This is sort of a tradition for me, and for once, I don’t have the pressure of wanting to pick the Braves to win it all. Here are my picks, for what they’re worth:
ALDS West: Twins over A’s in four
Both of these teams have solid pitching, but the Twins’ lineup is significantly better. I don’t know what happened to Eric Chavez, but without him, the A’s offense leaves a lot to be desired. The Twins already have the better ace, and I see this series ending after Santana’s second go-around. The A’s were my preseason pick for the AL pennant, but I don’t think they’ll put it together now.
ALDS East: Yankees over Tigers in four
I really want to root against the Yankees, and their pitching staff, which is loaded with stars but inexplicably something short of incredible, almost allows me to pick the Tigers. The bad news is that the Tigers really haven’t been very good lately, and their deep pitching staff won’t matter as much in a five game series.
ALCS: Twins over Yankees in seven
This could be a truly entertaining series. The Twins have some great young players, and this could be their time to shine. Santana should pitch twice, but even he is no guarantee against the Yankees, who can basically score runs at will. He and Brad Radke, who should be the #2 starter, will have their hands full, but if they can negate the Yankees’ top two (I think they’re better), the Twins’ lineup should be strong enough to get by. I hope for Aaron Gleeman’s sake that Ron Gardenhire doesn’t blow this series.
NLDS Rematch: Padres over Cardinals in four
This isn’t such a difficult pick, the way the Cardinals have been playing. The Pads are better this year than the team that looked overmatched last season. Their entire pitching staff is on fire, and it’s deeper than ever before. The offense isn’t great, but my hunch is that they have the pieces to get past Carpenter, Pujols, and company.
NLDS Big-City Version: Mets over Dodgers in five
Has anyone noticed that Game 2 matchup? The Glavine vs. Maddux pairing should be fantastic, even if it might make me want to vomit as a Braves fan. The Mets’ offense is still intact, and they’re still fantastic. Aside from the Yankees, they have the best chance of any postseason qualifier to win a series with their bats alone. Then again, the Dodgers have a lot of great young hitters themselves with Andre Ethier and Russell Martin leading the way. This may be my favorite first-round series matchup, because it looks so close on paper. I think the Mets are slightly more pressure-tested, so they should show the poise to advance.
NLCS: Padres over Mets in seven
This series is where the Mets will miss Pedro the most. The Padres go four (maybe five) deep in their rotation with high-quality starters, while the Mets will be relying heavily on John Maine and El Duque. The Mets’ lineup is great, but will they be good enough to win the pennant against Peavy, Young, Williams, Wells, and maybe even Clay Hensley? Okay, they could probably beat Hensley, but the Pads have two excellent starters who will pitch four games and enough others (several of whom are on hot streaks already) to keep the pressure on. There should be no shortage of close games in this series, and I like the Padres just a slight bit better for that.
Twins over Padres in seven
Against a National League lineup, Johan Santana should show the world just how dominant he can be. Still, the Padres have the pitching depth to keep this series close, but the Twins have a little more firepower, and I’m picking them to win their first title in 15 years. The last time they won it all, the late Kirby Puckett led the Twins over the worst-to-first Braves. That was 15 years ago, and it’s making this 22-year-old feel just that: a bit old. The new Twins should be great for a long time, and this may be their proving ground.