One problem I’ve had with baseball over the past decade has been seeing the same old teams in the playoffs year after year.
This October will be a refreshing change.
Sure, a few old faithfuls are in the postseason once again. The Yankees return for their 15th playoff appearance in the past 16 years and the Phillies are shooting for a third straight World Series berth. Even the small-market Twins have made the playoffs for a sixth time in nine seasons, somehow doing it this year without the services of Canadian slugger Justin Morneau for the final two months.
But the rest of the field is made up of relatively unfamiliar faces. The Rays made the World Series two years ago, but this is only their second playoff appearance in franchise history. Texas is back in the playoffs for the first time this century. The Reds – led by Canadian MVP candidate Joey Votto – are competing in their first playoffs since 1995. San Fran is back for the first time since losing the 2003 World Series. Atlanta, once a postseason fixture, returns after a five-year absence.
As compelling as the field is, the matchups are even more interesting.
Since teams from the same division can’t face each other in the first round of the playoffs, Philly will take on the Reds, the Rays will tangle with Texas, the Giants will collide with Atlanta and the Twins face the Yankees. Minnesota and New York crossed paths in the playoffs last year, but the other three matchups are fascinatingly fresh.
Early series prices at Pinnacle had Philadelphia as the biggest favourite at -270. Despite being the American League wild card and without homefield advantage, the Yankees are -160 favourites against Minnesota. Tampa Bay and San Francisco are both -150 favourites to advance to the second round.
With a three-man rotation of Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels, it’s hard not to imagine the Phillies defeating an inexperienced Reds squad. The Yankees have a few question marks in their rotation after ace C.C. Sabathia, and the Twins are an excellent team at home, so I think there is some value in Minnesota. I really like the Rays to take out Texas, but I think Atlanta has a good chance at beating an offensively-challenged Giants squad.
What do you think about the first round playoff matchups in baseball?