Thursday, April 23, 2009

Season 4 Playoffs - League Championship Series Preview

Leon Jackson - Cobbfather Post Gazette

What a Divisional Championship Round we had - all 4 series go to 5 games, teams coming back from 2-0 down, 3 lower seeds moving in, it pretty much doesn't get more dramatic than that. Let's see what the LCS has in store for Season 4's Final Four - Florida, Chicago, Jackson and Dover.

NLCS PREVIEW

5 Jackson Rockets vs. 6 Dover Diamond Dogs
Season Series: Jackson won 9-1

It’s certainly not often you see a 5 seed vs. a 6 seed in the LCS, but that’s what’s on tap for season 4’s NLCS. Both teams outlasted their higher seeded opponents in the divisional round to make it to the matchup to decide the NL’s World Series representative.

Both of Dover’s series went 5 games, and they’ve been on both sides of the coin, up 2-0 vs. New York, and down 2-0 vs. Memphis, each time pulling it out in 5 games. The fact that Dover lost 9 of 10 to Jackson in the regular season doesn’t bode well for them, but as we all know, anything can happen in the playoffs. Offensively, Albert Mateo has been in the zone, especially power-wise, with 6 home runs this post season. Dan Carter has been hitting extremely well in the playoff also, hitting over .400 with an OPS over 1.000 this post season. Overall, Dover has 17 home runs this post-season, and will need to keep the powerful bats going in order to succeed vs. a very tough Jackson pitching staff. The story on the mound for Dover this post-season has been the dominance of Pep Brown, who in 4 starts is 3-0 with a 2.57 ERA. His consistency on the mound has been a key factor in Dover’s playoff run. Elsewhere, they’ve been struggling to find solid starting pitching performances during the playoffs, and they’ve had some bullpen woes as well. If those continue, it will be tough for Dover to move on to the World Series.

Jackson swept Syracuse, and avenged their playoff loss to Sacramento in a 5 game war to advance to the NLCS. They’ve got to be going into the series with a lot of confidence knowing they beat their opponent 9 out of 10 times in the regular season. Jackson isn’t a typical 5 seed, as they had a very good regular season posting 99 wins. Jackson’s pitching staff hasn’t lost a step from a tremendous regular season. Shawn Creek is 3-0 in 3 starts, Paul Wirth is pitching well, and the bullpen has been nearly unhittable. A slight cause for concern is that Midre Aguilera has not looked good for Jackson this post season, and may have them searching for another 3rd starter. Offensively, Jackson is hitting over .300 in the playoffs, and has a lot of their lineup hitting well. Jackson may be the team that is playing the best out of all the remaining teams.

Final Analysis: We think the regular season matchup between the two is pretty indicative of how this series will turn out.

Prediction: Jackson in 5

ALCS PREVIEW

1 Florida Shark Waves vs. 6 Chicago Chokers
Season Series: Florida won 7-3

For the third season in a row, it’s Florida vs. Chicago (although they were in Huntington for the first matchup) in the ALCS. The Chicago franchise has won the ALCS all 3 seasons of the league’s existence, in which Florida dominated the regular season each time. It’s an intriguing matchup for sure, with Florida being the better team on paper, but Chicago seemingly having playoff luck on their side.

Chicago got to the ALCS by sweeping Vancouver and out lasting New York in a 5 game power struggle. MVP Candidate Ed Morris has picked up in the post-season right where he left off, and then some, going 15 for 31 with 5 HR and 14 RBI this post season. Fred McNamara has been impressive as well (12 for 23, 3 HR 11 RBI). After that there’s a drop off in production, the rest of Chicago’s lineup has been mediocre the first two rounds of the playoffs, and will need to step it up if they hope to take their 4th straight AL title. Pitching wise, ace Carl Sosa got rocked in his one appearance this post season, but Emmanuel Hartman and Jonathan Sheldon have picked up the slack. Sosa pitching well will be a key factor in whether or not Chicago can win the series. Chicago’s bullpen has been excellent in the post-season, and that’s a big key to winning as well.

The Divisional playoffs were filled with highs and lows for Florida, dropping their first two, their owner nearly going mad, and then coming back to take the last three games from their division rival the Austin Rock Stars. Florida’s pitching staff got roughed up the first two games, but recovered nicely the last 3. They found lightning in a bottle using tandem starters in games 4 and 5, after a nice outing by Albie Torres in game 3. It’s not a good sign for Chicago that the Florida pitching staff is back on track. Offensively, Florida was just okay, not great in the Divisional Round. Certainly, they would like to see sluggers Luis Martin and Justin Kennedy get their bats going.

Final Analysis: We think this is the year that the better team beats out the squad with the playoff luck on their side.

Prediction: Florida in 5

So, the Gazette predicts a lot less drama in this round, as we look for Florida and Jackson to win their series convincingly, setting up an excellent World Series matchup. Now comes the fun part, seeing whether or not the predictions come true. Good luck to all of the teams in the LCS!

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