Playoff Picks – Print This And Go To Vegas

September 28, 2011

What a finish on Wednesday night!

I watched from the Safeco Field press box, where there are TVs everywhere. It was a thrill watching the three games come down to the wire simultaneously, capped off by the Evan Longoria home run to put the Rays into the playoffs.

One cool thing about watching the drama from the press box: media members were huddled around various screens, watching the different games. As the action unfolded, even the most cynical, staid media professionals had big grins on their faces. The whole night reminded us why we love this sport.

So the field is set – let’s get to the picks!

National League Division Series (best-of-five)

The pick: Philadelphia over St. Louis, three games to one.

The reasoning: Philadelphia has been the best team in the NL all year, and they built their star-studded starting rotation for the post-season. The danger is the Cardinals, who were 10.5 games out of the wild card on August 25 and went 23-8 down the stretch. Also, St. Louis won the head-to-head season series, 6-3. And Pujols… still, I gotta take Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels, and that Worley guy.

The other pick: Milwaukee sweeps Arizona, three games to none.

The reasoning: Just like Philadelphia, the Brewers are built for the post-season. They made the big trade to get Zack Greinke, potentially even a bigger one to acquire Shaun Marcum (giving up Brett Lawrie), and they have the supremely underrated Yovani Gallardo. Their offense is an absolute load. On the other side, Arizona has been a mystery team, and star outfielder Justin Upton has been battling concussions lately. The one thing we know: Arizona manager Kirk Gibson will have his team primed for the playoffs, even if it means hitting one-legged home runs. I just see this series as a mismatch in terms of talent.

American League Division Series (best-of-five)

The pick: Texas knocks out Tampa Bay, three games to one.

The reasoning: Sorry, Tampa, I know you just had a miracle finish, and it really was fun to watch. Heck, I’m even rooting for you to beat Texas and mess up all of my picks. But it ain’t gonna happen. Everyone knows the Rangers can hit, but the secret is that their pitching is among the best in baseball. Their rotation goes five deep, which is excessive in this short series, and their bullpen is ridiculously good right now after the trade deadline moves.

The other pick: Detroit beats the Yankees, three games to two, in an epic battle.

The reasoning: Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia? Probably TWICE? This should be a fantastic series. I’m thinking the ex-Rainiers pitcher Doug Fister will outlast Ivan Nova in game two, and I like Max Scherzer over Freddy Garcia in the third game. Hopefully the stars will align for a Verlander-vs-Sabathia rematch in game five but it could happen in game four. Either way, this will be a tremendous series.

National League Championship Series (best-of-seven)

The pick: Milwaukee defeats Philadelphia, four games to three.

The reasoning: Gut feeling. I just like the Brewers to win this year – as you will see below, I like them a lot. The Brewers made all of their moves targeting success in the playoffs this year, and they have a ton of talent on the field. Yes, this pick is a bit of an upset, but there are upsets in the playoffs all the time. I’m picking this one.

American League Championship Series (best-of-seven)

The pick: Texas knocks out Detroit in six games.

The reasoning: Pitching, pitching, pitching. And hitting, hitting, hitting. The Rangers can’t match up with Verlander’s two starts but Texas has a favorite on the mound in all of the other games. And again: that filthy, filthy bullpen. Have you seen how hot Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli have been down the stretch? I just think Texas is poised for a return for a repeat performance in the World Series.

World Series (best of seven, duh.)

The pick: Milwaukee over Texas in five games.

The reasoning: First off, this is the World Series that Fox is dreading – not exactly two teams that draw attention from all around the country. Yet I think this will be the match-up, and I like the Brewers to win it. They can’t match the Ranger bullpen, but their rotation may be better. I think Prince Fielder is going to go nuts in the playoffs. Ryan Braun should be a household name, this post-season will be his coming out party. The playoffs even happen to coincide with a period in which Rickie Weeks is not on the disabled list. The stars all point to the Brewers reaching the World Series for the first time since 1982, and winning it for the first time since the Milwaukee Braves won in 1957.

Mark it down: I’m going all Larry Stone this October.

I’m on vacation until Monday – and that afternoon I’ll post the complete list of former Tacoma players in the MLB playoffs. Hello, Yuniesky!


No Picks Yet!

September 28, 2011

Well, this is awkward.

I was going to post my MLB playoff predictions today, before heading out-of-town for a long weekend vacation on Thursday morning.

Whoops!

We have ties for both wildcards, and it seems quite reasonable that there will be one or even two single-game playoffs tomorrow.

I can’t even begin the project right now.

So, here’s the plan: in the unlikely event that both wild cards are determined tonight, I’ll post my playoff predictions from the Safeco Field press box, where I’ll be watching the final Mariners game of the season.

More likely scenario, I’ll submit some quick picks on Friday morning from the road.

In the meantime, here’s some reading for ya':

  • The Seattle Times continued its end-of-season Mariners series with a thorough Geoff Baker piece on depth in the farm system, and the M’s big major league holes moving forward.
  • Blake Beavan, who pitched for Tacoma in the first half and fared well for the Mariners in the second half, had a rough final start. Still, he showed enough to be considered for next year’s major league rotation. It was a successful season for Blake.
  • I almost always agree with John McGrath – but not this time. I don’t think you have to sign Prince Fielder for ten years – a six-year deal might get it done. And I’d happily do that.
  • Brendan Ryan wants to go bowling.
  • The Mariners had the #1 and #8 prospects in the entire Class-A Midwest League, according to Baseball America’s poll.
  • Ex-Rainiers outfielder Mike Morse hit his 30th home run, and it was a ninth inning game winner for Washington on Monday night.
  • You know who didn’t like the movie Moneyball? Art Howe, that’s who.

Apparently this may be coming down at noon, but if you catch it in time: video of Nirvana’s entire show at the Paramount on Halloween, 1991. Young and having fun…


News Round-Up

September 26, 2011

There were several stories of interest from the weekend, so let’s get right to the links.

  • There is no question that the big story surrounding the Mariners next year will be Ichiro and the final year of his contract. Larry Stone has already started writing about it.
  • Will the Mariners go after a big-name free agent this winter? Here are the top available players.
  • The Seattle Times tried to shed some light on the Mariners ownership.
  • Tim Lincecum has an against-the-grain, interesting take on long-term contracts.
  • This might be the final edition of Larry Stone’s MLB power rankings.
  • The Padres still want to move their Triple-A team from Tucson to Escondido, California – and they are awaiting a state supreme court decision, as detailed within this game story. In the story, the magical words “Vancouver, BC” appear side-by-side with the decidedly un-magical words “El Paso.”
  • Unbelievable: two Minnesota Twins players, driving separate cars, got into an accident.
  • The Florida Marlins relief pitcher known as Leo Nunez has been living under a false identity. He tried to come clean on the issue, but it looks like he might get penalized big-time.
  • John Sickels went back and reviewed his Top-50 hitting prospects of 2007. A large percentage of them became major league starters.

We are down to just the wild card races in the MLB pennant chase. Watching the Red Sox struggle down the stretch has been interesting, to say the least.


Checking In On Some Ex-Rainiers

September 23, 2011

As we move into the final six days of the MLB regular season, let’s do a quick look at a few former Rainiers and see how they are doing. These guys are doing quite well:

Mike Carp: I’m going to skip most of the Mariners who once played in Tacoma – if you read this blog, you probably already have an idea how they are doing – but I want to point out that Carp has now hit 32 home runs and has 108 RBI combined between Tacoma and Seattle this year. He’s played in 67 games for Seattle and 66 for Tacoma.

Mike Morse: What a huge breakout for Morse, who launched his 28th home run on Thursday night for the Washington Nationals. He’s hitting .304/.361/.541 with 89 RBI. For the ridiculously superstitious Morse, clearly the key was changing his first name to Michael. Let’s pull for him to get two more homers and reach 30.

Adam Jones: Slowed recently by nagging injuries, the Baltimore Orioles center fielder has batted .284 with 24 home runs and 82 RBI this year. He’s still a free swinger and has drawn only 27 unintentional walks – I figured he would start to improve in this area by now, but it hasn’t happened yet. He’s becoming a better base stealer; he’s 12-for-14 on steals this year.

Greg Dobbs: Dobbs went to spring training with the Florida Marlins as a minor league invite, and low and behold, he has over 400 at-bats for the Marlins. He’s hitting .274 with 8 home runs and 49 RBI.

Scott Atchison: The 35-year-old reliever pitched for Tacoma from 2002-2006 before having success in Japan. He’s made a late-career move back to the US and has contributed to the Boston Red Sox bullpen, with a 3.71 ERA in 26.2 innings pitched. He’s gone back-and-forth between Pawtucket and Boston this year; he is eligible for the Red Sox post-season roster and hopefully he’ll get to pitch in the playoffs.

Bryan LaHair: As we followed at the beginning of the month, the Chicago Cubs called up LaHair after his PCL MVP season for Iowa. He’s made the most of his opportunity with the Cubs, going 15-for-40 (.375) with eight extra-base hits, including two home runs.

There are many, many more former Rainiers in the majors, I just wanted to highlight a few. If you guys like this I’ll do a few more players early next week.

A few good links:

  • From Baseball America’s transaction report, we learn that the Mariners have re-signed three minor league free agents, including Tacoma catcher Ralph Henriquez. This is good – Henriquez, rushed to Triple-A because of a rash of catcher injuries, played well for Tacoma and at age 24 still has room for development.
  • Two Everett Aqua Sox made Baseball America’s list of Top-20 Northwest League Prospects. Pitcher Jose Campos checked in at #3.
  • The Nashville Sounds are the first PCL team to name their 2012 manager – and it’s a new guy, Mike Guerrero, promoted from Double-A. Former manager Don Money is now a special advisor to the GM in Milwaukee. The Sounds also named Al LeBoeuf hitting coach, doubling the number of French-surnamed hitting coaches in the PCL (as long Rene Lachemann comes back to the Sky Sox).

I’m not allowing myself to get too excited about Cal’s game tomorrow at UW. I’ve seen this before, and I know how it ends: miserably, for me.


Columbus Takes Triple-A Title

September 21, 2011

It’s pretty amazing: the Columbus Clippers won the Triple-A National Championship Game for the second year in a row, beating Omaha by a score of 8-3 on Tuesday night at Isotopes Park in Albuquerque.

The Triple-A Championship Game is a pretty recent creation, but it seems that back-to-back champions should be very rare. Consider the fact that Triple-A rosters have nearly 100% turnover from year-to-year, consider that the teams had to run the gamut of the league playoffs, and consider the fickle nature of a one-game championship – you see where I’m going with this.

Despite all of that, in the six years the game has existed, we have had back-to-back champions twice. Sacramento won two straight in 2007-2008.

Last night Omaha – the visiting team – scored three runs in the top of the first – but they did not score again against Columbus starter Joe Martinez.

Columbus tied the game in the bottom of the second inning when catcher Luke Carlin launched a three-run home run off Omaha starter Sean O’Sullivan. The Clippers then took the lead with a three-run rally in the bottom of the third, with Jared Goedert delivering the go-ahead RBI single.

Attendance looked good on TV – they announced 9,569 in Albuquerque. Next year the game will be in Durham. Perhaps some day we’ll host the game in Tacoma – although I believe that we’ll get the Triple-A All-Star Game first (and that won’t be for a while).

Links:

  • We have the story on the Triple-A Championship Game from MiLB.com.
  • As far as I can tell the only Mariners beat writer who travelled to Minnesota is Greg Johns of Mariners.com. Here is his story from last night’s win, in which Alex Liddi hit a two-run homer and Mike Carp went 5-for-5. Ex-Rainiers Wooo!
  • The Mariners and 710 AM ESPN Seattle extended their broadcast agreement through 2014.
  • I was surprised to see Mariners outfield prospect Guillermo Pimentel ranked so low in Baseball America’s list of top prospects from the Appalachian League.
  • Ex-Rainiers slugger Bryan LaHair was named the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year.
  • From Baseball Prospectus, we have research proving that certain catchers are better at getting borderline pitches called strikes, and much of it is due to catching mechanics. Not surprising: Molinas are good at this.
  • Over at the The News Tribune, Ryan Divish has written his best story since they switched his coverage to UW football and hoops.*

With that game last night, the Minor League Baseball season is officially over. Don’t worry, dear readers – the blog lives on! We’ll follow the Mariners down to the end, and the MLB playoffs. I also have a few ideas jotted down here on my desk, and I’ll share one with you: a thorough look at the numbers to see how much the lowered fences at Cheney Stadium affected scoring this year. That story is coming… soon?

* I’m just kidding – he’s been churning out all kinds of good stuff. His Huskies blog on the TNT site is mandatory reading for fans of all teams in the Pac-10 Pac-16 Pac-12.


Triple-A Championship Game Tonight

September 20, 2011

The Triple-A Championship Game is tonight at 5:00, and you can watch it on Versus.

The PCL champion Omaha Storm Chasers* take on the International League champs, Columbus.

You may recall that Columbus won the IL last year and beat Tacoma in the Triple-A Championship Game, 12-6. Columbus is the Cleveland Indians Triple-A affiliate.

The game is being played in Albuquerque – it now moves from location to location; next year the game will be held in Durham.

Omaha will try to win it without PCL Pitcher of the Year Luis Mendoza, who was lined up to start the game but he was called up to Kansas City. The Royals have left Omaha’s starting lineup intact for this final game.

Omaha starts RHP Sean O’Sullivan (8-2, 4.22). Columbus will start RHP Joe Martinez (8-9, 4.04). The Versus channel is DirecTV 603; I don’t know what number it is for those of you who have not yet seen the light on satellite TV.

This is always an odd game – a one-game championship, played in front of neutral fans? – but there is a small amount of money on the line for the players, and it’s the final game of the year in minor league baseball.

Links:

I had a blast calling Mariners games this weekend. Special thanks to Rick Rizzs, Kevin Cremin, Mike BlowersShannon Drayer, Ken Levine, and Matt Pitman for making me feel welcome in the booth. Don’t be surprised if I never get invited back: I called three Mariners games this year, and did three innings of play-by-play in each game. The Mariners did not score a single run during my innings. Whoops!

* Does anyone know if the Seattle Storm have filed a restraining order against the Omha Storm Chasers?


Omaha Wins PCL Title

September 17, 2011

Congratulations to the Omaha Storm Chasers, who swept their way to the Pacific Coast League Championship with an 11-6 win at Sacramento on Friday night.

Omaha was leading 2-0 after four innings, and then the Storm Chasers scored four runs in the fifth, followed by two more in the sixth to take an 8-0 lead. It was all over from there.

Lance Zawadzki led Omaha’s 14-hit attack by going 4-for-5 with three RBI. David Lough knocked a two-run homer, and Clint Robinson hit a pair of doubles.

Omaha starting pitcher Mike Montgomery went five scoreless innings to earn the win. Omaha’s bullpen was a little shaky, but the team had such a big lead that it didn’t matter.

Omaha moves on to the Triple-A Championship Game, against the back-to-back International League champion Columbus Clippers. You may remember the Clippers – the Cleveland Indians affiliate, which beat Tacoma in last year’s Triple-A Championship Game.

The Triple-A Championship Game will be on Tuesday night in Albuquerque, and it will be televised nationally on the Versus channel.

Omaha is obviously a deserving PCL champion, as anyone who saw them sweep the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium August 16-19 can attest. During that series the Omaha staff limited a strong Tacoma lineup to just nine runs in four games.

Links:

  • The PCL Championship story from Omaha, and from Sacramento. Plus we have a photo gallery from the Sacramento Bee.
  • I watched Blake Beavan absolutely deal on Friday night – his curveball was terrific in a 4-0 shutout of the Texas Rangers.
  • The Mariners unveiled the Dave Niehaus statue, and it’s awesome. It’s on the concourse in right-center field; walk below the “Hit It Here Cafe” and out towards center and you can’t miss it. Make sure you check out his scorebook!
  • Thanks to the Seattle Times, we have a Niehaus statue photo gallery.
  • Geoff Baker wrote one of his excellent in-depth profiles on Mariners rookie outfielder (and Rainier-for-three-days) Trayvon Robinson.
  • It’s cool that former Rainiers and Mariners pitcher Doug Fister earned the win as the Detroit Tigers clinched the AL Central.
  • Non-baseball: everybody I know is giving me grief because my Cal Bears are playing football against Presbyterian (which happens to be where I went to pre-school). Here is the reason why. You gotta love Presbyterian’s nickname: the Blue Hose.

Now for a not-so-humble brag: I’ll be calling Mariners baseball Saturday and Sunday with Rick Rizzs. That’s 710 AM in Seattle and elsewhere on the dial throughout the Mariners Radio Network.


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