2014 MLB Playoff Preview
162 up and 162 down. The regular season has reached its end and now only 10 teams remain. One team will be able to call themselves champions while the other nine quads will be left wanting. Who will hoist the trophy this year?
American League Wild Card Playoff - Oakland Athletics @ Kansas City Royals
For the first time since their World Series title in 1985 the Kansas City Royals are in the dance. They ended their 29-year playoffs drought Friday which was the longest in all four North American sports. Kudos to you K.C., but the job isn't done yet. They draw a tough match-up here vs. Oakland who had the best record in baseball for much of the year.Anything can happen in one game and this one has the making of a pitcher's duel.
Oakland will be relying on trade deadline pickup Jon Lester who has plenty of postseason experience including winning it all last year as a member of the Boston Red Sox. Designated hitter Adam Dunn will be making his postseason debut and has hinted at retiring at the end of the year. As I mentioned earlier the A's had the best record in the bigs for much of the season but have really struggled as of late. One and done could be just what they need or it could spell disaster.
K.C on the other hand will be sending out "Big Game James" [Shields] who has pitched in a World Series himself back in his Tampa Bay days. The Royals were criticized heavily when they traded away stud prospect Wil Myers in order to bring Shields to Kansas City but this is exactly why they went after him. They may not have a lot of power but they have found ways to win games and have perhaps the most dominant bullpen in baseball.
This is about as much of a coin flip as there is this postseason and I honestly won't be shocked by whichever team advances but I am going to lean ever so slightly towards KC. I have a feeling Kauffman Stadium will be rocking unlike ever before and the home crowd will help propel the Royals to the next round. At least I hope so.
National League Wild Card Playoff - San Fransisco Giants @ Pittsburgh Pirates
For the second year in a row there will be playoff baseball in Pittsburgh. Last year the Pirates were baseball's playoff darling and nearly advanced to the NLCS. Will they be darlings again this year or will the playoff tested Giants play the spoiler?
San Francisco has been ready for their win or go home game. Ace Madison Bumgarner is set to take the mound and there aren't many NL pitchers you'd want in this type of game more than him. Former MVP Buster Posey is always a threat and Hunter Pence will bring his unorthodox style to PNC Park. The rest of the Giants offense isn't littered with big names but they all produce. If they can get a few runs on the board early this one could be over quickly because....
For some reason the Pirates are sending Edinson Volquez to the mound. Why? I have no idea. Maybe Clint Hurdle doesn't even know. Volquez does have one playoff start under his belt and didn't make it out of the second inning. That was also the game Roy Halladay threw a postseason no-hitter. San Fran isn't the only team with a former MVP, however, as Andrew McCutchen patrols the outfield for the Bucs. He took home the hardware last year and has a shot at a repeat.
Does Pittsburgh have a shot at a repeat in the NLDS? Well, technically, yes because they are in the wild card game. I don't think it's a good shot, though. Not with Volquez on the mound. But hey, maybe he will surprise me. Maybe Bumgarner lays an egg. Anything can happen and that's why they play the games. And in case I wasn't clear, I'm going with San Fran here.
American League Division Series - Detroit Tigers @ Baltimore Orioles
This match-up is set and it looks like it's going to be a doozy. The Tigers vaunted pitching staff vs the O's potent lineup. Star power abounds in this series: Verlander, Scherzer, Cabrera, Price, Kinsler and the list goes on and on. If you'll notice those players all don Detroit jerseys. Where are Baltimore's big names? A few are on the disabled list such as Wieters and Machado. Davis is suspended. Jimenez may not even be in the rotation. Jones is still there, I won't discount him, but this is a one-sided star-studded event.
That said, Baltimore hasn't flinched when they lost their stars. Caleb Joseph has filled in nicely for Wieters. Steve Pearce has been the power that Davis just didn't have this year. Rookie Kevin Gausman has picked up the pieces Jimenez has left on the ground. This is truly a next man up kind of team and that's admirable. Buck Showalter should get serious consideration for Manager of the Year and the O's should get serious consideration for being a legit World Series threat.
The Tigers have been here and done that. They were in the World Series two years ago and were a favorite to get back there in the beginning of the year. Nobody can argue the talent, it's all there. And the pitching? Forget about it. Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello and Price are deadly no matter how you line them up. In a long series their pitching and hitting should be able to overcome any team that stands in their way.
As much as I want the O's to advance I just don't see it happening. I'm going with Detroit but this series is going to take the full five games.
National League Division Series - St. Louis Cardinals @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Does anyone remember the All-Star game controversy when manager Mike Matheny chose Adam Wainwright to be the starter over Clayton Kershaw? Well, guess who will be squaring off in Game One? Ooooh the intrigue!
The Cards have been the model of consistency in the NL over the last decade as they are seemingly in the postseason every year. In fact, they've advanced at least to the NLCS the past three years winning two pennants and one title along the way. That is sustained excellence. This is a team, however, that has struggled to score runs this season plating only 619 which was their lowest total since 1995. That may be their downfall because...
Kershaw plays for the Dodgers and odds are he will pitch twice in this series save for a Cards sweep. His numbers this year were other worldly as he led the league in wins, ERA, complete games, WHIP, ERA+, FIP, K/9 and that isn't even the whole list. Oh and did I mention he missed a month due to injury? Video game numbers are jealous of those numbers.
That being said I'll take whatever team Kershaw plays for.
That's as far as I can take the matchups for now. Maybe that isn't fair to the Los Angeles Angels or the Washington Nationals but I can't really predict the outcome of their series without knowing their opponent. I do, however, expect them both to oust whoever comes out of the wild card playoff.
As for a World Series pick? Well, how about the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Detroit Tigers. Think of the pitching! Verlander, Scherzer, Price and Porcello against Kershaw, Greinke and possibly Ryu as well. It should be fun.