Well, let's start with a look at the postseason, shall we?
Of course, it's amazingly difficult to predict the postseason. It's hard to tell who's a better team in the first place, and then of course the better team doesn't always win. The best we can do is try to determine which team has the advantage and what the most important factors may be.
Red Sox .vs. White Sox
Here we have a classic hitting .vs. pitching matchup. I think the most important thing in this series will be how the Red Sox pitch. We can take the Red Sox hitting as a given, and we can take the White Sox pitching pretty much as a given. I think the Red Sox will be able to score off the ChiSox, especially Garcia and Garland, but not as much as we may think. So it all depends on what Wells, Clement, Schilling and Wakefield can do. The White Sox offense is not that potent, but it does have power. And guys like Wakefield are susceptible to the long-ball.
I think that since the Red Sox pitchers have looked better recently, and since they have Timlin installed as the closer, that Boston has a slight advantage. The White Sox are not as good as their record would indicate (at least according to the Pythagorean standings), but then the same could be said of the Red Sox. This will NOT be a pretty, 3-2 sacrifice bunt series. It will be a 10-6 affair more often than not, I feel.
Prediction: Boston in 5
Yankees .vs. Angels
This is a tough one to call. It's just a question of a) whether the strong L.A. pitching can tame the Yankee bats, and b) how the Yankees will pitch. Although I am admittedly not a fan of the Yankees, I must say that I think they have the advantage here. Not that I think Aaron Small is really this good, but Randy Johnson is (and I'm starting to think Shawn Chacon is, too). If the Yankees can get 2 or 3 good starts in this series, they stand a darn good chance of winning with relative ease. The Angels just don't have the offense to keep up with New York. After Vlad, what have they got? Chone Figgins? Adam Kennedy? Bengie Molina? Plus, they'll have guys like Garret Anderson, Darin Erstad, and the unproductive rookies clogging the lineup.
I just don't see the Angels pulling this one off. I like their pitching, and Colon/Lackey/Washburn is a pretty good troika, but not good enough to keep A-Rod, Giambi, and Sheffield in tow.
Prediction: New York in 4
Braves .vs. Astros
I'll go ahead and admit that I'm a Braves fan. Being a Braves fan is like being married to the most beautiful woman in the world -- but every October, she cheats on you. After a while, you just learn to live with it and enjoy the other 6 months.
That said, is there any reason to believe the Braves can succeed where they failed last year? Well, the Astros' offense is paltry; it's Ensberg, Berkman, and pray for . . . uh, Work-man? But in truth, the Astros don't have much punch at all, especially with Bagwell limited to pinch-hit duty. So what does Houston have?
How about the best 1-2-3 punch in baseball? With Clemens/Oswalt/Pettitte cycling through the postseason, the Astros can score 3-4 runs a game and win going away. The Braves have good offense and decent pitching, but neither one is that good. I can easily see Furcal, Giles, the Jones boys and Francouer stifled through the LDS, held to some .200 batting average while the Astros hit .220 and win the Series.
And we haven't even mentioned Atlanta's pitching. Problems: Smoltz might still be hurting, Hudson is having his worst year since 1999, and after that it gets really ugly. I ain't bettin' my hard-earned dollars on John Thomson, Horacio Ramirez, and Jorge Sosa. Farnsworth is good (but hurt a little?), although the rest of the bullpen is a shambles. Don't worry. I'm used to it.
Prediction: Houston in 4
St. Louis .vs. San Diego
This one seems so easy to call that it makes me wonder. The Cardinals are the best team in the postseason, and the Padres are the worst. It's almost like in a horror movie, when everything is quiet . . . too quiet. The Cardinals are an easy pick . . . too easy.
In all seriousness, it would take a feat of Herculean strength for San Diego to beat the Cardinals. St. Louis has a better offense by far than any other NL postseason team, and they have a solid pitching staff, with Carpenter at the fore (although the Mulder-Suppan-Morris-Marquis quartet looks shaky). But they've also got a killer bullpen, although Isringhausen is no Mariano Rivera . . . hell, he's no Aloysius Rivera, for that matter.
The Padres have a good offense; Petco Park just makes it look bad. Brian Giles has been one of the 10 best players in the NL this year; Ramon Hernandez and Khalil Greene are healthy, and they've gotten good production from Klesko and Dave Roberts as well. But the pitching? I'll give you Peavy as a sure-fire ace. I'll even grant you Adam Eaton as a decent #2. But Pedro Astacio? Jeepers!
And don't place too much money on Trevor Hoffman. Much as I admire the Padres for their pluckiness, they just ain't good enough. But I'll be generous and predict that they'll win a game.
Prediction: St. Louis in 4
More to come with thoughts about the MVP races, Cy Young, etc. and my own personal background.