The long baseball regular season that acts as a bridge from the spring to the fall has come to an end. On Friday the playoffs start — albeit a strange and unfamiliar playoffs with another team there for each league. As we get ready for the annually fantastic month of fall ball, here are eight bold predictions about how I see things turning out:
The wild card will be a major letdown
Don’t get me wrong — I’m definitely looking forward to Friday night. Two winner-take-all games in a row is as good as it gets. Ultimately, though, I don’t believe that this new experiment is going to sit well with people once it is witnessed firsthand. Baseball is not meant to come down to one game, and wild card teams deserve more after working so hard to get here. Any team can win any game on a given day, so this doesn’t prove which team is better — just which team has a better day. If there is any kind of question or issue surrounding either of these games it will be a black mark on the whole playoffs.
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The AL wild card is irrelevant
Baltimore is an amazing story. However, they don’t have the pitching to compete at this level, and they looked to be struggling under the weight of the situation in their final regular season game. Texas gave up a 13-game lead to the A’s and just don’t look like a team that is ready to do any damage. They also aren’t going to be in a good place mentally for this game since they really weren’t expecting to play in it. Neither of these teams is going to go on and win a series — or even be much of a threat to do so.
Oakland’s emotion will carry them for a while, but not all the way
The A’s have been absolutely incredible down the stretch. They don’t have the talent to really be doing what they are doing, so it is all about chemistry, heart and, most importantly, emotion. That will be enough to lead them through one series, but they can’t sustain it for too long, and when they start to feel emotionally spent they will be in trouble since they lack talent.
San Francisco’s pitching will be a liability
When the Giants have had playoff success it has been because of their pitching. This year, though, I think their rotation is going to let them down. Matt Cain is obviously fine, but beyond that it’s hard to have faith. Bumgarner and Vogelsong have experience concerns, and the inclusion of Lincecum in the rotation is controversial. The team doesn’t seem to trust its own rotation, so that makes it hard for us to do so. It will be their downfall.
Atlanta is on a mission
Last year the Braves blew an 8.5-game wild card lead at the start of September, and they were eliminated from the playoffs on the final day of the regular season. That kind of setback can do one of two things — it can have a negative effect going forward or it can be a major motivating factor. For the Braves it has been the latter. Down the stretch this team has been playing with ferocity and determination. There are better teams in the playoffs, but there aren’t any who are more focused and determined, and that’s going to make them dangerous. They will win two series.
Washington’s time is... next year
I really like what the Nationals have done, and I have no doubts that it is only just the beginning of a period of strength for them. They are a young team, though, and frequently we see young teams that need to lose in order to learn how to win. This is a totally unfamiliar time for the franchise, and they aren’t going to be up for it.
It’s time for the Reds
I wouldn’t have expected it heading into the season, but the Reds are going to win the National League. They have a balanced and deep rotation. The bullpen is strong. The lineup has a lot going for it. They have shown that they can handle adversity — they played well without Joey Votto and overcame the absence of Dusty Baker. They are the toughest team in the NL, and that toughness and their skill is going to lead them to the pennant and the big series.
I hate the Yankees, but...
I can’t handle the Yankees. Everything about them makes me ill. Unfortunately, though, I can’t get past one thing — if they decide they are going to play like they can then they are going to win the World Series. They still have issues — like their depth in the bullpen, and the bottom of their rotation — but they are too deep and too talented to be beaten if they play like they can. Jeter and A-Rod also know that their window is closing fast and that this could be their last best chance to get it done. There isn’t a team in the AL that is good enough to beat them, and the AL comes into these playoffs better than the NL in my eyes. I hope I’m wrong, but I think the Yankees are about a month away from another parade.
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