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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
City in 7
Buckeye v. Northwoods
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
Mansfield v. Maryland
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
Greenville v. Plum Island
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
Bernardino v. Gotham City
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
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
Bernardino v. 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 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