The Tech’s preseason predictions

Yankees, Braves, Reds, Phillies to take divisional matchups

Rare is the day when I see more students wearing hometown baseball merchandise than the ubiquitous “E/c^2sqrt(-1)PV/nR” shirts, “EngiNERD” sweatshirts, and “God said ...[Maxwell’s equations here]..., and there was light” apparel. Wednesday, the first day of the 2010 MLB playoffs, was one of those days. Picking up breakfast, I chatted with a Braves fan wearing a Brian McCann jersey and the guy behind the sandwich counter at LaVerde’s about the Phillies’ dominant rotation and just how well veteran ace Roy Halladay will adjust to the pressure of the postseason. (After my predictions were documented, this question was closed; Halladay no-hit the Reds on Wednesday night in his first postseason start.) Walking down the Infinite, I came across a Rays fan decked out in a navy blue jersey and a Giants fan with the classic, black-and-orange, interlocking “SF” logo. Even to a fan whose team missed out on the postseason, it was heartening to see signs of baseball passion at MIT. Let’s take a look at the prospects of each of the postseason contestants.

To those unacquainted with the game, the current playoff format features four teams from each league: three division champions and one “wild card” team from each league. In the first (“divisional”) series, teams are matched up in a best-of-five series based on regular-season record. The second round is considered the “championship” series for each league and consists of a best-of-seven format. The World Series is the final round; the champions of each league play each other in a best-of-seven format.

The divisional match-ups run started on Wednesday and will run through next week. Here are the Tech’s predictions and comments on the upcoming series:

Texas Rangers v. Tampa Bay Rays

David Price, among other Rays, was dismayed with Rays fans for failing to buy tickets and support the team during the September stretch run. Luckily for Price and the Rays, their opponents play in a still more difficult baseball market: football-crazy Texas in the middle of October. If anyone attends or watches the games, they’ll see two potent offenses at work against plenty of young, power pitching. In either case, the battle-tested Rays will defeat a Texas team that feasted on the Mariners, Angels, and Athletics during the regular season, none of whom finished the season over .500.

Prediction: Rays in 5

Minnesota Twins v. New York Yankees

This is Andy Pettite’s series to lose. C.C. Sabathia will get two starts and will find a way to beat Francisco Liriano or whoever else the Twins line up to oppose him. If Andy Pettite can throw seven-plus innings of two-run, three-run ball, the veteran Yankees will take the series. Just as the Celtics stumbled in the regular season before an inspired postseason run, the Yankees will now leave behind their September mediocrity and move on to the AL Championship Series.

Prediction: Yankees in 5

Reds v. Phillies

The Phillies are loaded with stars who have tasted success in 2008 and are ravenous for more; Halladay, Oswalt, and Hamels comprise an unbeatable starting rotation. The Phillies edged the Reds in the season series, 5-2, during the middle of the summer; this was before the Phillies stormed back to take the NL East on the strength of an 11-game September winning streak. If the Reds win, they become the nation’s darlings, but it’s hard to imagine them pulling this out. As the saying goes, anything can happen in a short series...

Prediction: Phillies in 4

Braves v. Giants

Both of these teams had to compete all the way through the last day of the season to earn their spots in the playoffs, fending off the San Diego Padres. Both teams feature plenty of youth who weren’t around when Barry Bonds led the Giants to the 2002 World Series or the Braves won the NL East on an annual basis. The series is a toss-up, but I’ll go with 2004 Red Sox World Series hero Derek Lowe and the Braves.

Prediction: Braves in 4