On the eve of the opening of the National League and American League Championship Series’, the four teams still standing appear incredibly evenly matched. Each team has a dominant ace, if not two, and each team has a star hitter primed for the postseason.
The Tigers feature both the American League’s dominant pitcher over the past half-dozen years in Justin Verlander, and this year’s run-away AL top starter, the only 20-game winner in either league, Max Scherzer. The Red Sox have Jon Lester, who along with the rest of the team recovered from last year’s total team disaster to to have another outstanding season. Behind Lester is Clay Buchholz who missed a chunk of the season, but was totally dominant at 12-1, 1.74, over the 16 games he did start.
In St. Louis, since injuries have derailed their former co-ace Chris Carpenter and since his own injury problems have been resolved, Adam Wainwright has become even more
dominant, as he lead the league in wins and set a personal best in strikeouts. With injuries also hitting veterans Jack Westbrook abd Jamie Garcia, a group of first and second year starters did excellent jobs in their stead, and despite such fine years from Shelby Miller, Joe Kelly and Lance Lynn, rookie Michael Wacha has become the second most dominant Cardinals’ starter, deservedly so, especially with his remarkable 1-hit effort against Pittsburgh four days ago.
The Dodgers, of course, feature baseball’s best in Clayton Kershaw, and a second member of certainly the top ten of baseball’s starters, in Zack Greinke. But speaking of Dodgers’ starters, I wrote the other day about how the Cardinals have had difficulty all year hitting lefties, and that starting Chris Capuano might be a reasonable strategy for the empty uniform non manager Don Mattingly. Well, in a move that makes no sense whatsoever, the Dodgers have left Capuano off the NLCS roster, in favor of the far inferior Edinson Volquez. Strike number one for Mattingly.
While each team has at least one dominant starter, each club can match that hitting-wise as well. Detroit has of course the soon-to-be back-to-back MVP in Miguel Cabrera, who while currently fighting nagging injuries, has been without question the dominant hitter in baseball for the past two seasons. The Red Sox feature a dynamite lineup, but their leader is unquestionably another veteran who has been there, done that, and who is coming off another great regular season, David Ortiz.
to continue and be their leading offensive threat throughout their playoff run, in David Freese. He only hit .262 this past regular season, but in their NLDS has already produced key runs. He was the 2011 World Series MVP when he had an amazing post season, hitting 5 HRs, driving in 21, and batting .397 over 18 post season games.
The Dodgers have a lot of productive hitters, including the super-consistent Adrian Gonzalez and the currently super-hot Carl Crawford, as well as rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, but their leader as far as offense is concerned, is unquestionably Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez missed 1/2 the season, but still hit 20 home runs, drove across 57, and batted .345.He was even hotter against the Braves, hitting a cool .500 in the four games, with six RBI.
So, what we have are four teams with veteran star power leading their pitching and their hitting. We have four teams with solid lineups, and pitching depth. We have teams with excellent defensive players, and four team with hot closers. What will make the difference? Will it be the managers?