Monday, July 27, 2009

Season 5 Playoffs - Play-In Round Preview

Leon Jackson - Cobbfather Post Gazette

It's playoff time again! As always, the Gazette has full coverage for its readers. First up, is the Divison Play-In Round - let's get right into the previews!

AMERICAN LEAGUE

6 San Francisco Hammer’d Leprechauns vs. 3 Atlanta Expos
Season Series:
San Francisco won 6-4

The mighty Hammer’d Leprechauns are making their playoff debut against the Atlanta Expos. It will be a tough playoff debut for the Leps, as Atlanta has had documented playoff success. Both teams in the series feature solid offenses, as the Hammer’d Leprechauns were 3rd in batting average, while the Expos were 6th in OPS. Both teams have a fair amount of speed, with the Expos having the edge in power. Pitching wise, Atlanta may have the most feared 1-2-3 combo in the league with Cy Young contender Carl Sosa, Chris Pendleton and Matt Lawrence. Lawrence has underperformed a bit since being acquired by Atlanta, they will count on him to step it up in the playoffs. The Atlanta bullpen may be a slight weakness for them, as they really didn’t have much consistency in the regular season. While San Francisco doesn’t have the big guns in the rotation that Atlanta has, they definitely have the edge bullpen wise, led by lights out closer Pat Smith. The question will be whether San Francisco’s offense will be able to get to the tough starting pitching of Atlanta, so that Smith will have the opportunity to close out some games.

Final Analysis: We think the big three of Atlanta will be just too much for San Francisco to overcome.

Prediction: Atlanta in 4

5 Burlington Huskies vs. 4 New York Pride of the Yankees
Season Series: New York won 7-3

The Burlington Huskies pushed Atlanta hard all season for the AL East division title, but came up short. They’ll be facing the AL North Champion New York Pride of the Yankees, who despite winning the division, had a bit of a down year, compared to seasons past. One could attribute that to New York’s below average pitching staff. Ken Evans, their ace, was still good, but nowhere near his Cy Young numbers from the year before. The rest of the rotation was mediocre as well. The bigger problem was an extremely inconsistent bullpen that cost them several games. If they are going to make a run, New York will need to catch lightning in a bottle with their bullpen, and hope they can go on a strong run. Offense has never been a weakness for New York, and the same can be said this season, as they finished 2nd in OPS, 4th in Home Runs, and 3rd in runs scored. The X-Factor for the New York offense will be Moises Terrero, who struggled a bit after being acquired midseason. If he can get going, New York’s offense will be tough to stop.

Burlington’s offense is more of a small ball approach, as they were 2nd in the majors in stolen bases. This could prove a problem for New York’s weak armed catcher, Al Martinez. Their power source is 50 HR hitter Hector Ball – only one other player hit 20 Home Runs for Burlington. Ball will need to produce to keep them in the series. Burlington had a top 10 pitching staff this season, and certainly appear to have the edge over New York on the mound. It could be former New York pitcher Rick McCallum that poses the most problems for New York, that is, if he makes the playoff rotation.

Final Analysis: New York’s hitting edge seems to be just a little bit larger than Burlington’s on the mound, and that will decide the series.

Prediction: New York in 5

NATIONAL LEAGUE

6 Honolulu Haoles vs. 3 Rochester Rolling Rocks
Season Series:
Honolulu won 6-4

Honolulu, who grabbed the 2nd wildcard spot in the NL, is facing the NL North Champion Rochester Rolling Rocks, who spent most of the season in the top 2 of the power rankings, but faltered towards the end of the season, likely due to lack of competition in their division. They had the division wrapped up not too long after the all star break. Rochester finished in the top 10 in most offensive categories, lead by the three headed monster of Trey Padgett, Luis Carrasco and Banjo Maxwell. It certainly appears they have the advantage on offense, as Honolulu’s numbers were more towards the league average. Although, Honolulu may have the best power hitter in the series in Pascual Soriano, who pounded 59 home runs.

Pitching wise, Honolulu was 7th in ERA, which was the key in securing the wild card spot for them. Justin Powell was their ace this season, going 15-9 with a 2.59 ERA, while Corey Kennedy was dominant out of the pen. Add a couple of other sub-4 ERA starters, and the Honolulu staff definitely looks like a formidable playoff caliber group of hurlers. Rochester’s staff isn’t all that far behind Honolulu, as they finished 10th in ERA. They didn’t have an ace like Powell, but the entire rotation was extremely consistent, especially Boyer, Escobar and Durbin. The bullpen was a bit shaky, outside of Enrique Mesa, which is definitely a concern in the playoffs.

Final Analysis: Rochester has a clear edge on offense, and their staff should be good enough to get them the win in this matchup. If not, they’ll have to rely on the playoff magic of owner yanks21. Either way, we like Rochester.

Prediction: Rochester in 4

5 Memphis Mayhem vs. 4 New York Primetimers
Season Series:
New York won 6-4

Memphis, one of the hottest teams in the league down the stretch, takes on NL East Champion New York in what will be a very good series, no doubt. Both teams feature superior pitching, with New York finishing 6th in ERA, and Memphis 8th. There’s not many weaknesses to note with the Primetimers’ pitching staff, as their starting pitching and bullpen were excellent. The only slight concern is a 4.99 ERA from closer Chad Lawrence, although he did save 40 in 46 opportunities. Memphis’ starters didn’t perform quite as well as New York’s this season, but appears to have the better bullpen, even though Billy Cox didn’t have the lights out season he did last year. They’ll be relying heavily on Pinky Matheson to get them to that great bullpen with a lead.

Offensively, both of these teams appear to be around the league average, with Memphis just a smidge higher than New York in most categories. New York can hit the ball out of the yard, as they have 4 guys who hit 30+ HR’s, but none of them had averages over .285, so it was a bit all or nothing with their top hitters. The Memphis offense is led by sluggers Buddy Poole (55 HR) and Frank Cain (49 HR). They had a couple of others top 30 HR as well, but without a lot of average. It appears both teams will be looking to get on a hot power streak – whoever does, likely will take the series.

Final Analysis: in this close series, we like the Memphis bullpen, offense, and great record down the stretch to prevail.

Prediction: Memphis in 5

Good luck to all the teams in the Play-in Round!

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