2009 Playoff Predictions
It's the first time in 2 years that the Cubs won't be influencing my bracket. The last time that happened was in 2006 and I had the A's winning it all and the Tigers and Cardinals losing in the first round. It's always important to remember when reading my entries that I'm an idiot. If you want, MLB is running a bracket challenge that you can enter, or throw your guesses in the comments. I haven't seen a neat and tidy place with official playoff rosters, so the ex-Cub factor below is a guess at this point and it's possible I missed a Cub connection.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers
The Dodgers started off hot for 2 months and then coasted the last 4 months and their best pitcher had a 5.21 ERA in September (Billingsley). That leaves Randy Wolf as their ace, walk-happy Clayton Kershaw, and now Vicente Padilla(chuckle) getting Game 3. The Cardinals finished below .500 in Sept/Oct after a ridiculous August, but have the most feared hitter in the game, some decent protection around him for once and a solid bullpen. This series reminds me too much of the Cubs vs. Dodgers last year, except the Cards are the Dodgers this time.
unoffical ex-Cub Factor: Cards - 1(Mark DeRosa, Wellemeyer may still make roster, don't think Lohse counts), Dodgers - 1 (Juan Pierre, don't think Garland counts)
Secret Sauce: Dodgers
My Prediction: Cards in 3.
Rockies vs. Phillies
The Rockies were 72-41 since June and have a much better pitching staff than their Coors Field numbers suggest. Ubaldo Jimenez is as good as they get in my opinion, with Aaron Cook and Jason Hammel to follow. Poor Jason Marquis may not even get the Game 4 start, but that's probably best for the Rockies. Rockies were 2nd in the league in home runs and runs scored to the Phillies, so you'd expect some guys crossing the plate early and often, but you never know in 3-5 games what will happen. The Phillies would be wise to shelf Brad Lidge and hand over late innings to Ryan Madson and maybe Brett Myers. Cliff Lee has been beaten up since his first coupe of starts with the Phillies and Cole Hamels seems to be paying for all the innings he threw in their title run last year. I think the Phils will be tough to knock off as defending champs, but the Rockies will prevail. And when in doubt, bet against the ex-Cub factor.
unoffical ex-Cub Factor: Rockies - 1(Marquis), Phillies - 4 (Paul Bako, Matt Stairs, Miguel Cairo, Scott Eyre)
Secret Sauce: Colorado
My Prediction: Rockies in 5
Red Sox vs. Angels
When the Angels beat the Red Sox in a playoff series, I'll pick them. Until that happens, I'm going with the Red Sox, plus I like their starters and bullpen more.
unoffical ex-Cub Factor: Red Sox - 1(if Gathright makes postseason roster), Angels - 1 (Gary Matthews Jr.)
Secret Sauce: Boston
My Prediction: Red Sox in 4
Twins vs. Yankees
I could see the Twins taking Game 1 riding the wave of September and last night, but ultimately I can't get behind a team missing Justin Morneau and Kevin Slowey. The Yanks have easily been the best team in baseball all year, still have Mariano Rivera closing and I think Burnett, Sabathia and Petitte along with a far superior offense than any other team should carry them through the playoffs.
unoffical ex-Cub Factor: Twins- 2(Brendan Harris, Ron Mahay), Yankees - 3 (Chad Gaudin, Jose Molina, Jerry Hairston Jr....Eric Hinske doesn't count I believe)
Secret Sauce: Yankees
My Prediction: Yankees in 3
Cardinals over Rockies in 6, Yankees over Red Sox in 5
Secret Sauce: Rockies and Yankees
Yankees over Cardinals in 6
Secret Sauce: Yankees
Not as a major factor, but could be a tie-breaker. But, yeah, on performance and experience, it's Coghlan.
Arrieta’s 2.85 ERA would be good enough to lead 26 other teams. He's 3rd on #Cubs behind Hendricks (1.99) and Lester (2.28)
Meanwhile on the SouthSide
For sure! Russell and Baez are the first infielders in a while to make me think of star defensive players in football or basketball--it's almost like they force turnovers, and they definitely play the field with a degree of athletic aggression I'd expect from a linebacker.
[Edit: Was meant to be a response to JB above.]
tebow hit a HR in the 1st pitch he sees in instructs..lulz.
I don't think his issue(s) will have anything to do with it. He hasn't hit since he's been back. Coghlan has the hot hand.
I'm not a denier but definitely a skeptic on Strop and Grimm, who struggle with fastball control. Strop doesn't go near the ninth inning, and note how Grimm couldn't close the deal even with a 5-run lead. So Felix Pena comes in and gets the 3-pitch game-ending strikeout like it was nothing.
And how about Almora missing that very catchable ball? That was unexpected after all the hype about his glove.
When Trea Turner misses balls like that--which he does--I draw conclusions from it. It seems to be the one chink in his armor. But I'll give Almora another chance.
Assuming Soler is good to go, I think it comes down to 3 of the following 4: Coghlan, TLS, Sczcur, Almora. Of the 4, TLS seems to be the hardest to justify, particularly given his behavioral issues.
I'm wondering if both Coghlan and LaStella make it. With Javy being able to play all the infield spots and Joe maybe wanting late-inning D when Soler plays (assuming he plays), hence either Szczur or Almora, I think LaStella might be the odd guy out.
Hendricks needs the win, anyway, plus a couple more.
My hunch is that Hendricks wins the Cy Young . . . for Lester. That is, without Hendricks tipping the scale toward the Cubs, Scherzer tops Lester.
Old Cub fans remember when Ken Hubbs died at 22 in the crash of a small plane he was piloting in a storm in Utah in 1964. But Hubbs was not an elite power pitcher like Score and Fernandez. Score lived a long time after the accident but it was (effectively) career-ending.
HAGSAG: Since I've only seen them throw in one game and in one "live" BP session, all I can do is provide initial first impressions.
Brailyn Marquez is listed at 6'4 but is probably more like 6'5 or 6'6. I would describe him as a younger version of Bryan Hudson, throwing a ton of ground balls but not getting a lot of swings & misses (yet). Because of his size he could eventually grow into more velocity, but right now he's mostly a pitch-to-contact guy. He generally throws strikes.
Phil, do Marquez and Ocampo look like prospects?
It helps when your defense has declared war against the H in WHIP.
Lackey finishes with a 3.35 ERA. Currently good for 13th in the NL. Not bad for a guy signed to be a #3 starter in a 15-team league.
He is also 6th in WHIP. Pretty amazing: Cubs have the #2, #3, #5 and #6 starters in WHIP.
Completely meaningless game, but Pena striking out Sean the Turd to with the bases loaded was very fun.
Other than one bad game in SD, Pena has been very good. Even with that game, 9.0 IP, 13 K, 0.89 WHIP.