I've been meaning to post this for a while, but then the Braves made a run and threw things momentarily up in the air, so I waited till the Rockies clinched. Still don't know exactly who will be playing whom, but we will play SOMEONE from the west, so I'll just size things up based on that:
NL team breakdown:
Strengths: deep, powerfull line-up, great left-handed starting pitching.
Weaknesses: generally poor contact hitters, seemingly atrocious bullpen
Last year the Phillies won it all basically on the strength of one great starter, and a nearly flaweless bullpen. Despite bring-back largely the same team, they are going to have to win games in a much different manner this postseason. Lee and Hamels give them a terrific duo at the top of the rotation and Happ and Blanton give them pretty good 3rd and 4th options which they really didn't have last year. The line-up has tons of thunder, but a lot of strike-outs also, so they can be somewhat feast or famine. The strength of last year's team, the bullpen, now seems like a weakness, and that's usually a fatal one in the post-season.
Final analysis: This is probably the most dangerous team for us to play in the post-season because we've been so bad against left-handed pitching this year, but they are still very beatable. I'm glad we aren't playing them in the first round, because I like our chances much better in a long series where their line-up might have more bad games than good and their bullpen is likely to cost them any close games. Hopefully they'll lose in the first round and make it a moot point.
Strengths: Best bullpen of the four teams, deep line-up, experienced coaching staff.
Weaknesses: No "Aces". Manny no longer seems to be like Manny.
I'm not sure what to expect from this team really. They lack any star power, and certainly they don't scare me, but they still can stay-in a lot of games a win them late with their great bullpen. The concern if we play them in the first round is that we'll probably see two lefties in Wolf and Kershaw. Not as scary and Lee and Hamels mind you, but still concerning. Their line-up doesn't seem to be real tough either with Manny not playing well since coming back from suspension and Etheir and Kemp struggling recently as well. They do have terrific pen, with power arms from both sides, so if we let them stay in games, they'll be tough late.
Final Analysis: Unlike the Phillies, I'd rather play with in a short series, where we can potentially throw Carp and Waino at them 4 out of the 5 games and shorten our pen. In a long series, they have good depth and may wear on us. Still, they don't scare me too much overall.
Strengths: Best home-field advantage in NL, surprisingly deep pitching staff, strange "mojo"
Weaknesses: Line-up has big holes, lack of experience.
I'd actually like to avoid this team in the first round. They are probably playing the best right now, and really have probably the best overall pitching staff. Street and Moreles can shut teams down in the last two or three innings, and their starters are pretty good. De La Rosa and Jimenez are young, but have been aces the last three months. The one good thing when facing them is that aside from Helton and maybe Tulowitski, you can get their guys out and they don't even really have great power. The key will be to get ahead early if possible, because it seems this team wins all the close games late this year.
Final Analysis: Because of the great mojo this team seems to have, I'd love to avoid them if possible, but I'd rather see them in a long series where hopefully are superior depth and experience would get the better of them.
Strengths: Front-end rotation. Albert Pujols
Weaknesses: possibly bullpen
I really believe we are the team to beat in the NL, but obviously, the playoffs are a crap-shoot most years. We have the star power, and we are playing good ball in the second half of the year. The key will be how our hitters fare against left-handed started, because one way or the other, we are going to see a lot of them. The bullpen is a concern, but I feel much better about that on the whole than I have several years. A big question though is whether Smoltz can really help or not in that area. He's a gamer I know, but hasn't looked too good on the whole this year.
Final analysis: I believe Carp, Waino, and Albert carry us to the World Series, but again, you never seem to really know this time of year. Who would've pick us to win in '06?
Quick AL analysis: The Yankees are and should be a huge favorite to come-out of the AL. They finally have some real starting pitching, plus a great back-end of the bullpen. Also, they have a huge home field advantage in that joke of a new ballpark they play in. Certainly, the power arms the Tigers possess will test them in the first round, and the Angels and Red Sox both have excellent overall teams that will push them in a long series in the second round, but this seems to be their year.
Ok, so obviously I'm picking us to play the Yankees in the World Series. The only team I hate more than the Yankees is the Cubs. I would REALLY hate to see their 200 million payroll and ridiculous ballpark and celebrity fan base be rewarded, but it's tough to see all that talent losing. Sadly, they seem to have wisely spent their money this time around. Still, with our great starters and the best player in the world on our side, we'll have a puncher's chance. I'm picking the Yanks in 6, but I hope to God I'm wrong.