Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Tony's MLB Division Series Preview

By Tony Mazur

Ah, October. The sights, the smells, the, uh, temperature. When October rolls around, that means the best of the best will play each other in the Major League Baseball postseason, starting with the fourteenth year of the Division Series.

With the exception of the Boston Red Sox, the teams make for a great story. Most of them have seen minimal or no playoff action in the past decade.

The Cubs have always been everyone's lovable loser, but not this year. Milwaukee hasn't been to the playoffs since their 1982 run to the World Series. Aside from last year's sweep by the Rockies, Philadelphia hadn't been to the playoffs since Toronto's Joe Carter sent the Phillies packing in 1993. And I shall not forget about the Tampa Bay Rays, with not only their first playoff trip in team history, but the first winning season.

Let us break down the matchups, shall we?

Milwaukee vs. Philadelphia

This is a pretty evenly-matched series, in my opinion. Milwaukee has their share of sluggers (Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun), and so do Philadelphia (Ryan Howard and Chase Utley). These two teams have their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to pitching. CC Sabathia may be anchoring the Brew Crew, but the rest of the staff have been plagued with injuries their entire careers. The Phillies do not have anyone that will jump out at you, but their pitching staff is pretty steady.

My Prediction: The firing of Ned Yost pays off in four.

Los Angeles (NL) vs. Chicago (NL)

Dodgers manager Joe Torre has been here many times before, so why should this scenario be any different? I'll tell you why. With the exception of the acquiring of Manny Ramirez, the Dodgers do not have a scary lineup. In fact, their pitching does not put the fear of God in my heart. The Chicago Cubs seem to be the better team. Their entire lineup is strong 1-9, and the pitching staff is as tough as nails.

My Prediction: Leave Bartman at home when the NLCS comes to Wrigley Field.

Boston vs. Los Angeles (AL)

In a rematch of the 1986 ALCS (sans "Hendu" and Donnie Moore), this should be one for the ages. Small market teams should take notes, because both organizations know how to field a good team. The Red Sox are looking to further their season, since they missed out on winning the AL East. But watch out for the Angels, the team with the best record in the majors and their best in team history. Both teams have Cy Young-caliber pitching. Both teams could average a .300 batting average or better. This is defintely the series to watch.

My Prediction: The Halos may come out bruised, but they'll return to the ALCS for the first time since 2005 in five games.

Chicago (AL) vs. Tampa Bay

Thanks to a 461-foot home run by Jim Thome and a diving grab by Brian Anderson, the White Sox won the weak AL Central Division. Now the AL East is certainly not weak, and the Rays came out of it on top. The Sox seem to have a lot of flaws. Their big hitters (Thome and Paul Konerko) have been inconsistent all season. If they come out and hit, the series may be different. The Rays have to set the tone from the getgo. If they can do that, the Cinderella story might continue.

My Prediction: Tampa/Clearwater/St. Petersburg will be jumping.

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