Major League Baseball

2011 ALDS Predictions & Preview – Inside the Wheelhouse

Evan LongoriaOctober Baseball is here and after 162 games we have narrowed it down to just eight teams who will be vying for the World Series Championship. In this blog we will be looking at the American League and the four teams who will be looking to advance to the American League Championship Series next week! Let’s take a look at the upcoming American League Divisional Series!

New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers

The New York Yankees & Detroit Tigers meet for the first time in the Postseason since 2006, a postseason that saw the Tigers defeat the Yankees that year in the ALDS and it was also the last time the Tigers were in Postseason play. The Yankees look to avenge that series lost from 5 years ago while the Detroit Tigers look to prove that they may be the best “sleeper” team in the American League. This series has the making of a classic series already as two of Baseball’s historic franchises battle it out for an American League Championship Series berth.

The AL East Division Champion New York Yankees enter the 2011 Postseason the same way they entered the 2009 Postseason, a Postseason that saw them capture their 27th World Series Championship mind you. They won the AL East Division and have home-field advantage for however long their playoff run allows them, two things the Yankees did not have in their 2010 run that ended in the American League Championship Series. Those two variables of winning their division and having home-field advantage maybe the most important things for whatever success the Yankees look to have this Postseason.

But that certainly doesn’t bother the Detroit Tigers because they have done this before to the Yankees. They came into Yankee Stadium, that year as AL Wild Card winners and ended up winning the series despite the Yanks having home-field advantage. While the variable of home-field advantage is important to the Bombers it doesn’t scare Detroit as they have done this before.

Out of all the series in the entire 2011 Postseason Division Series rounds this one will be the most impacted by Game 1 of the series. It’s clearly the best pitching matchup for the Divisional round as two of the best American League pitchers in the game today will do battle with October implications looming in the background. The Yankees will send CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.00 ERA) to the mound to do battle with Justin Verlander (24-5, 2.40 ERA) who is without a doubt the AL Cy Young and maybe the AL MVP for the 2011 season.

Game 1 will set the tone for the rest of this series for both teams and will prove to show who will be the lead horse between these two great Baseball teams. If Detroit wins they head to Game 2 putting Doug Fister (11-13, 2.83 ERA) on the mound against the Yankees Game 2 starter, rookie Ivan Nova (16-4, 3.70 ERA). To me that is a lot of pressure for a rookie to be handling in his first playoff start as if Detroit goes up 1-0 heading into Game 1, the Yankees season will be in the hands of the said rookie.

No other series in the Division round of the playoffs will be more dependent on their starting rotation like this one will. Both teams have overcome pitching adversity throughout the season (the question marks for the Yankees rotation and the Tigers not having five solid starters until acquiring Doug Fister) and have to do so once again on Baseball grandest stage. It will be very interesting to see which arms help propel their teams to the next round.

If New York is able to out pitch the Tigers for 6 innings the game may be considered over at that point as the Yankees are looking to showcase one area that was focused on in the offseason, their bullpen. Rafael Soriano in the 7th, David Robertson in the 8th and Mariano Rivera in the 9th maybe the best 7th-8th-9th inning combination in the Postseason, if New York wants to win this series they need to be on their “A” game. The bullpen is an area where the Yankees are more superior then that of the Detroit Tigers.

When it comes to comparing the two lineups it’s the New York Yankees who have the edge over a powerful and productive Detroit Tigers team. Curtis Granderson has been healthy throughout the year and is another AL MVP candidate & you can’t forget about Mark Teixeira, the awkwardly quieted Alex Rodriguez & of course Derek Jeter batting in the lineup. The “silent assassin” for the Yankees lineup could very well end up being September call-up Jesus Montero who since coming to the big leagues has batted .328 with 4 HRs & 12 RBI’s in 18 games. He was the highly touted Yankees prospect who almost brought Cliff Lee to New York in 2010 and is looking like the player the Yankees always hoped he’d be, don’t be surprised if he is the game changing element for the Yankees success.

But don’t discredit the Detroit Tigers lineup at all. A lineup with Miguel Cabrera & Victor Martinez is a very powerful & potent team that will produce runs and give the Yankees pitchers some major trouble. Detroit has danced with New York in the playoffs before; most of the players on this team were their in ’06 and hope to do it yet again. This series is going to come down to the wire.

As for predictions in this series I have to go with the New York Yankees in 5 games. I believe their will be a lot of back-and-forth momentum swings for both teams throughout this series and that the pitching will live up to the hype I have given it in the blog. The starting pitchers will decide this series and outside of Verlander for the Tigers & Sabathia for the Yankees, there are just two many question marks for both sides. I really believe that variable that no one is talking about will be Jesus Montero, if he is hitting well then the Yankees will be successful, if he is not, the Yankees won’t be. That is a lot of unknowing pressure for a rookie who only has 18 games under his Major League belt.

Prediction: Yankees win series 3-2

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays

The defending American League Champions probably didn’t think they would be playing their current opponents in the American League Division Series. They, like everyone else, probably figured they would be playing the Boston Red Sox in this round. The only people who knew they would be here was the Tampa Bay Rays and once again these two teams meet in the ALDS for the 2nd straight year.

As we all know the Texas Rangers won that series in 5 games, a series where they had a 2-0 lead leaving Tampa Bay and heading back to their home crowd in Texas. Tampa ended up making the series interesting as they would win 2 in Texas heading back to the Trop in Tampa to try & advance to the ALCS. Texas ended up winning that series en-route to becoming eventual American League Champions; Tampa hopes to prevent history from repeating itself this year.

The Texas Rangers are another year older in their current run of great talent and have a Postseason under their belts which greatly helps how well they will do this Postseason. They’ve battled adversity in losing Cliff Lee to the Free Agent market, a rash of injuries to their big bats (Josh Hamilton & Nelson Cruz) and yet again are one of the best teams in the American League. This very well could be a dynasty in the making.

Variables that hurt the Rangers are two things, the Division in which they play in and their manager, Ron Washington.

I believe the AL West does not showcase the best talent of the American League when it comes to the East or even the Central divisions. It appeared that Texas could pull away from this Division in July, yet again and advance to the Postseason; I believe the lack of competition they see within in their Division can hurt them, especially when compared to a Rays team that has fought for their lives the last two weeks. While it could affect them, I don’t think it will in the end because they proved to not be effected by it last year.

Then you have Ron Washington, who by all accounts, is the luckiest man on earth. He has inherited a Rangers team that is an offensive juggernaut, a starting rotation that does not get enough credit and a bullpen that could be the best in Baseball. Despite all that, it appears year-after-year Ron Washington will make decisions from the Rangers dugout that leaving you head scratching and wondering if he knows what he is doing.

I believe if the Rangers had a more experienced manager at the helm, a Tony LaRussa, a Jim Leyland, etc. they could be the best team in Baseball. Ron Washington, the manager of the Texas Rangers, maybe the worst variable for the defending American League Champions. While not playing on the field, the decisions he will make will prove to be crucial for the Rangers successes.

Tampa Bay isn’t supposed to be here right? The tied the Wild Card with the Red Sox on Monday, held onto the tie on Tuesday and won it on Wednesday thanks to an Evan Longoria walk-off homerun. Not bad for a team that lost their entire bullpen, Matt Garza and Carl Crawford all last season. No matter who you root for, you have to love what the Tampa Bay Rays have done, yet again.

This team is fun to watch, they have a great amount of heart and a talent that matches that. If you don’t have teams to root for this Postseason then root for the Rays because this team is a miracle team on a run to history. But a run that could very well hit a huge brick wall in Postseason play.

To once again overcome adversity this season the Rays will need to beat the Rangers when it counts, something as discussed before, they failed to do last year in the Postseason. This was a 2010 Postseason where the Rays had home-field advantage and were the best team in the American League, they now do it as the 4th seed with no home-field advantage at all this year. That’s never stopped prior Champions before them though.

As much as like the Rays from a fan’s standpoint I realize that the dream rollercoaster ride they have been on the last month is exactly that, a dream. The Rangers are their

nightmare and a team that just can’t be stopped from trying to make another World Series title run. Tampa goes into this series with a rotation filled with question marks outside of James Shields, you don’t know what you will get from rookie sensation Mark Hellickson and David Price hasn’t pitched like David Price at all this season. These are questions you don’t want when facing a lineup like the Texas Rangers.

The Texas bats will take it to the Rays and I can see this going as far as just three games. The Rangers have a lot going for them right now while the Rays 2011 heartbeat has been extended for a couple more games. It’ll be a good series if you’re a Rangers fan as I expect it to be over quick but I won’t be shocked if the Rays run the table on em. With that being said I’m still going to go with the Rangers getting the 3 game sweep over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Prediction: Rangers win series 3-0

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Jeff Peck

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