Well, now the LCS lineups are set for the MLB playoffs, and it’s shaped up as a geographically diverse slate. I’m particularly excited for the NLCS, but let’s take a look at both, along with some crucial factors.
ALCS: Yankees vs. Rangers
- This series is likely to be a slugfest; these two teams have the two highest team OPS marks in the playoffs thus far. It probably won’t hurt that New Yankee Stadium and the Ballpark at Arlington are hitter’s paradises. Expect high run totals in a few games.
- Of course, the aforementioned scores can be limited by superb starting pitching, especially high-strikeout hurlers. Cliff Lee has been sensational, but he needs rest. Don’t sleep on C.J. Wilson of the Rangers, either; he notched seven strikeouts against the Rays in just 6 1/3 innings, and finished 15th in the AL in strikeouts in the regular season.
- The Rangers have speed to burn, and that’s particularly useful against Jorge Posada, who’s lost a lot of zip on his throws to second. Expect Elvis Andrus and company to put their wheels to work on the basepaths to get into scoring position.
PREDICTION: While the Rangers have plenty of ability, the Yankees will benefit by not having to face Lee immediately, and have a good chance to get to the Texas bullpen. The Rangers will make a good showing, but I expect them to come up short in the end. Yankees in 6 (and it really hurts to type that)
NLCS: Giants vs. Phillies
- This series is almost diametrically opposed to its ALCS counterpart. The Phillies and Giants are blessed with two of the deepest and most talented pitching staffs in MLB. Pitching duels will be present in nearly every game; consider Lincecum-Halladay, Cain-Oswalt, and Sanchez-Hamels in the first three games. Excellent matchups.
- Of course, all that puts more pressure on the hitters to produce. Neither team had an OPS above .583 in the NLDS, so the bats will have to wake up. I have to say that I have a lot more faith in the Phillies to rake at the plate than I do in the Giants; San Francisco looked lost in Game 4 against Derek Lowe, who is not as good as Philadelphia’s top trio.
- Experience in the playoffs can help a team push through to the next level even against top talent. The Giants are less battle-tested than the Phillies, who have been to each of the last two World Series. Meanwhile, the Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2003, and their three best players (Lincecum, Cain, Posey) haven’t sniffed postseason action until this year. All three have been great, but there’s a greater assembly of talent on the Philadelphia roster.
PREDICTION: Lincecum and Cain could win the World Series with a more competent offense behind them. Unfortunately, that’s not there. This series should be terrific, but somebody’s got to hit, and my money’s on a lineup featuring Victorino, Utley, Howard, Rollins and Werth. Phillies in 7.
Quibbles with the predictions? Think you know better? Let me know in the comments.