Baseball’s Crapshoot: The 2014 Brunch MLB Playoff Preview

October baseball is right up there with some of the most unpredictable sports in America.  From Kirk Gibson’s broken leg home run, to the Red Sox epic comeback in ’04, it’s almost a guarantee that every year will produce a few signature moments and stars.  For this column, the Brunch writers have teamed up to compile a comprehensive preview of what is to come in this beautiful month.  Joe Caputo, Chris Molicki, and Will Anari each drafted from the pool of 10 teams and were required to study them, analyze them, and study them some more.  Now, as experts, Caputo, Molicki, and Anari provide to you every team’s season recap, and their best and worst scenario for October.  At the end, the guys give you the team that they think will be hoisting the World Series trophy when it’s said and done.


Los Angeles Angels by Joe Caputo

It took years, but Trout and the Angels are finally here.  The Angels seem to be this year’s version of the Red Sox; average pitching staff, average defense, but the offense has carried them.  The issue with that statement, however, is that the Angel hitting isn’t as good as last year’s Red Sox.  In fact, in the second half of the season, the Angels as a team are hitting just .245.  Why is this a problem?  Well, like the Orioles, the Angels lack top flight pitching, especially since the injury to ace Garrett Richards.  They will now rely on the combination of Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Matt Shoemaker, and a player to bemike-trout-batting-rainbow-cleats-geeks-and-cleats named later to get them through October.  One thing the Angels do have, though, is Mike Trout.  Although it’s hard for one player on a baseball team to make a huge impact, you can argue that the main reason the Angels finished with the best record in the American League was Mike Trout.  Additionally, the only, and I mean only way the Angels have a shot to win this thing this year is if Mike Trout is at his best.  Not just good, I mean Mr. October good.  I mean .400/.450/.550 slash-line good.  If not, the Angels could have trouble despite being the AL’s top team.

Best Case Scenario– Mike Trout is that good.  He hits .419 throughout the Postseason.  In the ALDS, he homers twice in Game off Jeff Samardjiza… and doesn’t look back.  The Angels beat their division rivals in games en route to an ALCS clash with the Tigers.  From there, Matt Shoemaker outduels Max Scherzer in both of their meetings, earning ALCS MVP honors.  In the World Series, the trio of Calhoun, Trout, and Pujols are simply too much to handle.  Calhoun sets the table stealing bases in the series.  Trout, once again, works his magic.  Down 2 games to in Game , he robs a would-be game-tying home run off the bat of Yasiel Puig.  The Angels go on to win that game, and the next two.  Huston Street does not allow a run the entire postseason, and the Angels are crowned not only the best team in Los Angeles, but the best team in America.

Worst Case Scenario– it unravels for the Angels pitching staff.  CJ Wilson can’t find the strike zone, and Jered Weaver’s low ground ball rate comes back to bite him as he gives up first inning home runs to Donaldson and Dunn.  Trout pulls his hamstring running out a ground ball in Game 2, and the Angels are never able to recover.  They lose first round to their rivals, and to make matters worse, the A’s go on to beat the Dodgers win the World Series.


Baltimore Orioles by Joe Caputo

Finishing only a few games off the pace for home-field advantage, the Orioles are determined to prove they are the team to beat in the American League.  This is a different team than the one we saw in the Postseason a few years ago.  Although their offense has slightly declined, they’ve sured up what was a glaring weakness two years ago – the back of the bullpen.  In 2012, the O’s ‘pen posted a .88 xFIP and only 7.49 K/9.  This year, that xFIP is down to .54, and they’re striking out a few more batters as well.  The biggest difference?  O’s fans will be at ease knowing that instead of Jim Johnson trotting out trying to protect a lead in the 9th, it will be Zach Britton, whose 1.65 ERA ranked 11th among qualified relievers this season.  Darren O’Day and his 1.70 aren’t too shabby either.  One main area for concern?  The starting rotation.  A compilation of average starters and no real ace could put the Orioles at a major disadvantage in their first series against Detroit, a roster stacked with star-studded pitching.  Although I think the biggest O’s strength this season has been their excellent defense (49 defensive runs saved, tops in AL), their main source of offense has been their reliance on the long ball.  Their 211 home runs lead the American League by 34.  So why should Oriole fans be concerned about their offense?  Well, what if those fly balls fall short?  Remember, everyone does start in just a 5-game series where anything can happen, and 2 of those games will be played at Comerica Park, one of the least HR-friendly parks in the country.

Best Case Scenario– The Orioles get those fly balls to leave the park.  They get quality starts from 3 of their starters and beat the Tigers in 4.  Despite not having home-field vs. the Angels in the ALCS, they feel a lot more comfortable facing an Angel rotation that they can match-up with.  Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz win co-ALCS MVP as they hit game-tying and game-winning home runs in Game 6, sending the Orioles to the World Series for the first time since 1983.  Unfortunately, it’s there where they are outmatched by the Dodger rotation, and although fighting to get a Game 7 at home, Clayton Kershaw comes back on 3-days rest to pitch a complete game shutout and defeat them 5-0.  O’s fans give their team a standing ovation despite the heartbreaking loss.

Worst Case Scenario– the Tigers find Nelson Cruz in right field time and time again.  He commits 2 errors in Game 1, as the O’s lose a heartbreaker in extras.  In Game 2, Wei-Yein Chen gets bombed, and Max Scherzer shuts down the Oriole lineup.  Back in Detroit and up 2-0, Justin Verlander returns to his 27-year old form.  The legend that is Steve Pearce hits .111 in 9 postseason at-bats, and the Orioles fail to hit a home run in 3 games, as they are swept by the Tigers.


Detroit Tigers by Joe Caputo

nathanThe Tigers are set up, but we’ve seen this before.  Dominant rotation, great lineup, and an underachievement in October.  Why?  Look no further than that bullpen.  And this year, it might be worse than ever.  The Tigers is lineup is good.  Very good.  Led by Kinsler and ageless Torii Hunter at the top, the phenomenal Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the middle, and some JD Martinez splashed in, this lineup is on par with the rest of the top American League talent.  They will also be able to throw David Price and Max Scherzer twice each in the ALCS and World Series.  What can go wrong?

Now, the bullpen.  The Achilles heel for a team that has had arguably the most talent for the past several years.  As we saw in Boston last year, as we see with most World Series champions, it is almost imperative to have at least a closer who can come in and shut the door.  The Tigers simply do not have that.  Nathan has been dreadful.  Joba Chamberlain has been up and down, and Joakim Soria, who was supposed to solve all of the problems, has done everything but.  I’m just not sure a team with the 4th-worst bullpen ERA in baseball (in front of only the White Sox, Astros, and Rockies) can win the World Series.

Best Case Scenario– no bullpen, no problem.  Price pitches a complete game in Game 1.  Scherzer goes 8 in Game 2.  Verlander 7 and 2/3 in Game 3.  The Tigers only need just over an inning out of their bullpen in the ALDS as they sweep the Orioles and advance to the league championship series.  From there, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez steal the show.  They combine to hit 6 home runs in 5 games, as the Tigers set a record for most runs scored in an ALCS 5 game span.  Although their bullpen blows 2 leads, they are able to salvage one of those 2, and cruise to a 4-1 series win over the Angels.  Unfortunately, their luck runs out in the World Series.  The offense goes cold with the Detroit weather, and they drop both games at home to the Nats.  They’re able to salvage Games 4 and 5, but the Nationals close them out in Game 6.

Worst Case Scenario– no bullpen, PROBLEM.  Price goes 6 scoreless, but it takes him 110 pitches to do so.  Ausmus has to remove him in a 1-0 game, and the Oriole offense promptly explodes with 4 runs in the 7th.  Down 1-0, the Tigers get a gem from Scherzer to knot up the series.  But in Game 3, Verlander shows his true 2014 colors, getting rocked at Comerica.  The Tigers decide to go back to Price in Game 4, but he struggles on short rest, and they are closed out, going down with a whimper.  The Royals go on to win the World Series.


Kansas City Royals by Will Anari

The Kansas City Royals are in the playoffs? HAH. My thoughts exactly. Wait, the Royals are ACTUALLY in the playoffs? The answer is yes. What you may not have realized is that KC has been slowly progressing over the past two years. From 2009 to 2012, the Royals finished the regular season with at least 90 losses in each of them. Honestly, KC natives probably wanted to jump ship.  I don’t blame them. However in 2013 they posted a record of 86-76 and seriously started to open some eyes, mine included. Then, finally in 2014, after posting a record of 89-73 and only one game out of first place, the 29-year draught is over.

So who are these Kansas City Royals? Not a bunch of household names outside of Kansas City, that’s who. Their team just seems to have…it. The Kansas City bullpen has been the strength of this team. It’s arguably the best in baseball. This is where the Royals’ 2013 bullpen ranked since the advent of the designated hitter in 1973: 2.55 ERA (second-lowest), 1.133 WHIP (sixth-lowest), 9.57 strikeouts-per-nine (second-highest), 3.07 strikeout-to-walk ratio (fourth-best), .217 batting average against (sixth-lowest). This bullpen is the first team ever to have two relievers with at least 60 innings pitched, a strikeout rate of 10.0 or better and a WHIP below 0.90 (h/t Athony Castrovince, MLB.com). Greg Holland, the right-handed closer in his fourth year, finished 3rd in the league with 46 saves in 48 tries. Not to mention he also won 7 games on the year. And Luke Hochevar, a pitcher who was looking to find his place in baseball and found it in the KC bullpen. But how did Holland get all these saves? Lets take a look at the Royal’s starting pitching numbers. (WARNING: The following stats are going to look extremely mediocre):

Shields – 14-8, 3.21 ERA

Guthrie – 13-11 4.13 ERA

Vargas – 11-10 3.17 ERA

Ventura 14-10, 3.20 ERA

Duffy – 9-12 2.53 ERA

Hold on; imagine giving up three runs a game and walking into the dugout and saying “oh wow lets basically chalk this up as a win? Bullpen will take over.” That’s INSANE to me. Their offensive numbers must be incredible right?

Batting leaders:

 Norichika Aoki – .285 AVG.

Alex Gordon – 19 HR’s

Alex Gordon – 74 RBI’s

Alcides Escobar – 165 HITs

Seriously not something to write home about. But thankfully for Royals fans, sports aren’t played on paper. So what is so special about this team? They get on base, they score, and they don’t waste opportunities. When Alcides Escobar (SS) or Lorenzo Cain (CF) get on base, which they do often, they’re likely to end up on second within a blink of an eye. KC capitalizes when runners are in scoring position. This team is like the underdog that just “has it”, and honestly I’m on the bandwagon.

Best Case Scenario– The Athletics travel to Kansas City for a one game playoff and James Shields dominates like he can. The A’s have been brutal as of late, and especially on the road. Lucky for the Athletics, they have Jon Lester at the helm. However, there is something about this Kansas City magic that just seems right and the Royals win in “Royals” fashion. After Shields wins with ease, Guthrie takes the mound against the high-powered Angels. Honestly, this series is going to five if KC wants to advance. The Angels are (arguably) the best team in baseball. So after a long series, KC rides that underdog magic, shuts down Trout, and takes their talent one series further. Can’t put it past the Shields, Guthrie, Vargas 1-2-3 combo to dominate. Talent is definitely there. Royals are also better on the road, posting up a 47-34 record for the season. After getting to the World Series, the “Magic Royals” win 4 out of 5, with 2 complete game shutouts from Shields and Guthrie. George Brett charges the plate in celebration, this time, and not full of angst.

Worst Case Scenario– Jon Lester comes out and throws an absolute gem and shuts down this mediocre offense. The A’s play like the team we saw in July and shell Shields for 8 runs. Unfortunately, this seems like the more likely scenario. The A’s are just better overall in almost every aspect. Let’s say they do make it out of KC and to LA, Trout and the high powered offense explodes all over their starting pitching while Weaver/Wilson/Shoemaker 1-2-3 dominates like it has as of late (must be nice knowing you have such a great offense giving you run support). Once again, the Angels are better than the Royals in almost every aspect of the game. Royals get swept and it’s back to square 1.


Oakland Athletics by Joe Caputo

Bad luck?  Well the A’s have had a lot of it over the last few months of the season, but it was not quite enough to keep them out of the playoffs.  Now, they have a clean slate, and Jon Lester at the top of their rotation to kick off their hopes.  Lester, a World Series champion from a year ago, has not pitched poorly for Oakland.  As a matter of fact, their staff has not been the problem at all.  A rotation of Lester, Kazmir, Samardzija, and Gray could potentially be the best top-to-bottom rotation still playing.  Their bullpen is very good with Gregerson, Cook, and Doolittle anchoring the back, and they will even be able to use Jason Hammel in key spots.  Again, the pitching is not the problem.  The offense, since trading Cespedes, has been very bad.  It’s hard to tell which A’s offense is the real one, the first half offense, or the second.  Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson combined for 41 home runs in the first half.  In the second, just 13.  How do you explain statistics like that?  How do you know what to expect from this A’s offense?

628x471A lot of their second half struggles can indeed be attributed to bad luck.  A .268 team batting average on balls in play and a 6.4 home run to fly ball ratio are well below league averages.  To put that into perspective, the team hit .286 on balls in play and saw 9.1% of their fly balls leave the park in the first half of their season.  I find it hard to believe that the loss of Yoenis Cespedes, and only the loss of Yoenis Cespedes, is the reason.  At this point, though, the reason does not matter.  All that will matter, from here on out, is what the A’s can accomplish in October.

Best Case Scenario– The A’s wake up on Tuesday and remember they do know how to hit- or at least enough to be able to take advantage of stellar pitching performances.  Lester throws a gem to get them past the Wild Card round.  In the ALDS, their starters allow just 5 earned runs in 4 games, defeating the Angels and advancing to the ALCS.  In the ALCS, the Orioles simply cannot match them on the mound, and they advance on a sweep.  Finally, in the World Series, the A’s bats come alive, averaging 5 runs per game over the course of 6 games.  Jon Lester pitches a complete game shutout in the clincher, then goes on to win the World Series with the Cubs next year, becoming the first pitcher ever to win 3 straight championships with 3 different teams.

Worst Case Scenario– The A’s cannot score.  Whatever Bob Melvin tries to get them going does not work.  Sogard lines into a double play on a hit-and-run down 2-0 in the 8th, and the A’s get shut out in the Wild Card game by James Shields.  The Giants go on to win the World Series, again.  Billy Beane resigns.


Washington Nationals by Chris Molicki

It was two years ago when the Nationals decided to sit ace Stephen Strasburg, despite securing a postseason berth. The team was afraid to tax the arm of their stephen-strasburg-washington-nationalsyoung gun too much, leading to injuries that have plagued countless pitchers. You know the rest: Washington was heartbreakingly crushed by the Cardinals in the NLDS, which had fans furious. Here we are, two years later, and the Nats have the best record in the National League with Strasburg as their ace. Of course, nothing will matter until championships are won, but maybe the team made the right move on Strasburg.

The ironic thing is that the argument can be made that Strasburg isn’t even the team’s best pitcher. Jordan Zimmerman put together a 2.66 ERA this season and just capped it off with a no hitter in the final regular season game. Sure, he doesn’t have the fanning power of Strasburg, but this is a good issue for the Nationals to have, especially when the three guys behind Zimmerman and Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister, and Tanner Roark, all have ERAs under 4. This could be the best staff in baseball, and they’re young too – only Fister has hit 30. That means a D.C. dynasty could be on the way, but it starts with one.

Closer Rafael Soriano has had a September that could be a cause for concern. After giving up seven earned runs in 8 1/3 innings in baseball’s final month, some may wonder if highly touted middle relievers Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen should be pitching the ninth. Matt Williams will likely continue to roll with Soriano at the end of games. He just has to hope he doesn’t realize Clippard or Storen should be in that spot before it’s too late.

Despite missing a slew of games due to injury, Bryce Harper has done what this offense has done all year: mashed from top to bottom. Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth combine with Harper to form a deadly trio, but the fact that they have Denard Span, Anthony Rendon, and Wilson Ramos making meaningful and important contributions at the plate shows that opposing pitchers won’t get many easy outs.

In the end, it all comes back to Strasburg. The controversial decision made on him two years ago will be judged based on how he performs in the playoffs this year, and next year, and they year after that. But like I said, it starts with one. If Strasburg and his squad are lucky, D.C. will start to stand for “Dynasty Coming.”

Best case scenario Strasburg dominates, Zimmerman dominates, Gonzalez dominates. The trio manages to win Games 1, 2, and 3 of each series they’re in, while giving up two runs or less in each one. Strasburg beats Hudson from the Giants, Kershaw from the Dodgers, and Scherzer for the Tigers, showing he is the real deal. Washington sweeps the Giants, and beats Los Angeles and Detroit in five, showing true dominance. Harper does his part by hitting eight postseason home runs in only 13 games. The Nats get not only the title this year, but also become the early runaway favorites to repeat.

Worst case scenario- Strasburg sputters, in Game 1 and hurts his shoulder. Zimmerman and Gonzalez are able to come back in Games 2 and 3, but a walkoff by Pablo Sandoval in Game 4 leads to a decisive Game 5 and Strasburg unable to pitch. Roark can’t handle the bright lights of the postseason and Washington heads home early with a lot of questions.


Los Angeles Dodgers by Will Anari

Two Words, one name. Clayton Kershaw. I know you can’t guarantee wins in sports, but you can basically guarantee a win with him on the mound. 21 wins, 6 complete games. 6. 2 shutouts, 239 strikeouts, and to top it all off, a no-hitter. His no-hitter is arguably the greatest no-hitter of all time. Kershaw struck out 15 while walking no-one on only 107 pitches. Absolutely remarkable. Crazy to think about that Ryu almost threw a no hitter this season AND Josh Beckett when with the Dodgers threw a no hitter this season. 3 pitchers nearly 3 no-hitters.

UN.REAL.

Who even needs a bullpen when you have incredible starting pitching?

Kershaw – CY Young Award Winner (if this doesn’t happen itll be ridiculous)

Greinke – 17-8 2.71 ERA

Ryu – 14-7 3.38 ERA

Haren – 13-11 4.02 ERA

Hernandez – 2-3 4.74 ERA

Clayton+Kershaw+San+Francisco+Giants+v+Los+xPbiG9ovLGjlOh wait, it just so happens that the Dodgers have one of the top 5 bullpens in the MLB. When your setup man is former World Series Champion Brian Wilson, you’re going to be in good shape. Wilson paved the way for Kenley Jansen, who was a strikeout machine in the 2013 season. The Dodgers added Jamey Wright who had a career year with the Rays a season ago, and have two former All-Star closers in Brandon League and Chris Perez. Oh they also have J.P. Howell who had a 2.03 ERA last season, and continued his dominance this year.

With this amount of pitching they probably have a bad offense right?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdJN977945M

^ There’s your answer to that statement.

The Dodgers lineup is probably the most dangerous in the league. Dee “Flash” Gordon is a rocket out of the batters box and gets on base with ease. Once on base, he has a tendency to get to second rather “quickly.” Due up second is phenom Yasiel Puig, who is always electric and has serious speed of his own. Oh, he can also CRUSH the ball to any part of the field. Third up is Adrian Gonzalez, the league RBI leader. I wonder why he has so many RBI’s? Oh, because he’s so busy knocking XBH’s and scoring Gordon and Puig. Due up fourth is Matt Kemp, a man who has serious power and started to get hot towards the end of the season. 25 home runs ain’t so shabby. The fifth batter in the lineup is Hanley Ramierz who managed to knock in 71 RBI’s even with all that power in front of him. The bottom half of the lineup is still extremely productive as well. Whether its Uribe/Turner starting at third (combined 87 RBI’s), Either in center, and Ellis behind the plate, everyone is capable of doing something great. Oh, not to mention they have this guy named Carl Crawford. He’s pretttttty good also.This is what you consider a superstar complete team.

Best Case Scenario– I’m not even going to lead you on with some “well this could happen.” No. Best case scenario is the Dodgers sweep everyone. Crazy thing is, with this lineup and rotation it’s FEASIBLE. Kershaw on the mound is W, so just consider yourself starting in a 1-0 hole when playing the Dodgers. LA breezes through the NL Playoffs, and they’re World Series bound quickly.

Worst Case Scenario– Somehow, let’s just say Kershaw loses his first time on the mound. This would be detrimental to the team. He has consistently been their foundation throughout the season. If Kershaw is knocked down and instills confidence in the Cardinals, it could be a rocky road for them. The Cardinals also have OUTSTANDING pitching and have a knack for playing well under pressure and in big games. Now, I’m not saying that the Dodgers are going to get swept if they lose the first game, but it will be a tough road back to the top. I see Kershaw somehow losing game 1 and winning game 4, but Greinke pitching poorly in game 5 and the Dodgers losing. This would be so disappointing for the fans, especially with the LA Angels in the playoffs as well.


St. Louis Cardinals by Chris Molicki

The perennial postseason darlings, you can never count out the Cards. Never. Winning in 2006 and 2011, and being the defending NL champs, St. Louis has more than proved themselves as a team you don’t want to bet against. With Yadier Molina healthy, that’s a big boost for a team that didn’t hold the NL central lead for very long throughout the season. But with the Dodgers and Nationals better than last year, St. Louis has their work cut out for them. We know they can hit when they need to, especially in the postseason, but how well their pitching staff matches up will depend a lot on a kid who is only a few months older than I am: 23-year-old Michael Wacha.

Ace Adam Wainright and Lance Lynn have been spectacular this year, each with an ERA under 3. John Lackey will be one of the best No. 4 starters in the postseason rotations, no doubt. It’s up to Wacha to blossom again, as he did in the playoffs last year, to really give the Cards the firepower they need to compete with the other loaded staffs in the National League.

The bullpen could be a little shaky, however. Seth Maness and Pat Neshek are viable options, but have had their share of recent struggles. On the contrary, closer Trevor Rosenthal has had a great September, but he’s had his issues over the year and isn’t quite a sure thing. The starting rotation should make up for this, but things will be interesting late in games for St. Louis.

Helping out Molina in the lineup is the trio of Matts: Holliday, Carpenter, and Adams. All three have had impressive seasons and will be the beef of the lineup. But we know better when it comes to the Cards. Any guy can get hot; just ask Pete Kozma. Maybe it’s Kolten Wong or Oscar Tavares who steps up big time. Regardless, there are a lot of mines in this St. Louis lineup that opposing pitchers will have to be careful not to step on.

The pedigree is there. Picking the Cardinals to win the World Series seems like as safe a bet as any in the crapshoot that is the MLB playoffs. But they’ll have to overcome being a less talented team than the Dodgers and the Nationals. It’s ok, they’ve done that before.

Best case scenario It’s a classic Cardinals October: Wainright outduels Kershaw in Game 1, followed by Wacha pitching a complete game shutout in Game 2. Matt Adams walks off in Game 3 and shockingly, Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers are swept. Against the Nats in the NLCS, Washington wins the first two games at home behind Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman before losing Game 3. Then, after a Nationals win in Game 4, the Cards win three straight, all in the ninth inning. Tavares becomes the new Kozma and the clutch Cardinals make it to their second straight World Series and third in four years.

Worst case scenario The Dodgers get revenge for last year as they sweep the Cards. Wainright is easily overmatched by Kershaw in Game 1, and the loss of confidence in their ace has the three Matts slumping. Molina can’t do it all himself, and questions raise in St. Louis as to what they must do to compete with the starpower that Puig and Bryce Harper bring to their respective teams.


San Francisco Giants by Chris Molicki

What does a team do when it’s ace, and a pitcher who dominated the league for years, falls from the top? Most teams would crumble, but that’s not the case for the San Francisco Giants. Despite the decline of Tim Lincecum, there’s been a “next man up” motto for the Giants. Madison Bumgarner has stepped up as the team’s ace, Tim Hudson has continued to be an ageless wonder, and Jake Peavy was acquired from Boston and has provided what he was supposed to provide to the Red Sox last year. Throw in Ryan Vogelsong, and the argument can definitely be made that Lincecum shouldn’t even been in the playoff rotation. I’m sure Bruce Bochy won’t mind having him in the bullpen.

As it’s been in recent years, this Giants team is built on pitching. There are quality guys from top to bottom, and while there may be a bit of a dropoff after Bumgarner, the staff is deep enough to make up for it. Similarly to the starters, the bullpen has been shaken up as well. Sergio Romo, famous for helping the team close out the 2012 World Series, has been demoted from the closer role. It’s now held by Santiago Castillo, who has been very solid. Setting him up is Jeremy Affeldt, another terrific bullpen arm. Did I mention this team has good pitching?

If you think that means the Giants lineup is the weak link, that would be an unfair assumption. Led by Buster Posey, a man sporting a .311 batting average to go with 22 HR’s and 89 RBI, the top half of the lineup is dangerous. In fact, five players are hitting over .275 if you include Joe Panik, who hasn’t been an everyday player all year. The key is that in addition to their efficient hitting, there’ at least a little bit of pop in most spots of the San Fran lineup. Michael Morse, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Posey have combined for 74 home runs.

The Giants suffered a big blow when leadoff man Angel Pagan had to undergo back surgery at the end of the season. Pagan has developed into one of the better leadoff hitters in the game, and Bochy will likely have to work some magic to keep the top of the lineup hitting well.

This is a team that has World Series potential, no doubt. They’ve done it twice recently, and Bochy has created a winning culture in San Francisco, similar to that of the St. Louis Cardinals, where it shouldn’t shock anyone if the win it all as a wild card. However, that doesn’t mean the road won’t be tough, and if they lose their first game, they’ll be done.

They’ve got that Bumgarner guy in for that wild card game, though. The ace up Bochy’s sleeve.

Best case scenario Bumgarner is lights out against the Pirates as the Giants knock off Pittbsurgh and head to D.C. There, Pence, now at the top of the lineup in place of Pagan, provides a spark and upsets the Nationals in five games. Buster Posey hits a home run off of Clayton Kershaw in the NLCS, giving the Giants a rare win in a Kershaw-pitched game, and San Fran beats L.A. in six games before Kershaw can get a chance to start his third game of the series. In the World Series, the Giants get four home runs from the panda and in Game 7 against the Angels, Bochy turns to Romo in the 9th. He delivers, fists pumps, and celebrates the Giants third World Series in five years.

Worst case scenario They should make it out of Pittsburgh (although, in one game, anything can happen), but San Francisco runs into a buzzsaw in the nation’s capital. Washington is simply better all-around and more complete than the Giants, and after losing Game 1 with Bumgarner still resting, Vogelsong and Peavy falter in Games 2 and 3 and San Francisco is swept. Bryce Harper flips off the fans by the bay, which only adds insult to injury.


Pittsburgh Pirates by Will Anari

Watch out for the Bucs.

mccutchen0331bThe 2013 Pirates team seemed to capture hearts of Americans and especially native Pittsburgians. Pittsburgians? Pittsburghers? Pittsburghites? Whatever. Prior to the 2013 season the last time the Bucs had a winning season was 1993. Imagine losing for 20 straight years. That’s literally 87% of my life. It felt like it was finally time for Pittsburgh to return to baseball glory. Wrong. Division rival and the “perennial postseason darling” St. Louis Cardinals ripped out Pittsburgian hearts after the Bucs took a 2-1 lead in the LDS. Andrew McCutchen shined in the series but the offense sputtered in the final two games. Disappointed? Yes. Hungry for more? YES.

Watch out for the Bucs.

The Pirates seem to have a more “complete” team in 2014 vs. 2013. Ike Davis finally finding his home after an up and down career in New York, Russell Martin playing like the Yankees wish he would have (he did hit 39 homeruns during his tenure in the Bronx, but failed to bat over .250), and Andrew McCutchen playing like the MVP he is. McCutchen led the team in HR’s, RBI’s, OBP, Hits, Walks, and was .01 points away from leading the team in Batting Average. That is a serious baseball player, right there. Surrounding McCutchen are players that could send the ball deep at almost any moment in the game. Don’t leave a hanging curve ball over the plate, that’s all I’m saying.

Watch out for the Bucs.

The Pirates rotation was good this year, especially Gerrit Cole and Edinson Volquez. Cole, the 23 year old 2nd year from California, posted an 11-5 record as the #3 pitcher in the rotation while Ace Volquez won 13 games. Liriano often overpowered batters, striking out an impressive 175 on the year and only allowing 130 hits.

The relief pitching for the Pirates was average on the year. Closer Mark Melancon led the team with 33 saves in 37 opportunities. Tony Watson was a blessing for the bullpen, coming in and winning 10 games on the year, and posting 34 holds. This team just flat out won games.

Watch out for the Bucs.

Best Case Scenario– Ace Edinson Volquez pitches his best game and shuts down Buster Posey, Sandoval, Belt and the Giants. Those three have had some serious success against him in the past, but he finds his best work becomes dialed in. He is no stranger to the Giants, pitching for the Dodgers and Padres last season, so he knows what he needs to shut them down. Volquez goes 8 strong and the Pirates bats rattle star pitcher Madison Bumgarner. McCutchen stars in the game (which he has a knack for doing on the big stage), and they take on the Nationals. Momentum is huge in sports, especially playoff baseball. Pirates ride their victory over the Giants and take the series against the Nats in four, getting strong offensive play from their star, and great starting pitching. I honestly am feeling a big Ike Davis HR somewhere in there, he’s due. I can see them advancing here, and being extremely confident when facing the Dodgers. Fact of the matter is, they need to play damn near perfect baseball to beat them. Ride em high. Pirates in 7, Pirates in 7.

Watch out for the Bucs.

Worst Case Scenario– Edinson Volquez has had some trouble in the past with the Giants, and this could potentially end the 2014 season for the Pirates. Another year, another disappointing finish. I honestly believe that the Bucs want to start Cole or Liriano, but they aren’t ready for it. Giants bats roll and SF advances with ease.


World Series Predictions:

546493_3154647028473_2028737421_n
“Dodgers over Angels”
Chris Molicki
“Nationals over Orioles”
Joe Caputo
“Dodgers over Athletics”

  .     .  

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One thought on “Baseball’s Crapshoot: The 2014 Brunch MLB Playoff Preview

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