Normally I don't break out The System until late September, but there's nothing wrong with taking it for a test spin.
The formula that picked the Giants to win a year ago lines up with conventional wisdom this time around. Make it Phillies over Yankees in a very tight World Series.
The Phillies are an easy choice to win the NL (over the Braves in the LCS), but the AL isn't so clear-cut. I give the (right now) wild-card Yankees a slight edge over the Red Sox because their pitching staff is a tick deeper. Boston's rotation has a 4.12 ERA, highest among the eight teams in line to make the playoffs, and among playoff teams only Atlanta is allowing more second-half runs. Those could be fatal flaws if not corrected.
Red Sox, Phillies
Before the season, many speculated the Phillies and Red Sox would make it a Red October. Has anything happened to change that point of view?
The Phillies have shrugged off the early-season absence of Chase Utley, the failure to adequately replace outfielder Jayson Werth and Roy Oswalt's back problems to run off to the best record in baseball. Now, Utley has resumed his All-Star form, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. pulled another rabbit out of his trade-deadline hat to get Hunter Pence, and Oswalt has returned to baseball's best rotation.
The Red Sox have used baseball's most intimidating lineup to go 69-33 since a 2-10 start. They'll get to the Series — and find the Phillies waiting.
Stick with Philly
Injuries and other surprises render sure-fire predictions during spring training obsolete. Not this year. A Red Sox-Phillies World Series matchup is very much in play.
So if you ask me on Aug. 9 who will be the champions, I'd say the Phillies, with the best record, are still as good a bet as the day they trotted out their rotation for a February news conference in Clearwater, Fla.. They have the best pitching, which is getting healthy, and they have an AL-caliber lineup.
The Phillies have passed every test, running and hiding from a competitive NL East, winning their series against the Red Sox and Giants, and getting better as the season has worn on. They have given little reason to pick someone else.
Phils, Red Sox solid
I'm going to go out on a limb and pick the Phillies and Red Sox.
Sure, it's a thick branch of an oak tree — these were the teams most picked to reach the World Series before the season.
Starting pitching usually rules in October, and with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee at the top of the rotation, the Phillies stand out above the rest. The addition of right-handed-hitting outfielder Hunter Pence also provided much-needed punch and balance to a lineup heavy on left-handed hitters.
The Red Sox have some rotation issues, but playoff-tested Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are dealing, the bullpen seems a little more stable and reliable than the Rangers' bullpen, and the Boston offense can mash with anybody.