Rays vs. Rangers
The Rangers finally got back to the playoffs, and the Rays proved 2008 wasn’t a fluke. Both teams have rebuilt their teams from the ground up, but the Rays walk in with 6 more wins on the year. Pitching-wise, the two teams are separated by .05 in FIP. Cliff Lee is clearly better than any Rays pitcher (yes even over David Price), and you might be predisposed to like the Rays’ depth a bit more. But despite the worrisome innings increase for Colby Lewis and CJ Wilson, they are more than a half-run better in FIP than James Shields, Matt Garza, Jeff Niemann, or Wade Davis. Offensively, the Rangers hold a .004 lead in wOBA, but is Josh Hamilton, owner of a .448 wOBA, healthy and productive? If not, the Rangers will have a lot more work to do. Defensively, the Rays are above-and-beyond the best team defensively, but the Rangers aren’t bad. But the Rays’ awesome defense makes me think they can prevent runs much better than the Rangers. But I’ll take the Rangers in 4 (Lee wins twice).
Outcome: Rangers 3-1
Giants vs. Braves
I really didn’t expect the Giants to be here. I didn’t like their offense or defense, and I thought the Padres would recoup from a rough patch in late August/early September. But they didn’t, and the Giants allowed a whole 60 runs in September. Meanwhile, the Braves coughed up their division lead and seemingly tried their best to sabotage Bobby Cox’s sendoff. But everything is reset, and the Braves lead the NL with a 3.64 FIP. The Giants are third but 11 points back, but they have a better 1-2 in Lincecum and Cain than the Braves do in Hanson and Lowe/Hudson and have a fourth starter that the Braves won’t have without Jurrjens. Offensively, the two teams are probably better than you’d expect with the Braves 5th in wOBA and the Giants 9th, but the Braves are without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, making them much worse offensively. Defensively, the Giants surprisingly sit second while the Braves not surprisingly sit 2nd to last. The Giants have improved while the Braves have gotten worse. The Giants should make short work of the Braves.
Outcome: Giants 3-0
Phillies vs. Reds
I have a hard time imagining the Phillies losing this series. But I will mention that the Reds lead the Phillies in FIP, wOBA, and UZR/150. Yep. I was surprised, too. But I’ll also mention that the Phillies lost nearly their entire lineup at one time or another for about two weeks during the season, they didn’t have Roy Oswalt for four months, and the lineup problems had negative effects on their defense as well. The Phillies are just the better team, but the Reds deserve a lot more credit than they’ll get. So in order to give them that credit, they’ll take one game from Philly. Hey, I would have had the Phillies sweep the other two teams.
Outcome: Phillies 3-1
Again, the playoffs are a weighted crapshoot. Anything could happen, but the better teams do have better odds of winning. I tend to favor starting pitching once the playoffs come around because the best starters pitch more frequently during the playoffs than during the regular season, but as I said, this is kind of a crapshoot. And this post is supposed to ignite some discussion. Who do you think will win? I won’t criticize your bad picks if you don’t criticize mine.