Well its October and we know what time it is. No not for pumpkin spice lattes, not for Halloween, not for haunted house…but for some PLAYOFF BASEBALL. Say what you want about baseball being a “boring” sport but when it comes to playoffs, it has to be one of the best in professional sports. All the dust has settled from the regular season and the 10 best teams are now fighting for the title of “Best Baseball team of 2015” and a trophy that will put them in the history books among some of the greatest. Temperatures may be dropping but the players adrenaline and focus levels are higher than ever. So why don’t we go ahead and jump into introducing each team and then I will give you projected winners through to the World Series.
Houston Astros: The Astros are back in the playoffs, I REPEAT THE ASTROS ARE BACK IN THE PLAYOFFS. The Astros youth movement took the MLB by storm this year winning 86 games and hitting the 2nd most Home Runs this season (230). Houston’s ace Dallas Kuechel won 20 games this season and is a strong candidate for the AL Cy Young award. Young shortstop Carlos Correa bursted onto the scene this year when he was called up in June with 22 Home Runs and pinched in 68 RBIs. Jose Altuve had another strong year batting .313. With a combination of young players in Dallas Kuechel, Carlos Correa, George Springer, & Jose Altuve and some savvy veterans in Evan Gattis, Carlos Gomez, Scott Kazmir, & Luke Gregerson, this Astros team can do big things this postseason.
New York Yankees: Veteran play was the reason for success when it came to the Yankees season. Alex Rodriguez had a great bounce back year from his one year suspension blasting 33 Home runs and driving in 86 runs. Set up man Drew Betances and closer Andrew Miller served as a dirty 1, 2 punch out of the bullpen to close out games. Although Mark Texeria is out for the remainder of the season, the Yankees have a handful of veterans including Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury, & Chase Headley to lead the charge in their playoff run.
Toronto Blue Jays: The Blue Jays are the most feared team heading into this postseason and rightfully so. They hit the most home runs (232), best slugging percentage (.457), most RBIs (852), and had the 2nd best batting average (.269). The Blue Jays are the real deal when it comes to hitting the ball. With trade deadline acquisitions of Troy Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, and David Price, this team appears to not have many weaknesses. When you have to face a lineup that has Josh Donaldson (41 home runs), Jose Bautista (40 home runs), & Edwin Encarnacion (39 Home runs)…well things are not looking to good for you and that’s why they are many people’s favorites to win it all this year.
Kansas City Royals: The team who had such a great run in the playoffs last year is back in it again this year but this time as AL Central champs. Royals won 95 games this year and had the same collective production formula that worked so well for them last year. Big move for the Royals at the trade deadline was acquiring Jonny Cueto from the Cincinnati Reds. Kansas City did lose closer Greg Holland to Tommy John surgery at the end of the year but look for Wade Davis to step up and fill the void. With the same players they had last year all healthy and coming so close to a World Series last year, this team is poised to great things again.
Texas Rangers: Two teams from Texas will be in the playoff hunt this October, one of them being the Rangers. Rangers finished the year really strong and actually went on to win the AL West when they trailed the Angels and the Astros for most of the year. Prince Fielder had a great year for Texas batting .305, hitting 23 home runs, and driving in 98 RBIs. Rangers also made a big move this trade deadline in acquiring Cole Hamels from the Phillies to be their ace. No true superstars in their lineup but they get a lot of production from a lot of different guys every night similar to the Royals. They’ll need guys like Adrian Beltre, Josh Hamilton, Sin-Soo Choo, & others if they hope to make a deep postseason run.
Chicago Cubs: Similar to the Astros, the Chicago Cubs are finally back in the playoffs largely in part to the terrific young players they have on their roster. The Cubs actually went on to win 97 games this year but that was only good enough to put them in the 2nd wild card spot because they play in the tough NL Central division. Starting pitcher Jake Arrieta struggled in the first half of the year but never looked backed since. He finished the season with 22 wins, a 1.77 ERA, 236 strikeouts, and a VERY strong candidate for NL Cy Young winner. The 2 youngsters that really lifted this team offensively were Anthony Rizzo (.278, 31 HRs, 101 RBIs) and rookie Kris Bryant (.275, 26 HRs, and 99 RBIs). The youngsters mixed with well experienced veterans like John Lester & Miguel Montero make the Cubs a serious threat even out of the Wild Card.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Its “Buc-tober” in Pittsburgh as they like to call it. Pittsburgh had another fine year this year winning 98 games, but just like the Cubs, that was not enough to get them a division title. Gerrit Cole could be in the candidate for Cy Young for the year he is having (19-8, 2.60, 202 Ks) if it weren’t for Zack Grienke or Jake Arrieta. Closer Mark Melancon finished the year with 51 saves as he proved to be one of the leagues best closers. Offensively the Pirates are led by McCutchen (.292 & 96 RBIs). Pedro Alvarez (27 HRs & 77 RBIs), & Starling Marte (19 HRs & 30 SBs). This a good Pirates team but they will need offensive production other than from their stars in hope to make a playoff run.
New York Mets: It was the year of the young phenoms taking the league by storm and the New York Mets had a handful of those phenoms. Mets finished off the season with 90 wins and fought off the Nationals largely in part to their starting pitching rotation. Jacob deGrom (14-8, 202 Ks, 2.54 ERA), Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71 ERA), and Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 166 Ks) anchored the pitching rotation with the 2nd most quality starts and 4th lowest ERA in the MLB. Offensively it was a story of two halves for the Mets as the trade deadline move to bring in Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, & call up of Michael Conforto made this offensive a force to be reckoned with. Look for the young aces to carry the Mets in their playoff run.
St. Louis Cardinals: Best team in baseball, seems like year after year they always find a way. The Cardinals were plagued by injuries this year but they still managed to win 100 games with players like Matt Holiday, Carlos Martinez, & Yadier Molina missing a significant amount of time. Hitting was very average but the Cardinals pitching staff was dominant this year as they posted the lowest team ERA (2.94), most saves (62) and most quality starts (106). Cardinals, as it seems almost every year, are favored by many to win the World Series this postseason.
Los Angeles Dodgers: The Dodgers went on to win 92 games this season and it was highlighted by their 1,2 combination in their pitching roatation in Clayton Kershaw & Zack Grienke. Grienke pitched this season as if he was the ace and is a strong candidate for NL Cy Young award as he finished the year 19-3, 1.66 ERA, and striking out 200 batters. Outside of those 2 starters, the Dodgers were plagued with injuries or inconsistent performances. Offensively the Dodgers are led by 1st baseman Adrian Gonzalez but have a lot of talented players outside of him in Andre Either, Joc Pederson, Justin Turner Yasmani Grandal, & others. Dodgers also brought in Chase Utley at the trade deadline to reunite with former teammate in Philadelphia, Jimmy Rollins. Dodgers will need more offense to help out their two aces and other pitchers to get wins in this postseason.
AL Wild Card: Houston Astros vs New York Yankees. Winner: Yankees. Astros sorta limped into the playoffs and they are not as strong on the road. Yankees have much more playoff experience as well.
NL Wild Card: Chicago Cubs vs Pittsburgh Pirates. Winner: Cubs. Cubs have had a magical season and I think they have more firepower on offense than the Pirates. Also, Jake Arrieta against the Pirates only allowed batters to hit .151 in 5 starts this season against him.
ALDS: Texas Rangers vs Toronto Blue Jays. Winner: Blue Jays 3-1. Blue Jays offense is way to explosive for Texas to keep up with and Texas’ pitching staff will have their hands full trying to keep their batters off base.
ALDS: New York Yankees vs Kansas City Royals. Winner: Royals 3-0. With Yankees having to burn their best arm in Tanaka for the Wild card game, I don’t think the other pitchers will find success against the Royals lineup. Royals are poised to make another deep postseason run after coming so close last season.
NLDS: New York Mets vs Los Angeles Dodgers. Winner: Mets 3-2. This will be a fun series to watch, both teams with really good pitchers resulting in low scoring ball games. I think Mets offense steps up when facing either Kershaw or Grienke and then jumps on the other two starters the Dodgers will throw. Not to mention the fact that Kershaw and the rest of the Dodgers tend to choke under the pressure of the playoffs.
NLDS: Chicago Cubs vs St Louis Cardinals. Winner: Cardinals 3-1. Cardinals are too good all around for this young Cubs team. Cardinals also are getting key injured players back returning them to full strength. Cubs will get one at Wrigley when Arrieta pitches.
ALCS: Toronto Blue Jays vs Kansas City Royals. Winner: Royals 4-3. I have been waiting for this series since midsummer. If both teams make it past 1st round this has the potential to be one of the best playoff series in history. Only reason I have Royals edging out Toronto is because last postseason, the Royals hitters were extremely good in clutch situations and that will win them ball games late. Also, Royals pitching staff has the upper hand against the Blue Jays pitcher staff.
NLCS: New York Mets vs St Louis Cardinals. Winner: Cardinals 4-2. Again Cardinals will be too much to handle for a young team. Mets young pitchers are studs but have 0 playoff experience going against a Cardinals team that has hundreds of playoff game experience combined. I still believe this could be a fun series to watch because of the pitching match-ups.
World Series: Kansas City Royals vs St Louis Cardinals. Battle of Missouri for the title. I have a tough time picking who will this series once they get here. I think the Royals overall have a better team but the Cardinals are always savvy and find ways to win with less. Royals are hungry for a title after coming 90 feet from forcing extra innings in last years World Series Game 7. Cardinals are trying to make the most of their opportunity in the San Fransisco Giants’ “off year”. My heart has to go with the Royals because I was so disappointed to see them lose last postseason. Winner: Royals 4-3.
Either if none of my predictions go as planned, I will definitely still be tuning into the playoffs and looking forward to seeing which team will come out on top!
Noah is a DJ with KSSU