Now that the League Division Series are set in both the American and National League, WGR's Pat Malacaro and Matthew Coller offer their opinions and predictions on who will move on to the next round of the postseason.
American League Division Series
New York Yankees (AL East) vs. Baltimore Orioles (Wild Card)
Pat: Yankees in four.
Matt: Orioles in five.
Pat's reasoning: While I am a big supporter of the extra wild card in the MLB postseason mix this year, an unintended side effect is the screwy format of the divisional series. New York is on the road for the first two games of this series, despite winning their division. Yes, they still will host a potential Game Five, but the opening game of the short series can be just as important. As a result, there is added pressure on C.C. Sabathia on Sunday. Which C.C. will show up? The ace that posted back-to-back sub 1.50 earned run averages in the 2009 ALDS (1-0, 1.35 ERA) and ALCS (2-0, 1.13 ERA), or will the 2011 ALDS Sabathia show up (0-0, 6.23 ERA)? Looming behind C.C. is one of the best postseason pitchers in Andy Pettite. The lefty will be making an appearance in his 31st, yes 31st postseason series, when he starts for the Bronx Bombers.
Key stat for the Yankees: C.C. Sabathia’s career playoff numbers. 7-4, 4.81 ERA, 16G/15GS in 10 playoff series.
Key stat for the Orioles: 46 road wins in the regular season. That is the most for any AL team.
Oakland Athletics (AL West) vs. Detroit Tigers (AL Central)
Pat: Tigers in five.
Matt: Tigers in four.
Matt's reasoning: The 2012 version of the A's has provided more interesting drama already than the movie Moneyball ever could have. Oakland sends a group of rookie starters, a strong bullpen and a lineup of misfit home run hitters led by exciting rookie Yoenis Cespedes. They play strong defensively and have a manager in Bob Melvin that might be the most tactically intelligent in baseball. No matter how many bombs they've hit during the regular season, it remains to be seen whether can take one game from Justin Verlander or get Miguel Cabrera out. They'll need to do both to win this series. They may very well end up with the Cy Young and MVP, but the Detroit Tigers are lacking in depth from the lineup, rotation and bullpen. They have star power in Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, but have one of the most up-and-down No. 2 starters in the league in Max Scherzer and a bottom of the lineup better fit for the Minnesota Twins or Kansas City Royals. They will need a win from Doug Fister or Scherzer and a breakout performance from a secondary player such as Austin Jackson or Delmon Young in order to beat America's favorite underdog team.
Key stat for Oakland: The A's hit the 7th most home runs in the majors with 195.
Key stat for Detroit: Miguel Cabrera not only won the Triple Crown in the AL, but he also had 10 home runs in September.
Washington Nationals (NL East) vs. St. Louis Cardinals (Wild Card)
Matt: Cardinals in five.
Pat: Nationals in five.
Matt's reasoning: The St. Louis Cardinals have won the World Series two times in the last six years and both times they entered the post-season as an afterthought. This year is similar – only making the one-game playoff on the second to last day of the season. But they enter the National League Division Series with a healthy Chris Carpenter and the NL's strongest lineup. The defending world champs have a veteran group with playoff experience, but will need big performances out of a rookie shortstop in Pete Kozma and a sometimes-shaky bullpen. For the Nationals, a child will lead them. Bryce Harper made amazing strides toward the end of the season and the 19-year-old will need to carry his September performance into October for the Nationals' lineup to have a chance against the strong starting rotation of the Cardinals. The Nationals bring a strong rotation themselves led by Gio Gonzalez, though they are missing their true ace in Stephen Strasburg. In order to beat the Cardinals, they will need strong performances out of their other starters and get power from the middle of the order, Ryan Zimmerman, Harper and Mike Morse, to carry an otherwise average lineup.
Key stat for Washington: The Nationals led the National league in ERA at 3.33.
Key stat for St. Louis: Yadier Molina threw out 48 percent of would-be runners in 2012.
Cincinnati Reds (NL Central) vs. San Francisco Giants (NL West)
Matt: Giants in four.
Pat: Giants in four.
Pat's reasoning: Pitching is the name of the game in a best-of-five series for me, and boy this should be a good one. Right from the start especially with Johnny Cueto matching up with Matt Cain at AT&T Park on Saturday. Then on Sunday Bronson Arroyo is set to duel with Madison Bumgarner. Cincy boasts a 3.34 team ERA that was tied for third overall in MLB during the regular season, while the Giants held their own with a 3.68 team ERA that ranked seventh in 2012. It has been more than three full months since these two teams met in the regular season, where the Reds won the season series 4-3. The difference should be Buster Posey for San Francisco. The 25-year-old left little doubt that he is back after the gruesome leg injury that sidelined him in 2011: in 148 games Posey his .336 (led the NL) while belting 24 HRs and driving in 103 RBIs. Those are NL MVP numbers.
Key stat for Cincinnati: Jay Bruce hit 34 home runs this past season, the second straight 30+ HR season for the veteran.
Key stat for San Francisco: 115 errors committed by the Giants in the regular season. That placed them 27th out of 30 teams in 2012. Errors can be costly, just ask the Atlanta Braves.