2012 MLB Postseason Preview: Every Pitch Counts
Thursday, October 4th, 2012
Alex Mednick (Baseball Analyst and Writer):
With the last games of the 2012 regular season being officially completed yesterday I get the same feeling I do every season…it’s a sickening pain in my stomach, that makes me want to hibernate and not wake up until April comes around. For baseball lovers, we are all very familiar with this feeling. We find solace in the fact that with the exception of the month of November, we can still follow baseball transactions all year-long. Furthermore, we cannot get too upset; baseball isn’t really over. In fact, some might argue that it is just beginning!
The boys of summer play all those games in the summer heat for one reason. The grueling 162 game schedule sees many ups and many downs, and all of these challenges are met with a firm resolve: to do whatever it takes to get to the postseason. October is the time when the weather turns cold, and ball players become unshaven warriors duking it out to be the victorious few who have the honor to take a championship ring home this offseason.
2012 definitely created some winners—and some losers—that very few baseball analysts could say they expected. It is a great thing for the sport and, in my eyes, makes the post season much more exciting to watch. While television networks may not be happy that the Phillies, Angels and Dodgers are not going to get any air time this post season, the diversity and the rise of underdogs such as the Baltimore Orioles is very exciting for the sport.
The Baltimore Orioles, for example, had an amazing surge from a last place finish in 2011 to nearly clinching the American League East. Everyone knew that the Orioles had a great core of young talent, but nobody expected 2012 to be the year they put the pieces together. With addition of the second wild card team, the Orioles are going to have to rough it out in a one game series against last years American League champions, the Texas Rangers. Ironically, the two teams would be playing this one game series even if the new rules had not been instated, as they have identical records. The winner of the game gets the privilege of playing the New York Yankees, who have the best record in the American League and are always an imposing team to go up against. So things don’t get any easier. We don’t need to go into much detail to cover the Yankees, other to say that they have a winning combination of experience and talent…both on the mound and in the batters box.
Both the Orioles and the Rangers have great hitting although Baltimore’s starting rotation at this point is suspect. It can still be expected that either team will give the Yankees a run for their money. The Rangers are going to utilize their Japanese phenom Yu Darvish as the starter against the Orioles, and you would have to imagine the Orioles, who have not officially announced a starting pitcher as of yet, are going to go with the veteran Joe Saunders who has been hot lately and has big game experience.
Over in the American League West, we have another dramatic rise to the post season in the Athletics. Billy Beane, once again pulled of an amazing “under the radar” post season. Other than the big acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes, Billy Beane actually traded away a lot of big centerpieces, receiving in return role players that filled out the roster to make a more complete tea. The Oakland Athletics edged out both the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels for the AL West title. Not bad at all! They will be playing in the AL Division Series again the Tigers, who were expected by many to be a post season lock, but just edged out the White Sox late in the season by three games to win the AL Central. On paper, the Tigers have the clear edge in the 5 game series. Not only do they have the more intimidating lineup, but having the 1-2-3 punch of Justin Verlander, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer (plus Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez), is definitely a force to be acknowledged. That being said, the Athletics have played amazing ball all season with the team they have, and have won 6 more games than the Tigers in a tougher division. This is sure to be an exciting series, that will hopefully go all 5 games.
The picture on the National League side of things is painted 5 extremely well-rounded teams. The best team in baseball, the Washington Nationals, have an amazing lineup chalk full of talent as well as an amazingly talented and scary pitching staff. Do not be surprised if the World Series is taking place in Washington D.C. during election day. As far as their opponent for the NLDS, we have to wait to see who wins the one game playoff between the wild card Braves and Cardinals. Last year, the Cardinals had a dramatic September run to just squeeze their way into the playoffs, and they went on to win the World Series. This year, they managed to just make the playoffs again, with an 88-74 record. We all know what the Cardinals are capable of—and they have lots of motivation to defend their world series titles and go back-to-back. They will be playing, however, against a really strong Braves team that went 94-68 and boasts a lineup stacked with power and a rotation including Tim Hudson, Mike Minor, and Kris Medlen. It will be interesting to see how this series plays out, as well as to watch the great Chipper Jones take one more shot at another World Series ring before hanging his cleats up and waiting for an invitation to the Hall.
The San Fransisco Giants find themselves, once again, in postseason baseball. With three bona-fide aces at the top of their rotation, it is arguable that the Giants are the most imposing team in the league when it comes to a 5 or 7 game, do or die, series. On any given day, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain can absolutely devastate and shut down the leagues best lineup. When the season is on the line, you do not want to step to the plate against any one of these pitchers. Having two powerhouse lefty’s at the top of the rotation is another plus for the Giants in the ALDS against the Cincinnati Reds, who have batted just .266 this season against south paws.
The Cincinnati Reds are, however, by no means an underdog in this series. Having ended the season 97-65, the Reds have shown strength all season and absolutely ran away with the National League Central over the St. Louis Cardinals (by 9 games). Extending Joey Votto, who is undeniably one of the best hitters in baseball, paid instant dividends for the Reds. Having Votto surrounded by other potent bats in Brandon Phillips, Drew Stubbs and Jay Bruce didn’t hurt either. Manning 3rd base for the Reds, we have another iconic, aging, possible Hall of Famer in Scott Rolen. Johnny Cueto and offseason acquisition Matt Latos (from Oakland) create a devastating 1-2 punch for any post-season opposition, and Aroldis Chapman makes sure that any leads are protected. This is, in my eyes, the most exciting NLDS series to watch. I’m a fan of pitching duels, and these teams are very rich in top quality pitching. At the same time, both the Giants and Reds have assembled very potent lineups, so you never know what will happen on any given night.
The regular season is over and it’s times for the boys of fall to start their grind. Expect these guys to go all out, because now is the time that you make or break a season. Nobody wants to go home and watch the team that eliminated them on their home television in the World Series. It’s that time when the weather cools off, but baseball heats up!
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***
Alex Mednick is a Baseball Writer and Analyst with MLB Reports. He has both played and followed the game extensively his entire life. Alex grew up in New Haven, Connecticut—right in the crossroads of Red Sox Nation and The Yankee Empire. Somehow, he dodged the bullet of joining the war between these two teams, and a love affair between the Toronto Blue Jays and Alex formed. You can follow Alex on Twitter: @MednickAlex
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Posted on October 4, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged adam jones, alds, alex mednick, American league, american league central, angels, anibal sanchez, aroldis chapman, baltimore orioles, baseball, billy beane, brandon phillips, bryce harper, cardinals, chipper, chipper jones, cincinnati reds, cooperstown, detroit tigers, dodgers, drew stubbs, election, giants, japan, japan baseball, jay bruce, joe saunders, joey votto, johnny cueto, justin verlander, kris medlen, Los Angeles, los angeles dodgers, madison bumgarner, matt cain, Matt Latos, miguel cabrera, mike minor, mlb, national league, nationals park, new York, new york yankees, nlds, november, oakland athletics, october, philadelphia phillies, phillies, playoffs, post season, president, prince fielder, rangers, reds, rick porcello, Ron Washington, scott rolen, st louis cardinals, texas rangers, tigers, tim hudson, tim lincecum, washington, washington d.c., washington nationals, wild card, yoenis cespedes, yu darvish. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.
Hi Alex – fellow Eckerd grad here and lifelong O’s fan. Nice post! By now, we’ve bid farewell to the Rangers and are now pulled even with the Yanks. I attended several games this season and both ALDS home games – I cannot explain how great it’s been for folks (forever loyal as well as fairweather types) to even have the opportunity to be so excited and proud about the O’s! Dan Duquette and Buck Showalter are like two puppet masters with all the transactions, roster moves, and line-ups. The team ignored the preseason predictions, gelled together, and found productivity in all kinds of surprising places. They’ve had fun. We’ve endured tough losses and really great wins in this 93-69 regular season – but the O’s keep chugging along. At some point to be determined, the train will come to a stop in the postseason. Obviously a World Series win is the ultimate, ALCS amazing, ALDS fantastic. But it’s really no matter. The team, the fans, Baltimore – we’ve already won.
Amy, So glad to see another member of the Eckerd Camp! It’s great being a part of such a special community, and getting to meet others who shared similar experiences. Duquette and Showalter have been amazing this year, with everything they have orchestrated. How happy is the City of Baltimore that Bobby Valentine wasn’t your manager!?! I can’t imagine how crazy Baltimore is going right now, especially around the Harbor! I was lucky enough to witness the Rays make their 2008 worst-to-first campaign (in a city with less baseball history) and see the excitement it generated. The greatest thing about all of what is happening right now with the Orioles…is that it is NOT over yet. It will be fun to see how far they can take this amazing season! I’m actually writing a piece about exactly this topic tonight! …Thank you so much for taking the time to read and submit such a thoughtful response to the article. I really appreciate your reaching out, and maybe we’ll meet sometime at an Alumni event!