2016 ALDS & NLDS
Rangers in 5
For the second straight season the Toronto Blue Jays will take on the Texas Rangers in the Division Series. Last year the Rangers won the first two games in Toronto only to see the Blue Jays rally to win in five games, with Jose Bautista’s bat flip providing the exclamation point. That moment lived in the Rangers heads all season and came flying out in May when Rougned Odor land a punch square to Bautista’s jaw. You can bet that moment has lived in the Blue Jays heads ever since. The Jays won four of seven meetings in the regular season, with all games coming in May with the last meeting being the game where the benches cleared. This series should be intense and emotions could be at a pitched fever. Both teams feature strong lineups with Adrian Beltre leading the way for Texas with 32 home runs and 104 RBI, while Edwin Encarnacion the hero of the Wild Card leads the way for Toronto. Encarnacion a pending free agent had another big season for the Blue Jays, with 42 home runs and he tied David Ortiz for the American League RBI crown with 127. However, the Jays ability to hit with Runners in Scoring position has to be a concern, as they hit just .249 accounting for their big offensive drop off from last season. The Rangers just find ways to win games, and hitting in the clutch has been a big part of the Texas game plan as they posted a 36-11 record in one run games, the best mark in baseball’s modern era. Winning under such pressure all year is a good way to train for the postseason, but it could also mean it is due to even out. The Blue Jays have an edge in starting pitching with J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez combining for a record of 35-6. Neither pitched in the Blue Jays Wild Card win and should be able to have a big impact on the division series. This one should be a good series with each team being evenly matched. This means it will come down to a battle of the bullpens, the Jays have to be concerned with Roberto Osuna who exited the Wild Card Game with a sore shoulder, the Rangers meanwhile have a plethora of strong arms and will win in five.
Red Sox in 4
Terry Francona faces the team he won two World Series with, while faces John Farrell faces the team he once pitched for. Both team have strong offenses, but the Boston Red Sox is clearly superior as they averaged 5.42 which was the best in all of baseball, the Red Sox also had the majors best team average at .282, and slugging percentage .461. In short with players like Mookie Betts, David Ortiz and Hanley Ramirez the Boston lineup is a pitcher’s nightmare. The Indians also have a strong lineup as they averaged 4.83 runs per game and hit .262 as a team. The Indians best offensive weapon is Mike Napoli who led the team with 34 homers and 101 RBI. Napoli has plenty of good postseason expiernce with the Rangers and Red Sox where he delivered several big clutch hits. Pitching is what drives the Tribe, with Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco all having strong seasons. As the playoffs begin that pitching is banged up Carrasco is out for the playoffs after taking a line drive off his hand, while Salazar and Kluber are both recovering from strains. Against strong offense like the Red Sox the Indians pitching will need to be at the top of their game to give them any chance. The Red Sox got a big season from Rick Porcello, but the rest of their rotation has been inconsistent. David Price who was Boston’s big off-season signing also needs to show he can win in the playoffs after a history of struggles in October. When the teams played early in the season, the Indians had yet to make their move to the top of the American League Central, as the Red Sox started the season in Cleveland, returning for a make-up game in August after Opening Day was snowed out. The Red Sox though dominated the six games, winning four and outscoring the Indians by a score of 31-18. The one big edge in Cleveland’s favor is a strong home field edge as they went 52-28 at Progressive Field, and they do have Game 5 at home if necessary. In the end the Red Sox lineup will be too much for the less than 100% Indians pitching staff and will advance in four games.
Cubs in 4
After 103 wins if this is not the year for the Chicago Cubs, it is never going to happen. From day one the Cubs have been the best team in baseball, with only a hiccup just before the All-Star Break. The Cubs had one of the best lineups in baseball and one of the best pitching staffs. The addition of Aroldis Chapman even gave them one of the best bullpens. There is not a single thing lack on the Cubs roster, the only thing that can prevent them from reaching the promised land is their own bad luck and giving into the belief of jinxes. The 2016 Chicago Cubs remind me most of the 1984 Tigers who just all the pieces come together perfectly at the same time and form for one year a team that was just not going to be denied. Unless the Cubs stumble over the own two feet that will the final story of this year’s team on the Northside of Chicago. The Cubs will face the San Francisco Giants in the Division Series, the Giants have a magical run of 11 straight playoff series wins. However, after his complete game in the Wild Card Game over the Mets, Madison Bumgarner will pitch just once against the Cubs. The Cubs won four of seven meetings with the Giants in the regular season. They met as recently as the start of September, with the Cubs winning three of four at Wrigley Field as Bumgarner beat the Cubs twice. The Giants do have that even year magic working again, as in their win over the Mets it was another unknown bit player with the big hit as Connor Gilaspie broke a scoreless tie with a three run home run in the ninth inning. The Cubs though are just bottom to top the better lineup with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo both having 30 home runs and 100 RBI. The GIants meanwhile did not have any players reach 20 home runs. Pitching is the Giants strength as Johnny Cueto won 18 games and had a 2.79 ERA. However, with Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks each being Cy Young contenders the Cubs have that edge too and that does not even account for Jake Arrieta who won 18 games with a 3.10 ERA. The Giants bullpen was iffy at times in second half if they don’t get things straightened out this series could end quicjly in favor of the Cubs.
Dodgers in 4
Both the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers have much to prove as they have been NLDS regulars who have yet to advance. The Nationals have the home field edge finishing with a better record, but the Dodgers are stronger and healthier as the playoffs begin. Clayton Kershaw who missed most of the second half appears to be rounding back into midseason form just time. If not for his two months on the sideline, Kershaw would be a lock for a fourth Cy Young as he posted a record of 12-4 with an ERA of 1.69 and 172 strikeouts. Like his team Clayton Kershaw has much to prove when it comes to winning in October, as he has a history of postseason losses. Though he did deliver a big win in Game 4 of the NLDS last season to force a fifth game against the Mets. The Dodgers dominated the Nationals in the regular season, winning five of six meetings. Max Scherzer is the Nats ace and if they are to have a chance to win the series will need to win the opener. The Dodgers are most vulnerable against left handed pitching, putting a lot of pressure on Gio Gonzalez when he makes his start. Gonzalez importance is increased due to the loss to Stephen Strasburg who likely won’t pitch again this season with a sore elbow. Strasburg is not the only National on the shelf, as Catcher Wilson Ramos who hit .307 with 22 home runs and 80 RBI suffered a torn ACL in the final weeks, while Daniel Murphy was the Nats MVP all season was sidelined with a sore buttocks. It’s hard to imagine the Nats going anywhere if Murphy who hit .347 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI is unable to produce. The Dodgers meanwhile have a deeper lineup helped by a resurgent Yasiel Puig who seems to have gotten the message to focus more on the field after being demoted to the minors by Manager Dave Roberts. One player who could come up big for the Dodgers is Corey Seager, who is nearly a lock to win the Rookie of the Year and is drawing comparisons to Derek Jeter. If Seager can justify those comparisons the Dodgers could be in for a magical run, either way they will best the banged up Nationals in four.