Thursday, July 30, 2009

Season 5 Playoffs - Division Championship Series Preview

Leon Jackson - Cobbfather Post Gazette

The Play-In round featured 4 great series, a few upsets, and 3 game 5's. Let's see what excitement the Division Championship Series holds!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

5 Memphis Mayhem vs. 1 Jackson Rockets
Season Series: Jackson won 7-3

Memphis got past the New York Primetimers in Round 1 to advance to face division rival Jackson in the DCS. Memphis’s starting pitching was nearly flawless in the first round, and clearly the key to their series victory in the Play-in round. Their bullpen got roughed up a bit, but they still survived. It’s unlikely however, if their bullpen woes continue, that they will be able to duplicate the series win against a very tough Jackson squad. Offensively, it was the Buddy Poole show for Memphis, as he had 3 HR and 5 RBI, they hope his hot bat can continue through the next round, and will need some help from the rest of the lineup, which was pretty quiet in the Play-in Round.

Jackson comes into the series on the heels of a 103 win regular season which saw them lead the majors in team ERA. Jackson has 4 strong starters to choose from for their playoff rotation, they only had one bum in their regular season rotation – Bum Cohen, who posted a 4.76 ERA, and likely will be relegated to the ‘pen. Speaking of the pen, it was also very good during the regular season, and will be tough for Memphis to crack, with several members posting excellent stats for the season. Offensively, Jackson was in the top 10 in AVG and OPS. They don’t have a ton of power, but have enough to be dangerous. Players to watch out for are OBP machine Todd Nicholson, and speedy William Katou, who swiped 95 bases in 101 attempts.

Final Analysis: We picked Jackson to make the World Series, and there’s been nothing that’s happened to change our mind.

Prediction: Jackson in 4

6 Honolulu Haoles vs. 2 Sacramento Fighting Cornish Hens
Season Series: Sacramento won 8-2

Honolulu pulled off the upset of the Rochester Rolling Rocks, who were in the top 2 of the Power Rankings most of the year, to advance to face NL West foe Sacramento. Sacramento posted another 100 win season, featuring an offense that was top 5 in OPS and Home Runs, an asset that Sacramento teams in the past haven’t had. They had 13 players hit double digit home runs, but one of those is departed perennial all star SS Moises Terrero. It certainly looks like the offense will be all right without him, thanks to sluggers Troy Barker, Blake Howell and Paxton McDonald. It was another trademark excellent pitching staff for Sacramento, led by another stellar year by closer Sammy Felix. The rest of the bullpen is nothing to scoff at either. Looking at their starters Elvis Leon stepped up with his best season yet, while Maduro and Chouinard remained staples in the rotation.

It’s certainly going to be a tough task for Honolulu to take on Sacramento, but the same could be said for their series against Rochester, and they came out on top there. Honolulu’s offense was firing on all cylinders in the Play-In round. The hot bats of Bill Guerrero and William Power will need to stay on fire in order to get past Sacramento. It was a mixed bag for the Haoles as far as pitching goes in the first round of the playoffs, some good performances, some bad, but they got enough to get past a tough Rolling Rocks offense. But do they have enough to tame the Fighting Cornish Hens?

Final Analysis: We could go the easy route here, but another Sacto-Jackson matchup would be kind of boring. Plus FW doesn’t win much in the playoffs. So it’s time to go UPSET, Honolulu is on a roll!!!

Prediction: Honolulu in 5

AMERICAN LEAGUE

4 New York Pride of the Yankees vs. 1 Tampa Bay Tankers
Season Series: Tampa Bay won 8-2

The New York Pride of the Yankees are coming off a dramatic 5 game series with the Burlington Huskies, which they barely got out of alive. In their series against Burlington, the New York offense was decent, but not the usual powerhouse they normally are. Moises Terrero’s struggles in New York continued, as he didn’t have a great series. As a team, they only hit .250 during the series, a figure they will definitely have to improve on if they are to advance to the LCS. They did get great pitching during their opening series. Surprisingly, the only weak link was staff ace Ken Evans. If Evans can get on track, and the rest of the staff remains hot, it’s definitely a good sign for New York.

New York has a great task in front of them facing the Tampa Bay Tankers, the #1 team in the Power Rankings for much of the second half of the season. Coming off an impressive 112 win season, the Tankers will look for their impressive offense to come through in the playoffs for them. The Tankers lead the majors in Home Runs and OPS, while scoring the 4th most runs. 6 players topped 28 home runs for the tankers, so there will be no easy outs in this lineup. On the mound, Tampa Bay was 2nd in ERA, and allowed the least runs in the majors. Their bullpen was stellar, and they have 5 different SP’s capable of stepping up with big time playoff performances. This will be a tough team to take down for sure.

Final Analysis: Tampa Bay is stacked, but this is the playoffs, anything can happen. And we did pick New York to go all the way preseason. Despite having a down year, we call for the UPSET!!

Prediction: New York in 5

6 San Francisco Hammer’d Leprechauns vs. 2 Vancouver Blaze
Season Series: Series tied 5-5

The Hammer’d Leprechauns advanced with an upset win over the Atlanta Expos to take on division rival Vancouver in the DCS. Vancouver, who won 102 games this season, is known for their potent offense. They ranked 5th in Home Runs, 2nd in OPS, and 1st in Batting Average and Runs Scored. Leading the Vancouver offense is perennial MVP candidate Jordan Abernathy who put up fantastic numbers once again in Season 5. Charlie Dickinson hit 49 home runs for them as well, and catcher Aaron Tam, who had stints in Oakland and St. Louis this year, hit 33 HR in 94 games for them. The list of impressive offensive players goes on, this impressive offense will be tough to tame in the playoffs. Not as impressive is their pitching staff, which only fared at about league average. They had 3 starters, Kline, Solano and Menechino, who had nice years, but no one in their bullpen finished with an ERA below 4, which could be problematic in the playoffs. Luckily, they have that offense to bail them out if the bullpen blows one late.

As mentioned, Vancouver’s opponent San Francisco defeated Atlanta, who many liked to go a long way this post season. The Hammer’d Leprechauns Play-in Series with full of ups and downs, their pitching was great in the 3 games they won, and got completely destroyed in the games they lost. A vulnerable pitching staff is not a good sign heading into a series against one of the league’s best offenses. Offensively, the Hammer’d Leps were carried by Kris Matthews (.476 BA 1 HR 6 RBI). The rest of the offense was anemic, and will need to step it up if they are going to advance to the LCS.

Final Analysis: Vancouver’s offense will just be too much for the Hammer’d Leprechauns, we think their luck has run out.

Prediction: Vancouver in 4

Good luck to the final 8 of Season 5!!

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