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Sports Then and Now

MLB Division Series Previews

Posted on October 04, 2010 by Don Spieles

When we sat in front of our TV’s back in April to watch the first games of the 2010 season, October seemed eons away.  Yet here we are, the 162-game season has concluded and Fall Baseball is upon us.  All the matchups are set for what could be one of the more entertaining post-seasons in some time.

Texas was the first team to be clear additions to the post-season. Perhaps it’s ironic, then, that they could be the one of the first teams to be eliminated.  Forget all the information you’ll hear about how they have never won a post season series – that was then, this is now.  What “now” specifically means is that Texas is going to go to Tampa with the worst record any playoff team and a pitching rotation that is just slightly above average (3.93 compared to 4.14).  They have the slight edge over Tampa Bay where regular season offense is concerned, but will be fielding a wounded Josh Hamilton (ribs) which will affect his plate performance.

One advantage that Texas does have will be the home town crowd.  Tampa has the home field advantage on paper, but given the fact that their fan-base is mostly imaginary, if the Rangers can split at the Trop, they will have a lot more faithful in attendance when they go back to Arlington.

In the end, though, it will not be enough.

Prediction:  Tampa in 4.

Isn’t it cool when a franchise change like the new ballpark fir the Twins ends up being a factor in its first season?  The first two games between the Yanks and Twins will be at the new, dome-less, Target Field.  The game time temps for those first two nights at 44 and 46, respectively.  While there is little doubt that the place will be packed, you have to wonder how many of those folks will be thinking about the cozy dome they left behind.

More importantly, C.C. Sabathia, New York’s game one starter, has a less than stellar history of pitching in colder temps.  Being that he is pretty much the only truly scary part of the Yankee pitching staff, a win in game one will go a long way to getting Minnesota to the ALCS.

Home field advantage could be big in this match-up, too.  The Yankee line-up is left-hand-heavy and loves that short porch at the new Yankee Stadium.  Many home runs there equate to fly outs at target Field.  Add in the fact that the Yanks have been slipping a bit the last couple weeks, and things bode well for the Twins.

Prediction: Twins in 5

An Atlanta team that looked very strong earlier in the summer got into the post season by a hair’s breadth.  Conversely, the Giants did not seem post-season bound as recently as August, but have played above themselves over the last 30 days.  The Giants were 19 – 10 in their last 29 games with a team ERA of 1.91 (they allowed three runs or less in 24 of those games.)

When you face off a dominant pitching staff against a strong Atlanta offense, the smart money is on the pitching, especially with San Francisco having home field advantage.  If the Braves struggle against the Giant’s hurlers, the Atlanta pitching is not going to be able to provide enough stop-gap effort to hold out.

Prediction:  Giants in 3

The key statistic for this match-up has to do with the Reds’ record against “good” teams a opposed to bad teams.  Just like the Cardinals who the Reds managed to hold off to win the NL Central, Cincinnati had a losing record against the better teams in the league while padding their wins with dominance over the weaker opponents.  Specifically, they were 2-5 against Philadelphia.

Realistically, anyone who thinks that there is a better pitching staff than the one with Roy Halliday, Roy Oswalt, and a very hot Cole Hamels on it is a fool.  Again, pitching has to trump hitting and there is no home field advantage quite like that of a Philly version of it.

Predicition:  Phillies in 3

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