End of Season and Playoff Predictions: Separating the Boys from the Men
Welcome back, everyone. I took a bit of a break due to starting up college and getting adjusted to my schedule. Now that I am, for the most part, adjusted to college life and my new schedule, I will be posting more often, with an NFL blog on Mondays and a MLB blog on Fridays, with a possible blog on Wednesdays depending on my availability. Jeff Uveino and I have discussed our podcast, the Immaculate Inning Podcast, a little bit, but not too much. It is in the process. We will probably have our first episode up after the Postseason is finished, which will allow us to start up with the 2017-2018 offseason and get into full swing when the 2018 season comes around.
Now that my personal stuff is out of the way, let's check in on what the Postseason will probably look like. It will look a lot like what the playoff picture is right now, with one change. Currently, the seedings look like this:
1. Cleveland Indians 1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. Houston Astros 2. Washington Nationals
3. Boston Red Sox 3. Chicago Cubs
1. New York Yankees 1. Arizona Diamondbacks
2. Minnesota Twins 2. Colorado Rockies
This playoff picture includes five teams that were in the playoffs last year, and five that did not. However, I expect the Brewers to overtake the Rockies for the final NL Wild Card Spot. They are one game out, the Rockies are locked in at .500 in September, and the Brewers are 11-8 in that same span. Do the math, and you find that the Brewers have gained three games on the Rockies in September. With a week and a half left to go on the season, I expect the Brewers to gain that last Wild Card spot, despite a solid season for a Rockies franchise that has not been too successful over the last five years. Next year, watch out for the Rockies. I expect them to make a few moves to bolster the pitching staff this offseason and challenge the Dodgers and Diamondbacks even more so than they did this year. With that said, the Mayor of Ding Dong City (Travis Shaw) and the Brew Crew will be headed to the one game playoff where Zack Greinke will shut them down and the Diamondbacks will secure a spot into the actual Playoffs.
The AL Wild Card will stay the same, and the Yankees will send Luis Severino against Ervin Santana. Advantage: Yankees. The offense in the Bronx as of lately has been hot, and I cannot see it slowing down here. The Twins are coming off of a 2016 where they finished with the worst record in the entire league. They are ahead of a rebuilding schedule, and should look to be more competitive next year.
Now, this is where the fun starts. The five game Divisional Series. Let's start with the NL side of things.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
This is a matchup we have seen NINETEEN other times this season, and it is actually a lot more competitive than it looks. The Diamondbacks have been able to average more than five runs a game against the Dodgers this year and actually have edged the Dodgers in eleven of those nineteen games, and I expect that they will hit that five run mark in a game or two. Clayton Kershaw is not good in the Postseason. I do not care how great he has been this year, in his career, etc. There are some guys that just cannot do it in October. The 4.55 ERA in the Postseason is just bad for Kershaw, and that comes from an 89 inning sample size. The rest of the Dodgers staff and bullpen will pick up the slack in this series, leading the Dodgers to a 3-2 series win over the Diamondbacks. Expect this to be the best Divisional Series matchup this year.
Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs
The defending 2016 World Series Champions will face off against the powerhouse from the NL East, the Washington Nationals. Both teams have playoff experience and have the superstar players to make this matchup a very entertaining series. I think the Nationals pitching and the return of Bryce Harper will lift Washington to the NLCS. Mark up Washington for the W in this series, 3-1 with all games being within two runs.
Now to the ALDS:
Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees
Two of the hottest teams in the MLB in September will battle in October. This series will depend on one start, and that will be Masahrio Tanaka's start. If he pitches well and the Yankees win that game, it will put a lot of pressure on the Yankees. However, with Severino most likely starting in the Wild Card game, Tanaka will most likely get Game One against the 2017 Cy Young winner, Corey Kluber. Kluber wins that battle, and the Indians, with a healthy Andrew Miller, sweep the Yankees in this series like they did to the Red Sox last year in the ALDS.
Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox
I am a huge Red Sox fan, but for the purpose of this blog I have put all bias aside. The Red Sox will struggle after they send Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz out. Yes, I believe Drew Pomeranz will win his start in Game Two. After that, they will have to send out either Doug Fister (yeah, THAT Doug Fister) or Eduardo Rodriguez, who has been inconsistent since his time on the DL with a patella subluxation. Justin Verlander looks resurrected in Houston, and Dallas Keuchel is a force to reckon with as well. With the strength of their bullpen and a little bit of magic, the Red Sox pull this series off, 3-2. Two games go into extras during this matchup.
Oh, and the Red Sox and Astros face off for a four game series to end the season. This means they will play each other for nine straight games, so be ready for tempers to flare and tension to increase around Game Three or Four in this playoff series.
NLCS: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
We are blessed with this matchup. 1 vs 2. The best in the East against the best in the West. Kershaw vs. Scherzer. Harper vs. Bellinger. The better team here is the Washington Nationals, but the better bullpen belongs to the Dodgers. The bullpen is what wins these Championship Series, and Washington's bullpen is 22nd in ERA on the season, while LA's is sitting at a stout 4th best in the MLB. Washington's bullpen has given up a batting average against of .257, whereas LA's is at .221. The Dodgers win this one with their bullpen, 4-2.
ALCS: Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
Let's all go back to the night of August 1st, shall we?
The three-run, walk-off bomb that Christian Vasquez sent over the center field wall against the Indians to win 12-10 in the best game of the MLB season so far. That put the Red Sox in first place of the AL East, a position in which they have not given up yet. The Red Sox have a 4-3 record vs. the Indians, but Cleveland is red hot. Twenty-two straight wins does not happen coincidentally, and they look primed for some playoff baseball. This is also the best bullpen in the MLB (Indians) vs. the second-best bullpen in the MLB (Red Sox). This will be a heartbreaking series, Red Sox fans, and the Indians will win Game Seven on a walk-off.
World Series: Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers.
Tito has his team back to the place where their dreams were crushed by Crazy Scientist Joe Maddon and the Cubs. The advantages all point towards the Indians: better starters, more quality playoff experience, a deeper lineup, and a better bullpen are all possessed by Cleveland. I see Cleveland taking home the World Series trophy in a 4-1 Series victory, with Francisco Lindor winning the Series MVP.
Next week, I anticipate putting out an article on my award winners and predictions on those unless something wild occurs within this next week, which is incredibly possible. Monday is for the NFL, and I will most likely do a review of the weekend games, winners, losers and surprises of Week Three.
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