9 2015 Oct

New York Mets versus the Los Angeles Dodgers

New York versus Los Angeles is a classic, except in baseball it usually involved the Yankees, not the Mets. But the Mets are another team buoyed by youth. Particularly, their starting pitching with Jacob DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey set up to anchor the Mets staff for many years. However, the question is, “Is it too soon?” The whole controversy over Harvey’s innings and his recent tardiness to a workout puts a negative cloud over the team. For the Dodgers, success also begins with their starting pitching. It’s a two-headed monster called Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. We’ve already seen what a difference an ace starting pitcher can make in the Wild Card games and going back to last year’s performance by Bumgarner. The Dodgers are doubly dangerous with the best combo since Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. Kershaw has proved human is previous postseasons, especially in the 7th inning against the Cardinals. But he appears to be peaking as he enters these playoffs and I expect him to have learned from past experience, after all, he’s just entering his prime at 27 years old. The question is what happens after those guys pitch? Brett Anderson and Alex Wood have been good at times, but a bad outing could be costly in a short series. Similarly, the bullpen outside of the closer Kenley Jansen has been inconsistent. There are a lot of young arms with the potential to do well, but they are unproven.

In the first half of the year the Mets had no offense, but the mid-season acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes and the return of David Wright has transformed the Mets into one of the best offenses in baseball. The Dodgers don’t have anyone with 30 or more home runs, but they led the National League in home runs. That tells you there are a lot of guys hitting 10 or more spread throughout the lineup. The Dodgers may have unloaded big names like Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, but they maintain a huge payroll by having a lot of depth. Most of the country may not know about Justin Turner and Enrique Hernandez, but don’t be surprised if they make a contribution in this series. One name the country will know soon is Corey Seager, the rookie shortstop/third baseman for the Dodgers, who only played the last month in the big leagues. The younger brother of Seattle third baseman Kyle Seager, Corey is touted as the more talented of the two, and he’s done nothing to disprove that in his short time in the majors by hitting over .330. The Dodgers are getting healthy at the right time with the recent return of Howie Kendrick, Hernandez and Yasiel Puig. If they score just 3 or 4 runs for Kershaw and Greinke, it usually means a win. Don’t be surprised if the Dodgers sweep.

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9 2015 Oct

Chicago Cubs versus the St. Louis Cardinals

For the first time, long-time rivals, the Chicago Cubs face the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs. Primarily, because the Cubs have rarely been in the postseason. However, with a young team guided by manager Joe Maddon, this could be the first of many October appearances for the Cubs. Meanwhile, the Cardinals are perennial playoff participants. I’m not sure what “the Cardinal Way” means, but their secret to success is depth from a strong farm system. Albert Pujols can leave as a free agent, Adam Wainwright can get injured, but the team keeps winning because someone from the minor leagues rises up to take their place. However, this year the injury bug may be too much for the Cardinals to overcome. Carlos Martinez was the ace of the staff and his loss due to shoulder stiffness is a big blow. Another big blow could be the torn ligament in Yadier Molina’s thumb. He’ll try to play with it, but how effective will the team MVP be? Also, hurting the Cardinals is the late season collapse of Michael Wacha who sported a 7.88 ERA in September. Wainwright has returned, but he’s relegated to the bullpen. The bad news for the Cubs is that they had to play a Wild Card game, so Arrieta can only pitch once in this series. Also, Jason Hammel hasn’t been that sharp lately. This should be quite a battle and I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a bench-clearing incident before it’s over. My guess is that the wounded Cardinals succumb to the youthful Cubs, but it won’t be easy.

 

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