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Playoff Predictions: Let’s Pretend We Don’t Know We Don’t Know Anything!

Being that my playoff excitement is greatly enhanced by Oakland’s six-game winning streak that helped them out of the one-game wild card round, I suppose it’s only fair to note that even Billy Beane doesn’t think his shit works in the playoffs. It’s a crapshoot. Seven game series hardly bear out the intricacies of a 162-game season, anything can happen in the three games necessary to win a 5-game series, and certainly Friday’s games are essentially coin flips.

But screw it, let’s pretend that’s not the case; predictions are fun, and I’ll always remember the ones I was improbably right about as being more than luck while the wrong ones were, as I said, just arbitrarily unforeseeable!

Wild Card Friday

Baltimore Orioles (93-69, Pythagorean 82-80) at Texas Rangers (93-69, Pythagorean 91-71) Despite the Orioles’ recent history against the Red Sox, I’m enough of a Rangers-hater to hope this isn’t the case, but… the fairy tale ends here. Mark Reynolds doesn’t get to feast on Boston pitching in this game, and even if Chris Davis gets some revenge on his old team and the O’s test the Rangers on the basepaths, I’m taking the heart of the Rangers’ order against Joe Saunders. If Jason Hammel was healthy enough to make the start, it might be a tougher call, but even if (as is so very possible in these tiny samples) the starting pitching doesn’t match expectations, the Rangers have a decent bullpen of their own to counter the O’s vaunted relief corps.

Goog: I’ll take the Orioles, largely for the sake of being a jerk. If Saunders can keep it close, and it comes down to bullpens and especially managerial maneuvering, I’ll take Buck Showalter over Ron Washington any day.

Robbie: Orioles. Why? Reverse locks, that’s why. Yes, I’m aware that’s stupid and I’m basically making a sentimental pick. Don’t care!

St. Louis Cardinals (88-84, Pythagorean 93-69) at Atlanta Braves (94-68, Pythagorean 92-70) Once again, I’m looking heavily at starting pitching when I take the Braves to win this one. But this time, I’d favor them outright in a bullpen matchup as well. Even against the volatile finesse pitching of Kyle Lohse, however, Atlanta’s Kris Medlen won’t be able to relax against a deep Cardinal lineup; if the Braves had one more big bat, I’d feel a lot more comfortable here.

Goog: I’d feel better about picking Atlanta if Fredi Gonzalez wasn’t out-thinking himself and sitting Brian McCann here, but I’ll still take the Braves on the back of their superior pitching.

Robbie: Whoops, so much for that.

Starting Saturday

Oakland Athletics (94-68, Pythagorean 92-70) at Detroit Tigers (88-74, Pythagorean 87-75) The last time we saw Oakland in the playoffs, Huston Street was serving up a pennant-winning home run to Magglio Ordonez in the Motor City. Prediction #1: Expect that highlight to be replayed often enough to make this longtime A’s admirer (top four team for over a decade!) nauseated. Prediction #2: This won’t be the series to expunge those memories. As much as I’d love to see the A’s continue their unpredicted, improbable run, I just can’t justify the matchups here. With the “anything can happen in a short series” caveat, the Tigers are just deeper than the versatile, platoon-shrewd A’s; a lot of guys who’ve had memorable contributions to Oakland’s run simply aren’t that good on a true talent level. But hey, true talent doesn’t matter in the playoffs, and I’d be thrilled to eat my words if Brett Anderson can return strong after being hurt for the last two weeks, Bob Melvin keeps using matchups to maximize the output-to-talent ratio, and the bullpen still has enough left in the tank. That said, Tigers in 4.

Goog: The Tigers are many things, but…deep? I’m not so sure about that. The A’s may not have an offensive star on the level of Cabrera or Fielder, or a starter as talented as Justin Verlander, but I think they’ll be able to take advantage of the dreadful Tiger defense and handle the parts of the order that aren’t the 3 and 4 hitters. Oakland in 4.

Robbie: Detroit’s rotation actually isn’t awful beyond Verlander, which is another way of saying that Max Scherzer and Doug Fister were actually really good this year.  The Tigers have a few Hall-of-Fame caliber players, but they struggled to pass the White Sox in a wretched division. This series (and the entire playoffs for them really) comes down to the top part of the Tigers’ lineup performing out of their minds and not being held down by the opposition’s pitching. Oakland is the far superior defensive team and has depth on their side. Oakland in 5.

Cincinnati Reds (97-65, Pythagorean 91-71) at San Francisco Giants (94-68, Pythagorean 88-74) Another Bay Area team, another round of skepticism regarding offensive performance. I simply can’t see the Giants holding up against a stacked Cincy club; if Melky Cabrera was still around and truly as good as he looked this year, it might be different. As it is, San Francisco is playing a similar offensive team with a dominant bullpen and slightly stronger set of starters. If a close series comes down to late innings, San Francisco will have to lean heavily on Sergio Romo; Cincy could comfortably trot out Sean Marshall, Jonathan Broxton, or even Sam LeCure if they want to keep Aroldis Chapman rested. Reds in 5

Goog: How is Cincy the road team here? Everything you said is right, but I’ll take the Reds in 4.

Robbie: The Reds are a better team in pretty much every area. So yeah. Reds in 4.

Starting Sunday

New York Yankees (95-67, Pythagorean 95-67) at AL Wild Card Oh look, I’m already making predictions contingent on my other predictions! In this case, that means a rematch of the 2010 ALCS. (Goog: Or the ’96 ALCS, which I’m sure will be mentioned about a gazillion times.) But this time, I think I’m going to have to take New York. I like how the schedule works for Texas – lefties Derek Holland and Matt Harrison could both pitch in Yankee Stadium and negate some of the right field homer threat – but this looks like a series apt to wear down starters and put stress on the bullpens. And while Texas can match up well with New York, any rotation edge they had takes a huge hit thanks to Friday’s game. Darvish will be out of the picture until Game 3, which puts an awful lot of pressure on Ryan Dempster to prove he was a worthy trade target. Yankees in 5

Goog: The Yankees’ reward for having the best record in the American League and just barely edging out the Orioles for the division? They get to sit around for a few days, then travel TO BALTIMORE and play the first two games of the series on the road! This seems totally fair and won’t in any way lead to a bullshit finish like Orioles in 4 or anything.

Washington Nationals (98-64, Pythagorean 96-66) at NL Wild Card The loss of Stephen Strasburg will hurt the Nationals; you’d be insane to deny it. But questioning the long-term outlook of Washington’s approach to their ace means overlooking three very good starters in Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Edwin Jackson. And for a team with such underwhelming offense, Atlanta is pretty lacking in rotation depth. Once again, the new wild card format rears its head; without Kris Medlen until the series heads to DC, the Braves will have to hope Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, and/or Tommy Hanson can keep the first two games close enough for their bullpen advantage to take over. I don’t see it happening. Nationals in 4

Goog: Yeah, this. Nationals in 3, just to have a sweep on the board.

And for the hell of it, let’s predict the whole damn postseason, ignoring the fact that at least half of the prior predictions are wrong!

ALCS Finally, a club with pitching depth and offensive stars to rival the Yankees. The Tigers have underperformed most of the year, but I think they can keep pace with the Yankees and finally take advantage of their deep rotation. Tigers in 6

Goog: The stupid, unsustainable bullshit fairy tale comes to an end; the “wow these guys are actually really good” fairy tale lives on. A’s in 5.

NLCS The Nationals and Reds both come in with strong pitching staffs, and it’s hard to pick favorites here – I’d take Washington’s rotation, but Cincy’s bullpen, if it comes to that. But Washington pulls ahead once we start looking at offense – they outhit Cincinnati in raw numbers, and once we consider the Reds’ ballpark, that becomes all the more impressive. This should be a fun series. Nationals in 7

Goog: One of these teams has Bronson Arroyo, which sort of disqualifies them from being talked up as having a super awesome rotation. (Of course, he would have been the Red Sox’ #4 this year, but…sigh.) Anyway, I’ll take Washington in 6.

World Series The Nationals’ starting trio can’t match the quartet of Verlander, Scherzer, Fister, and Sanchez. Tigers in 6

Goog: That may be true, but fortunately for them they don’t have to face those guys cause Detroit lost in the ALDS. Washington in 7.

Robbie: I know I skipped the DS/CS predictions, but, uh….. Reds in 6. Over the A’s. Yep. Sticking to that.

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