I thought we could take a different approach here and just pull out a handful of thematic storylines running through the 2011 post-season and have a look. For starters, let's look at two of the better rookies in recent memory set to square off out in San Francisco for the National League Division Series.
Jason Heyward wasted no time making a name for himself in 2010, homering in his first career plate appearance off of Chicago's Carlos Zambrano. If you don't think he's captivated the Atlanta faithful, I urge you to check this out:
It's with good reason, too. Heyward is the most promising player his age to come along in decades. Below is a look at the five best 20-year old seasons in terms of OPS+ since 1946 (65 years). Minimum 300 plate appearances:
On its own, that's compelling but with names like Pinson and Horner on there, are there any guarantees that Heyward will become a superstar? Well there are no guarantees, but this next table tells you why Heyward stands out from the bunch at this stage. It's all about his approach.
Heyward's walk rate stands way above the others on that list, which bodes extrardinarily well for his future.
In the NLDS Heyward and the Braves face the San Francisco Giants and their standout rookie, Buster Posey. Here are the best OPS+ seasons by a catcher 23 and under with 300 plate appearances since 1961 (50 years):
From the entirely non-predictive department, the last two teams to qualify for the playoffs in their first season in a new ballpark won the World Series. Both the 2009 New York Yankees and 2006 St. Louis Cardinals won the Fall Classic their first year in new Yankee and Busch Stadiums, respectively.
This year, the Twins will give it a go. It's been an incredible debut year for Minnesota at Target Field, as they have posted a home record of 53-28. The Twins will be without the services of Justin Morneau, one of the very best players in baseball, but they're used to it at this point. Since Morneau played his last game on July 7th, the Twins actually improved their record, going 49-29 to close the season. Over that same span, the Yankees were 41-36.
For one, there's AL Rookie of the Year candidate Neftali Feliz. The Rangers could expand their Closer's role to include additional high-leverage work. Remember, Feliz came up through the Minors as a starter. He could handle additional innings here and there.
There's also Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves, who has 40 strikeouts in just 20.2 innings of Big League work. He'll have to improve his control if he is going to dominate the way Atlanta might like him to. Kimbrel has 16 walks to go along with those 40 punch-outs. At the same time, the Braves won't need to lean too heavily on him given their relief depth, should Kimbrel struggle.
This Dave Cameron piece on how Dusty Baker should deploy his pitching staff in Game One. Sure, the schedule allows Philly the chance to deploy its big-3, but it also allows the Reds to keep their outstanding bullpen fresh.
So you want to dabble in the free agent pitching market, huh? Sure you might net yourself a gem like C.C. Sabathia. But how about Barry Zito, Javier Vazquez and Burnett? Where would the Red Sox be had John Lackey and Josh Beckett pitched the way Boston had hoped? In Zito, Vazquez, Burnett, Lackey and Beckett, that's $76.5 million doled out to starters who will not be taking a playoff rotation turn.