Tigers v. World’s Greatest Manifestation of Evil. This year has seen a truly wonderful development for a Yankees hater: the complete implosion of the Twins. Allah be praised, not only this year but for several years we should be spared watching a team trying to beat the Yankees in the ALDS by throwing some pitch-to-contact retreads and Jose Guillen imitators at them. The Tigers aren’t a great team either, but as a playoff challenger they have the crucial things the Twins lack — a genuine ace backed up with two guys capable of striking out quality major league hitters and two outstanding hitters (one with tremendous power) in the middle of the lineup. So they’re live dogs. But that’s not to say I’m going to pick them, either. Verlander is better than Sabathia, but not that much better — the only matchup where they have a big edge is in game 3, and that’s taking Fister’s 2011 at face value. Cabrera is the best hitter in the series, but the Yanks have a lot more depth; beyond Cabrera/VMart/Peralta the Tigers are disturbingly Twinkiesque. Valverde’s been terrific, but as (to pick a completely random example) Joe Nathan has demonstrated, a Mariano Rivera regular season doesn’t make someone Mariano Rivera. And unless Leyland goes back on his pledge not to start Verlander on short rest, the Tigers had better be ahead going into game 4, because Porcello and Penny would fit very nicely into the Twins rotation. Should be a terrific series, but I think the Yanks pull it out. [Howard — shall we make this charitably interesting?) YANKS IN 4.
Brewers v. D-Backs. Interesting series. I’ll be cheering hard for the Brew Crew, and they have a nice post-season configuration — three real good power pitchers (don’t be misled by Grienke’s ERA), power hitting core, underrated bullpen. The DBacks have also had a very good year — unlike their last postseason appearance, they really were the best team in the division, and while they don’t have a Fielder or Braun, 1)Upton is close and 2)they don’t have a Betancourt either. Still, I like the Brew Crew a lot here, especially since the DBacks high-K hitters will have trouble taking advantage of the awful Milwaukee defense. BREWERS IN 3.