The “Other” Series

Not that I care about anything other than the Phillies and the Brewers, but there are other postseason series going on.  And, since my obsession with baseball began around 1986 or so, there have been 19 postseasons that did not include the Phillies, so I have learned to truly enjoy the baseball playoffs more than any other sport.  There is something about baseball games with everything on the line because every single pitch is a whole game in itself.  So, let us stray–for a minute–from focusing solely on the Phils and take a look at the other 3 series that will make up the 2008 postseason.

Chicago Cubs (97-64) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (84-78)
On paper, this is a huge mismatch, as the Cubs were the NL’s best team from start to finish and the Dodgers have the worst record of all 8 playoff teams.  In fact, there are SIX teams with better records than LA that did not even make the playoffs, including the Florida Marlins and Toronto Blue Jays.  But, this is a different team than we saw through much of the season because of the makeover pulled off by GM Ned Colletti at the end of July.  Everyone knows about the addition of Manny Ramirez and about how he may even win the National League’s MVP, despite only playing for the Dodgers for 2 months, but Manny alone probably may not have led this team to a division title.  I believe that the most overlooked addition at the trade deadline was Casey Blake, the former Indians thirdbaseman, who the Dodgers acquired a couple days prior to Manny.  Blake has brought steady defense to LA and has given them a much deeper lineup.

The Cubs, on the other hand, have been good all year.  They have a deep, star-studded rotation, with Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden at the top.  But, their most dependable pitcher this year is not seen as a star, but he will go in Game 1, and that is Ryan Dempster.  They also have a very deep lineup and a GREAT bench.  Likely rookie of the year, Giovany Soto, has been the heart and soul of this lineup, which led the NL in runs scored (even scoring more runs than every AL team not named the Texas Rangers).  Derrick Lee and Aramis Ramirez are among the best run producers in baseball, and despite my disdain for his style of play and demanding nature, Alfonso Soriano is always one to be feared.

Again, on paper, the Cubs are huge favorites, but there are real question marks surrounding this team–not the least of which is can they deal with the 100 years of pressure.  But, even if you do not believe in curses, they have question marks in their rotation.  Zambrano has been enigmatic, and Harden has proven to be a 6-inning pitcher.  And, then there is the bullpen.  Can you count on an exhausted Carlos Marmal, and a shaky Kerry Wood?  Add all of this to the fact that they are facing a rested, confident team led by one of the two best right-handed hitters and one of the two best managers of our generation, and I smell an upset.  I am going to take the Dodgers in four (though, I considered a heart-breaking collapse in Game 5,  just to stick it to whining Cubs fans everywhere).

Tampa Bay Rays (97-65) vs. Chicago White Sox (89-74)
The Story of 2008 does not get underway until tomorrow afternoon.  I am sure everyone knows the story by now, but this team is for real.  And, do you know why?  Pitching, pitching, and pitching.  That is still what wins in this league, no matter what anyone tells you.  They have pitched incredibly well all year long–starters and relievers–and they have hit enough to get them here.  And you could see the Rays philosophy in the offseason when they traded one of the most highly-touted hitting prospects in recent memory for a young pitcher.  And, though Delmon Young will probably be a better outfielder than Matt Garza is a pitcher, if it is close, I will ALWAYS take the pitcher, and that is what the Rays did, and with Garza throw into the mix with Kazmir, Shields, Sonnanstine, and Jackson (with David Price on the way), this team will be good for a very long time.

The White Sox have done it by resurrecting some talented arms that were otherwise left for dead.  Gavin Floyd and John Danks (the winning pitchers in the back-to-back do or die games the White Sox just played) have been sensational for the Sox.  Throw in Mark Buerhle and there is a pretty solid top 3 added to their offense that takes a page out of the Earl Weaver style of baseball–do everything you can to get a 3-run home run.

The Rays may be that classic “happy to be there” team in the AL, but I actually like the matchup in this series.  I would have picked them to lose to the Twins, but I think they can beat the White Sox, for several reasons.  One, the White Sox scored 47% of their runs on the home run this year (the highest team total in something like 3 or 4 decades), and home runs come a lot harder in cold, pressure-packed playoff games against solid, playoff-worthy pitchers.  And, even more importantly, they just used Buerhle, Floyd, and Danks just to get here, so they have to throw out Javier Vazquez, who led the majors with 16 losses this year, in Game 1.  The Rays have been setting up their rotation for a week now, and they have a totally rested bullpen.  Longoria looks healthy, and I think the Rays are going to win this series easily, possibly in a sweep.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (100-62) vs. Boston Red Sox (95-67)
And, then there is the showdown.  The season’s best team has clearly been the Angels, but the most talented team (when healthy) is probably the Red Sox.  This series is so difficult to handicap because both teams are so talented, have postseason experience, have great pitching and superstar lineups.  The Angels have to be the favorites considering they have the home field advantage and they have a similar team to last year’s team but with the additions of Torii Hunter and Mark Teixeira.  They also have a fantastic bullpen and excellent starting pitching.  If John Lackey can pitch like he is capable, this may actually be a short series.

Then again, they are up against the defending champs.  David Ortiz has a flair for the dramatic.  Jonathan Papelbon is just as good (if not better) than K-Rod, just without 60+ save chances.  But, the question is whether or not this team is healthy.  Mike Lowell might not play.  Josh Beckett is pushed back to Game 3, at the earliest.  That awful, atrocious person of a rightfielder with the initials for a first name may not play.  Terry Francona, though, is making a very smart move, I think, in resisting the urge to DH Lowell, move Ortiz to 1B and Youkilius to 3B.  Though that would be his best offensive lineup, I believe that against a team like the Angels that runs and bunts and manufactures runs, you need to think defense first.

Either way, though, I think with the injuries and the addition of the big bats in the Angels lineup, that California team is going to get their revenge this year and take out the Sox in 5.  It is going to be a terrific series, so stay up and watch it.

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One Response to The “Other” Series

  1. Very nice Chicago Cubs information. I hope to be in Chicagoland for a game this summer.

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