2011 MLB Playoff Predictions

September 29, 2011

What a night for baseball! I can honestly say that I have not witnessed a more exciting night of baseball in my entire life. If last night were a script for a movie, it would be scrapped because it was so unbelievable. It’s so unfortunate that baseball has taken a backseat to football, and also that the majority of casual fans did not even tune into last night’s games.

The divisional matchups are set, and play will begin tomorrow afternoon. Here are Around The Corn’s predictions for how things will play out this October.

American League

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers

Game 1: Friday, 5:07 pm ET on TBS

A rematch of the divisional series from 2010, this series should be just as hard fought as last year’s. After a miraculous come from behind win against the Yankees in their final game that was capped with a solo walk-off home run by Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay has lots of momentum. That momentum doesn’t come solely from one game, though. On September 1st, the Rays sat 8.5 games back from Boston in the AL East. They managed to come back thanks to two factors; one was the collapse of Boston, and the other was a strong starting pitching corps. That is what makes the Rays so dangerous entering this postseason.

Tampa Bay’s pitching will be put to the test by Texas’ strong offense. The Rangers are the second best offense in the playoffs behind the Yankees, but have actually been hitting better than New York in the last month. Run support will be key for the Rangers. Tampa Bay is coming into the series with a full head of steam, and can put runs on the board as well. Texas will have to play like the team that had the best batting average in the league during the regular season if they want to win this series.

Prediction: Rays in five

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

Game 1: Friday, 8:37 PM ET on TBS

The Yankees may have actually gotten the short end of the stick when Texas locked up home field advantage for the divisional series last night. Detroit is the most underrated and dangerous team in the playoffs, hands down. Statistics don’t suggest that the Tigers have the best starting pitching, and conventional wisdom certainly wouldn’t suggest that they are as strong as the Phillies pitching. Justin Verlander could start twice in this series if Detroit needs him to, and although there is no such thing as a guaranteed win, Verlander on the mound offers as close to a guarantee as you can get. Also, Max Scherzer shut out New York and had nine strikeouts in his only appearance against the Yankees this season but is 3-0 lifetime against the Bombers. Frankly, if one other Detroit pitcher steps up, this series is settled.

New York isn’t to be taken lightly, though. The Yankees do have the best offense in the league, and will give Detroit’s defense all they can handle. However, I’m frequently take the team with the better defense in the playoffs, and pitching is a key component of defense. Unless the Yankees go crazy on offense, and they will have to do this at home, the team with the best regular season record in the AL will bow out of the 2011 playoffs early.

Prediction: Tigers in four

National League

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Game 1: Saturday, 2:07 PM ET on TBS

Of the teams in the playoffs, the Arizona Diamondbacks are the most surprising considering the prognostications of many at the beginning of the season. The D-Backs made the playoffs thanks to a core of young players and pitching that managed to hold up during the second half of the season after a hot start early. However, this looks to be a very even series on paper. Both teams are solid offensively and defensively.

Milwaukee has expected to be in this position since the season began. They have the ability to hit for power, get on base, and usually provide enough run support for their pitchers. It is finally time for Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun to take control of their team and produce in meaningful games. While Arizona is a great story and will not roll over for any team, the Brewers should be able to use home field to their advantage and dispatch the Diamondbacks without too much struggle.

Prediction: Brewers in four

St. Louis Cardinals at Philadelphia Phillies

Game 1: Saturday, 5:07 PM ET on TBS

Tony LaRussa said back at the end of August, when his team was 10 games out of first place and looking like long shot to make the playoffs, that he was going to manage every game from then on out like it was Game 7. It sounded crazy then, but there is a lesson to be learned from this story. The lesson is, when Tony LaRussa says something, he means it. If you asked him right now, he would probably say that he believes his team has a legitimate shot at beating the best team in baseball for the entire regular season. Remember, when Tony LaRussa says something…

The Cardinals overcame injuries, as well as some slumps that were a result of those injuries, to snag a spot in the playoffs that Atlanta seemed to have a firm grip on at the beginning of the month. If the Cardinals want to continue defying the odds, they are going to need to do it with great pitching. Chris Carpenter, Kyle Lohse and the rest of the St. Louis pitching staff will need to play exceptionally well, because they may not get the run support to win with an average outing. Do I think it is going to happen? No, but with last night as an example, stranger things have happened.

Prediction: Phillies in four

Championship Series


Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers

This is where I see the Tampa Train coming to a halt. Detroit’s pitching is just too strong. The Tigers’ 6-1 regular season record against the Rays supports this opinion.

Prediction: Tigers in six


Milwaukee Brewers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillies will enjoy home field advantage throughout the entire playoffs, which will benefit them considering that the only team with a better winning percentage at home is Milwaukee. In a classic offense vs. defense series, I will contend that defense really does win championships in baseball.

Prediction: Phillies in seven

World Series

Detroit Tigers vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Philadelphia is the juggernaut in the National League, and Detroit enters the playoffs as the most dangerous team in the American League in my opinion. This sets up for a very interesting, very entertaining, and very defensive minded World Series. I believe that Detroit is the only team truly capable of matching Philadelphia’s pitching performances, which is what it will take to beat the Phillies. Expect a Game 7 classic with two aces on the mound.

Prediction: Tigers in seven

What are your thoughts on this year’s playoff matchups? Shoot me an email at kbecks@aroundthecorn.com to discuss who you think will win, who will make it to the World Series, or ask me a question. Since I haven’t wrote this in quite awhile, a huge thanks to everyone who takes the time to read my work!

– K. Becks

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