Senior circuit predictions

I'll be brief-ish

3. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. New York Mets. I have a friend who's incredibly bright, but loses a sense of reality when it comes to his beloved Mets. To him, this season's team is Murderer's Row, the Gashouse Gang and the Big Red Machine all in one.

But were they? He's not going to like the answer.

Yes, New York had 97 victories and was a runaway winner in the weak East, posting its best season since 1988 -- when they lost to Los Angeles in the NL championship series. But in 2006, the Mets as a team batted .264, good for a tie with Florida for eighth in the league. New York did hit 200 homers, 47 more than the Dodgers, but it doesn't really matter how many homers you have if you cannot get the bat on the ball consistently.

Los Angeles scored the fourth-most runs in the NL with 820, just 14 behind New York. The Dodgers led the league in hits (1.558), batting average (.276) and on-base percentage (.348), meaning they're patient at the plate. That doesn't bode well for a Mets pitching staff that suffered a major blow last week when it was announced Pedro Martinez would be lost until the middle of next season due to rotator cuff surgery and to repair a torn tendon in his calf.

Pedro was the key. When the Mets signed him nearly two years ago, it specifically for him to get them to the postseason. My friend tells me that New York will be fine without Pedro. I think this is where he steps away from reality. Steve Trachsel is attending to a family emergency and may not be available either. I'm not sold on Tom Glavine and Orlando Hernandez as postseason stars at this stage of their careers, and the back end of the rotation is a mess -- John Maine? Please. This staff is going to be overworked.

New York and Los Angeles were ranked third and fourth in the NL in ERA. Momentum will be a key. Los Angeles enters the postseason on a seven-game winning streak, and they bounced back well after coming out worse than flat after the All-Star break. The Dodgers dropped 13 or 14 before going on a 17-1 tear.

Oh, and they picked up a pretty good pitcher at the trading deadline. Look up the word "crafty" in the dictionary, and there's a picture of Greg Maddux -- 6-3 with a 3.30 ERA after being rescued from the Cubs.

Bottom line is the Dodgers were a better battle-tested team this season, and that's going to carry them. Dodgers in four.

4. San Diego vs. St. Louis. This will be easy. The Cardinals have Albert Pujols coming off the best season of his career, but their pitching staff is a mess -- no closer in Jason Isringhausen (gascan-like as may have been this year), no No. 2 starter in Mark Mulder. Jim Edmonds is dealing with the aftereffects of a concussion, and having Preston Wilson and Juan Encarnacion as your corner outfielders always is scary.

Add to that the Cards nearly blew a 7 1/2-game lead in the final 11 days of the season and they needed help to back into the postseason. St. Louis was the last in, and it'll be the first out ... unless Pujols develops a 97 mph fastball. Padres in three.

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