ALDS: Boston vs Cleveland
The Case for the Red Sox
Boston has the best offense in all of baseball…They led the majors with an .810 OPS…I mean, seriously, have you seen the top half of the Red Sox lineup?…Plus, they have two starting pitchers–Rick Porcello and David Price–who finished in the top 12 in WAR…That’s as good of a 1-2 as there is in the American League…But above all else, they’ve been the best team in the AL by a mile since August 1st…Cleveland probably couldn’t advance past the Red Sox at full-strength, what makes anyone think that they’ll beat them without Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar?
The Case for the Indians
Does this team have a weakness?…3rd in offensive WAR, 7th in pitching WAR, and 5th in defensive WAR…They also have two lights out relievers in Andrew Miller (3rd in K/9 among relievers) and Dan Otero (3rd lowest ERA among relievers), which is something Boston lacks…Oh, and let’s not forget how good their ace is…Corey Kluber ranked in the top five in the AL in practically every important pitching category…And boy can this team run the bases…I know base-running often gets overlooked, but the Royals essentially rode their speed to the last two AL pennants…this Indians team runs as well as any club in the playoffs.
Objective opinion: The Red Sox have a clear edge with Carrasco and Salazar both sidelined. But the Indians were my pick to win the AL before the season. No sense changing it now.
Indians in Five
ALDS: Toronto vs Texas
The Case for the Blue Jays
First things first…A rematch of last year’s epic ALDS?…Yes please!…Anyway…Toronto’s offense is terrifying…Let’s not sleep on some of the other strengths of this team, though…The trio of Aaron Sanchez, J.A. Happ, and Marcus Stroman is very solid…Even though none of those guys are great strikeout pitchers, their defense behind them is above-average…But who is anyone kidding…Toronto will win because they’re hitting is better than your pitching.
The Case for the Rangers
They had the best record in the AL!…That has to count for something…Texas has also drastically improved at many key positions after some key deadline acquisitions…Carlos Beltran has been known to hit like Reggie Jackson in the playoffs…Adrian Beltre is desperate to add to his potential Hall of Fame legacy…and Jonathan Lucroy has proved to be a deciding factor behind the plate…The Rangers also have the requisite starting pitching…Cole Hamels has come through in big moments before and Yu Darvish is nasty…Simply put, people might be sleeping on Texas.
Are we sure the Rangers are good? Sure, they have some very intriguing pieces. Yet when I really broke it down, here’s what I found. Their offense is good, but not great–they were 6th in slugging percentage this year, but only 15th in OBP. Their fielding is decent (13th in defensive WAR). But their pitching is what sticks out: Their Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) ranked third to last in the Majors. How can Texas overcome that against this Blue Jays team?
Also, I had Toronto vs Cleveland in the ALCS before the season, so I’m really hoping that turns out to be right.
Blue Jays in Four
NLDS: Los Angeles vs Washington
The Case for the Dodgers
What’s not to love about LA?…Very good offense, led by rookie phenom and NL MVP candidate Corey Seager…solid defense, led by rookie phenom and NL MVP candidate Corey Seager…did I mention the Dodgers have this guy named Corey Seager…Well, I should also point out that they also have Clayton Kershaw…As an aside, I think Kershaw should win the Cy Young this year…He only pitched four out of the six months, but he not only led the Majors in everything from ERA to FIP to K/9, but he also had the highest WAR despite missing two months…I’m sure Kershaw would rather have a World Series ring, though…And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Kenley Jansen, who anchors a stout bullpen that had the lowest ERA in the Majors.
The Case for the Nationals
Great starting pitching, even without Stephen Strasburg’s services…The Nationals strike out batters more than any other team and they tend to allow very few home runs…I’d take Max Scherzer in a big game over nearly every other pitcher in baseball, too…Plus, let’s not rule out a Bryce Harper resurgence…the reigning NL MVP has been terrific in the postseason before…I bet he’s out to make up for many have considered to be a down year for him.
Judging by the length of my case’s for each team, I think you know which way I’m leaning.
Dodgers in Three
NLDS: San Francisco vs Chicago
The Case for the Giants
Madison Bumgarner doesn’t allow runs in the playoffs….Madison Bumgarner doesn’t allow runs in the playoffs….Madison Bumgarner doesn’t allow runs in the playoffs…Ok, what else?…San Francisco was the best team in baseball before the All-Star break, but then they tailed off…Maybe the Giants have their mojo back after getting by the Mets?…San Francisco also has plenty of guys with postseason experience, so that could be crucial against a Cubs team that struggled in the NLCS last season…Madison Bumgarner.
The Case for the Cubs
103 wins…+252 run differential…need I say more?…Everyone has praised Chicago’s starting pitchers, but how about their defense?…The Cubs didn’t end up with baseball’s lowest Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) by accident…I suppose it helped Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, and company that they had plenty of run support…Chicago was first in offensive WAR and are led by NL MVP favorite Kris Bryant and first baseman Anthony Rizzo…not a bad combination right there…And I know managers only have so much influence on playoff baseball, but it helps that the game’s best skipper, Joe Madden, is in there dugout.
Is “even year” magic actually a thing? Not when you run into a great team like Chicago. The Giants lineup isn’t very potent, so I think Chicago’s pitching and defense will prove to be the difference.