Time for the the baseball playoffs and pennant fever. Ten teams are in, but only one will become the champion. Here’s my take on who gets to wear the World Series crown.
Wild Card: Yankees beat the Twins. Give the Yanks the edge because of their post-season experience and the fact they are very tough to beat at Yankee Stadium. Still, it’s not a slam dunk. The Twins will start one of the best pitchers in the league in Ervin Santana, who finished 16-8 this year, with a 3.28 ERA. But the Yanks will counter with Luis Severino who was 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA.
Plus the Bronx Bombers have the likely Rookie of the Year (and MVP candidate) Aaron Judge, who hit 52 Home Runs in his first season in the Bigs. No one else has ever done that in the history of the game. Judge also came in 2nd to only Mike Trout in On-Base Plus Slugging percentage with a mark of 1.049.
If New York takes a lead into the 7th innning – FaGet-About-It. Nobody’s beating the triple headed monster of closers in David Robertson, Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman.
ALDS Boston Red Sox @ Houston Astros: Houston in 5. How can I not pick the Red Sox? After all, Boston will undoubtedly start with Strikeout King Chris Sale on the mound. All he did was strikeout 308 batters (40 more than anyone else) to lead the majors. He is 5-1 against the Astros, with a 1.31 lifetime ERA against them. Look for him to dominate in Game 1. But should the game get close, Boston has Craig Kimbrel, one of the best closers in baseball. So I look for Boston to win game 1.
But Boston’s pitching is not very deep. One of their starters, Rick Porcello led the Major Leagues in losses this year with 17. Yes the Red Sox have a great outfield in Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Andrew Benintendi, plus the pesky Dustin Pedroia at 2nd base.
But the Astros tipped the balance this year by adding Justin Verlander to the starting rotation. He’s 5-0 since joining the Astros with an ERA of 1.06 . This is his best (and perhaps last) shot to win a World Series and I think he’ll pitch like a champ. His experience and grit is just what the Astros need. Plus they have Dallas Keuchel and Charlie Morton, both 14-game winners this year. Ken “100 Miles” Giles is a very good closer with 34 saves.
On top of that, Houston has arguably the best double-play combination in baseball with 2nd Baseman Jose Altuve and Shortstop Carlos Correa. Altuve was the best hitter in baseball with a .346 batting average, 32 stolen bases and 24 Home Runs. Correa hit .315 with 24 Homers.
The Astros also have Left Fielder Marwin Gonzalez who hit .303 with 23 Homers and Josh Reddick hit .314 with 13 dingers.
The Astros will win this series.
ALDS Yankees @ Cleveland Indians. Indians in 4. Cleveland is the best team in baseball. Their pitching is top notch. Corey Kluber led the Majors in ERA at 2.25, with a record of 18-4. Talk about total dominance. And Kluber also led the Majors in wins with 18, tied with his teammate Carlos Corrasco who was 18-6. Corrasco was injured last year and didn’t get to play in the World Series. Trevor Bauer is the #3 starter at 17-9, so the Indians are healthy in the starting rotation along with Andrew Miller in the bullpen.
At the plate, Cleveland is loaded with talent. Third baseman Jose Ramirez hit .318 with 29 Home Runs and he led the Majors in doubles with 56. The Indians have arguably the best DH in baseball in Edwin Encarnacion who hit 38 HRs with 107 Runs Batted In. Shortstop Francisco Lindor is one of the most exciting players in baseball. He’s a defensive genius and a great hitter, knocking 33 Homers while hitting .273.
ALCS Houston @ Cleveland. Indians in 5. Losing the World Series last year has been a big motivator for the Tribe. they are focused on winning it all this year and I believe they will do just that.
National League Wild Card: Colorado Rockies @ Arizona Diamondbacks. The Snakes win this one. It’s a one-game play-in and I’ll take Zack Greinke at 17-7 over Colorado’s 10-4 Jon Gray any day. Greinke is money. Plus, J.D. Martinez led the Majors in Slugging Percentage at .690 and Paul Goldschmidt was 4th in RBI with 120.
The Rockies have a great hitter in Charlie Blackmon, who was the best in all of baseball in Runs scored (137), Hits (213), Triples (14) and Total Bases (387). He came in 2nd in batting average at .331, behind only Jose Altuve. Nelson Arenado may be the best 3rd baseman in the National League. He also hit 37 Homers with a .309 batting average. 2nd Baseman D.J. LeMahieu hit ( .310).
Still, in a 1-game play-in, I give the edge to Greinke and the DBacks.
NLDS Chicago Cubs @ Washington Nationals. Nats in 4. The Cubs were my pre-season pick to make the World Series to play the Indians in a rematch of the 2016 World Series. But this year’s Cubs are not last year’s champions. For starters, their pitching has been inconsistent. Only three pitchers had more than 10 wins (Jake Arrieta was 14-10, John Lester 13-8) while John Lackey was a lackluster 12-12.
I just don’t see them beating the Nationals. Washington has four solid starters in Max Scherzer (16-6), Gio Gonzalez (15-9), Stephen Stasburg (15-4) and 13-game winner Tanner Roark.
At the plate, the Nats are solid with five guys (Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Lind and Anthony Rendon batting over .300.) Rendon shares the same name as the Speaker of the California Assembly, but the real leader of the Nationals is Sacramento’s Dusty Baker. I’m rooting for him to go far this year and I do believe Washington will beat Chicago.
NLDS Arizona Diamondbacks @ Los Angeles Dodgers. Dodgers in 4. The Dodgers have one of the best pitchers in baseball in Clayton Kershaw. His 18 wins were the most in the National League and his 2.31 ERA was second only to Corey Kluber. Kenley Jansen is perhaps the best closer in baseball with 41 Saves, a 5-0 record and an ERA of just 1.32.Alex Wood had 16 wins for the Dodgers, while Kenta Maeda notched 13 and Rich Hill had 12.
Hitting wise, the Dodgers have a lot of pop in their lineup. Cody Bellinger, who is likely to win Rookie of the Year, hit 39 Homers, while Yasiel Puig had 28, while Catcher Yasmani Grandal hit 22. Justin Turner had a good year at the plate hitting .322.
The Dodgers are loaded and should handily beat the DBacks.
NLCS Washington Nationals @ Los Angeles Dodgers: Dodgers in 6. Kershaw can pitch twice in this series and probably will. Yes I know he’s had his post-season meltdowns, but this year the Dodgers are too good to fail at winning the pennant.
World Series: Indians in 4. A sweep for the Tribe. Their pitching will dominate and their defense will dazzle. Lindor and Encarnacion will be sensational in this series. Jose Ramirez will win the MVP. Cleveland is no longer the mistake by the lake, but rather the best team in the land.