Fearless Predictions… Part II (The Self-Congratulatory Edition)
by Mike Carminati
Don't know why I'm even bothering.
Yeah, that's the word of the year
All I see, all I hear.
—"Predictable" by the Kinks.
Brimming with confidence after correctly selecting all of the division series–hey, it's a 1-in-16 shot—, I shall now sally forth wondering how I will screw it up. So I won't. I'll stick with the predictions that I had at the start of the playoffs even though logic might now dictate otherwise.
Those predictions were:
ALCS: Yankees in 6 (Pedro Martinez implodes as there are no sexagenarians to toss around this year.)
NLCS: Astros in 7 (Pixie dust again does in a staff.)
WS: Astros in 6 (What the hey? They are the hot team that snuck in. They should be huge favorites given the recent past.)
Now for logic: The pitching matchups for the first three games in the ALCS will be Curt Schilling-Mike Mussina (slight edge to Boston), Pedro Martinez-John Leiber (big edge to Boston), and Bronson Arroyo-Kevin Brown (slight edge to Yankees, it would be bigger if it weren't only his fourth start since he lost a fight with a wall).
The matchups aren't set after that. The game-one starters could pitch game four on three day's rest. If they can't go, the Red Sox will bring out Tim Wakefield, who befuddled the Yankees in last year's ALCS until the Aaron Boone series clincher. The Yankees have less enviable options. Either it will be Javier Vazquez, who stunk up the field (5 ER in 5 IP) in the Twins series clincher, or either Esteban Loaiza or Tanyon Sturtze, who have both been working out of the bullpen in long relief. Sturtze's last start was August 11; Loaiza's September 21. It's also been pointed out ad nausem that Vazquez had a horrible second half (4-5 with a 6.92 ERA). This becomes a big edge for the Sox.
That gives the Yankees a pitching advantage on paper in just two of the seven potential games and those are in shaking wall-punching hands of Kevin Brown. Given that the Red Sox were leading 5-2 in game seven of the ALCS last year with only five Yankee outs to go and lost in the eleventh, 6-5, on Boone's home run, some will say that the pitching edge will be enough to turn the tide.
I guess that's more logic. I guess it makes sense. I don't care. These are the Red Sox facing the Yankees. They'll find a way to lose. Besides the Yankess have a secret weapon, the "Whose Your Daddy?" T-shirts.
The Astros will most probably have Clemens and Oswalt again go on three day's rest for games six and seven should it go that far. That minimizes their advantage.
I wouldn't be surprised if the Astros made a roster change of two for the next round to add a long reliever/swing man type (Brandon Duckworth, Darren Oliver, Tim Redding, or Carlos Hernandez) if for no other reason than to eat up innings and give the other overworked relievers a rest. Hey, you never know—one of them might start game two.
All of this, their killer lineup, and the fact that every broadcaster will tell you that St. Louis is the best baseball town with the best fans in America dictate that the Cardinals are big favorites. I don't care. I'll still take the 'Stros to carry on the proud tradition of the 2002 Angels and 2003 Marlins, i.e., teams that shouldn't have but did win.
So I'll fend off logic. I'll find off the impulse to emulate Joe Morgan and argue for both sides at once. I'll go with my original choices. What's the difference: I'm already guaranteed a better than .500 postseason anyway. So ending up 4-3 in my predictions will assuage my ego when I watch the Red Sox celebrate the first World Series championship since World War I, beating the Cardinals (stop it, Joe!).
It is interesting though that the League Championship Series both feature the best team by record in each league plus the runner-up in the same division. It's a referendum on the wild card.
Consider that the better team has lost in the LCS more often than it's won (in this table series victories are divided up by the teams with the better record and those with a worse record):
% won by Better Team
Also, the team with the better expected winning percentage fairs even worse:
% won by Better Team
The Yankees and Cardinals, of course, had the better record since they each won their division. The results in expected wins are slightly different, however. The Cards still lead the 'Stros (.628 to .569), but the Red Sox have a distinct "advantage" over the Yankees (.604 to .552).
What does this all mean? Absolutely nothing, but it's kind of cool. The "odds" predict that the Red Sox will both win and lose. And given that it's the Red Sox, maybe they can, in their own inimitable idiom. And again, this analysis does not take into account the "Who's Your Daddy" T's.