With the Mets’ ejection from the 2006 playoffs, we now have even more evidence that the regular season and the postseason are two completely different things. The two participants in the World Series, the Cardinals and Tigers, were the two teams who played the WORST down the stretch in the regular season. St. Louis had the worst record of any playoff team, with only 83 wins. The two teams with the best records in the regular season (Mets and Yankees, both with 97 wins) are out. And the power (home runs) supplied by the Cardinals lineup came from not Pujols/Rolen/Edmonds/Encarnacion but from Eckstein/Molina/Suppan. This tells you why it is so incredibly difficult to predict the outcome of one specific game or series – small sample size. Over 162 games, the Mets were the better team; but in one specific series, at one specific time of year, under one specific set of conditions, the Cardinals were just a little better.
Another interesting fact from this year’s playoffs – the Mets (in the NLDS) were the only team with homefield advantage to win their series. The Yankees/Twins/Padres (in the Division Series) and both the A’s and Mets (in the LCS) lost. I’m not sure this proves anything, though it’s more evidence in favor of the point that, among the major sports, homefield advantage is weakest in baseball.
Reviewing my picks in the LCS, I was 1-for-2, as I had the Mets over the Cardinals (like everyone else outside of St. Louis) as well as the Tigers over the A’s. I’m now 2-for-6 in predicting series this year, which means you’d be better off with a coin flip. It won’t, however, stop me from posting a World Series prediction: Tigers in 5. As much as I’d like to go against the grain or point out various arguments posed by the experts and others that don’t hold water in my mind, it’s hard to go against the grain on this pick for one simple fact: the Tigers are the much better team. Detroit has much better starting pitching, a deeper and healthier lineup, and a significantly better bullpen. Defensively Detroit has the edge simply because the Cardinals are so banged up: Edmonds and Rolen look like they’re going to fall over any minute, and you could see the effect on Rolen when he chucked a ball into the stands last night. The only real concern for Detroit is the long layoff, but with their youth in the lineup it shouldn’t be a problem and the pitchers are used to long stretches between appearances, so this seems like a non-issue to me.
All that said, I go back to my original point in this post: it’s hard to predict the outcome of one specific series. Despite all the evidence that says Detroit is the better team (95 wins vs. 83?), anything could happen when you play the games. If the Cardinals keep getting strong performances from the likes of Weaver and Suppan to go with Carpenter, and their relief pitching continues to hold up, and they continue to get power from unlikely sources, they could wind up taking the Series. And hey – given that a game 7, if necessary, will be played in Detroit, maybe the Cards are actually at an advantage?