BrassWorld Playoff Preview

By Jonah Keri


NL 1st round


Northwoods v. West Oakland


The Northwoods Moose return to the playoffs for the 2006 BrassWorld season to defend their crown. But this time they’ll have to do it the hard way.


A late-season charge by the Mansfield Mounties relegated Northwoods to a second-place finish in the Mays division, forcing the Moose into first-round action. They’ll take on the West Oakland Wolverines, which played well enough in head-to-head series against division rival Aspen to grab the sixth and final playoff spot in the National League.


Northwoods is led by what may be the best middle of a lineup in either league, with Jason Bay, Travis Hafner and Miguel Cabrera occupying the three through five spots in the order. Strong glovemen such as Johnny Damon and Adam Everett provide a defensive lift, while Mark Sweeney leads a strong bench. Ben Sheets provides the muscle at the top of the Moose rotation. Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez headline a deep, versatile bullpen.


West Oakland’s strength lies in its starting rotation, one of the best around. Roy Oswalt, John Smoltz and John Patterson give the Wolverines three playoff starters with 2005 ERAs of 3.13 or lower. The lineup isn’t as deep, but does feature 100 homers in the three through five spots in Richie Sexson, Jay Gibbons and Pat Burrell, along with the speedy Jose Reyes wreaking havoc at the top of the order. Huston Street is West Oakland’s closer, working behind a group of specialists.


Northwoods will win if: Its big bats stake the Moose to early leads. Northwoods holds a big offensive edge in this series. The bullpen is loaded, and there’s plenty of power to provide insurance runs as needed.


West Oakland will win if: It can leverage its advantage in starting pitching. Northwoods doesn’t have a dominant starter behind Sheets, while West Oakland can go with an elite three-man rotation in Oswalt-Smoltz-Patterson.


Prediction: Northwoods in 5



Montreal v. Maryland


Two more Mays division rivals collide as the Montreal McGaffigans return to the playoffs with a new name and new manager, doing battle with the stout Maryland Mounders.


Montreal and Maryland both reached the post-season after a spirited Mays division battle that saw five teams crack the playoffs, with one just missing the post-season despite a record well above .500. Both teams know each other well, having hooked up for several memorable battles during the regular season.


Montreal likely went through more changes than any other team during the regular season. The McGaffigans upgraded in several areas, installing Pedro Martinez as the team’s #2 starter, adding players such as Brian Giles, Jason Varitek and Julio Lugo to the lineup, and upgrading the bullpen with Hector Carrasco and Todd Jones. Vladimir Guerrero heads the team’s offense, while Martinez teams with Roger Clemens to form arguably the best 1-2 pitching punch in the league. Role players make up much of the rest of the roster, with part-time contributions from the likes of David Bell, Sal Fasano and Emil Brown.


Maryland was a rock of consistency for most of the season, stringing together solid months and riding a balanced roster into October. Todd Helton leads a lineup with no major weaknesses. Former Florida Marlins Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett figure to match up well with anyone, while #3 starter Cory Lidle will look to give Montreal fits, as he did throughout the regular campaign. Brad Lidge leads a sneaky good bullpen that got solid contributions from multiple sources, including Shawn Chacon, David Riske and Ron Villone. Depending on match-ups, players such as Jermaine Dye and Reggie Sanders could come off the bench in key spots, giving Maryland a top-notch bench.


Montreal will win if: Clemens and Martinez hold serve. Pitching is the team’s strength, from the rotation’s top two to a bullpen that goes six-deep. There’s plenty of power on the roster, and some scary pinch-hitters too.


Maryland will win if: Beckett and Burnett match Montreal’s Big 2. Despite late-season upgrades, the McGaffigans’ offense is vulnerable, as it relies heavily on power and doesn’t feature many high-average hitters or much speed. Maryland’s balance could play a big role in the series.


Prediction: Maryland in 6



AL 1st round


Plum Island v. South Range


The Plum Island Greenheads hope to ride some home cooking to the next round of the BrassWorld playoffs, as they take on the South Range Mariners.


Plum Island owned the biggest home-field advantage in all of BrassWorld for the 2006 season. Though the Greenheads were narrowly edged out by San Bernardino (now New York) for the Ruth division title, Plum Island will retain the home-field edge against South Range. Meanwhile, the Mariners hope to trace a path similar to this year’s Detroit Tigers, losing a division title late in the season but making up for it with a deep playoff run.


Carlos Zambrano was the class of the American League this season, leading or ranking near the top of the circuit in multiple pitching categories. He’ll give Plum Island three strong chances to win in any series in a first-round seven-game series. Freddy Garcia and Mark Mulder provided steady contributions after sub-4 MLB ERAs. Plum Island may own more speed than any other club, with Juan Pierre and Alfonso Soriano likely to give opposing catchers’ nightmares throughout the post-season. The bullpen lacks marquee names but still produces, as Kyle Farnsworth, Mike Timlin and company back up the team’s starting staff.


The lefty-righty-lefty combo of Carlos Delgado, Matt Holliday and Geoff Jenkins lead South Range into battle. Jimmy Rollins was one of the most productive lead-off men in the game, while Jorge Cantu provides unusual punch from the middle infield. Greg Maddux and Chris Capuano will look to match up with Plum Island’s staff. They’ll have help from Mike MacDougal and friends in the pen. The bench is deep, with multiple platoon options and pinch-hitters on hand to support the starting eight.


Plum Island will win if: It wins the smallball battle. The Greenheads lack elite power, and will rely heavily on pitching, defense and especially baserunning. This series could be a NetPlay lover’s dream, as Plum Island will look to squeeze out every advantage.


South Range will win if: Power rules the day. Despite Plum Island’s big edge in the regular-season standings, South Range owns the better offense. The bullpen is thin behind MacDougal, and the rotation looks fairly pedestrian, so the Mariners will hope for a bunch of 8-4 games.


Prediction: Plum Island in 7



Hoboken v. Gotham City


Two Ruth division powers hook up, as the Hoboken Bums take on the Gotham City Gargoyles in perhaps the most intriguing of all first-round match-ups.


Overshadowed by the gaudy win totals posted by San Bernardino and Plum Island during the regular-season, Hoboken and Gotham come in as two of the most dangerous sleeper teams in the post-season. This series could easily go the distance.


Hoboken’s fierce offense include on-base prowess and speed in the underrated David DeJesus, ample sock from Jason Giambi, Andruw Jones, Hideki Matsui and Marcus Giles, and Captain Clutch himself, Derek Jeter. Mike Sweeney and Dmitri Young round out the team’s core. Unlikely staff ace Gustavo Chacin was one of the league’s best pitchers all year, and should give Gotham a different look as a lefty at the top of the rotation. Matt Wise, Bobby Jenks, Dustin Hermanson and company anchor a deep bullpen.


Gotham City’s starting rotation is a veritable All-Star team of top, young talent. Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Brett Myers are capable of giving any team fits. Fourth starter John Lackey may not make the playoff rotation, despite being better than several teams’ #2 starters. Lackey will likely augment the bullpen, joining Francisco Cordero, Aaron Heilman and Jesse Crain for late-inning duty. Hoboken will face the dilemma every team encounters when dealing with David Ortiz: Dare to pitch to him, or walk him? Cleanup man Chipper Jones could make the latter a futile task. Felipe Lopez and Luis Gonzalez will support the Big 2.


Hoboken will win if: The bats speak loudest. Hoboken owns possibly the deepest offense of any playoff club. Even the strongest pitching staff will have its hands full with this attack. Chacin and Pray For Rain need only keep the score close to give the Bums a fighting chance.


Gotham City will win if: A pitching staff that would make any Hot Stove Leaguer drool fares as well as it should on paper. Young talent doesn’t get flustered in Strat, so Webb, Haren and Myers should be a fierce obstacle for any team to overcome. If this series includes two or more games with scores of 4-3 or lower, Gotham will take it.


Prediction: Gotham City in 7



NL 2nd Round



Buckeye v. Northwoods


Prediction: Buckeye’s loaded roster starts with Albert Pujols, and rolls out plenty more top-tier talent. But Northwoods may be the most talented team, period. In a battle of two teams that lack dominant starting rotations, the defending champ prevails over the departing powerhouse. Northwoods in 6



Mansfield v. Maryland


Prediction: Peavy, Pettitte and Prior…Mauer, Floyd, Teixeira and Alou…there’s a reason Mansfield turned on the jets in September, ending the year with the best record in the NL. Maryland will battle valiantly, but its roster doesn’t quite stack up here. Mansfield in 5



AL 2nd Round



Greenville v. Plum Island


Prediction: Greenville’s Mark Buehrle and Kevin Millwood have the ability to match the Plum Island staff of Carlos Zambrano and company. Neither team trots out a ton of power, but Ichiro, Tejada, Kent provide a diverse offensive core for Greenville. Joe Nathan, Justin Duchscherer and Chad Qualls give the Black Sox the slight bullpen edge that proves to be the tiebreaker. Greenville in 7



San Bernardino v. Gotham City


Prediction: This prediction might have favored Gotham City a couple months ago. But new owner Chris Metz’s bold acquisition of Dontrelle Willis added a third top starter to the combination of Chris Carpenter and Jon Garland; the pick-up of Bobby Abreu in the same deal, combined with Derrek Lee and the rest of a potent offense, will be too much for even Gotham City’s loaded staff to handle. San Bernardino in 6



NL 3rd Round


Mansfield v. Northwoods


Prediction: The 3 P’s firm of Peavy, Pettitte and Prior overmatches Sheets, Schmidt and company, canceling out Northwoods’ power edge and propelling Mansfield into the World Series. Mansfield in 6



AL 3rd Round


San Bernardino v. Greenville


Prediction: Greenville has strong pitching and a capable bullpen. San Bernardino has better pitching, a monster lineup and the best playoff closer of all-time in Mariano Rivera. San Bernardino in 4





San Bernardino v. Mansfield


Prediction: Can we give two managers each a portion of the GM of the Year award? Tom Fish did a masterful job assembling the best roster in BrassWorld. Chris Metz’s gutsy late-season moves made a great team even better. The trophy returns to the AL. San Bernardino in 6