2005 MLB Division Series preview

Oct. 4, 2005, midnight | By Abe Schwadron Josh Zipin | 16 years, 3 months ago

The playoffs get underway in October

With steroid scandals, violence on and off the field and embarrassing play (sorry, Royals fans), the 2005 Major League Baseball season could have been marred by bad publicity and mediocrity. But the most compelling storyline of the year turned out to be the great division and wild-card races, which came down to the wire in both the American and National Leagues. The teams who did get in are ready to rumble, and we can't wait to see what happens. In honor of the start of baseball's fall classic, we broke down each series by starting pitching, bullpen, hitting and added a final word about our favorites.

American League Division Series

New York Yankees (95-67) vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (95-67)

Starters: It has been proved that starting pitching wins championships and the Angels have a starting staff featuring three pitchers that finished in the top eight in Earned Run Average (ERA) in the American League. Bartolo Colon, the ace of the staff, along with John Lackey, a flamethrower who finished with 199 strikeouts (third best in the AL) and Jarrod Washburn, the craftiest of the three, will go for the Angels in the first three games of this five-game series. As for the men in pinstripes, one of their weakest rotations in years comes into the playoffs battered and bruised. Mike Mussina, the game one starter, was shelled in his last outing against Baltimore and is still recovering from an elbow injury. Randy Johnson, Aaron Small and Shawn Chacon will have to patch together a series of good outings for the Yankees. Advantage: Angels

Bullpen: Yankees closer Mariano Rivera has been called the best playoff reliever of all time, so his performance this year should be perfect as usual. Rivera, one of the most feared pitchers in the Majors, has the ability to shut down even the most potent offense upon stepping on the mound in the ninth inning. Rivera finished the 2005 season with 43 saves and a 1.38 ERA. The Angels' Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod as he's known to baseball fans, led the AL in saves in 2005 with 45, but he has been sporadic down the stretch and can be wild at times. Advantage: Yankees

Hitting: The Yankees' offense features MVP candidate Alex Rodriguez (AL-leading 48 home runs, 130 RBI, .321 batting average), the resurgent Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and the player with the best September batting average in the AL, rookie second baseman Robinson Cano. The Angel's offense features reigning AL MVP Vladimir Guerrero, the speedy and always-dangerous Chone Figgins and a host of complimentary hitters, including the Molina brothers, Garret Anderson and Darin Erstad. Regardless, the Yankees' star firepower is on an entirely different level. Advantage: Yankees

Final Word: The playoff-weary, battle-tested Yankees will outlast the Angels with superior hitting, clutch pitching and a no-nonsense bullpen. Ultimately, the Angels just can't put up runs like New York. Pick: Yankees in 4

Chicago White Sox (99-63) vs. Boston Red Sox (95-67)

Starters: Three stud starting pitchers for the White Sox face off against a potentially comparable Red Sox staff. Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Mark Buerhle all won 14 or more games this year and make up the core of the White Sox rotation. Buerhle and Garland each started the regular season strong, going 10-1 and 12-2, respectively. Buerhle also led the AL in innings pitched. The Red Sox starting pitching has been erratic throughout the season, with Curt Schilling out for most of the year and inconsistent on the mound. Matt Clement pitches for the Red Sox in game one against the White Sox's Jose Contreras. The Red Sox enter the series with momentum from a season-ending series with the hated Yankees, but will have to hope their pitching can match up with the White Sox staff. Advantage: White Sox

Bullpen: Both of these teams had trouble finding a consistent closer in 2005, each employing a closer-by-committee approach. But as the teams enter October, both have clearly identified their closers for the post-season. The Red Sox, who even gave Schilling an opportunity in the pen, have handed the ninth-inning responsibilities to veteran Mike Timlin, who has provided accuracy and emotion as a closer, saving eight games in the final month of the season. Boston also has the young righty, Jonathan Papelbon who has given them security in a middle relief slot. As for Chicago, Dustin Hermanson saved 34 games and finally has given the White Sox a little faith in their relievers. But the White Sox are still shaky in middle relief, while the Red Sox have a host of hard-throwers (lefties, righties, even submarine pitchers) ready to go in and give Boston a lift. Advantage: Red Sox

Hitting: This is no question. David "Big Papi" Ortiz and Manny Ramirez finished 1-2 in RBI and Johnny Damon had the fourth-highest batting average in the AL this year. The combination of Ortiz and Ramirez is too much power for any of the White Sox pitchers to handle. The two combined for 92 home runs and 292 RBI this season, terrorizing many a rotation along the way. The White Sox, on the other hand, prefer to play small ball. Despite the best record in the AL, they do not have a player in the top five in batting average, RBI, slugging percentage, hits, doubles and runs. First baseman Paul Konerko hit a very respectable 40 home runs and hit .283 as the power hitter for the White Sox. Speedy centerfielder Scott Podsednik hit .337 in September and could be trouble for the Red Sox if he gets on base (59 stolen bases). Simply put, Ortiz is the best clutch hitter in baseball right now and having him on the Red Sox side tips the balance in their favor. Advantage: Red Sox

Final Word: In the battle of the Sox, the Reds win for three simple reasons: 1) Gutty pitching efforts from both their starters and bullpen, 2) David Ortiz and 3) Red is a primary color. Pick: Red Sox in 5

National League Division Series

San Diego Padres (82-80) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (100-62)

Starters: This matchup features two of the best pitchers in baseball, the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Padres' Jake Peavy. Peavy led the NL in strikeouts this season (216) and won 13 games with a 2.88 ERA. Carpenter, who finished second in strikeouts, went 21-5 with a 2.83 ERA and is one of the favorites for the Cy Young Award. The difference between these teams lies in the rest of their rotation. After Peavy, the Padres will throw Pedro Astacio, Brian Lawrence, Adam Eaton and Woody Williams. The Cardinals' remaining starters are Mark Mulder (16-8, 3.64 ERA, 111 strikeouts), Matt Morris, Jason Marquis and Jeff Suppan. Fortunately for the Cards, the Padres' team ERA against their high flying offense this season was 6.24. Advantage: Cardinals

Bullpen: The Cardinals will be without their best middle reliever in Al Reyes, who is out with an elbow injury. Closer Jason Isringhausen will have to pick up where he left off in the regular season, where he was a dominant force late in games. In 59 innings of work Isringhausen had 51 strikeouts and saved 34 games. The rest of the Cardinals' pen does not feature any big names in Ray King, Julian Tavarez, Randy Flores and Cal Eldred, but they get the job done. The Padres' bullpen features one of the best closers of the era in Trevor Hoffman, who saved 43 games this year for a Padres team that only won 82. The rest of the Padres' bullpen is not too shabby either. Rudy Seanez struck out 84 batters in just 60 innings of work, Akinori Otsuka also averaged nearly a strikeout per inning and Clay Hensley held opponents to a .195 batting average. Advantage: Padres

Hitting: The Cardinals' Albert Pujols can do it all. Pujols made a run at the Triple Crown this year, hitting .330 with 41 homers and 117 RBI. Pujols also joined Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Al Simmons as the only players in history to have 100 RBI in each of their first five seasons. His consistency and power at the plate has protected the rest of the Cardinals' lineup, which scored more than 800 runs and hit a consistent .270 as a team in 2005. Sluggers Jim Edmonds, Reggie Sanders, Yadier Molina and Larry Walker lead St. Louis' charge, while the scrappy David Eckstein is a nuisance on the basepaths. The Padres, however, do not have a similarly powerful offense, with no player in the top five in home runs, RBI, or batting. San Diego's Joe Randa has been a surprise hitter this year, and outfielder Brian Giles is a heady hitter with power in stretches. But the Pads win mostly with their defense, and will be hard-pressed to outscore the Cards. Advantage: Cardinals

Final Word: Above average pitching, super-duper-amazing hitting and adequate bullpen work give the Cardinals the edge over the Padres in this series. The Cardinals ride the Albert Pujols train straight into the Championship Series. The Cards face no resistance from a Padres team lucky to be in the playoffs. Pick: Cardinals in 3

Houston Astros (89-73) vs. Atlanta Braves (90-72)

Starters: The Astros have the opportunity to sweep the Braves for the simple reason that their starting pitching could be the best in the bigs. Any team that can throw Roy Oswalt, Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite in a short series is intimidating. Oswalt racked up 20 wins in 2005, while also leading the team in innings pitched. Clemens could be the best starter of all time, and he could be adding an eighth Cy Young to his resume this year. Pettite is a big lefty with craft and confidence. The Braves also have a nice rotation, with John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, and a cast of others giving good outings throughout 2005. Smoltz is a vet with playoff experience and nasty control. Hudson is a young gun with power pitches. But in the end, the short series favors the starters from Houston. Advantage: Astros

Bullpen: The Braves' bullpen includes the shamed closer Dan Kolb, the new closer Kyle Farnesworth and a host of other pitchers who do not seem to have a definite place in the manager Bobby Cox's game plan. Chris Reitsma gives the Braves a few sure outs in the later innings of ball games but cannot make up for the rest of the bullpen's inefficiency. The Astros' bullpen includes closer Brad Lidge who started out the season a bit shaky but finished with 42 saves and is now a confident and solid closer. The Astros can also look to experience in the bullpen from wily veteran John Franco, and have gotten solid work from reliever Dan Wheeler. Lidge tips the balance in favor of the `Stros. Advantage: Astros

Hitting: The Braves threw rookie after rookie into their starting lineup this season, and the kids surprisingly responded well. Rookie Jeff Francouer has been the call-up of the year, and has provided the Braves with a much-needed spark. Outfielder Andruw Jones, despite having the worst September batting average of NL outfielders, won both the home run and RBI titles in the NL with 51 jacks and 128 RBI. The Astros' hitting got off to a terrible start this year, not giving their starters any run support. Despite their triumphant return to the longball (see Lance Berkman and Co.), the Braves take the cake in this category. Advantage: Braves

Final Word: The Braves make the playoffs every year, but have trouble getting over the hump to a World Series victory. This year will be no different. The Astros will bounce Atlanta in round one because of superior starters. The Braves can't be happy about seeing a 1-2-3 of Pettite, Clemens and Oswalt. Pick: Astros in 4

Abe Schwadron. Abe is a huge basketball, baseball, and football fan that likes to read up on sports in SLAM, Sports Illustrated, and ESPN magazines. Hobbies include streetball, poker and film-making. A sneaker addict, Abe likes to keep his kicks fresh. Abe likes reggae and hip-hop music, … More »

Josh Zipin. Josh Zipin has trouble paying attention for more than three seconds at a time... More »

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