Major League Baseball playoffs get underway
With the rise in popularity of the NFL in the past decade, many people tend to forget when the MLB playoffs begin to get underway.
This past week featured probably the best day in baseball history, as two teams, the Atlanta Braves and Boston Red Sox, completed the two biggest chokes in baseball history. In fact, some experts tabbed the chances of the Red Sox missing the playoffs as a one in a million event. With the new playoff schedule, the MLB began the playoffs last Friday in order to avoid weather problems in the later months, so there is no stop to the excitement that the MLB has built in the past few weeks.
The favorite in this year’s World Series chase has to be the Philadelphia Phillies, who finished the year with baseball’s best record by a good three or four games, mostly because they have one of the best pitching rotations in the past decade. Roy Halladay, the Phillies’ ace, pitched a no-hitter in the divisional series last year, and he will be counted on to win opening games of the series and potentially the final games of the series.
Next in the Phillies’ rotation is Cliff Lee, who was the best pitcher on this year’s free agent market by far, and actually chose to sign with the Phillies over the New York Yankees for less money in the offseason. He brings a great postseason pedigree to the team, which includes a World Series championship with the Phillies, and is easily the best No. 2 starter in the playoffs. With two of the best pitchers in the league, expect the Phils to be extremely tough to beat, especially because their offense is nothing to laugh about.
The favorite in the AL has to be the New York Yankees, who had the best run differential in the league. They actually have a very different team than the Phillies, as the Yankees team is clearly based on having a high-powered offense. They feature two MVP candidates in the middle of the lineup in Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, two guys that scored over 100 runs and drove in over 100 runs throughout the season. They had six players who hit over 20 home runs, making the Yankee lineup the best in baseball this year.
One problem with the Yankees is that their pitching rotation is known to be pretty weak, and they will rely on the portly C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia, who will probably finish second in the AL Cy Young voting this year, can probably pitch three games in a seven game series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is called on to do that in a later series. However, the story of this postseason has to be rookie Ivan Nova, who led all rookies in wins this year.
In fact, Nova picked up the win on Saturday, pitching a gem to give the Yankees a 1–0 lead in a short series with the Detroit Tigers.
However, if there is one thing I have learned about the MLB playoffs in the 15 years I’ve been watching baseball, it is to expect the unexpected. Over the past 20 years, the team with the best record has only won the World Series three times. There have been multiple instances where the team that is considered the worst team in the playoffs has won it all, such as the 2005 Chicago White Sox, or either of the two Florida Marlins championship teams.
What we do know is that there will be plenty of great memories that will be made, such as the epic 2004 Boston Red Sox comeback against the Yankees, or the underdog San Francisco Giants making a historic run just last year. With the parity in the MLB right now, I can definitely see an up-and-coming team such as the Milwaukee Brewers or Tampa Bay Rays making a run for the ages and tearing up a ton of better teams.
So far, the games have been pretty uneventful, but I guess we can’t get lucky with every game. I’m hoping we get a few extra-inning games, maybe a few walk-off home runs, and maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll see the second perfect game ever thrown in the playoffs. Either way, it will be exciting, and being a Yankees fan, I hope that the Yankees win their MLB-best 28th title.