I trotted out my playoff prediction process
last year at my old site. Before we begin, let me point out that picking names out of a hat or some sort of other randomness would be just as successful. My record last year in the first round, well my original picks went 3-1, but I discovered the Yanks led the league in come from behind victories (See Rule #2), which would have changed my one pick and I would have went 4-0. Onto The Rules:
#1) Find the teams that have been playing well for longer than a week....a good 2 month stretch or longer is nice.
Records of the playoff teams since August 1st:
Yankees (39-20), Angels (35-22), White Sox (31-28), Red Sox (36-22) Astros (32-25), Cardinals (34-24), Padres (31-26), Braves (29-28)
Edge to the Yanks, Red Sox and Cardinals.
#2) Find teams that have a knack for coming from behind
(2002 - Angels, 2003 - Marlins, 2004 - Boston, 2005 - Cardinals)
I wish I could find a team stat for come from behind victories but I recall the Cardinals coming back in a lot of games and pullling off a few miraculous victories. The Yanks as well and the White Sox had some miracle victories early on in the season.
#3) 2 dominant starters on staff equals trouble for other team.
And by dominant, I mean pitchers who you feel lucky that you even managed contact off of. Sure the White Sox have had a good pitching staff all year, but depth isn't nearly as important as top-level starters. And none of their pitchers are all that frightening in my opinion, same goes for the Cardinals. Astros have the edge here, along with the Braves. No one in the AL really has 2 dominant starters in my opinion, all settling for just one. (White Sox - maybe Garcia, Red Sox - Schilling, Yankees - Johnson, Angels - maybe Colon, Lackey has been making his case this year).
#4) Aggressive managing is better than the same old thing works managing.
It's the playoffs folks, (duh)! The same rules don't apply. Starters can be used as relievers, you can pinch-hit or run for catchers even if you don't have another backup, etc, etc. Scioscia and Torre get the edge in the AL, just cause we don't know how Guillen will play it yet. I didn't really get a sense of how much Francona understood the do or die mentatlity last year. In the NL, LaRussa and Cox seem set in their ways. I'm not sure about Bochy. Garner is aggressive, stupid, but aggressive.
#5) Never go for a team with a bad defense particularly up the middle (CF, 2b, SS & C)
Team Defensive Efficiency:
White Sox (2nd)
Red Sox (23rd)
Looking at the teams up the middle, the Yanks are certainly nothing special, especially if Bernie is patrolling center everyday. Cano and Jeter are lackluster as well. The White Sox and Angels are both exceptional though. In the NL, Cards have been other-wordly. The Braves rank a lot lower in defensive efficiency then I would have expected, cause Giles, Furcal and Jones are all top-notch. Surprised to see the Astros up there.
#6) And of course there is the ex-Cub factor:
Ruz covered this on the front page of all-baseball.com
To sum up, Yanks and Cards are in the biggest trouble, with the White Sox, Astros and Angles all only housing one. Thr Braves are the only other team with less than the magical three.
It's a series of tradeoffs as always, and this year there's just not one team that really seems to have all their bases covered. At the moment I'm leaning towards the Braves and Angels, but that could change by the end of this article:
Here's one man's playoff predictions:
Cardinals vs. Padres
Oh, how fun would it be if the Padres won this series? Talk about a slap in the face of the current playoff system. And with Jake Peavy potentially getting 2 starts in the series, it's certainly not out of the realm of possibility. And if the Padres can keep the games close early, they have a relatively lights out bullpen. Plus you have Tony LaRussa over-managing at every possible moment. All these crazy reasons to pick the Padres...
But I don't see it happening, the Padres are just happy to be here, the Cards have something to prove:
Cards over Padres in 4
Astros vs. Braves
The Astros certainly have cornered the market on dominating pitching, but Hudson and Smoltz aren't chopped liver. Smoltz's shoulder may be the key as he's been experiencing some soreness lately. But I like the Braves this series, their lineup is tremendously better and the law of averages say the Braves have to escape the first round one of these days.
Braves over Astros in 5
Yankees vs. Angels
I really want to pick the Angels here as they seemed to have had the Yanks number for years now. But the Yanks are the uber-hot team entering the playoffs and the Angels offense is pretty darn pathetic. But there is the ex-Cub factor which should not be taken lightly. Plus Scioscia will constantly put pressure on the Yanks defense by taking extra bases and stealing at every opportunity. Something the Yanks handled horribly in the 2002 ALDS and this team's defense doesn't look much better. Tough, tough call. But hard to pick a team that is going to expect Shawn Chacon or Chien-Ming Wang to have to win a game. In the end, I know the Angels won't beat themselves, I wouldn't be surprised if the Yanks do.
Angels over Yanks in 5 (and I'm horribly biased towards the Angels)
Red Sox vs. White Sox
Sox win, Sox win!!! Well one of them has too and this is even a tougher series to call then the Angels/Yanks. Schilling isn't going to start until Game 4 which spells trouble in mind. This Red Sox team doesn't seem to have the same fire that last year's team had, just ask Schilling. The White Sox avoided that late-season collapse though and they can't be feeling too confident either. Tough call, go with the defense and better pitching. But wait, El Papi and Manny versus Who? Paul Konerko? God I don't know...
White Sox over Red Sox in 5, wait Red Sox over White Sox in 5, wait Sox in 5. I dunno. I have to pick, right? The ex-Cub factor gets the nod, White Sox in 5.
NLCS: Braves over Cardinals in 7
ALCS: Angels over White Sox in 5
World Series: Angels over Braves in 7
I don't have a good feeling about any of theses series other than the Cards over the Padres. That being the case, I'm going with the tried-and-true system of the ex-Cub factor. It's all a bunch of subjective phooey anyway. That's my call at the moment and I'm fairly certain I'll be more wrong than right this year.