Freak streak will end when Giants win World Series
Several streaks will end when the Giants beat the Rangers in the World Series, and one of them is Larry Stone's long dry spell of picking baseball's postseason winner.
Seattle Times baseball reporter
If sentiment rules the day, Bobby Cox will amble off into the sunset on his artificial knees, lugging a second World Series championship trophy into retirement.
If logic rules the day, the Phillies will roll to their second title in three years on the back (and arms) of their three aces — Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Roy Hobbs, er, Cole Hamels.
If history (and payroll) rules the day, the Yankees will rack up their 28th World Series title and second in a row, a fitting homage to the win-it-all-or-bust philosophy of their late owner, George Steinbrenner.
But this is postseason baseball, where you can throw sentiment, logic, history and even payroll out the window.
Sure, I could pick the Yankees to win it all again, and have a decent shot at being right. But where's the fun in that?
No, my specialty is outside-the-box predictions that combine statistical acumen, keen insights, and shrewd analysis. You know, like last year's forecast of the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series — the same Cardinals who didn't win a single game in their divisional series against the Dodgers.
The year before that, I picked the Angels (first-round ouster), and the year before that the Cubs (first-round ouster), and the year before that the A's (ousted in American League Championship Series).
OK, it seems my specialty is picks that are wrong. But that's not going to stop me. It never has before — and I must point out with all due humility that I did nail the White Sox in 2005 and the Red Sox in 2004; you can look it up — but with each passing year, it's getting harder and harder to live off those distant triumphs.
This year, however, I'm going to hitch my fading prognosticating credibility to the slender frame of our own native son, Tim "The Freak" Lincecum and the rest of his San Francisco Giants teammates, and let them pull me back to the winner's circle.
While Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels are undeniably formidable, I like the Lincecum-Matt Cain combo nearly as well — and I like the Giants' bullpen a heck of a lot better.
And though the Phillies have a formidable lineup, the one we've all seen the past two Octobers, they went through inexplicable stretches this season in which they resembled the 2010 Mariners more than the 1927 Yankees. That included a two-week period in June in which they were 4-10 and scored a total of 26 runs.
The Giants don't have nearly as potent an attack as the Phillies, who scored the second-most runs in the league. But they have momentum on their side, having run down the Padres from a 7 ½-game deficit on July 4. And in rookie Buster Posey, they have unearthed a game-changing bat to go with functional sticks like Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and Andres Torres.
No, the Giants don't have a Barry Bonds, who almost single-handedly lifted the Giants within five outs of a World Series title in 2002. But this Giants team has demonstrably better pitching, led by Lincecum (who went 5-1 with a 1.94 earned-run average in his final six starts to quell whispers that he wasn't what he used to be).
Lincecum and Cain — aided and abetted by San Francisco's shutdown bullpen that is led by fiercely bearded closer Brian Wilson — will pace the Giants past Cox's Braves in a four-game divisional series. Without Chipper Jones and Martin Prado, the Braves' offense is pretty lackluster, and they don't have the dominating pitching of bygone days that helped make Cox a legend. They do have a great closer in Billy Wagner, who like Cox has announced his retirement. Neither will have to wait long.
In the other divisional series, the Phillies will overwhelm a Reds team that led the National League with 790 runs but isn't quite ready for prime time after its first winning season since 2000.
Much could depend on how well Edinson Volquez, coming off Tommy John surgery, can set a tone in the opener against Halladay. Reds fans always cringe when Francisco Cordero (eight blown saves) comes into the game — much like Phillies fans with Brad Lidge, for that matter. The Reds, led by likely National League MVP Joey Votto, are a rising power, but this isn't yet their time. Phillies in three.
In the American League, the Yankees simply have too much firepower for a Twins team that is well-constructed to endure in a 162-game race but falls short in a short series — particularly with Justin Morneau still benched by a concussion.
Francisco Liriano is a bona fide ace, but beyond him the Twins have to hope that the non-Sabathia portion of the Yankees rotation all hit on their potential downfalls (injury in the case of Andy Pettitte, fatigue in the case of Phil Hughes, and inconsistency in the cases of Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett). Any team with Joe Mauer can't be overlooked, but I'll take the Yankees in four.
I like the Rangers to upset the Rays in the other divisional series, but that's dependent on a functioning Josh Hamilton, who is coming off a serious rib injury. If Hamilton can mash like he did much of the season, and the Rangers get as much mileage out of Cliff Lee as I think they can, they'll prevail in five.
Both League Championship Series should be barnburners, but I'll take the Giants over the Phillies, and the Rangers over the Yankees, both in the full seven games. Yes, I realize the Rangers have never even won a postseason series — losing all three times to the Yankees — but every curse must end.
Like the Curse of Vic Wertz. The Giants have never won a World Series since moving to San Francisco in 1958, and it has been 56 years since the New York Giants, behind Willie Mays' legendary catch to rob Wertz, won the 1954 Series in a sweep of the Indians.
That's a long time — about as long as it seems since I accurately picked the World Series winner. This year, it will be the Giants over the Rangers in seven games, and you can take that to the bank.
But don't come to me for a bailout.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or email@example.com
About Larry Stone
Larry Stone gives an inside look at the national baseball scene every Sunday. Look for his weekly power rankings during the season.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.