Double Play: Predicting the ALDS Staff
10/5/2010 1:59:12 PM
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After a long season, the quest for the World Series begins in earnest on Wednesday when three of the four division series open up.

With that in mind, here are some things to watch in both of the American League Division Series, as well as our Double Play Blog predictions.

ALDS: New York Yankees at Minnesota Twins

This series seems to be a right of passage, as the clubs have met three times in the last eight years in a Division Series matchup. New York swept Minnesota last season and won all three series with a combined 9-2 record.

For the New York Yankees, one of the biggest question marks entering the series will be their starting pitching. Despite their large contracts, both A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez are both not projected to start in the Best-of-Five contest.

CC Sabathia, who is the favourite to win the American League Cy Young Award is slated to start Game 1, and then again in Game 4 on short rest. Andy Pettitte, who has allowed 10 earned runs in just over 13 innings in his last three games since returning from the DL with a groin injury, will start in Game 2 with Phil Hughes taking the ball in Game 3.

Offensively the Yankees don't have many holes, even with Derek Jeter coming off his worst season with the bat since his rookie season. He's always performed well in the playoffs, and with guys like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano hitting behind him, even if Jeter struggles, the club still has the ability to pile on the runs.

While there is some doubt that the foursome of Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing and Nick Blackburn will be enough to beat a potent Yankees lineup, perhaps the biggest concern for the Twins has to their offence.

Canadian slugger and former AL MVP Justin Morneau is out of the lineup for the entire post-season with post-concussion syndrome. Catcher Joe Mauer is recovering from a sore knee, and Jim Thome is dealing with a back issue. For the Twins to have any sort of success against the Yankees, they'll need both Mauer and Thome along with the surprising Danny Valencia to keep their players moving on the base paths.

Prediction: While the Twins are a great story every year, and have been lights out at the Target Field, posting 53 wins there this season, which is the most wins of any AL team, it's hard to see how they can beat the Yankees three times in only five games. Yankees in 4.

Click here for a complete Yankees - Twins Preview.

ALDS: Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays

It's been a long time coming for the Texas Rangers. This is the Rangers' first playoff appearance in 11 years. For the Rays, it's their first time back in the post-season since their run to the World Series Final in 2008.

Both clubs are going with a four man rotation, with each team understandably saving their respective aces, Cliff Lee for the Rangers and David Price for the Rays, for a potential Game 5. Both left-handers have shown that they are aces, and which ever one can help his team to victory in Game 1, will really make this short series difficult to win for the other team.

Josh Hamilton, who is always a player to watch, will be even more so in this series. First of all, he is going to play this post-season with three fractured ribs, that he said on Monday were 'sore'. If Hamilton falters, the Rangers offence, while still potent with Michael Young, Nelson Cruz and Vladimir Guerrero, would take a hit. For Hamilton this series also represents his chance to defeat the club that drafted him first overall in 1999.

While the clubs are evenly matched offensively, the Rays have a major advantage in the stolen base department, lead by Carl Crawford. The Rangers were the fifth-worst team in the major leagues at throwing out attempted base stealers during the season, a 19.6 percent rate, meaning that if the Rays can get on base, they might be able to push runs over with their speed.

Prediction: Because the clubs are very closely matched, it should be close and hard fought series. Rays in 5.

Click here for a complete Rangers - Rays Preview.

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