Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald
This seasons World Series features a matchup of two powerhouse teams, the Omaha Sluggers and the Pawtucket G-Maniacs. Both have compile impressive regular season records for the past 7 seasons, but only Omaha has realized playoff success, making three straight World Series with one championship, while the G's have only managed to fizzle out in the LCS numerous times until now. How will the series play out? Lars the Greek takes a look to see who might be victorious.
Pawtucket G-Maniacs (101-61) vs. Omaha Sluggers (112-50)
Overview: Pawtucket reached it's first ever World Series by defeating two very talented teams in the Scranton Dragons and the Helena Hellraisers. The G-Manaics did this primarily on the back of Dean Herandez, who has dominated opposing lineups through the entire postseason, and the veteran bat of Robin Gordon, who is posting a very impressive 1.236 OPS in the playoffs. Omaha reached the World Series by posting in improbable come from behind victory over the St. Louis HoundDogs, and then sweeping the overmatched Wichita Wankers. Standouts have been the usual suspects, with Josh Price and Jose Barrios tearing it up in the lineup, and Kazuhiro Ong leading the pitching staff.
Lineups: The G-Maniacs jettisoned a huge number of veteran free agents in the offseason, and brought out a new lineup with lots of youth. But they traded to bring Tom Petitte back midseason when the team was looking like it was a lock to win the division. Petitte hasn't disappointed in the postseason, batting .326, but star IF Dennis Ashby has, batting only .250 with a .291 OBP in the playoffs. He will have to improve in order to stand a chance against the Omaha pitching. The rest of the lineup is composed of very solid players, who all can be difference makers on any given day. Omaha is powered by Price and Barrios, but Bill Norton and Sammy Maduro are proven playoff performers who are bringing it again this year as well. Throw in Tomas Diaz and Albert Burnett, and you have a lineup that is hard for any pitching staff to find a hole in.
Pitching: Pawtucket's strength is it's pitching with Cy Young winner Dean Hernandez anchoring a staff that also includes talented pitchers Kory Burrell, Skeeter Robinson, Albert Franco, and Jose Rios. Hernandez is a complete game machine, and is normally good for 2 wins in a 7 game series all by himself. Which is a good thing, because as talented as he is, Franco has shown a tendency to blow it in big games, although to be fair he has been pretty good this time around. Rios has been very good in the closer role this playoffs. Omaha is led by multiple Cy Young winner Kazuhiro Ong, who is along with Hernandez one of the top pitchers in the game. Ong is joined by a top flite staff of pitchers including veterans Flip Heathcott and Ivan Canseco, and talented youngster Clyde Ford. Sean Hill anchors the Omaha bullpen, but this postseason hasn't been kind to the veteran, who is suffering with a 13.50 ERA and two blown saves so far.
Intangibles: Omaha has won a World Series before, and has always performed well in the playoffs, but their bullpen inconsistencies are forcing their starters to throw near perfect games to keep things out of the hands of the erratic Sean Hill. The lineup is fearsome, but how they will perform against the most talented pitching staff they have seen in the playoffs remains to be seen. Pawtucket has always come up a dollar short until this season, and they feel that it is their time. The starting pitching is very good, and closer Jose Rios is reliable, but Albert Franco is just an inning away from a meltdown, and the lineup needs to do a better job of supporting Petitte and Gordon, especially against a very tough Omaha staff.
Pick: Pawtucket in 7 - Lars thinks that the G's are due for a victory. Omaha has a better lineup, their starting pitching is even, and Pawtucket has a better bullpen, so this should be a very close and competitive series. Ultimately Lars thinks it will come down to a blown save or two that will decide the series, and that is where Pawtucket has the edge, at least thus far.