Baseball’s Final Four has been set and the remaining teams will be playing for a chance to participate in this year’s Fall Classic. These four teams, the Philadelphia Phillies, San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers and New York Yankees are considered to be the four best teams left in Major League Baseball. The ultimate goal for each of these teams is to be celebrating a World Series Championship at the end of the month.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. San Francisco Giants
We start in the National League by looking at the 2010 National League Championship Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the San Francisco Giants. The Philadelphia Phillies return to their 3rd straight National League Championship Series while the San Francisco Giants return to the NLCS for the first time since 2002. Both teams enter with possibly the best starting rotations in the Postseason and look to capitalize on that strength to carry them to the World Series the same way it helped carry them to the NLCS.
San Francisco is the surprise team of the Postseason so far and may be the underdog darlings that everyone will look to cheer on in this playoffs. Some may say that the Texas Rangers are but when you have Josh Hamilton and Vlad Guerrero in your lineup it’s hard to say you are a underdog. The San Francisco Giants barely have any household names in their lineup.
Sure some people might recognize Pablo Sandoval and maybe Pat Burrell (just because of his days in Philly) out of the lineup but the common new Baseball fan is looking at this team wondering who half of these misfits are. “The Land of Misfit toys” tagline is becoming this team’s moniker in the playoffs and could potentially carry them to a World Series berth if they can shock the world. If they live by the “why not us” taglines made famous by teams like the 2004 Boston Red Sox then they very well can beat Philly on the heart & desire they showcase.
Both teams strength is in the starting rotation. Philadelphia will be sending out Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton for Games 1-4 in the NLCS while the San Francisco Giants will be sending out Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner for Games 1-4. The San Francisco front four may be the best chance any team has to matchup against the Phillies in these playoffs.
The key for the Giants victory will be setting the tone in Games 1 &2. Lincecum needs to beat Halladay in Philadelphia on the big NLCS stage because no one believes the Giants can contend with the Phillies. The same needs to be said for Cain against Oswalt in Game 2, while Oswalt struggled in the NLDS so did Cain and this pitching matchup will be crucial for both teams. If San Francisco can leave Philadelphia with tied at 1 game a piece then we may have a series heading to San Francisco.
Like stated before the biggest obstacle for the Giants will be there offense, they are playing with a lineup filled with misfit toys that have been released in the past (Pat Burrell & Cody Ross) or players looking for a 2nd chance in their career (Aubrey Huff). The lineup has no real strength in the order and these misfit toys, combined with the Giants young hitters (Buster Posey), need to come up now to give the Giants a shot at beating the Phillies.
While the Giants have a ton of question marks with their offense the Philadelphia Phillies certainly aren’t in trouble with their lineup. Top to bottom the lineup never gives a pitcher a “break” and it is filled with great pure hitters. Players like Rollins and Werth struggled in the NLDS but it wasn’t showcased as much because other players were picking up their slack. Philadelphia needs to do exactly what they did in the NLDS in addition to Rollins & Werth getting the bat on the ball, and they could be looking at a potential sweep.
This series has the potential to be a complete Phillies bashing to the surprise series of the Postseason (similar to Giants/Braves in the NLDS). If the Giants can beat the Phillies in the NLCS it will be one of the biggest upsets in NLCS history due to the amount of talent on the Philadelphia roster. San Francisco needs to set the tone in Game 1 & 2 that they are a believable team or look for Philadelphia to be celebrating the National League pennant on San Francisco soil.
Despite it all it is hard to pick the underdog in this series and I have to take the Philadelphia Phillies to advance to their 3rd straight World Series. I believe Philadelphia will do it in convincing fashion and may allow the Giants to win one game in this series (Game 4 against Joe Blanton). Philadelphia is poised right now to win another World Series Championship and I don’t see the Giants stopping them in this round.
Prediction: Phillies win series 4-1
Texas Rangers vs. New York Yankees
To be honest this is not what I envisioned when I first thought about the American League Championship Series. It could have been easily either the Minnesota Twins or the New York Yankees in the ALCS but I thought it was a foregone conclusion that we would see the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS. While I did call for the series to go five games I still thought Tampa would be in the ALCS because sans the Philadelphia Phillies they were the 2nd best team in Major League Baseball and the best team in the American League hands down.
The New York Yankees for the time being silenced their doubters in the ALDS by once again sweeping the Minnesota Twins in a postseason series. The Yankees looked like the same team from the 2009 postseason run in their dominance in all three games of the ALDS; it was a far cry from the struggles of the Yankees that ended the 2010 season where they only won nine games in the final month of the season. If New York plays as good as they did in the ALDS in the ALCS then this team will be the American League Champions for the 2nd straight year.
The old line of “pitching wins championships” came into play for both Texas and New York in their Divisional series runs against their opponents. Cliff Lee carried the Rangers in Game 1 and in the clinching Game 5 while Phil Hughes was lights out against the Twins in Game 3 for the Yanks. The supporting casts for both teams are just as impressive as you have CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and AJ Burnett rounding out the rest of the Yankees rotation while Texas will send CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis and Tommy Hunter for the Rangers.
The biggest question mark for the defending World Series Champion New York Yankees will be how effective AJ Burnett will be in Game 4 of the ALCS. Burnett was ineffective in 2010 going 10-15 with an ERA well over 5 and pitching so badly that last season’s #2 starter didn’t even in pitch in the ALDS. The Yanks have brought him back into the rotation in the ALCS starting him in Game 4 and hope to get something out of their investment this October.
While AJ Burnett is still a question mark for the Yanks they will also be hoping to get the same thing they got out of Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes in the ALDS in the ALCS. Sabathia was actually the worst pitcher of the three struggling in Game 1 of the ALDS for the Yankees, if he finds his normal form in the ALCS watch out for the Bronx Bombers. The pitching can be their biggest strength and their biggest weakness.
Texas biggest question mark will be how well their pitching outside of Cliff Lee pitches against the Yankee starters. Texas is sending up three starting pitchers that up until this season have no playoff experience under their belt. The Postseason is a different ballgame then the regular season as seen in the ALDS in the Rays/Rangers series. You only have up to seven games to make a difference in whether or not you will play for a Championship. It will be very interesting to see how they perform under the bright lights of October.
Both teams have great lineups; from top to bottom they are stacked offenses. Texas has a good mixture of veteran players (Vlad Guerrero & Bengie Molina), players in their prime (Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young) and players that are up & coming (Elvis Andrus, Julio Borbon, David Murphy). They need to see better offensive production out of their lineup in this series to contend with the Yankees, this is a type of series where you may have to score up to six runs a game to find a winner at the end of the night.
New York’s lineup is filled with a ton of veteran players and players in their primes who have played in Postseason play before. The tangible gives the Yankees the slight edge over the Texas Rangers when it comes to the offense. Texas needs Josh Hamilton to come up big in this series to put the Rangers in their first World Series ever while New York needs “Mr. November” Derek Jeter to get back in the October swing of things to carry the Bombers to another World Series.
This series may very well go down to the wire for a 7th game in Texas; it has that much potential for having great Baseball being played every night. Both teams are very evenly matched with the only exception being the postseason experience between the two. That factor plays big in a series like this because like said before; the postseason is a whole new monster. If New York plays as well as they did in the ALDS they can not be stopped but if Texas can pitch the Yankees offense to no run support like they did with Tampa they can be the American League representation in the World Series.
At the end of the day it’s hard to go against the defending World Series Champions right now. They looked great in the ALDS which is hard to believe since the way they skidded into the playoffs had many Yankee fans wondering if they should be prepared for a 2011 run. New York needs CC Sabathia to set the tone in Game 1 and have AJ Burnett get back to his old form in Game 4, if New York can get that done then there is a good chance that not only will they win the ALCS, but they could be the World Series Champions for the 28th time.
Prediction: Yankees win series 4-2
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