Saturday, September 12, 2009

Season 13 Playoff Preview

Lars the Greek - Cobb Times Herald

Once again autumn is upon us and bringing with it playoff baseball. This season Cobb has seen several unfamiliar franchises ascend to playoff heights, while some familiar faces have been left behind to watch on television. Lars has taken it upon himself to use his crystal ball, tarot cards, Mayan Calendar interpretations, and a scad of other unassailable foretelling techniques to sort it out and see what will happen. Read on for the results of Lars' House of Seance, and Lar's World Series prediction at the end of the article.

National League

Syracuse Beagles (114-48, #1 seed)
How they got here: Syracuse had one of the best regular seasons in the history of the league, and were clearly head and shoulders above every other National League team, and probably American League team as well. With All-Stars at nearly every position and in every spot in the rotation and bullpen, the Beagles have put together the most talented team since who knows when. Even in the brutally competetive NL East, it wasn't even close as Syracuse ran away with the division. But as we all know, and Syracuse knows only too well, the playoffs are another story entirely.
Offensive MVP: Louie Tarraga
Pitching MVP: Kirk White
What needs to go right: Luck. The SIM not deciding this would be a good day to ruin owner zooeydogs week. Quite frankly if talent alone decides who will win, Syracuse is a shoe in. Ron Reilly is their mopup for crying out loud.
What can go wrong: See above. If Syracuse has their typical playoff luck, it will be a short postseason for the Beagles, regardless of how awesome they are.
Fun Fact: Of the 16 previous teams to post more than 110 wins in a season, only 5 have gone on to win the World Series; the Cleveland Riverrats in season 3, Fargo Fug Nuts in season 6, and Omaha Sluggers in seasons 7, 9, &10.
Lars' Prediction: World Champion, unless someone on the team does something stupid, like shooting an Albatross.

Omaha Sluggers (97-65, #2 seed)
How they got here: The Sluggers rode the back of Cy Young contender Kazuhiro Ong yet again, with help from Clyde Ford and Ivan Canseco. Josh Price led the offense with another great season, and the Sluggers had the NL West wrapped up at the All Star break, although Iowa City is showing signs of life so it might be a little closer next season.
Offensive MVP: Josh Price
Pitching MVP: Kazuhiro Ong
What needs to go right: For the Sluggers to win the title once again their pitching will have to deliver. Of all the teams in the National League, Omaha probably has the top three starters capable of silencing the lethal Syracuse lineup. When Ong, Ford, and Canseco are at their best, not many teams can get a hit.
What can go wrong: Age. Jose Barrios is finally starting to slow down after the single greatest career in Cobb history, and will need to produce one more time in the playoffs, otherwise Price won't have a whole lot of protcction in the lineup, which could lead to some low scoring games for the Sluggers. Barrios' production is especially important as Price suffered a late season injury that might make him unavailable for the Sluggers opening series.
Fun Fact: The Sluggers have made the playoffs for the 11th consecutive season, tied with the Fargo Fug Nuts for the longest consecutive playoff appearance streak in the National League, and 1 season behind the Pawtucket G-Maniacs, who have made the playoffs 12 straight seasons out of the AL.
Lars' Prediction: 2nd Round and out, possibly to the LCS. The Sluggers pitching is just dominant, but Lars doesn't see quite enough in the lineup to support it, and thinks one of the wildcard teams will seize the opporunity in a short series.

New York Pick Pockets (89-73, #3 seed)
How they got here: New York was in a tight race with Sioux Falls until the last game of the season, where they took advantage of an error in the bottom of the 9th by the SXF closer, and used a Brad Mann walkoff homer in the 12th to vault themselves into their first ever playoff appearance.
Offensive MVP: Joseph Pan
Pitching MVP: Juan Moreno
What needs to go right: The Pick Pockets lineup is deep, and had a good season top to bottom, so the onus lies upon the pitching staff to pick it up, where outside of Juan Moreno and Louie Brogna, the results were spotty at best. They should get a big boost by the return from injury of Skeeter Robertson, but he and Moreno pitched the final two games of the season and won't be able to pitch until game three. So if one of the other starters can steal a win, NY will be in good shape.
What can go wrong: The unreliable back end of the NY pitching staff will not play well and blow the first two games in the opening series, putting NY in a hole they probably won't be able to dig out of.
Fun Fact: With NY's division title, this marks the first time in 13 seasons that Fargo or SXF hasn't finished 1st in the NL North, and the first time Fargo finsihed below 2nd place.
Lars' Prediction: Wildcard and out. NY had a good season, but their pitching staff is gassed, and Atlanta is a brutal first round opponant. With their lineup they might be able to hit out of it, but probably not.

Jackson Pollocks (86-76, #4 seed)
How they got here: Jackson took advantage of a late season collapse by Richmond and snuck into the playoffs on the last day courtesy of a four game winning streak.
Offensive MVP: Norm Gibson
Pitching MVP: Carlos Feliz
What needs to go right: The Pollocks collection of overachievers in the lineup needs to keep producing, the pitching staff needs to overcome their inability to dominate on a consistent basis to put together a solid streak of good games, and Columbus needs to fall apart.
What can go wrong: Norm Gibson pretty much realized the fears of Jackson fans everywhere as the MVP candidate suffered a season ending injury at the beginning of the playoffs. Without him to anchor the lineup, Jackson will have trouble scoring runs against a very good HoundDogs pitching staff.
Fun Fact: Jackson is the only franchise in Cobb history to have made the World Series at least twice and not have won.
Lars' Prediction: Wildcard and out. The bad times already started with the Gibson injury, and Columbus' bats are just going to be too much for the Pollocks pitching to handle.

Columbus HoundDogs (98-64, #5 seed)
How they got here: The HoundDogs were suffering at the all star break, but took the media's negative comments as inspiration to put together a great late season run to clinch the top NL wildcard spot with games remaining.
Offensive MVP: Chipper Harper
Pitching MVP: Sarma Inge
What needs to go right: The HoundDog bats need to stay hot, and pitching surprises such as R.J. Winn need to keep giving quality innings when needed. Ace Elvis Christman needs to up his game as well, as he has been a relative disappointment, and he will be needed to support Talmadge Young against the top teams in the NL.
What can go wrong: Injuries could happen to their great core of young hitters, the pitching could suddenly implode, or they could have a bad game in a short series that could hurt them.
Fun Fact: R.J. Winn's 14 wins are only 1 less than his previous three seasons combined.
Lars' Prediction: LCS is a possibility. Lars thinks that Columbus is the second best team in the NL this season, and could take advantage of Syracuse's typical bad luck should they meet them in the 2nd round of the playoffs. If that is the case, then a really deep run is a real possibility.

Atlanta Pitbulls (94-68, #6 seed)
How they got here: The Pitbulls were the lucky survivors in the race for the final wildcard spot and 3rd place in the nasty NL East. They had to push thier players hard to do it though, and are now a bit fatigued for the playoffs.
Offensive MVP: Ernest McConnell
Pitching MVP: Junior Lee
What needs to go right: Playoff veterans Rico Estrada, McConnell, Lee, and Nick Weaver need to build on their past playoff successes and show the rest of the Pitbulls how to win in the postseason. Atlanta needs to survive the first two games against a powerful NY lineup with it's back end starters. Sean Hill needs to keep proving Lars the Greek wrong in the playoffs.
What can go wrong: Atlanta's pitching will get eaten alive by NY in the first two games of their series, really putting the team in a hole. Otherwise the Pitbulls are built for the playoffs.
Fun Fact: This is the franchises first ever playoff appearance under GM alogman1, and first playoff appearance since the inaugural season 1.
Lars' Prediction: LCS is a possibility. If they can weather their opening round series, Lars likes the matchup with Omaha, and thinks they could pull off the upset, and make a big run.

American League

Louisville Dogs (97-65, #1 seed)
How they got here: The Dogs were in a tight race with Florida until some clutch play led to a huge winning streak in the last week of the season, where the Dogs put Florida out of reach.
Offensive MVP: Ralph Woods
Pitching MVP: Shane Parrish
What needs to go right: For Louisville to advance, Woods will need to keep his rookie magic going, as he is the only consistent power threat in the Dogs lineup. The lineup is very balanced though, and doesn't have any real weak spots, so they should be ok in the postseason. Ugueth Posada and Benito Rodriguez will need to reliably get the game passed over to closer Shane Parrish, who has been having a dominant season.
What can go wrong: Woods will come back to Earth, Posada and Rodriguez will collapse in the playoffs, and Parrish will suddenly start blowing games. None of this is very likely however.
Fun Fact: This is the Louisville franchises first ever playoff appearance, first #1 seed, first winning season, and first AL South title.
Lars' Prediction: LCS is a possibility, perhaps the World Series. If Eric Holdridge can get a good game in here and there to support Posada and Rodriguez, the Dogs can go a long way, as they have a nicely balanced lineup and pitching staff.

Tacoma Jerry Gang (97-65, #2 seed)
How they got here: The Gang were in a pretty tough playoff race in the AL West until the last few weeks of the season, where they pulled away and established themselves as division champs.
Offensive MVP: Tony Arnold
Pitching MVP: Jerry Torrealba
What needs to go right: Someone other than Jerry Torrealba and Joaquin Rivera needs to emerge in the rotation, Pedro Nieves in the bullpen needs to continue his solid play, and the lineup needs to keep enjoying life on the road.
What can go wrong: A team with a better pitching staff could easily exploit the Tacoma ballpark, and the lineups depressed numbers could be more than just the result of the ballpark they play half their games in.
Fun Fact: After many years of repairing the wrongs that abandonment left upon this franchise, this is the highest win total the team has ever achieved in 13 seasons in Cobb World.
Lars' Prediction: 2nd round and out. The Gang have gotten much better in recent years, as their results show, but they still need a little more before they can take the next step of advancing deep in the playoffs. But don't be surprised if they prove Lars wrong and make a run, as they have the potential to do it.

Pawtucket G-Maniacs (96-66, #3 seed)
How they got here: The G-Maniacs travelled the same road they have for the past 11 seasons, winning the AL North with ease. Yet another Cy Young calibur season from Dean Hernandez didn't hurt either.
Offensive MVP: Joseph Funaki
Pitching MVP: Dean Hernandez
What needs to go right: Hernandez needs to start as many games as possible, and Funaki, Rick Clinton, Brace Davey, and Walter Stewart need to keep belting out the HR's. Kory Burrell has also been fantastic for the G's, and if he can keep that up in the playoffs Pawtucket will be in good shape, for with Hernandez you really only need two and a half starters.
What can go wrong: Outside of Clinton, the Maniacs lineup doesn't get on base much, and relies on the HR quite a bit. If any of their top 3 sluggers go dormant in the playoffs, they might have trouble putting runs on the board. Also, as the Pawtucket rotation is so dependent on Hernandez, if he is sub-par they will be in trouble
Fun Fact: Hernandez and Burrell started over 73 games this year for Pawtucket, logging over 450 innings between the two of them. No other pitcher in their rotation was even close to that amount of work.
Lars' Prediction: 2nd round and out, possibly an LCS berth if lucky. In order for Pawtucket to advance, Hernandez needs to be good in every start. Lars doesn't see that happening in the playoffs, and one loss in a short series could be the decider.

Cleveland Steamers (96-66, #4 seed)
How they got here: The Steamers slowly gained ground over the season and eventually put the rest of the AL East out of reach. Thier playoff chances took a hit though when ace pitcher Gary Ferguson went down with a season ending injury. But as defending World Champions, they know how to get it done and showed it with a tough regular season that had them in contention for the #1 seed.
Offensive MVP: Lyle Crudale
Pitching MVP: Ruben Gonzalez
What needs to go right: Ruben Montero, Bill Palmer, and Trevor Seelbach need to pitch as many innings as possible, as they have proven time and again they are money in the playoffs. Thier offense needs to step it up a notch, as outside of Crudale they haven't been playing to their full potential.
What can go wrong: The talented pitching trio of Montero, Palmer, and Seelbach becomes fatigued and the rest of the staff has to step up. With no established closer, the bullpen is a mystery, and losing Ferguson really puts the pressure on the other two top starters to be near perfect every game.
Fun Fact: Ruben Gonzalez is 12-4 in 2o postseason starts, with an ERA of 3.18, and WHIP of 1.17. Not too shabby.
Lars' Prediction: LCS bound. Lars thinks that Cleveland always overperforms in the playoffs, and this year will probably be no exception. But a lack of pitching depth at the highest level will hurt them against the best teams in the AL, and unless the lineup really turns it up there probably won't be enough run support to get them all the way this season.

Florida Almendares (89-73, #5 seed)
How they got here: Florida was breathing down Louisvilles neck for most of the season until the Dogs went on a tear at the end of the year. As a result, Florida got in as a wildcard berth.
Offensive MVP: Darryl Young
Pitching MVP: Eric Collins
What needs to go right: Eric Collins needs help from the other Eric Collins, and someone from the rest of a Florida pitching staff that underperformed for most of the year to step up. Young will need to keep hitting and getting good help from Hades Booker and a surprising Lloyd Ross.
What can go wrong: Eric Collins (of the mustache) could get hurt, leaving the staff without a true ace. The rest of the Florida pitchers could pitch like they did in the regular season, which wasn't all that great. A lineup that didn't produce much power could suffer if any of their four big producers slumps or gets hurt.
Fun Fact: Eric Collins and Eric Collins were the two winningest pitchers for Florida, marking the first time two players with the same name led a team in wins.
Lars' Prediction: Wildcard and out. Lars sees a team that is great at times, but flawed at others. The pitching should be better than it has performed this season, and if that trend continues in the playoffs it will be a quick exit for Florida. As good as Eric Collins x2 are, they can't carry the team by themselves.

Washington D.C. Momentum (87-75, #6 seed)
How they got here: D.C. was the last team standing in the AL Wildcard race as they outlasted Vancouver and beat out Anaheim on a tie breaker.
Offensive MVP: Shawon Lee
Pitching MVP: Alfonso Vega
What needs to go right: For Washington to advance, they need their pitching to perform much better than they did during the regular season, where they were competent, but not great. Lee and Ira Riggs need support from someone else in the lineup on a consistent basis, as there are no other real threats to end a game with one at bat.
What can go wrong: The lineup will fade against top quality pitching, and the Momentum's own starters will have their regular season stats during the playoffs, and get lit up by the top lineups in the AL.
Fun Fact: The Washington franchise has made the playoffs in 12/13 seasons, tied for the most playoff appearances in the history of the league with Pawtucket.
Lars' Prediction: Wildcard and out. The Momentum were lucky to make the playoffs, as the race was very tight and hard fought between several very good teams. But that they made the postseason shouldn't be a surprise as manager furniss13 has proven time and again he is capable of getting the most out of his teams. But this year Lars thinks the talent level of the top four teams in the AL will be just too much for them to overcome, and a wildcard out looks likely.

Lar's World Series Prediction:
Syracuse over Louisville in 6

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