Let me say this right now and say it with meaning: What follows does not constitute any sort of prediction. I find the four remaining League Championship Seriesians quite evenly matched. And while I'm picking the Dodgers and the Red Sox, I'm doing so without any particular conviction.
Which won't stop me from looking at their rosters and trying to figure out who's got the best players at each position. Because, you know, it's sorta fun. And maybe along the way we might even "learn" something?
Maybe. I'm not going to run a poll on that one, because of two relief pitchers (more on that later!). But feel free to let me know, next time you see me. Right now, onward!
If you don't mind, I won't spend much time on this one. David Ortíz is one of the two or three greatest DH's ever, and even at 37 (going on 38) he's a tremendous hitter. The Tigers counter with Victor Martinez, a good hitter who enjoyed an outstanding second half. The Cardinals and Dodgers can't match their American League foes, although Scott Van Slyke's a solid candidate for the Dodgers. With Allen Craig out of action -- at least for the nonce -- the Cardinals are basically stuck. For all their depth, moving Matt Adams to first base leaves them without any good options if they do need another hitter.
All-Star: David Ortiz
This one's even easier, right? Your list of great major-league catchers is pretty short: Yadier Molina, Buster Posey, and (when he's healthy) Joe Mauer. And of course Molina's the only one of that group who's still playing. I don't really buy the MVP talk, unless you can make a fantastic case for his pitch-calling and -framing contributions not showing up in the standard sources. Jarrod Saltamacchia and A.J. Ellis are both really good, but nobody's got Molina's middle-of-the-order hitting and game-changing defense.
All-Star: Yadier Molina
Without skipping ahead, I'm going to guess this is the weakest position among the four semifinalists. I mean, I really like Mike Napoli ... but I would like a Two-Mike Platoon -- Mikes Napoli and Carp -- even more than Napoli alone. Quite a lot more, actually. Which says something not so nice about Napoli (sorry, O Great Bearded One). Adrian Gonzalez used to be a great hitter. Now he's merely good. Prince Fielder, ditto. And the Cardinals are down to their second-string first baseman, the aforementioned Matt Adams. He's actually pretty good, too. But not great. Nobody's got a great one. It's not easy choice, but I'm going with the track record on this one ...
All-Star: Adrian Gonzalez
The Dodgers' Mark Ellis is, to use one of my favorite baseball terms, "a nice little player." Detroit's Omar Infante is a slightly nicer little player. But we've got a real battle between Dustin Pedroia and Matt Carpenter. Which is one hell of a surprise, considering that Pedroia's on a Hall of Fame path and, one year ago, Carpenter wasn't even a second baseman. But here we are, somehow. Carpenter absolutely crushed baseballs this season, with his MLB-leading 55 doubles leading to a .481 slugging percentage. Pedroia, of course, remains the superior fielder. And he gets some extra credit for playing so many games in the American League East. Then again, Carpenter played a bunch of games against the Pirates and the Reds. It's really, really, really close ... but again I'm going track record.
All-Star: Dustin Pedroia
Easy one. This guy was probably the best player in the National League in the second half of the season, while the Cardinals are still looking for a shortstop, the Tigers' shortstop was benched in Game 5 of their Division Series, and and the Red Sox shortstop ... well, he's a nice little player.
All-Star: Hanley Ramirez
Well, hell. I'd drawn my nice little conclusions about Miguel Cabrera being too gimpy to really help the Tigers, and then he goes and hits a huge home run. So now I don't know what the hell to conclude. How about this, though? One swing doesn't change everything else, and the fact remains that he's hit two homers since the 26th of August. But if not Miggy, then whom? Josh Donaldson and Evan Longoria got knocked out. Adrian Beltre, out. Does anybody really believe that Juan Uribe is really this good? Hey, maybe we're underappreciating his ex-shortstop defense. But we know Will Middlebrooks and David Freese aren't any real competition. So there's your question, sports fans: Gimpy Miggy, or shortstoppy Uriby? It's a hellaciously close, but I'm going with All-Star: Miguel Cabrera.
Finally, we can stop talking about Mike Trout. Irrelevant! Which leaves the way clear for Matt Holliday, since the other candidates are defensively challenged Daniel Nava and Jhonny Peralta, plus everything-challenged Carl Crawford.
All-Star: Matt Holliday
Even easier than left field, but this time favoring the Red Sox. The Dodgers are better off with Andre Ethier in the lineup than Skip Schumaker, but Ethier's obviously no match for Boston's guy. Meanwhile, the Cardinals rely on Jon Jay, the Tigers on Austin Jackson; the latter's better than he looked against the A's, but hardly a star.
All-Star: Jacoby Ellsbury
This is at least a two-man race, maybe a three-man race depending on your opinion of clutch hitting as an ability. Me, I'm not a big believe. Okay, I'm not any sort of believer at all. But there are a lot of people who think Carlos Beltrán become a different, even better hitter in October. Maybe. Probably not. And while Beltrán's still a good hitter either way, he's no longer a great hitter and his defense seems to have slipped quite a lot. Which still leaves us with Shane Victorino and Yasiel Puig. The Flyin' Hawaiian's got the track record, along with the good hitting and great fielding. Meanwhile, the Wild Horse has no track record at all and his defense is ... well, exciting is probably the nicest way of putting it. The Horse can sure as hell hit the baseball, though. This is one of the toughest choices, but I'm going with the right fielder who jump-starts my heart rate.
All-Star: Yasiel Puig
No. 1 Starting Pitcher
Ho boy. You want the American League Cy Young, or the National League Cy Young? Or maybe the guy who just threw 15 shutout innings in a Division Series. For those just showing up, that would be Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, and Justin Verlander. About the latter, as I wrote just this morning, don't let anybody tell you he's not still a tremendous pitcher. On the other hand, Verlander's pre-September performance has to count for something, right? Just a few weeks ago, everybody considered Scherzer the Tigers' ace. Should we really change our minds so quickly? I'm gonna say no, we should not. Which leaves us with Scherzer vs. Kershaw.
Which is a tougher choice than you might guess. If we look at just this season, they're dead even. If we look at the last two seasons, they're practically dead even. Yes, Kershaw has the ridiculous ERA. But much of that difference is about pitching most of his games in the National League, and half of them in Dodger Stadium. You put Scherzer on the Dodgers' roster and there wouldn't be a whisker of difference between them. It's just incredibly close, but I'm going with the guy who's probably going to give me an extra two or three hitters, especially if my bullpen is a bit suspect ...
All-Star: Clayton Kershaw
No. 2 Starting Pitcher - Scherzer
No. 3 Starting Pitcher - Verlander
No. 4 Starting Pitcher - Adam Wainright*
* and yeah, I know the Cardinal faithful will be upset about this one. Feel free to call them 2(a), 2(b), and 2(c) if you like. These series will feature some fantastic starting pitchers, and I haven't even mentioned Anibal Sanchez or Zack Greinke yet.
It was smart of Jim Leyland to finally give Joaquin Benoit a chance to close. Trevor Rosenthal's probably the right choice as the Cardinals' brand-new closer. But this one's all about Kenley Jansen and Koji Uehara, both of whom have essentially been unhittable for long stretches of the season. Who's better? Hell, I don't know. Do you?
All-Star: Pick 'em (literally, I mean; please pick one of them for me)