Friday, September 29, 2006

The Playoff Possibilities

So much for a Yankee-free October. Haven't seen that since Buck Showalter was wearing pinstripes and the Yanks only had two or three all-stars on the whole team. But which team can be the 2005 Angels of this season? Let's find out:

TIGERS - The big surprise team, making the playoffs for the first time since the juiced-ball year of 1987.
PROS: Good offensive players in Carlos Guillen and Magglio Ordonez. Excellent pitching staff; their top four starters (Rogers, Verlander, Robertson and Bonderman) all have ERAs under 4.00. And that bullpen: Zumaya and Rodney are huge, and Todd Jones reeled off 37 saves this year. Leyland's been a big x-factor.
CONS: Kenny Rogers. Also, Verlander has been shaky of late; is the workload catching up to him? Finally, none of the hitters really scare you. Does seeing Curtis Granderson up in a big spot rank up there in the "oh shoot" factor? Not at all. And the Moneyball-heads hate the fact that the Tigers don't walk a lot.
OVERALL: Yanks can easily beat these guys. Rogers will get his butt kicked, Verlander will get worn out from throwing all those pitches at a patient Yankee lineup, and the Detriot bats can easily get cooled off by Wang and Mussina. If Detroit can keep the games low-scoring and close, like 3-2 or something, they'll have a shot.

A's - Moneyball rules again.
PROS: Zito and Haren are solid starters, though not anything close to the 2001 version of this team. Harden and Loaiza have been hot lately. Frank Thomas (38 HR) and Nick Swisher (34 HR) give this team their best home run threats since Giambi and Tejada of that year. The Yanks would not want to see the Big Hurt in a big spot. Bullpen is pretty good, with Calero, Duscherer, and Huston Street at the end.
CONS: Since the Beane era began, the A's have never won a playoff series. Like a true Moneyball team, the A's don't run; their catcher, Jason Kendall, leads the team with 11 steals. Don't hold your breath waiting for any Dave Roberts moments.
OVERALL: I think the A's can turn an ALDS series into a 5-gamer, but will they finally have what it takes to put them over the top?

TWINS -So many of us counted them out early on, but what a run they've mounted.
PROS: Minny had the best team average in the AL (.288), with some help from Mauer (.349) and Morneau (.322). With Morneau's 34 HR and Hunter's 30, there's more power here than in years past. Santana is probably the best pitcher in the AL, and is huge for a short series. Neshek, Juan Rincon, and Joe Nathan provide for a very good pen. And historically, the Twinkies have always had a big home-field advantage.
CONS: Rotation is questionable after Santana; Radke is pitching with heart now, and not much else. Losing Liriano was a big, big hit. Offense can be spotty. Haven't been able to beat Yanks in past ALDS.
OVERALL: It wouldn't surprise me if they beat the Yankees. It wouldn't either surprise me if they win one Santana game and don't stand a chance the rest of the series.

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