Predicted NL playoff teams
East – Philadelphia
Central – St. Louis
West – Los Angeles
Wild Card – Chicago
No. 1 Philadelphia Phillies vs. No. 4 Chicago Cubs
The good news for Chicago fans is Lou Piniella can finally get his first post-season victory since becoming the Cubs’ manager. The bad news is, the Phillies’ pitching staff will likely overpower the Chicago lineup.
Chicago’s pitching staff is realistically three-men deep with Carol Zambrano, Ted Lilly and Ryan Dempster. Randy Wells had a good season in 2009, but needs to prove he’ll be reliable and from there the Cubs’ rotation drops off.
Philadelphia on the other hand has Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton, J.A. Happ and Jamie Moyer. The Phillies probably won’t need to get to Moyer as they take the five-game series in four.
The Phillies also have a more consistent defense and more dangerous bats with the likes of Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins.
No. 2 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 3 Los Angeles Dodgers
The team with the best starting pitching yields supreme in a five-game series and that tips the scales toward the Cardinals’ favor. Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter have the ability to put the Redbirds on their soldiers and carry them to the NLCS. Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny solidify the rotation.
Albert Pujols is dangerous and comes up with clutch hits at the most opportunistic times. Add Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina into the mix and the Dodger will find themselves out-matched in a hurry.
Manny Ramirez brings a big bat for L.A., but also a lot of distractions. If the Dodgers fall behind in the series, Ramirez is likely to check out mentally and end the L.A. post-season run.
St. Louis takes the series in four games.
No. 1 Philadelphia Phillies vs. No. 2 St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals have enough bats in the lineup to steal a win in Philadelphia. Headed back to St. Louis with the series tied 1-1, the Cardinals have the upper-hand.
But the Phillies aren’t a team that gives up easily. The series will go seven games, but the advantage goes to St. Louis because of Tony La Russa. When a game (or a series for that matter) is on the line La Russa pulls out all the stops. He can out-manage Charlie Manuel and get his team its NL best 17th pennant.
NL Pennant winner
The St. Louis Cardinals will be the most primed for the play-off push. The Cardinals won the World Series in 2006 with much less. After a season of tough competition in the NL Central - battling the Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers – St. Louis will be battled tested for anything the NL West or NL East can throw at them, including Halladay, Hamels and the Phillies.
Wainwright and Carpenter will need to have a good post-season, but they are certainly capable of it. Pujols has been on the big stage before and he’s the most consistent offensive player in the game.
The Cardinals have the supporting cast around the starting pitching and the heart of the lineup, plus a bullpen that features Jason Motte and closer Ryan Franklin. All the pieces are in place for the Cardinals to have a great 2010.