2013 MLB Playoff Predictions

MLB playoffs can always be full of surprises—just talk to the 2011 Texas Rangers who got absolutely stunned by David Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals. (Or the year before when those same Rangers lost to the San Francisco Giants.) There’s something special about October baseball and I think that we’re in store for another great playoff run. The Boston Red Sox who were absolutely terrible last season and did a complete 180. The Pittsburgh Pirates haven’t been to the playoffs in over 20 years. It’s hard to dislike what the Oakland A’s have been doing. Pittsburgh and Oakland have the fourth and fifth lowest payrolls in MLB and have proven that they can compete with the best—both winning 90+ games in 2013.

Then there are the Los Angeles Dodgers on the opposite end of the spectrum. With a payroll north of $200 million, Magic Johnson and this ownership has shown that they will write tremendous paychecks to put a good team on the field—and thus far in 2013, it has been working. With the Yankees already home for the winter, the Dodgers will take the role of the “Evil Empire” for these playoffs. Their core led by Puig, Gonzalez, Ethier, and Crawford is dominating. And I haven’t even mentioned Clayton Kershaw, who is a favorite to win a second Cy Young Award and the best player on their team.

I think that Kershaw and the Dodgers will breeze through Atlanta in the National League Division Series much like they did in Game 1 (yes, I'm late to the playoff prediction party, I know). And although I want to say that the Pittsburgh Pirates can rebound after a devastating 9-1 loss at the hands of Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright, it won’t happen. Mike Matheny and his club are too well prepared and playoff-savvy to let a team so new to the playoff game, and so familiar to them, win this half of the NLDS. You don’t tie for the best record in baseball and lose in the first round.

The American League Division Series shouldn’t have any surprises, either. As fun as the A’s are, just like their NL counterpart Pittsburgh Pirates, matching up against teams that have either won or played in recent World Series just does not bode well. Miguel Cabrera is still playing a different game than the rest of baseball. Over the past two regular seasons, Cabrera has averaged 44 home runs, 138 RBIs, and a hit below 200 per season. His batting average is .338 over this two-year span. Maybe that PED talk will leap into the conversation at some point (hopefully not) but this man is often rightfully regarded as possessing one of the best right-handed swings in MLB history. The Red Sox led by a rejuvenated David Ortiz should have no problem handling their division-rival Tampa Bay Rays. This means we’re looking at an NLCS and ALCS as follows:

National League Championship Series
American League Championship Series
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Boston Red Sox vs. Detroit Tigers

St. Louis and Los Angeles are two of baseball’s most storied franchises with rich histories dating back to Bob Gibson and Jackie Robinson and this should be a great series that would go to six or seven games. The Cardinals have five players who played over 130 games and hit .295+ which is unheard of. They don’t have incredible power (team leader in home runs, Carlos Beltran, had 24 during the regular season) but they have a team that knows what to do when the lights come on. 

They have the experience, talent, and leadership of guys like Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright. Not only that, but they have Beltran who has proven to be Mr. October Jr. In 34 career playoff games, he has an average of .363 with 14 home runs and 25 RBIs—and still has no World Series rings to show for it. The Dodgers, also, are absolutely stacked with talent. I’ve already mentioned the highlights of their organization that packs a powerful punch in both the heart of their lineup and the heart of their rotation. In the end, though, it comes down to a team that’s more experienced and more well-rounded to come through. Cardinals in 6.

In the AL, the Red Sox match up well with the Tigers and they also have the incredible home-field advantage at Fenway Park. There’s something in the air at that place—I could feel it when I went to a game there—that is just second-to-none. Maybe it’s because the stadium is much more compact than the newer ballparks or maybe it’s the 100+ years of history but I’ll take the team led by David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia. 30+ home runs and 100+ RBIs from a guy who many had written off after steroid allegations (Ortiz) is something special for him considering he has been a perennial fan favorite. With new 1B, Mike Napoli tearing it up offensively, the Red Sox have another potent offensive weapon. Verlander just isn’t the Verlander of 2012, and Miggy and Prince won’t be enough to power the Tigers to a second consecutive World Series appearance. Red Sox in 5.

Predicted 2013 World Series: Boston Red Sox vs. St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols may be gone, but the St. Louis fans haven't forgotten the quick work that the Red Sox  made of them in what would be a rematch of the 2004 World Series. I agree with those who said that the 2004 ALCS was the real World Series—who can forget the greatest comeback in sports history?—but the Cardinals as an organization will still have 2004 in their mind.

This series will be significantly more competitive than the 04 series. The Cardinals have a loaded lineup—but so do the Red Sox. Boston has four players of their own with .295+ batting averages and over 130 games played in addition to Shane Victorino who has a .294 average with 15 home runs. And although he fell to injury in early June, Red Sox ace Clay Buchholz went 3-1 in his return in September giving up only five runs in 24 innings of work. You can place your online bets with 888sport.com and as for me? I’m rolling with Vegas this year in a seven-game thriller. Boston Red Sox, 2013 World Series champions.

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