AL preview here (and, hey, ain’t that completely unjustifiable A’s pick looking better!) Before we move on, a couple of notes. First, a quibble with esteemed commenter jrd, who says that “the Twins have a better offense, a better bullpen, and play better defense.” Their offense is better, no question, and ditto the bullpen (although the A’s have a very good one too, especially with Kennedy healthy.) But the defense? Very quietly, the A’s have put together an awful lot of plus defenders–Ellis, Chavez, Kotsay, Payton, Bradley. I’m inclined to think they’re now a better defensive team than the Twins, and I would be certain if Crosby was healthy. Mike Schilling asks: “People watch McCarver with the sound turned on?” Yes, in a little-noticed clause in the Fraud Caucus Torture Bill, this kind of thing is now permitted. I blame the Clenis. (What a relief to have Jon and Joe doing the Twins/As series.) Anyway, on to the Senior Circuit:
Dodgers v. Metropolitans: If Abel Ferrara has taught us anything, it’s that there will be an elaborate conspiracy to force this series to go the distance. Fortunately for Rupert Murdoch’s money launderers, this figures to be a closely contested series anyway. Three months ago, the Mets looked like they would cut through the rest of the field like Reggie Bush running against the secondary of a second-rate Canadian high school team; with Pedro hurt and the western teams improved, if anything the Mets may be underrated. They still have the best lineup in the league (although the Dodgers, quietly, have assembled a very good one–and can DePodesta start getting some credit?), and still have a terrific bullpen, where the Dodgers are deficient. In addition, the Mets have a secret weapon in Grady Little, who seems to base his in game strategy on a close reading of Don Zimmer’s innovations in the 1989 NLCS (boys, let’s try to get as many people on base in front of Will Clark as we can! We’re due to get him out!) Before this afternoon, I would have picked the Mets fairly confidently. But very likely without El Duque? The Dodgers are good enough that I just can’t pick a team starting Maine, a 40-year-old Glavine, and Traschel to move forward. To win, the Mets are going to need some late-inning rallies; possible, but I can’t bet on it. Dodgers in 5, with a caveat: if Hernandez’s MRI is a false alarm, the Mets win.
Cardinals v. Padres: For once, the conventional and sabermetric data agrees: the Cards are the worst team in the post-season, and also the most ill-suited to the post-season, with a thin, finesse pitcher heavy rotation and a bullpen well-stocked with gasoline, lighter fluid, and grenade launchers. Moreover, I’m not terribly surprised; even at the beginning of the season, I thought that the Cardinals were not the elite team most still considered them to be. And yet, this series may not be as lopsided as this suggests. The Cardinals get to start the best pitcher in the league twice, and have the best hitter in the world, in a five game series, those are nice chips. Still, I can’t see it. The Padres are a very solid, well-balanced team. I’m happy to see Mike Cameron–long one of my favorites–have a tremendous year. And that’s just the start: when you remember they play in a brutal hitter’s park, there’s no superstars but a lot of contributors. Piazza can still hit, Giles can still get on base, Barfield looks good. Their balance may make them more vulnerable in a short series, but I don’t see the Cardinals taking advantage. Padres in 4.