Now for the good stuff! Lets get this straight all four of these teams have the pitching and firepower to win the World Series. Im not going to be surprised, regardless of who ends up being the champion.
American League Championship Series: New York vs. Texas
If you venture back to my original article, youll see that I picked the Yankees and Phillies to meet in the Fall Classic, in a rematch of last year. As I sit here today, Im going to officially change that prediction. The Yankees arent returning to the World Series; the Rangers are going to take them down.
This change of heart comes around for two reasons. First, I somehow underestimated Cliff Lee. I remembered him as dominant Id just forgotten how dominant. Lee might not lose a game all postseason. If the Rangers can split the first two games in Arlington, theyll head up to the Bronx with Lee on the mound for Game 3. You can also pencil him in for Game 7 (or Game 6 if theyre down 3-2 in the series). Hell go 2-0 in this series, and the story of the League Championship will end up being the starting pitching woes of the defending world champions.
CC Sabathias postseason track record is not one of dominance, but stability. He wont melt down and cost his team a game. Ill give him a win in this series, because hell keep the Yankees in the ballgame and afford his offense an opportunity to out-power the opposition. The series really comes down to the other three starters in the New York rotation: Andy Pettitte, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. Pettittes an interesting case. Somehow, he never seems to age. He was dominant in his Division Series win over the Twins, and since coming back from his injury, has returned to his vintage form. Hell be a tough match-up for the Rangers. Hughes also looked very good against Minnesota, but I wonder how his composure will hold up when faced with a much more potent lineup. Id look for a six inning, four-run performance out of him (which, against the Rangers, actually isnt that bad).
Burnett, on the other hand, is a very curious case. This guy was brought in before the 2009 season trailed by a boatload of money to be the Yankees #2 starter. While he largely lived up to his billing last year, 2016 has been an entirely different case. Hes been below-average at best, and has been relegated to the #4 spot in the New York ALCS rotation. I expect him to get absolutely rocked at the Stadium.
The New York lineup has had trouble facing left-handed pitching all season. And, as it happens, the Rangers have two overpowering lefties in Lee and former closer C.J. Wilson. Expect those two arms to be influential forces in this series, as Texas advances onto its first-ever World Series.
Prediction: Texas in seven games.
National League Championship Series: San Francisco vs. Philadelphia
This one I wont be changing my tune on. The Phillies are going back to the World Series for the third straight year, and the Giants wont be able to do a thing about it.
Philadelphia has the most dominant triplet of starting pitchers in all of baseball: Roy Halladay, who threw the second-ever postseason no-hitter in Game 1 of the Division Series, Cole Hamels, the MVP of the 2008 World Series, and Roy Oswalt, a veteran, overpowering right-hander with everything to prove.
While the Giants have an impressive starting tandem of their own (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez), it doesnt match-up with Philadelphias power and depth. That should show you how good the Phillies rotation is, when its head-and-shoulders above a staff led by two-time Cy Young award winner Lincecum.
Offensively, the Phillies win almost entirely across the board. The lone exception and a big one, at that is San Francisco catcher Buster Posey. Other than Posey, the Phillies have the edge at pretty much every position. They can win in any number of ways: whether it be Jimmy Rollins speed, Ryan Howards and Chase Utleys power, or Jayson Werths clutch hitting.
The Phillies have it all. Theres no reason why they shouldnt advance to the Fall Classic once more. The question is, can they bring home the whole crown? My initial thoughts say yes, but thats a debate for another time.
Prediction: Philadelphia in five games.
There you have it, folks the Rangers and Phillies will meet in the Fall Classic. I can only sit here and await what can only be dubbed one of the top five marquis pitching match-ups in World Series history: Cliff Lee vs. Roy Halladay. Thats enough to get any baseball fan excited.
Enjoy the League Championship Series Ill be back with my World Series predictions when the competitors are determined.