Dojo Playoff Predictions

World Series Trophy (Photo Cred: CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP)

World Series Trophy (Photo Cred: CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP)

Who’s going to win the World Series this year? For my selection in this week’s poll, I picked the Cardinals. However, you all know I have been tooting the horn of the Tampa Bay Rays all year. I think they have the best overall team in the AL, but Wil Myers missing the first two months cost them a division title. So that’s going to be my World Series matchup, but how do we get there?

NLDS

Dodgers in 3 against the Braves- Both are streaky teams, but I think that the Dodgers will win both games in Atlanta behind Kershaw and Greinke. Then, the Dodgers come home to a crowd that hasn’t had a playoff game since Manny Ramirez was around. Remember Pittsburgh’s crowd on Thursday? It won’t be as rowdy, but it will be LOUD.

Cardinals in 4 against the Pirates- Pirates get one at home, but the Cardinals are a superior team, and it will show.

ALDS

Rays in 5 against the Red Sox- The Red Sox are built on power, but the Rays pitching staff will shut them down. I know the Red Sox led the season series, but they only have a .200 batting average against the Rays this year. The Red Sox walk off in a game at home, but lose the other two, including Game 5.

Athletics in 5 against the Tigers- This pick is the one that makes the least amount of sense. The Tigers are the better team to pick for one series, but I am giving the Athletics the win here, mostly because of Justin Verlander‘s postseason (and current season) struggles. Verlander gets roughed up twice, in Game 2 and 5.

NLCS

Cardinals in 7 against the Dodgers- The Dodgers avoid elimination at home in Game 6 behind a performance for the ages by Kershaw. Grienkie crumbles under pressure in Game 7 in St. Louis, and the Cardinals bullpen shuts down a Dodgers’ rally late.

ALCS

Rays in 6 against the Athletics- The battle of the small market teams.To show how small market they are… If you combined their Opening Day payrolls and then multiplied them by two, you get $251,214,544. That’s only $28,218,599 more that the New York Yankees opening day payroll. Two of the best front offices in the league. I do think the Rays’ aces will win them this series in Game 6 at home.

World Series

Cardinals in 7 against the Rays- Just like Athletics’s fans will never forget Kirk Gibson, the Rays’ fans will never forget Allen Craig. On a bum ankle in Game 5, he hits a walk off home run to keep the Cardinals alive, and the Rays won’t recover. Cardinals celebrate in an empty Tropicana Field with their World Series Championship.

Greg Danchik

Weekend Wrap-Up

Chip Kelly and Michael Vick (USATSI)

Chip Kelly and Michael Vick (USATSI)

Most NFL teams have finally had their first game after the first Sunday of football action. My synopsis of the games this week.

Adrian Peterson is still a beast. But Reggie Bush is the missing piece to the Lions offense. He went off yesterday running the ball, but that also included 4 catches for 101 yards. In those catches, he had a ridiculous 77 yard touchdown catch and run. He will probably lead all running backs in receptions. The Lions pass the ball and Bush’s talent can help them open up Megatron during the season.

Andrew Luck is really good. Unfortunately, the Colts don’t have a great outlook if they can’t blow out the Raiders. They have some work to do.  Luck will still carry this team to a postseason berth because of their week division, but I am not so sure they will be able to make a deep run against some of the top teams in the AFC. Then again, those top teams did not look so hot (minus Denver).

The 49ers are the real deal again. They are just better than the Ravens, and it showed in their ability to use Anquan Boldin. He dominated in that game because Kaepernick threw to him in coverage, something that Flacco refused to do until Jim Caldwell took over. The Packers are going to be good again, but its hard to be bad with Aaron Rodgers.

The Rams-Cardinals game showed me this… Tyrann Mathieu is a playmaker, and the Cardinals are going to get a large contribution from the 3rd rounder. Larry Fitzgerald is still a top wide receiver if he has a half decent quarterback throwing the football. I personally think these teams are really good and can split with the 49ers and Seahawks. NFC West is the best division in football in my opinion.

The NFC East is going to be the most wide open division in football. Yes, it was only Week 1, but they all have talent, but they all have questions. Is RGIII going to improve on Week 1 where he looked like a shell of himself? Can Tony Romo (and Eli Manning for that matter) be the real deal all season and limit the stupid mistakes? Finally, can Michael Vick stay healthy, and can the Eagles defense be good all season? I know I have been hating on the Eagles ALL summer, and I still think that they will be bad. However, they have an offense with Vick. Chip Kelly’s offense will dominate for at least half the season, and maybe the whole season. It will be up to the rest of the NFL to catch up with him. I still have doubts about this team really contending in this division. I am still going to say they are going to be bad until they continue to show this dominant offense and acceptable defense. I know this is not the same, but remember when the Sanchize threw 3 touchdowns in Week 1 of 2012, and the Jets put up 48 points. Can’t overreact to Week 1, no matter how hard it is.

Since I know no one paid attention to baseball this weekend, heres some big news. It has been 20 years since the Pirates have had a winning season and they clinched it last night. This team has talent. In my midseason bold predictions, I had them winning the World Series over the Orioles. This is still mathematically possible, but it will be really close. This series with between the Yankees and the Orioles could be one of the biggest series in determining the second AL Wild Card. The Orioles started it off with a win and I hope they can win each game including the game I will be attending on
Thursday. With a little less than a month left, the playoff races are coming down to the wire. I can’t wait for the rest of this month and especially October, when all 4 sports are going to be be going on in some capacity.

Greg Danchik

Daily Dojo: Morneau’s Value to the Pirates

How beneficial will the Pirates acquisition of Justin Morneau be as the MLB season rolls on? When I first heard of the trade, it sounded really good for the Pirates. I thought getting a former MVP, who’s having a decent year would really benefit them. Then, I took a look at the statistics of Pirates’ first baseman this year, and I am intrigued by the similarities in Morneau’s stats and the Pirates’ first basemen’s stats are.

Garrett Jones and Gaby Sanchez have been in a platoon split all year for the Pirates. Jones faces righties and Sanchez faces lefties. Combined, they have accounted for 20 home runs, 81 RBI’s and 65 runs scored while hitting .244. That does not sound great, but the counting stats (not batting average) are serviceable for a first baseman.

Justin Morneau (Photo Cred: Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Justin Morneau (Photo Cred: Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Enter Morneau. Morneau had been playing for the Twins and had been batting higher in the order. Playing for the Twins probably reduced his home run totals because of Target Fields pitcher-friendliness (3rd worse home run park for lefties), and his run and RBI totals were probably reduced because he was playing for a worse team. However, he was batting higher in the order than the Pirates’ first basemen, so I consider all of these factors a wash for RBI’s and run. It’s a wash because batting higher in the order gives you a better chance at RBI’s and runs. Home runs should be expected to be lower.

Morneau, so far this season (excluding last night), has batted .259 with 17 home runs, 74 RBI’s and 56 runs scored. The Pirates hitters have actually done better so far this year. More home runs, more RBI’s and more runs scored than Morneau.

The difference is that Morneau has batted 124 less times than the Pirates’ first basemen. They have been pretty similar on a per at bat basis. Morneau has hit home run every 29 at bats, while the Pirates’ first basemen have hit one every 31. It also took Morneau about 1 at bat less per each RBI and run scored than Jones and Sanchez combined.

I think that over a whole season, this could have made a HUGE difference for the Pirates. They would probably be leading the division by a couple extra games rather than be tied atop the standings as Labor Day rolls around (I say this like its a bad thing, but this is a huge deal for the Pirates. No winning seasons the past 20 years). I am just not so sure it will give them a huge edge during the stretch run. I think it will help, but we will see by how much. Also, I am not a believer that having postseason experience is a large part of postseason success, but I do think it helps. Morneau has only 7 games under his belt and 2 home runs, but the last time he was in the playoffs was 2006. Then again, the Pirates haven’t been there in 20 years so Morneau’s little experience could help out just enough during an October run. Ultimately, if the Pirates win a World Series with Morneau, they won’t care if he does provided a significant increase in production. If Alex Presely is able to revive his career in Minnesota, the Pirates may have wasted good talent on a poor upgrade

Greg Danchik

Daily Dojo: Big Weekend Series

Back to school, but the sports world rolls on.

In baseball this weekend, there are three series that, I think, will have a significant impact on the playoff picture. The Orioles go to New York for a weekend series, the Rays go into the shithole (literally) of the Oakland Coliseum, and the Cardinals continue their ridiculous stretch against the NL’s top teams in Pittsburgh.

Alfonso Soriano (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Alfonso Soriano (Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Orioles have a chance to just drown the Yankees’ playoff hopes this weekend with a sweep. A sweep would give the Yankees 5 more losses than the Orioles, and that is a huge deficit to overcome in a month. Not to mention that the Orioles don’t even have a playoff spot yet so its 5 games back of 3rd place in the AL Wild Card with a month left. Yankees would be done, but I doubt that the O’s will be able to pull this off as the Yankees have suddenly become a lineup to fear. They can still come up with a dud game, but they can also explode like they did against the Blue Jays last series. I attribute most of this to Alfonso Soriano. Soriano has been ridiculous in the second half. He has 11 home runs and 33 RBI’s in 31 games with the Yankees. Thats ridiculous. Its a better pace than Miguel Cabrera, but Cabrera has done it over a whole season, 130 RBI’s in 126 games. Another incredible stat on how good Cabrera has been… Chris Davis has 47 home runs, 121 RBI’s, a .303 batting average and no shot to win the AL MVP. That is ridiculous.

The Rays in Oakland is a big deal for the AL Wild Card and the race for their respective division title. If Oakland gets swept, they will continue to fall behind the Rangers in the AL West and give the Orioles hope for a playoff spot. It would also mean the Rays get closer to where, I think, is their ultimate home at the top of the AL East. The Rays have everything. I wrote about this about a week ago, so I won’t repeat myself. Just link myself. If the Rays get swept, the AL East becomes a harder task than it was. The Red Sox could pull away and leave the Rays in the one game playoff. If Oakland gets the sweep, they will have a realistic shot at taking back the AL West. Then again, they did it last year after not leading all year so I don’t think they’ll be out for awhile. The series is also important for home field advantage in the Wild Card Round. The winner of this series will be in first place for the AL Wild Card and will be in place for a home game. However, that didn’t matter last year as both away teams won the one game playoff.

The Cardinals continue their ridiculous stretch against the NL’s top teams. It is 18 games against the Braves (Yes, they are a top team. I was wrong about that, but they are in the worst division in baseball and I still don’t think that is wrong), Reds and Pirates. They have gone 6-2 so far in the stretch failing to finish off sweeps in their first two series. Now they go to Pittsburgh and look to create even more separation in the NL Central. They have a 1 game lead right now and could have a 4 game lead come Monday. The Cardinals are the most complete team in baseball in my opinion. With Yadier Molina off the DL, the team is insane. They can hit from any place in the line up. Their rotation has one soft spot, Jake Westbrook, but he is on the DL now, so they get to use their young talent and see who will be useful in the playoffs. And their bullpen has an unbelievable ability to shut teams down with Trevor Rosenthal and Edward Mujica. I think that they will go far in the playoffs.

Predictions for these series…

Orioles take 2 of 3

Rays sweep

Cardinals take 2 of 3

Greg Danchik

 

Daily Dojo: AL East Race

For the AL East and AL Wild Card, there were three big series this weekend.

First, the Orioles squared off against the Athletics at home. The O’s won the two games that were slugfests, but ended up losing the close game. This is very unlike last year. The Orioles defied all logical thought by going 29-9 in one run games last year. They are clearly returning to the norm this year, and it is making a huge difference in their record. They are 14-23 so far this year. They would be winning the AL East and have the best record in baseball if they had the same 1 run game record as last year. I think that this is good for the Orioles future. To me, this signifies that they are actually better than last year. One run games definitely have an element of luck, so I think they have just been a little less lucky. This loss of luck will cost them a playoff birth in my eyes.

The New York Yankees traveled up to Tamba Bay to take on the Rays this weekend in the second of the three big series that happened this weekend. The Rays were able to take 2 out of 3, and they lost the third game in extras after a Curtis Granderson sac fly in the 11th brought home the winning run. This series win brings Tamba closer to where I think they’ll inevitably end up, AL East Champs. They have phenomenal pitching, and with Wil Myers in the line up, it it one to be feared.

Boston went west and took on the Dodgers this weekend. The Dodgers have been the hottest team in baseball throughout the second half going 28-5 prior to the series. The Red Sox were able to take the series from the Dodgers by winning 2 out of 3 including a blow out last night. The Sox got lucky in their last two series actually. They didn’t have to face Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner against the Giants, and they didn’t have to face Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke. This West Coast trip may have gotten back on track, which will help them hold off the Rays and possibly Orioles.

Greg Danchik