Now that the AL Central Division has finally been clinched, the playoff matchups are set. That means it’s time for some wild (but somewhat educated) guesses as to who will survive to play in the League Championship Series!
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees: The Twins won a thrilling game to take the AL Central Division crown Tuesday night. Momentum may be on their side initially, but the Yankees are a juggernaut. They have superior pitching, superior hitting, and at least equal defense to the Twins. They also have home field advantage and a day of rest that the Twins will eventually wish they had. The Metrodome gets no more than a two-game stay of execution, and even that may be generous. Yankees in three.
Boston Red Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels: Again? These two teams seem to make a postseason meeting mandatory, and the Red Sox always seem to have the Angels’ number. But all good things must come to an end. The Angels have a very solid team top to bottom. Their defense will be the difference in this series, and it won’t be easy, but I think the Angels have more of a sense of purpose than the Red Sox this year. Angels in five.
Colorado Rockies vs. Philadelphia Phillies: This series could set a record for most runs scored in a five-gamer. The thin air in Colorado; the cozy confines in Philly…and both teams have a ton of offense. The pitching? Well, the Rockies’ rotation is suspect with the injury to Jorge De La Rosa, and the Phillies’ bullpen is terrible. In the end, I think the Phillies have more firepower…and if they put up a ton of runs the closer issues will be moot. Phillies in five.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers: The two most storied franchises in the NL hook up for only the third time in playoff history. Neither team was great down the stretch. The Dodgers can do some damage on the basepaths, and manager Joe Torre isn’t afraid to play smallball…but these situations can be countered with (if not nullified by) catcher Yadier Molina and the Cardinals solid if unspectacular infield. The Dodgers have the superior closer, but he’s useless if they can’t get a lead for him. Pujols. Carpenter. Wainwright. LaRussa. It’s all too much for LA. Cardinals in four.
Stay tuned…we’re just getting started, baby!
The St. Louis Cardinals have acquired Matt Holliday from the Oakland A’s for Clayton Mortenson, Shane Peterson, and Brett Wallace.
Wallace is the centerpiece of the package sent to the A’s. He’s a third baseman now, but may project better as a first baseman or DH as his bat is solid but his defense is slightly suspect according to those in the know.
Holliday, of course, is the “big bat” Cards manager Tony LaRussa has coveted for a couple years. Holliday played well in Colorado to start his career, and after a slow start in Oakland this season (his first with the A’s) he has turned things up recently.
This deal has been rumored for some time…the Cards were discussing their desire to acquire Holliday even last season when he was still with the Colorado Rockies. One of the big problems that concerned many in Cardinal Nation was Holliday’s split stats away from Colorado. We all know that Coors Field is a launching pad because of the thin air, and while Holliday raked in Denver, everywhere else his stats were a little more pedestrian. Holliday is also a free agent after this season, and is a Scott Boras client. So there are no guarantees beyond 2009, and Wallace hasn’t yet played in the Big Leagues. That’s a big gamble.
Another issue at hand is the fifth spot in the rotation. Todd Wellemeyer has been terrible. He was good last year, even though he rarely pitched more than six innings. This year, he’s having trouble getting through five innings and has the second-worst starter ERA in the league.
So is this a good deal? I offer these points:
- Matt Holliday is a legit upgrade to this lineup. Show me an easy out: Skip Schumaker, Colby Rasmus, Albert Pujols, Holliday, Ryan Ludwick, Mark DeRosa, Yadier Molina, Brendan Ryan. You have on-base guys, you have line drive/clutch hit guys, you have power hitters, you have home run hitters. Speed and power? Balanced.
- Split Stats do not make or break a hitter. Holliday may have starkly better numbers at Coors Field than he did anywhere else, but think about this: he never hit behind Pujols. That advantage may be bigger than the thin air at Coors Field. Plus, don’t forget those “bad” away splits of Holliday’s include about 12-15 games each season in caverns like San Diego and Arizona.
- This acquisition shows a willingness to win. Sure, the Cards have brought up about 328 players for their first ever look at the big leagues this season. But not all have panned out, and most need much more seasoning in the minors. The front office took heed and acted, knowing full well that LaRussa and Pujols are approaching crossroads as to whether they want to continue as St. Louis Cardinals.
- This acquisition does not bankrupt the farm system or the budget. Oakland is sending cash with Holliday, so the monetary cost is offset. But more importantly, the Cards’ minor league system was not totally plundered for this deal. While Wallace was the top prospect in the system, and Mortenson could become a pretty decent pitcher, plenty of high-upside players remain in the system: David Freese, Jaime Garcia, Daryl Jones, Daniel Descalso, Jess Todd, Mitchell Boggs, etc. etc. Will any of these guys pan out? Well…will Wallace or Mortenson?
- This acquisition doesn’t help the rotation, but it doesn’t hurt it either. I don’t know if Wellemeyer will remain in the rotation, but obviously someone has to pitch in that slot. Now, however, the need for a top-end guy is lessened. Why? Because this is now a lethal offense…if your pitcher gives up four runs, the team still wins if they are now able to score five. I know good pitching beats good hitting, but it’s a different mindset if a starter isn’t afraid that allowing three or four runs automatically dooms the team. Plus the postion players will be less likely to think they’re out of it if a starter or reliever does have the occasional hiccup.
That’s all I have now…more later! Go Cards!