Well, I still have a chance to go over 50% for playoff predictions, if I can just get this one right. I nailed the National League in the divisonal series, then got the American League Championship right. I was on a good pace for awhile, too, predicting every game but one in the ALCS (I thought the Yankees would score more in game six and force a seventh game), and getting three of the first five NLCS games right (I thought Lincecum would win the first matchup with Halladay, but Halladay would win the second, and that Oswalt would beat Sanchez).
But whatever may have happened, we now have a World Series to predict. For the National League, there are the San Francisco Giants, who haven’t won a World Series in over 50 years. For the American League, we have the Texas Rangers, who have never even been to the World Series at all.
The Rangers have had an excellent offensive postseason, scoring almost twice as many runs as the Giants have (59 vs. 30) while batting 50 points higher (.281 vs .231). The Rangers’ team postseason OPS is .815, generally considered to be in the third-highest OPS class. The Giants’ OPS, .626, puts them in the second-lowest class. The Rangers are also a more powerful team, hitting nearly three times as many home runs (17 vs. 6). Lastly, while they’ve walked only slightly more (30 vs. 27), they struck out far less often (99 vs. 81).
Texas has the definite offensive advantage, but San Francisco has pitched slightly better, and usually pitching wins championships. The Giants have the better team postseason ERA (2.47 vs. 2.76). They also have walked fewer batters (37 vs. 28), although they’ve struck out slightly fewer batters as well (107 vs. 102). Team opposing batting average is also slightly better (.199 vs. .208) for the Giants.
Problem is, the Giants’ pitching advantage is not enough to cover their offensive deficiencies against the Rangers. The Rangers are going to score a little more easily, and that will make all the difference. The Giants won three NLCS games by one run, and they scored five runs or more once. The Rangers, meanwhile, scored five or more runs in every game they won, plus one they lost. The Rangers’ pitching better complements its offense than the Giants’ does, and that will prove the difference.
Let’s look at the individual game matchups:
Game One: Tim Lincecum (Giants) vs. Cliff Lee (Rangers). As I pointed out in my LCS column, Lincecum is a weaker pitcher at home than on the road. Cliff Lee, meanwhile, is Mel Gibson: the Road Warrior. He’s 3-0 on the road this postseason, with 34 strikeouts, one walk, and a 0.75 ERA. Lee is also playing for a contract, whereas Lincecum is not. Add to it Lee’s age, and thus dwindling opportunities to get a ring, and it all points to another dominating performance by the star of the postseason. Texas takes this one in San Francisco.
Game Two: Matt Cain vs. C.J. Wilson. Wilson went 0-1 in the ALCS, taking a no-decision after his team blew a lead against the Yankees. But then he lost outright in Yankee Stadium. Matt Cain, meanwhile, has yet to allow an earned run in the postseason. Giants win, sending the Series to Arlington tied 1-1.
Game Three: Jonathan Sanchez vs. Colby Lewis. Lewis should be brimming with confidence. He’s 2-0 in three postseason starts this year, and he didn’t allow an earned run in the Rangers-Rays game in which he took a no-decision. He also was the winning pitcher when the Rangers clinched the AL pennant, giving up just one earned run over eight innings of work. Sanchez, meanwhile, allowed two earned runs in just two innings of work, and his schedule is off because of it. In his previous start, he allowed two earned runs (three total) in six innings and lost. This might be a close one, but it’s at home, and the edge goes to Lewis. Rangers take this one, but Lewis maybe just gets a no-decision.
Game Four: Madison Bumgarner vs. Tommy Hunter. This one is really tough to call. Bumgarner has yet to really be tested. He won his NLDS start, but then got a no-decision after allowing three earned runs in less than five innings of work. He then pitched two scoreless in the Giants’ NLCS-clinching sixth game. Hunter, meanwhile, has had durability issues, not reaching the fifth inning in either of his postseason starts. This one is a bullpen game, where the Giants have the advantage (3.18 vs. 3.64 ERA this postseason; .214 vs. .236 BAA). Give it to the Giants.
Game Five: Tim Lincecum vs. Cliff Lee, again. In a 2-2 World Series, Game Five is critical. In two-thirds of all World Series where the series was 2-2 after four games, whoever won the fifth game won the championship. Lincecum plays better on the road, but the Rangers are going to be smarting after the Game Four loss. They’re not going to knock Lincecum around, but they’ll do enough damage (maybe four runs in six innings) to secure the win for Cliff Lee, capping off a brilliant postseason for him and sending the Series back to San Francisco with Texas up 3-2.
Game Six: Matt Cain vs. C.J. Wilson, again. Let’s not forget: Wilson won 15 games this year, and Cain was barely more than a .500 pitcher. And after watching his bullpen cost him the win in Game One of the ALCS, then losing two straight decisions, he’s going to a) be itching to prove his postseason mettle, and b) be held on a short leash by Ron Washington. It’s here where I think the Rangers’ offensive strengths will pay dividends. All across the Series, the Giants will have had to use more relievers than the Rangers as San Francisco’s starters will not be pitching as deep into games. In Game Six, the bullpen is going to crack from overuse. This game is going to be close for five innings, then the Rangers are going to put up three or more runs in the latter half and clinch the World Series in convincing fashion.
Final Pick: Rangers in 6. MVP: Cliff Lee, who finishes the postseason 5-0. And now that Nolan Ryan owns the team instead of George W. Bush, everyone will be happy for Texas instead of secretly groaning.