it those teams that are able to get it done when the pressure is on that are the most successful? If you can’t win when the pressure is on during September, what makes you think you can win when the whole world is watching in October? For that reason, I think that the Texas Rangers should find a way to be the team eliminated. When the pressure was on they fell to size, and the same should happen as even more pressure mounts.

Now how about some picks?

The American League is much easier than the National League.

We will most likely see the Tampa Bay Rays take on the Cleveland Indians in the Wild Card 1-game playoff. I would have to give the nod to the Rays.

Why?

Pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. Pitching is key in the playoffs. You rarely see double-digit scoring affairs in the playoffs. The teams that go the distance are the teams with the best pitching. Let us look at the teams who have won during the last three seasons. Giants, Cardinals, Giants. Each of these teams were not necessarily the favorite to win. What pushed them over the top? Pitching. The Giants pitching was lights out throughout the playoffs, and they pulled off a major upset. The Rays have great pitching, and this should catapult them a long way into the playoffs.

How about we start with who even starts the game? David Price would be the popular opinion. The reigning Cy Young award winner has been nothing short of phenomenal. Can we discount the likes of Matt Moore and Alex Cobb though? Moore has been one of baseball’s stand out young stars this year. If given the nod, or even coming out of the bullpen, Moore is a force to be reckoned with.

*Update* – The Rays ended up taking on the Rangers in the tiebreaker. Who did the Rays send out? David Price. Who won? The Rays. David Price ended up pitching 9 full innings of stellar baseball, setting up his team for the victory. Pitching wins in the playoffs.

Reigning Cy Young award winner David Price

Reigning Cy Young award winner David Price

Then we have Alex Cobb. Since coming back from a horrible concussion after taking a line-drive to the head, Cobb has been lights out for lack of a better term. Over the last 30 days Cobb has pitched 43 innings, striking out 42 batters, while posting a 2.51 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. Can you say #whiff?

With these 3 studs, and people like Chris Archer, Jeremy Hellickson, Fernando Rodney, and others also available if needed, I can’t imagine a way for Cleveland to get many runs, and with the bats of Evan Longoria, Wil Myers, James Loney, Desmond Jennings, and others, Tampa Bay is a strong team.

The winner of that series would move on to face the Boston Red Sox. Now since I am choosing Tampa Bay to move on, I also think they match up with Boston well.

Boston is a team that relies on their hitting primarily. They have gotten shocking success out of aging arms like John Lackey and Jon Lester, while slowly building up their young ace Clay Bucholz back from injury. Like I said earlier, pitching is key in the playoffs. For that reason, I don’t think that the Red Sox can beat the Rays in a playoff series. The Rays have more talent down their rotation than the Red Sox. The Red Sox have a far superior lineup, but when you have to choose offensive team or pitching team, and the matchup is this close, I will always choose the pitching team.

Then we will see the Detroit Tigers take on the Oakland Athletics. The Athletics have been a great story both this year and last year. A low budget team with an extremely passionate fan base. Unfortunately, the Detroit Tigers are just too good. The Athletics do not have the arms to go to war with Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez, and the list goes on and on. I think that Detroit is a superior pitching and hitting team to the Athletics. The Athletics have a tough ballpark to win at, but even with that I cannot see them pulling it off.

Baseball's premier slugger Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera

Baseball’s premier slugger Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera

Now let us look at the National League.

The Wild Card game will feature the Cincinnati Reds, and Pittsburgh Pirates. Do I even have to think about this? Pirates. It is a shame that this team even has to play in the Wild Card game. The Pirates have been such a thrilling team all season. They have the best bullpen in baseball, which will be key in a 1-game playoff. They have multiple arms they can use to start the game as well. From rookie phenom Gerrit Cole, to old but reliable A.J. Burnett, to potential comeback player of the year Francisco Liriano, they have talent. Their lineup is also better from top to bottom than Cincinnati’s.

Pittsburgh slugger Andrew McCutchen

Pittsburgh slugger Andrew McCutchen

Since I am choosing the Pirates, they would then move on to face the Atlanta Braves if the season ended today. This is a tricky matchup. These two teams have been dominant all year long. Both teams have a solid rotation, although I would side with Pittsburgh’s slightly. The Braves lineup is powerful. Any given player can kill you with one swing of the bat. They have one flaw. They strikeout a ton. For that reason I am picking the Pirates. All season long the Braves have shown a tendency to be overly prone to the strikeout. While these teams are both very good, I give the slight edge to Pittsburgh.

Then we have the Los Angeles Dodgers, and St. Louis Cardinals. Well isn’t that a shame. These are baseball’s too best teams in my opinion. It is a shame that we cannot see these teams duke it out in the World Series, let alone the National League Championship. While there is still hope for the Braves and Cardinals to swap positions, it is highly unlikely.

dodgers_cardinals

It is a shame for the Cardinals to have to handle this. They deserve more than a first-round knockout, but that is what will happen. Nobody is beating the Dodgers this year. There is no team in baseball as talented as the Dodgers. They have the best pitcher in baseball in Clayton Kershaw, with Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu filling out the playoff rotation….boy is that scary. Combine that with the bats of Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Michael Young…this team is ridiculous. The only thing that can stop the Dodgers is injury. They have suffered injuries to key players all season long, and it could happen again.

I won’t start picking further than this, because there is still too much to happen. As the Wild Card rounds end, I will begin to look further into the playoffs.

I can tell you right now that my World Series prediction is Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers, with the Dodgers winning handedly. The Cardinals and Dodgers are the two best teams in the playoffs, and it would be a shame to have to watch them in the first round instead of deeper into the playoffs, but as long as we get to see that matchup at some point I am happy!

Do you agree with my predictions and assessments? What are your predictions and why? Leave a comment and let me know! Also, be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook, as I will be live-tweeting almost every playoff game!

Hello October!

Print Friendly

About Nick Cocchiaro