TIME FOR OCTOBER BASEBALL
For the hardcore baseball fan this is by far the best month of the season. April and the opening day is exciting, but every game and every at bat this time of the year is huge. The everyday player has around 150-160 games and 600 at bats behind him and it can all come down to a single at bat or even a single pitch. It is the time of the year when legends- and new nicknames are born. Everybody knows who “Mr. October” or “Mr. November” is but have you heard of a Mr. June or Mr. July? With the Wild Card winners resolved Accuscore says welcome to October baseball!
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Baltimore Orioles vs. Detroit Tigers (1-5 this season)
Baltimore was the big surprise in the AL. We knew their offense was good and with seven players with 10+ HR and better-than expected pitching they took home the AL East with a comfortable marginal. Without Chris Davis, who is serving a suspension for using illegal substances, their offense lacks some power, but he won’t be missed as much as he would have been last season.
Detroit lived up to the expectations and made the postseason for a fourth consecutive year. Before the season started the Tigers was the biggest favorite to take home the American League (AL). By winning the AL Central they have a chance to do that, but their road to 90 wins and top of their division wasn’t as smooth as many pundits predicted. Miguel Cabrera ended the season with a “decent” OPS around .900, but he wasn’t as dominant as in previous seasons. Their offense was still very good thanks to JD Martinez, who was a huge boost to the team, and Victor Martinez, who performed well beyond expectations. Their starting rotation was pretty solid, even though Justin Verlander had a bit of a rough season again. The biggest concern is their bullpen and with Joe Nathan as closer, you can’t feel too comfortable in the ninth inning.
Prediction: Detroit Tigers in 4 games.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Cardinals run differential in the regular season 2014 vs 2013? +16 vs +187. According to a widely used luck factor (Pythagorean W-L) Cardinals was the luckiest team this season and won 7 more games than they should have. The biggest difference to 2013 was their batting, which have not had the same depth this season. Allen Craig was a difference maker in 2013. This season he got traded to Boston. The OPS (on-base plus slugging) for Yadier Molina and Matt Carpenter was almost .120 lower than last season. Carlos Beltran played for Yankees this season. Still they managed to win the NL Central, mostly because of a solid, but not exceptionally good, rotation led by Adam Wainwright.
The Dodgers was just as dominating as predicted in NL West. Ace Clayton Kershaw had a monster season and both Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu were solid. The comeback of Matt Kemp was huge for the team and rounded up nicely a very balanced lineup with six batters (all players with +370 PAs) with an OPS between 0.767-0.863. If tings goes as predicted (which they rarely do in baseball) this series could be over in three games.
Prediction: LA Dodgers in 3 games.
San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
San Francisco Giants are on the verge of a dynasty, if they can repeat their heroics in 2010 and 2012 and win their last postseason game of the season. The Giants have been known for good pitching, but this season their men on the mound was just average. Ace Madison Bumgarner was good and Tim Hudson started of the season superbly but struggled in the second half. Jake Peavy was acquired from Boston and pitched very well in his twelve starts. Otherwise Giants had some issues with Matt Cain, who struggled and then got injured, and Tim Lincecum, who had his third below average season in a row. What carried the team throughout the season was a solid lineup where production was spread out through batters 1-8. The team had six players with 10+ homeruns and nine players with double-digits in doubles.
Washington Nationals also got production from their lineup but it’s still fair to say that they pitched their way to postseason, and they did it with authority. Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Tanner Roark, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez were the best rotation in all baseball. When you add to this a solid bullpen you get the feeling, that the team has what it takes to go all the way this season.
Prediction: Nationals in 3 games.
Kansas City Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels
Together with Baltimore Kansas City is the big positive surprise of the season. Their batting was below average but some really quick feet compensated a bit of the so-and-so hitting. In the regular season they stole 153 bases, which was 4 stolen bases less than Cardinals, Giants and Orioles together. Maybe the biggest moment of the season was when Jarrod Dyson stole third base vs. A’s in the bottom of the ninth inning in the wildcard game. Dyson then scored on a sacrifice fly by Nori Aoki, which tied the game that Royals later won in extra innings. Their pitching relies much on James Shields and a superb bullpen.
Everybody knows Mike Trout, and everybody knew he was going to be good this season. What many people didn’t predict was that guys like Kole Calhoun, Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker was going to have very good seasons. Richards is on the DL and not pitching again this season, but Shoemaker has what it takes to help the Angels in the postseason if he can come back from what appears to be a minor injury. The Angels bullpen was a mess last season but this year it has been one of the better, if not one of the best in baseball. Bullpens can be the X-factor in October baseball and if Huston Street, Joe Smith and others can repeat their performance in the regular season the Angels have a good chance to succeed, at least against the Royals.
Prediction: Angels in 3 games.