Sunday, September 21, 2008

Looking Forward While Looking Back

With the Chicago Cubs clinching their second straight NL Central Division Title last night, its time to take a look at the possible matchups for the first round. The Cubs making the playoffs 2 years in a row hasn't happened since the Cubs went to the playoffs 3 straight years, from 1906-08.

The Cubs have pretty much locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Both the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets still have outside shots at it, but the Cubs would have to lose all of their remaining games and both the Mets and Phillies would have to win all of theirs. So, for the sake of argument, let's just say they have it. Along with home-field advantage, the Cubs would play the wildcard team in the first round of the playoffs, unless that team is the Milwaukee Brewers. And while the Brewers have blown their 5 and half game wildcard lead that they had at the beginning of September, they haven't been eliminated as of yet, but it's not looking good for them. So, it's basically coming down to the Met and Phillies. Whichever team wins the NL East, the other becomes the wildcard and the Divisional Series matchup for the Cubs.

This season vs the Mets so far, the Cubs are 2-0. After today's final game of the season, the Cubs head to Shea stadium in New York to take on the Mets and give the fans a preview of what might come. But I'm not really sure how much of a preview it might be, since the Cubs have already locked up their division and I'm not sure if they plan on keeping their pitchers on their 5 days and how long the starters will go when in the game.

Against the Phillies, the Cubs are 3-4 and even that record is a bit deceiving as when the Phillies were in Chicago late last month, the Cubs split the series with the Phillies, but only won the first two games with late inning heroics. Of all the possible playoff matchups, this one scares me the most.

As of this moment, the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the NL West 3.5 half games over the Arizona Diamondbacks. But either team would be a good first opponent for the Cubs, because so far this season, they are a combined 9-4 against the two and generally have played well versus teams from the west. But I will say that all of the Cubs games against the Dodgers was without Manny Ramirez playing for LA and they have looked like a different team since they picked him up.

From best to worst, this is how I see the potential matchups for the Cubs:

2. Diamondbacks
3. Dodgers
4. Phillies

On the southside, the White Sox enter today with a 2.5 game lead over the second place Minnesota Twins, with a key series against the Twins starting on Tuesday. If the Sox lose the game today and the Twins end up beating the Tampa Bay Rays, they could come into the series only with a 1.5 game lead. The White Sox do potentially have a make up game left against the Detroit Tigers on Monday, September 29th in case it's needed to decide the division and that would mean that they would have a game against the Twins on the 3oth, in case that is needed with a division tie. But, enough about whether the White Sox will make the playoffs, let's talk about them like they have.

Going into the Playoffs, the White Sox will be the lowest of the division winners. Right now, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have the best winning record and the Tampa Bay Rays are second. If it stays this way, the White Sox would take on the Rays in the first round. If the Boston Red Sox were to take over the AL East from the Rays, then they would be the Divisional Series matchup. Those two teams are the only ones the White Sox could play. And unfortunately for the White Sox and White Sox fans, they have a losing record against both.

Against the Red Sox, the White Sox are 3-4, but haven't played them very well, as they have been outscored by the Red Sox 37-20 in those 7 games. In Chicago, the White Sox split the 4 game series, but in Boston, the lost 2 of 3.

Against the Rays, they are 4-6, but have actually outscored the Rays 37-35 in those 10 games. After taking 2 of 3 from the Rays in St. Pete in April, the White Sox are 2-5 since, including losing 3 of 4 in late May/Early June, when after the final game of the series, manager Ozzie Guillen threw just about everybody under the bus, including his boss Kenny Williams. The scary thing about that postgame tirade, the White Sox were in first place after the game still. Of course, they reeled off 7 straight wins after that game. So, maybe Ozzie Guillen should blow up about his team just before the playoffs begin. They win 7 straight to start the playoffs and they would be setting themselves up for a sweep at the hands of the Cubs in the World Series.

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