I utilize six key metrics to handicap the MLB playoff series – in order of importance – 1. Starting pitching, added weight for dominate “ace”-like pitchers; 2. Relief pitching – top three relievers, closer and starter turned reliever for the playoffs; 3. Offensive intangibles (otherwise known as “Catch-All”). Which team is best at applying pressure on the defense versus which team is likely going to sit waiting for a big-booper to hammer a three run shot; 4. How did the team finish the season (games 102-152, I ignore the last 10 since most teams that have clinched a spot tend to treat those games as exhibition); 5. Managers, a good MLB manager doesn’t win games, he merely has to keep from losing them; and 6. Anti-Yankee bias, the completely random “who can beat the Yankees” category. Mix those six metrics together and it’s pretty easy to pick the series winners.
2010 Record – Division Series: 1-3, LCS: 0-2, WS: 0-1 (you might want to fade these picks)
Tampa Bay @ Texas –
Starting Pitching – Neither team has a lock down, ace-type pitcher, however, the Rays hold the advantage, 1-8.
- James Shields, TB
- C.J. Wilson, Tex
- David Price, TB
- Matt Harrison, Tex
- Matt Holland, Tex
- Jeremey Hellickson, TB
- Colby Lewis, Tex
- Matt Moore, TB*
The asterisk next to Moore’s represents that he might be 8th or he might be 1st. According to Fan Graphs, Moore has the best stuff on the Rays roster, but he is making just his second career start (the first was against the triple-A team the Yankees were trotting out at the end of the season). Let’s say Moore goes belly-up, I give slight the advantage to the Rays, but if Moore lives up to the hype the Rays gain a huge advantage.
Plus, I don’t really trust C.J. Wilson in the playoffs; imagine how I feel about Matt Harrison, Colby Lewis and Matt Holland. The Rangers need those four guys to keep games close, where the bullpen advantage can come into play.
Edge – Rays
Relief Pitching – The Rays starting pitching will need to go deep into games to mitigate the clear advantage the Rangers have in the bullpen. I ask you the question, if your favorite team is clinging to one run lead in the 9th, who do you want closing – Kyle Farnsworth or Neftali Perez? That’s a little like asking – do you want your balls crushed by a falling anvil or a help yourself bowl of yogurt loaded with tantalizing toppings?
Edge – Rangers
Offensive Intangibles – The Rays have the athletes to put massive pressure on opposing defenses, but in order for that to be a factor the Rays have to get on base. Therein lies the problem for the Rays, they have trouble getting on base.
And how often can the Rays count on a guy with hitting splits of .119/.187/.202/.389 (AVG/OBP/SLG/OPS) to rescue them from the abyss? Conversely, the Rangers are just as athletic but unlike the Rays they can mash. The Rangers lead the Rays in virtually every offensive category. Of course, the Rangers play in one of the most hitter friendly parks, while the Rays play in a definite pitchers park so that accounts for some of the difference.
I feel a little more comfortable with a lineup that includes Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Michael Young over a lineup with Evan Longoria and . . .
Edge – Rangers
Finish – One would think the Rays played sizzling baseball down the stretch based on overcoming a nine game deficit. Nope it was sheer incompetence from the team they were chasing – 17-10 in their last 27, however, the Rays were 36-14 in the key “50” or .720 baseball. The Rangers countered with a 35-15 record, so both teams are playing exceptionally well heading into the post-season.
Edge – Even
Managers – I’m not in love with either manager, but Joe Maddon would scare me to death if I were a Rays fan. From the decision to start Matt Moore in game one to wacky lineups based on his Oui board feeling, this guy walks a fine line between genius and effing moron.
Ron Washington is a little more conservative, consistently playing the percentages and making the “smart”, justifiable moves.
At the end of the day, I will take a manager that doesn’t get in the way of the team winning versus one who takes too many risks and can end up costing his team a win.
Edge – Rangers
Anti-Yankee bias – Bottom line for the Rangers is – beating the Yankees is playoff ritual (I know, it’s only one year), so we know that can take down the Yankees. On the other hand, I think the Ray can beat the Yankees. I will take “know” over “think” every day.
Edge – Rangers
Prediction – Rangers 3 Rays 1