Let’s go Rangers!

What a difference a week makes – three of my four LDS picks have been eliminated already, and the Cardinals are fighting to drop me to 0-4 this postseason.  Personally I’m rooting for the Rangers in the LCS, mostly because I can’t stand to see Jose Valverde get any more overrated if he keeps his save record perfect.  In the NLCS, it’s a different story.  I’m loosely rooting for the Brewers, but this series has been so exciting so far that I don’t really care who wins.  For me, it’s just fun watching two awesome series, and looking forward to the Yankees offseason a little bit.  Fun times in baseball right now.

Yanks, Phillies, D-backs eliminated

Like the title says:  The Yankees, Phillies, and Diamonbacks have been eliminated, thus negating 3 of my 4 postseason predictions.  The D-backs didn’t come as a surprise to many, they were the type of team many considered successful just for making their way to the playoffs, so it’s no insult to see them drop out against a team that was considered stronger, especially when they hung on right down to the wire, going into extra innings in game 5 after rallying against Brewers closer John Axford.  The Phillies and Yankees, though, are a different story.  While not everyone expected them to win it all, fans are clearly unhappy with an early exit, with some claiming wither team should be broken up, or that “they knew all along” that the team couldn’t win because of some “unclutch player”.  Take your pick, it could be A-rod, Nick Swisher, or Ryan Howard or any of half a dozen others.  Both teams won the msot games in their league, and to me that counts for something.  As a Yankee fa, sure I would have liked to see them come back against Jose Valverde and make it the the ALCS, but sometimes it’s just not in the cards.  And while I won’t sit here and claim that the Yankees (or the Phillies) were the absolute best team in their league, many have pointed out that it’s very common for the “better” team to suffer an upset in the postseason.  Many ‘casual fans’ don’t understand this, though, and seem to come out of the woodwork every October just to show how much they hate their own team.  To me, all three of these teams had a successful season, and I’m looking forward to what is currently promising to be an excellent pair of LCS series.

Rangers Elminate Rays

As everyone knows, yesterday the Rays were eliminated in Game 4 by the Texas Rangers.  It’s been real, Tampa Bay, I rooted hard for you as a fan of the Yankees, but more importantly as a fan of baseball.  Your wild comeback should go down in history as one of the greatest of all time, even with the first round exit.  Dan Johnson’s name will be remembered for years based on no discernible hitting skill, other than an ability to deliver season altering home runs seemingly on demand.  Better luck next year.

NL Postseason

I’m a bit torn on who to root for in the National League postseason matchups.  I like the underdog nature of the Diamondbacks, but I can’t see them getting to far in a tough field.  On the other hand, it be nice to the the Brewers do  well, since this might be their last year with Prince Fielder, and the same could be said for the Cardinals.   To top it off, I live in Philadelphia now, but while some might want me to root for the home team, I can’t see I want to face Halladay in the World Series, especially not after some first hand experience with Cliff Lee from 2009.  The Brewers and D-backs are tied scoreless as I write, with Cy Young “candidate” Ian Kennedy taking on Yovani Gallardo.*

*This is nothing against Kennedy, who has pitched well.  But his name in Cy Young discussions is way out of place, in my opinion.  I’ll likely discuss this later, when the awards season starts.

 

NLDS:

Brewers over Diamondbacks

This years D-backs are almost the Rays of the NL, making things happen by getting good performances out of seemingly unlikely players.  However, the similarities end there, because while the Rays do so with manager Joe Maddon pushing all the right buttons, the Diamondbacks look like a good team, propelled to the elite by some good fortune.  The Brewers, on the other hand, are a powerhouse, stacked in the rotation (Greinke, Gallardo and Marcum), the lineup (MVP contenders Fielder and Ryan Braun provide the biggest punch) and the bullpen (second year closer John Axford is backed up by former Met closer Francisco Rodriguez).  In much the way that I picked the Yankees to beat the Tigers, I pick the Brewers here.  They’re just better, and I think they can win this series.

 

Phillies over Cardinals

I’ve made it no secret that I think the Phillies are overrated among my friends.  Yes, they are a very good team, with the best record in baseball.  I simply don’t think they’re that much better.  The trade for Hunter Pence beefed up their lineup, but it still has issues, notably Ryan Howard’s tendency to be neutralized by lefthanded pitching.  However, their pitching staff is stacked beyond belief, with three of the best starters in perhaps all of baseball.  I don’t think the team as a whole the monster every says they are, but they are quite good.  The Cards, on the other hand, feature a rotation that is solid, but nothing special, which might be different had they not missed Adam Wainwright for the entire season.  Their offense has a high powered core, with a resurgent Lance Berkman teaming up with Pujols and Holliday, but the role players filling out the lineup don’t exactly strike fear into enemy pitchers.  I have to pick the Phillies here.

 

ALCS:

I’m going to buck trend here and pick the Brewers taking down the Phillies.  I’m not sure why, but much like the Rays, I just have a feeling the Brewers can win this.   Good pitching is supposed to beat good hitting, but we saw H2O get beaten last year, and I think Fielder, Braun (and Tony Plush!) could be the team to do it again.  Plus, the Brewers have some strong pitching of their own, so it’s not a forgone conclusion that they can’t shut down the Phillies offense either.

 

That leaves us with a Yankees Brewers world series, and while I try my best to stay objective, it’s hard to pick against my favorite team.  That said, I do think the Yankees are an overall stronger team.  The lineup is deeper, and while the Brewers may have an edge in the rotation, it’s not a giant advantage, so I’ll pick the Yankkes to win it all, with the obvious disclaimer of not exactly complete objectivity on the issue.

Postseason Predictions

It’s Friday evening as of this writing, and I don’t think much more needs to be said about the craziness that was September 28th, 2011 in the baseball world, but I’ll say one thing anyway.  I’ve been following baseball for a few years now, which is a relatively short time compared to some die hard fans.  The other night was, without a doubt, the greatest single even in the history of my time as a fan, and I know that some more seasoned fans are saying the same thing.  In 50 years, I’ll look forward to being able to tell about how I watched live the night that the Cardinals and Rays came back, The Sox and Braves completed twin collapses to rival the worst ever, and Dan Johnson and Evan Longoria secured places in Tampa Bay legend.

Anyway, on to more current issues.  The playoffs are upon us, and I’ll cut to the chase, here are my predictions for the AL postseason matchups.

ALDS:

Yankees over Tigers.     The Tigers have one big advantage, name Justin Verlander.  But, despite Verlander’s great performance this season, it’s a little realized fact that CC Sabathia is not all that far behind him in performance.  Throw in Miguel Cabrera, who’s been solidly better than Te x, and Alex Avila, who’s bested Russell Martin but still isn’t a hitter that strikes the rear of god into opposing pitchers, and the Yankees are better than the Tigers as essentially every position.  Some might trumpet Doug Fister as the X-factor in this series, and he has been utterly dominant the last few weeks, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume Fister has been pitching over his head a bit.  If he shines, well, I’ll owe him an apology, but I don’t think he’ll be unbeatable, and I’m picking the Yankees to handle the Tigers.

Rays over Rangers

The Rangers are a very strong team, led by sluggers like Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, a resurgent Michael Young, and a surging-for-the-first-time Mike Napoli.  CJ Wilson has beet dominant, with a 2.94 ERA and a 3.24 FIP in his second full year as a starter, and rotation-mates Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Derek Holland have been solid.   Beyond the rotation, Neftali Feliz hsan’t been as great as last year, but has still had a decent season, and he’s joined by midseason reinforcements Mike Adams and Koji Uehara.  The Rangers have also decided to move Alexi Ogando to the bullpen for the playoff, a decision that makes the most of his skill set.

With all of that said, I just think the Rays can beat them.  I don’t normally put too much stock in “intangibles’, but if there ever was a team that had them, it’s the Rays, and me personal theory is that this stems from the excellent managing of Joe Maddon, who seems to make the right move every time, even when its unconventional.   Add to that the Rays pitching staff, headlined by co-aces David Price and James Shields, and I can just see the Rays finding a way to win this series.  Don’t ask me how they’ll do it, it could be through dominant pitching, clutch hits, aggressive baserunning, or great defense, but I think they can find a way.

*Update: The Rays have decided to start Matt Moore, he of the one major league start, in Game One.  As I said, nothing this team does surprises me.  I’ve been saying they should start Moore for about a week now, this could be another move that helps them find an edge.

ALCS:

Yankees over Rays

I’ll be honest here, I’m essentially picking the Yankees because I don’t want to pick against my own team, but nothing would surprise me in this series.  If the Rays win the ALDS, they’ll have the ability to set their rotation up in the best order, which will make them even more dangerous.  On the other hand, the Yankees bring baseball’s version of brute force to the table, which turns this series into a battle of brains vs. brawn, and anything can (and I think will) happen.  While I do think that the Yankees have an edge based on the overall superior players, like I said before, the Rays and Joe Maddon have a way of squeezing maximum value out of their players, and like my prediction for the ALDS, it would not be surprising to see them find a way to pull this series out.

The ALDS starts tonight at 5, Jeff Niemann Matt Moore vs. CJ Wilson, followed by Sabathia-Verlander at 8:30.

I’m Back

It’s been a while for me since I started the Logical Fan Blog a year ago.  I originally intended to update regularly with my thoughts, but as we all know, things don’t always go to plan, and I’ve been out of action as I applied to graduate school, and then moved to Philadelphia (for school, of course).  It’s been a long great season, with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia turning back the clock, Jesus Montero making a splash, Jeter and Mariano making history, and more.  I’m back with more thoughts on the Yankees and the rest of baseball, hopefully on a little more regular schedule.  For now, I’m getting ready to enjoy some preview playoff baseball tonight, with the Rays, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Braves all fighting for postseason spots.

Make New Friends, and Keep the Old

As of today, really as of several weeks ago, the Yankees are in the midst of a change.  Chances are you already know that Andy Pettitte has decided to retire after a long and successful career.  Much has been written about Pettitte today, so I won’t spend too much time repeating what better writers have said, other than to say that I, like practically all fans, will miss him, both for the sake of the team, and as a great player in his own right.  As a young and relatively recent fan, I don’t have a long history of Andy Pettitte memories, but since I knew anything about baseball, I’ve known Pettitte was a great player, and I wish I had seen him play more while I had the chance.

But, what’s done is done, and I’ll leave debates about Andy’s career, his legacy to the Yankees, the retirement of number 46 and his case, if any, to make the Hall, to other writers.  With the confirmation that Pettitte will not be back this year, the Yankees have few decisions left to make regarding the upcoming season.  As the title suggests, they’ve been busy making a few new friends this winter, and no friend is newer outfielder Justin Maxwell, fresh off a DFA by the Nationals.  Maxwell is known to be a good defender, capable of playing all three OF spots, and looks to show a little bit of power as well.  He ought to be a qualified contender for the final bench spot on the big league team, and even if he never becomes any more than a bench player, he can still have depth value to the team.  More important, though, is what young players like Maxwell represent.  Although he himself may not be a major prospect, the time is coming soon when other young prospects will be moving into important roles.  Andy Pettitte’s retirement represents the first in a series of several departure the team will suffer over the upcoming years.  2011 may well be the last we see of Core Four member Jorge Posada, and while Mariano Rivera has aged gracefully, Derek Jeter figures to suffer the effects of aging soon, if he isn’t already.  Alex Rodriguez isn’t getting any younger, and slugger Mark Teixeira will enter the realm of the elderly over the next few seasons.  Of course, help is on the way, in the form of several highly regarded young players.

Coinciding with the loss of Pettitte, the Yanks are set to make a major addition to the team at some point this year, when catcher Jesus Montero makes it to the show.  While there have been concerns about his defense, everybody in the know claims that his bat will approach elite, possibly even legendary, status.  Posada has already proven that offensive production can offset some defensive deficiency, so I find it hard to think that Montero will be less than acceptable as the team’s everyday catcher.  And remember, Montero will only be 21 this year, he’ll still likely be in his prime as A-Rod and Teixeira’s contracts expire, so if his defense does prove to be a problem, he can always catch for a season or three, then transition to be more of a first base/DH type.  For the potential of an elite bat in the lineup long-term, the Yanks will make it work.  Behind Montero, several more talented players are advancing the ranks, including fellow catcher Austin RomineBrandon Laird has shown some prowess with the stick, and seems ready to contribute in a utility role on a big league team, while younger prospects like Gary Sanchez (C), Cito Culver (SS), and Rob Segedin (3B) show some serious promise for the future.  Most of these guys won’t be ready in 2011, but we could see some of the post-Montero prospect class making an impact as early as 2012.

Pitching-wise, the same is true.  Granted, things look pretty bleak at the major league level right now, but there are several players at AAA who have the potential to help piece things together in 2011, and by 2012, some of the more celebrated prospects will begin approaching major league readiness.  I won’t go into detail because I’ve already looked at pitching in depth here.  Sure, it doesn’t help right now, but knowing the Yankees, they can make it work in 2011 with the help of some current prospects, and the promise of more serious talent on the way.

Some fans have been talking about 2011 being a bridge year.  It won’t be, not in the usual sense of teams that must suffer several painful seasons while rebuilding the talent pool (see: Kansas City Royals).  2011 may be a bridge year only in name for the New York Yankees:  Even without Pettitte, even without any upgrades at all to the rotation, the team still projects to be highly competitive, and that is where the Yankees have an advantage over other rebuilding teams: Much like construction in New York City, the Yanks have the ability to stay highly competitive, even as they go through the process of retooling to become a newer, stronger, more streamlined team.  The 2011 team won’t be the superstar filled powerhouse of 2009, but let’s be honest – the Yankees will do just fine with “only” a reduced number of stars.  Even if they aren’t at the absolute top of the game in 2010, they still have a team set up to be highly successful with a few in-season moves, and with the exciting new players on the way, we can look forward to continued success for a long time.