Midwest League Playoffs Predictions
I must start this blog post will a few disclaimers before getting to my predictions. First, the opinions expressed on this post are my own and not of the LumberKings, the Midwest League, the Seattle Mariners or anyone else…obviously. Second, I always say that any team can win when it comes to a best-of-three series, so these predictions are very tough to make. Third, it’s just for fun, so enjoy.
The LumberKings unfortunately did not make the playoffs this season for the first time since 2006, yet I’ve been asked by many folks who I think will win the Midwest League Championship this season. Now I’ll be able to refer them to this blog post rather than hash out my theories.
First Round (Best of Three): Great Lakes @ West Michigan, South Bend @ Fort Wayne.
My Prediction: Great Lakes in 3, Fort Wayne in 2
When it comes to the East, it’s hard to pick against any of these teams. West Michigan has won championships in 2006 and 2007, while South Bend has made the playoffs five-straight years under manager Mark Haley and won the East last year before losing to Burlington.
Meanwhile, Fort Wayne and Great Lakes each had moster offensive seasons. The TinCaps were dominant from start to finish and won 94 games under co-Manager of the Year Doug Dascenzo. The Loons had split MWL MVP’s in Kyle Russell (26 HR, 102 RBI) and Dee Gordon (96 runs scored, 73 steals) as Great Lakes sported a playoff team for the first time in their three years of existence.
I like the experience of both the Whitecaps and Silver Hawks, but it’s just too hard to pick against the TinCaps and Loons. Both have 16-game winners in Erik Davis (FTW) and Jon Michael Redding (GL), and both have superior offensive firepower. So, it’s a Fort Wayne/Great Lakes showdown in the East Division Finals.
Second Round (Best of Three): Great Lakes @ Fort Wayne
My Prediction: Great Lakes in 3
Yes, I’m well aware that everyone Dascenzo has put in the lineup has succeeded for the TinCaps, the hottest team in the league all year. Yes, I’m aware of the nearly unbeatable Zach Herr/Brad Brach combo at the back end of the pen. Yes, I know the TinCaps have home field advantage and were 50-20 at Parkview Field. I don’t care. Great Lakes has Gordon running wild atop the order, and even he doesn’t lead the club in runs scored. That would be the darkhorse of this series, Jaime Pedroza (100 runs scored, 15 HR, 78 RBI). The fact that the Loons’ offense has remained unchanged most of the season will benefit them in this series. It’ll be a close-fought battle, but the Loons will take the first game at Dow Diamond and find a way to win the clincher in Fort Wayne. Congrats, Loons, you’re my pick for the East.
First Round (Best of Three): Peoria @ Cedar Rapids, Burlington @ Kane County
My Prediction: Peoria in 2, Kane County in 3
The West Division lacked most of the big-name offensive talent in the league this year, but tell that to the Peoria Chiefs. The Ryan Flaherty/Rebel Ridling/Kyler Burke trio is scary. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, they lost their leadoff hitter in Brett Jackson to injury. I don’t think that will matter, especially given what the LumberKings just saw out of Jose Valdez. He’s not quite Dee Gordon, but he gets on base. Even if he doesn’t make an impact as my darkhorse, Peoria is clearly the better offensive team than Cedar Rapids. Mix in the fact that the Chiefs hit .290 against Kernels pitching this year, including .314 against Manuarys Correa, .382 against Ryan Chaffee and an astounding .632 against lefty Will Smith. Seeya, Kernels.
The Kane County/Burlington series is probably the most even-matched of the first round pairings. The Cougars captured their spot in the first half and then lost stars like Grant Desme and Steve Kleen, then started (slowly) to play better down the stretch. Burlington was the team in the middle of the pack that got hot and captured the Wild Card. Am I bitter towards the Bees? Probably a little, but I won’t let that affect my pick.
The loss of Nick Francis to suspension didn’t slow down the Bees in the recent series against the Kings, but I think they might miss him in this series. Adrian Ortiz and Jason Taylor were on the club that won the championship last year, but I just don’t see the Bees getting out of this round. The Cougars win behind right-hander Kenny Smalley and whoever else can give them a solid start. Maybe that’s Anvioris Ramirez, who beat Peoria in his final start on September 4 and looked sharp against us. He’s my darkhorse.
Second Round (Best of Three): Kane County @ Peoria
My Prediction: Peoria in 2
This series is where Kane County’s lack of offense catches up with them. You never know if Jeremy Barfield might take over the series offensively, but there’s not a lot of weapons aside him, Mike Spina and Franklin Hernandez. Kane County’s only shot is pitching, but I think the Chiefs will fare better with a Jeff Antigua, Chris Archer or whoever they start in the second round. The Cougars can’t start Smalley every game. Congrats, Peoria, you’re my pick for the West. Don’t get used to it. I still dislike the Cubs.
The 2009 Midwest League Championship Series
Finals (Best of Five): Great Lakes @ Peoria
My Prediction: Great Lakes in 4
Again, bias aside, I truly think the Great Lakes Loons would win this potential series. Michael Brenly better start warming up his arm, because Gordon can be unstoppable when he gets on base. Pedroza and Russell might be held in check, but they still seem to get a consistent lift from Nick Buss, Tony Delmonico, Anthony Hatch and Alfredo Silverio. I give those hitters an edge over Nelson Perez, Junior Lake, D.J. LeMahieu and others. I also like who the Loons might run out on the mound in this series. Another start from the red-hot Redding, maybe Josh Walter in the mix, and Aaron Miller is no slouch either. If it’s a close series, I give the closer edge to Great Lakes’ Cole St. Clair over Peoria’s Chris Huseby (ignore the ERAs and trust me on this one).
It’s going to be a great series, but I have a strong psychic belief that tells me the Loons will win. Not really, but it’s my prediction. Party it up in Loooooooooooooooon town!
MWL Championship “Dream Series”
Now…my “dream series” match-up: Burlington @ South Bend, the 2008 rematch for the 2009 MWL title.
This time around, Haley’s Silver Hawks take the first two games and go on the road to Burlington (home field for the finals flip-flops per year, the West has it this year). The Hawks will win the series without setting foot on the field in Burlington because of two-straight days of constant hail. In a bit of Mother Nature redemption, South Bend takes their first title since 2005, and they don’t even have to stop riding the go-karts at Fun City.
Hope you enjoyed my predictions. Feel free to share yours. Again, no offense if you’re a fan of any city or player that I’ve mentioned. The great thing about our league is that any player can come up big, any team can get hot at the right time, anyone can win.