2014 ALCS & NLCS
Orioles in 6
Over the last two decades there has not been many Managers that have been more successful than Buck Showalter. He has helped build three contenders in four managerial stops. However, he has never had a chance to take his team to the World Series. Showalter helped shaped the New York Yankees dynasty but they did not win until the year after he left with Joe Torre. Buck than helped make the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks contenders right away, but again they won the World Series the season after his departure. Now he has the Orioles on the door step of the Fall Classic, after winning a postseason series for the first time with the ALDS sweep of the Tigers.
The Royals are this October’s Cinderella Story. In the playoffs for the first time since 1985, the Royals have gone Back to the Future, with an old fashioned style of baseball. The Royals hit the fewest home runs in the regular season, but made up for it with a team that runs all over the bases and plays the type of small ball that was common a century ago. The Royals also have been playing a style of defense that is stealing the show, with Lorenzo Cain stealing away hits the same way he steals bases. Cain was able to frustrate the Angels in the ALDS sweep by seemingly catch every ball hit near Centerfield, as he seemed to fit the old Garry Maddox motto said by Ralph Kiner; “Two thirds of the earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by Maddox.”
The edge in lineup goes to the Orioles and the birds may even have the advantage in the starting rotation, as the Royals are the clear underdogs once again. However, since their come from behind win in the Wild Card Game, they certainly have their mojo working. However, one problem with winning as quickly as they did in the ALDS that momentum could be blunted. The Orioles also swept their series, and have had as much time off as the Royals, but it could have a bigger negative effect on the Royals as when you play at the level they played against the Angels you want as little time off as possible.
The Royals may have an edge in the bullpen as they have been able to shorten the games with Wade Davis and Greg Holland being nearly untouchable. The Orioles have also has solid relief, with Zach Britton excelling this season. In the ALDS the Orioles were able to take advantage of an awful Tigers pen, if they need to that in the ALCS they could be sitting next to the Angels and watching the World Series.
The Royals won the season series 4-3, but the games were all played in April and May, so it is hard to even consider them, since both teams are significantly different. The Orioles have the bats to win this series, they have the depth and they have the experience with Nelson Cruz leading the way. Look for the Orioles to win the ALCS in six games with with Cruz taking MVP honors.
Cardinals in 7
The National League has had two teams dominate the postseason in the 2010’s; the St. Louis Cardinals and the San Francisco Giants. Over the last four years the teams have rotated with trips to the Fall Classic, with the Giants going to the World Series in 2010 and 2012, while the Cardinals went in 2011 and 2013. If that trend continues the Giants will be going, but after their recent meeting in the 2012 NLCS the Cardinals would certainly like to even the score. The Cardinals were in command in that series leading three games to one, before the Giants rallied to win the series in seven games with Marcu Scutaro playing a starring role. Scutaro had been injured most of the season, but after struggling all season to find a second basemen the Giants have gotten a great performance from Joe Panik.
This series has seven games written all over it as they are so incredibly evenly matched. Both teams are also experienced and battle tested. The Cardinals have a roster full of clutch players led by Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter. The Giants meanwhile have Kung Fu Panda (Pablo Sandoval) and Buster Posey. Both teams had a team ERA of 3.50, the Giants team batting average was .255, while the Cardinals batted .253. The Giants averaged 4.1 runs per game, the Cardinals 3.8. The Cardinals regular season record was 90-72 and the Giants finished 88-74. To compare each team is literally splitting hairs. In the regular season, the Giants won four of seven, with all seven games being played before the All-Star Break.
I like the Giants starting rotation better, with Madison Bumgarner, Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum leading the way. However, it is merely a slight advantage with Adam Wainwright, John Lackey, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller can all match them pretty well. The Cardinals have an edge with Trevor Rosenthal in the closer role, but the Giants have greater depth in the bullpen as shown in their key 18 inning win over the Nationals in Game 2 of the NLDS. Yusmeiro Petit who six dominant inning gave the Giants a commanding 2-0 lead heading home. Petit is a spot starter who can pitch deep, he nearly tossed a perfect game in 2013 and at one point this season set a record retiring 46 straight batters.
The Cardinals have a deeper lineup and a deeper bench as the Giants bats were silent in the NLDS against the Nationals, while the Cardinals lit up Clayton Kershaw and the Dodges bullpen. The Giants offense has gaps and as seen in Game 2, can go a long time without scoring. In a series this tight that may be the difference.
When they met in 2012, the Cardinals had a 3-1 series lead, but lost Game 5 at home, allowing the Giants to use the home field advantage and win the final two games to advance to the World Series. This time around those last two games will be in Busch Stadium, and the Cardinals will win the series because of it, with Matt Carpenter hammering his way to the NLCS MVP.