This is not a predictions post, really. We’ll be doing previews of each of the first round series tomorrow and Wednesday. This is more of a snapshot of where the teams sit as we head into the madness that is playoff baseball. For example, I may have the Braves last, but I think they got a serious shot at taking down the Giants. We’ll save that for the previews. For now, just let my subjective judgments wash over you.
1. Phillies: I’m going to be on the “no one can beat Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels” train until someone beats them. No one has shown us that the big Russian can be cut yet.
2. Yankees: I know the Rays won the division. I really don’t care. A-Rod got healthy and hot at the right time. I refuse to believe that Rivera and Jeter and all of the rest won’t simply amp things up a bit now that the playoffs have started. Yes, they try to win every game, but if you asked Lance Armstrong if he felt winning those early sprints were important a few years ago he would have said yes too. Bull. He was saving it for the mountains. I think the Yankees are too, and I’d have a seriously difficult time betting on anyone else coming out of the AL.
3. Giants: In most years Lincecum-Cain-Sanchez would be called the big three of the playoffs. They suffer this year only by comparison. Their infield defense scares the crap out of me, though.
4. Rays: The best defense of any team in the playoffs, but can you depend on anyone in the rotation beyond David Price? I could see them mowing everyone down in the AL, or I can see them losing in the first round 3-1. How does it feel to have so much riding on Matt Garza, Rays fans?
5. Twins: Say all you want about past playoff history between the Twins and the
Yankees not mattering as much as people say it should, but Minnesota is 18-54 against the Yankees since Ron Gardenhire took over the club and that’s hard to ignore.
6. Reds: The best offense in the NL, but so much of it came at the expense of a really weak NL Central. The thing I’m waiting to see in the first round more than anything else: close game, late innings, Aroldis Chapman coming in to face Utley and Howard.
7. Rangers: Texas was a combined 0-12 at Yankee Stadium, Target Field and Tropicana Field. That’s . . . troubling.
8. Braves: Bright side: Now that they’re in the playoffs they don’t need fourth and fifth starters, really, neutralizing a late-season weakness. Not so bright side: they still have to fill out their lineup card with two guys from the following group in every game: Melky Cabrera, Nate McLouth, Matt Diaz and Rick Ankiel. I’m approaching this like I approach my son’s soccer games: Hey everyone! Let’s just have some fun! There will be snacks afterward!