Of course, the regular season didn't leave without a couple of fights to the finish. We had both Wild Card divisions in a war on Wednesday night, and the smoke cleared with two teams coming from behind.
Aw man, I love this time of the year: chilly weather, the return of all pumpkin-flavored things, crunchy leaves, my birthday (duh), Halloween, and most of all...the MLB playoffs. This is when you see the best facing the best in America's game.
Anyway, this is also the exciting time of the year when I give my slant on the contenders in this playoff year and give my views on who is the candidate most likely winning either MVP or Cy Young.
Play some awesome music for me. I won't choose it for you this time. (:-P)
2011 MLB Postseason
I'd like to call this an "NBA-style season" because there were some divisions that were incredibly close or just a complete bust about two weeks after the All-Star Break. This is also one of the interesting occasions that every team in postseason has at least 90 wins or more. You always have at least one team with 87 or 88 wins. Anyway, let's do this crazy thing.
National League Contenders
Philadelphia Phillies (102-60) - Once you see their starting rotation in Halladay, Lee, Hamels, Oswalt, and Worley, you think, "Aw man, these guys are going to be tough." Then you see their bullpen...and think differently. After winning their fifth-straight NL East title, they're aiming to go back to the big dance. Let's just hope the lineup stays healthy and consistent so that they can make it that far. Let's go eat?
Milwaukee Brewers (96-66) - These guys are a well-rounded team that could be absolutely dangerous--especially at Miller Park (their home field). They will have their flaws at times, but with a good mix of veterans and not-veterans (what was I going to put there?), they've got the juice to really surprise anyone. Zack Greinke, Ryan Braun, and Prince Fielder are totally going to shake things up at home this postseason.
Arizona Diamondbacks (94-68) - These guys have improved immensely over the past few years. Sure, they were stellar back in '07, but then they dropped off the face of the planet for a few years. Now they've returned with smarter offense and an excellent bullpen (J.J. Putz, anyone?), they're not going to go away quietly in the postseason. One last thing, Kirk Gibson for manager of the year. He made a slump-happy team a load of winners.
[Wild Card] St. Louis Cardinals (90-72) - Holy heck. After a roller coaster season filled with injury and disagreement, the Cards were determined to fight through thick and thin to make the playoffs, and it all paid off. It wasn't easy, but Chris Carpenter and the mean 3-4-5 of Pujols, Holliday, and Berkman speared through. Although the record doesn't prove their worth compared to the other NL teams, they can really make life difficult and upset you.
American League Contenders
New York Yankees (97-65) - I guess you can say that a postseason may not be a postseason if the Yankees don't poke their heads in somehow. Regardless, their offense is effective as always with Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, and Curtis Granderson. I'm assuming they're not having any "problems" with their starting rotation either. Rookie Ivan Nova is making a name for himself (more on him later), and CC Sabathia is your average threat to kill you in some way. Deh-deh-dehhnehnehh-New Yorrrrk New Yorrrrrrk....
Detroit Tigers (95-67) - Just because these guys are in possibly the weakest division in the league, that doesn't mean they're not going to make it past the ALDS. It's not only Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera helping the team out either. They had a huge surge in power and defense in the second half of the season, and they have the juice to surprise anyone. Dare I say World Series bound? No, I don't want to jinx.
Texas Rangers (96-66) - They're baaaaaaack. As they should be. There's nothing seriously different about the team since last year except Cliff Lee, to be honest. The last thing I'd want to see is to see them try too hard to get back to the World Series. As long as the starting rotation remains focused, the top hitters on Texas' squad should follow suit. It's that easy. They had stellar teamwork last year--let's just hope they remember how to go about it.
[Wild Card] Tampa Bay Rays (91-71) - Fun fact, I had the Boston Red Sox saved in this spot for two weeks. That's how pleasantly surprised I am that the Rays made it to the postseason. Hard work and determination is an understatement for these guys. The pitching can be great when it wants to be, and their hitting/defense is well-feared in guys like Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton, and Johnny Damon. I like their chances again this postseason.
NL MVP - Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers) - This one wasn't really hard because there wasn't really anybody else who "stood out" in the NL at all this year except for Kemp. Although it doesn't look like the stats did a lot because he's on a lower-ranked team in LA, he's been in contention for the NL triple crown for the whole season. Heck, his offense was some of the only stuff keeping the Dodgers alive at one point. If he doesn't get MVP, God only knows what the voters were getting high on before the voting process
NL Cy Young - Roy Halladay (Philadelphia Phillies) - This was so hard to predict. You have Cliff Lee, who is a two-time NL Pitcher of the Month, Roy Halladay, who is last year's CY winner, and Clayton Kershaw, a heavily unrecognized ace because of the team he is on. Based on stats alone, Halladay is the favorite with Kershaw being the dark horse to upset the Phillies fans.
NL Rookie of the Year - Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves) - This was almost too easy. Freeman is a very versatile first baseman, and at a young age, he has the potential to hold about a decade's worth of power in the long-run. I guess you can call him this generation's Chipper Jones. Wait...Chipper who? Ha ha ha.
AL MVP - Jose Bautista (Toronto Blue Jays) - Talk about carrying an offense for a long while. Joey Bats may just be your ordinary outfielder on the only Canadian team in MLB, but his offense and defense has been huge throughout the year. Just because he's on a .500 team (like Kemp above), that shouldn't take away his chances to receive this award. Look at the individual, not the team itself. That's why I'm not predicting for someone like Curtis Granderson.
AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers) - This is a no-brainer. He's the Major League leader in wins, and boasts incredibly potent stats everywhere else. He's a bonafide beast at what he does. What else can I say? This award is his. If he's in the running for AL MVP as well, you know he's good.
AL Rookie of the Year - Ivan Nova (New York Yankees) - Being a pitcher in the New York Yankees staff means that about 75% of the time you will have big shoes to fill. This guy did that this year. Going 16-4 with a 3.76 ERA in your first year as a pitcher means a LOT--especially in the American League. He's got a pretty hefty chance to take this based on his top-five stats in wins and win percentage (16 and .800 respectively).
Unlike last year, I will not be making series predictions until the World Series. Why? I'm terrible at that stuff. I think out out every series I predicted last year, I only got one series right. So there. You would think based on records alone that it would be Phillies/Yankees for the second time in three years, but you never know. This year, I'm going to enjoy playoff baseball in the comforts of my own home with my hot tea and my school books and my slippers.
Until next time...