Longtime friends of mine know that I’m a big baseball fan. As much as I love the Niners—sometimes to the exclusion of just about everything else in my life—and as much as I get crazy excited for hoops to return every year, baseball is still my first love. However, as longtime followers of this blog (both of them) know, I don’t have enough time to watch as many baseball games as I’d like. During the middle aughts, I would attend 20 A’s and Giants games a year, watch them on TV almost every other night, and devour as much of the baseball writing on the internet as I could. Sadly, the onset of me having something that resembles a real career has drastically curtailed my baseball consumption, so most of my baseball “analysis” has descended to the gut level, unresearched, old-school truthiness that I would have scoffed at ten years ago.
Does that stop me from writing a playoff preview? Absolutely not! This year I even managed to watch a game every week or so, so I at least have some idea of how the A’s and Giants are shaping up (spoiler alert: not well). So whereas last year my baseball playoff preview was 100% uninformed, this year I’m clocking in at a cool 90% lack of knowledge. Take these picks to Vegas, folks.
A’s vs. Royals (AL Wild Card)
Oh, sad times in the East Bay. Back in July, the A’s, then the team with the best record in baseball, made an all-in trade to get two starters, Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, for the stretch run and playoffs. Then, a few weeks later, they went and made another insane trade, dealing slugging outfielder Yoenis Cespedes for Red Sox ace Jon Lester. Lester has pitched well for the A’s, but everything else went wrong, starting with the offense becoming completely incapable of scoring runs (this was mostly due to injuries, but you’ll never convince me they didn’t miss Cespedes). The team fell apart, eventually losing the division to the Angels by 11 games and needing a Sonny Gray shutout on Sunday to avoid a Game 163 playoff with the Seattle Mariners. Now the A’s travel to Kansas City to play a single elimination game against a Royals team that just broke the longest playoff drought in North American sports. Each team has its ace lined up to start, with Lester going against James Shields. As such, I see a low-scoring game, one in which Shields and KC’s flamethrowing bullpen are just a bit better than Lester, and the Royals are able to scratch out a couple of small ball runs en route to a 2-1 victory. I’ll be sad for all my A’s fan buddies, but I’ll be happy for Rany.
Royals vs. Angels (ALDS)
The Angles had the best record in baseball this season, led by outfielder Mike Trout, aka the best player since Barry Bonds. But you know what? I believe in the old adage that pitching wins in the postseason (even if studies have shown that isn’t strictly true), and the Angels’ rotation is thin thanks to injuries, in particularly a gruesome injury that ended ace Garrett Richards’ season. What’s more, I just love Kansas City’s power arms, and I think they’re exactly the kind of team that can shut down the Los Angeles Angels of Toluca Lake. (Or is that Topanga Canyon? Is this joke outdated? Screw it, I don’t care.) So I’m saying Royals in four.
Tigers vs. Orioles (ALDS)
This one’s easy. The Orioles had a marvelous season, but Detroit will roll out Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and David Price. (I know Verlander struggled this year, but will anyone be surprised if he comes out and throws a shutout this weekend? The guy’s a fucking Terminator.)
The bottom line is, none of the starters the Orioles will send to the hill in this series would crack the Tigers’ playoff rotation. That’s a problem, and that’s the reason the Tigers are taking this series 3-0.
Royals vs. Tigers (ALCS)
Not many people would have predicted the ALCS would feature two teams from the Central Division. I was going to pick the Tigers thanks to their experience and superior starters—I had actually written my pick out already—but you know what? To hell with that. The Tigers have had their chances over the last few years, and it’s time for the Kauffman Stadium waterfalls to crash the World Series. (You like this in-depth analysis?) Royals in Six.
Giants vs. Pirates (NL Wild Card)
The Giants were the best team in baseball for two months, then proceeded to go swimming in the Gowanus Canal for two months, before finally righting the ship juuuuuuust enough to snag a Wild Card. They’re missing magic talisman Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval has been terrible of late, and with Michael Morse still hurt I honestly have no idea who is starting in left field for them on Wednesday. Other than Buster Posey rediscovering his MVP form in the second half and Madison Bumgarner toeing the rubber, there’s no reason to expect them to beat Andrew McCutchen (probably the best player in the NL) and the Pirates at PNC Park. Well, there’s also this: The Giants own the Pirates’ souls. Grant Brisbee has written about this often at McCovey Chronicles, but to sum up quickly, the Pirates became a 20-year dumpster fire after Barry Bonds left Pittsburgh for San Francisco.
In that time, the Giants also fleeced the Pirates for Jason Schmidt, Freddy Sanchez, Javier Lopez, and even Ryan Vogelsong (a former Giants prospect they originally traded for Schmidt). Bonds won five MVPs, Schmidt was an ace, and each of the other three guys contributed to a Giants World Series win in either 2010 or 2012. The Pirates? Dumpster fire. The ownage continues, as the Giants win 4-3 in Pittsburgh.
UPDATE: It was just pointed out to me that Travis Ishikawa will likely start in left field for the Giants. The onetime San Francisco prospect started this season on the Pirates, but was released on April 23. You know he’s getting a clutch hit in this game. Now I’m even more sure of this pick.
Giants vs. Nationals (NLDS)
You know how I wrote about how the Giants own Pittsburgh up there? Well, the history isn’t as long, but the Nats have routinely destroyed the Giants over the last four years (SF is 9-17 against the Nats in that time, and I honestly thought it was worse)—and they also have a deep lineup that’s only gotten better in the second half with Bryce Harper finally breaking out of a long funk, and a lights-out rotation headed by Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann (who threw a no-hitter on Sunday). To be honest, I’d be surprised if the Giants win a game in this series. So I’m picking a Nationals sweep.
Cardinals vs. Dodgers (NLDS)
Nice matchup of classic teams with beautiful uniforms, not to mention two of the franchises I hate most in sports. I’m saying Dodgers in 5, but all I really want is for these teams and their fans to suffer.
Dodgers vs. Nationals (NLCS)
The Nats are the one team in the NL that can match, perhaps even top, the Dodgers’ high-end pitching. This would be an epic series between two deep, talented teams, a series that would be really fun to watch—except I won’t even watch it because I’ll be bitter about the Nats beating the Giants, and because fuck the Dodgers. Nationals in six. Fuck the Dodgers.
Royals vs. Nats (World Series)
I think this would be a pretty fresh, fun World Series. I also think that KC would be totally overmatched, and as I predicted back in March, the Nationals will win the World Series. Let’s say in five games, with Anthony Rendon as Series MVP.
I look forward to being wrong about all of this.