I’m feeling good. I nailed both Wild Card predictions. I’m hoping to keep the momentum going. Here’s my predictions for the Division Series:
National League Division Series:
The Giants took care of the Mets in a wild card match-up that was dominated by pitching. San Fran’s pitching staff better show up against a scary good Cubs team (especially since Bumgarner probably won’t go again until game 3 of this series. The Cubs won more games than any other team in the regular season (103), had the largest run differential (+252), and were the only team in baseball to hold their opponents under 600 total runs. The scariest statistic for the Cubs may be that they under-performed their Pythagorean Win Loss record (107 wins expectancy) even though they dominated the regular reason. They hit, they run the bases well, and their pitching and defense is amazing.
The Cubs took 4 of 7 games from the Giants during the regular season and scoring was relatively close (Cubs 23, Giants 17). 2016 is an even year which means San Fran has their mojo working however a suspect bullpen and a lackluster offense (28th in the league in homers and 20th in OPS) is a major disadvantage in this matchup. Without any significant weaknesses, this is the Cubs playoffs to lose. Pick: Cubs in 4 (and the Giants ‘even year reign’ finally comes to an end).
The Dodgers won 91 games, out pacing their Pythagorean Win – Loss record by one. They took a big risk by signing pitchers with injury histories and avoided matching Greinke’s absurd offer from the Diamondbacks. Although this strategy looked like it might have backfired early in the year, Maeda panned out, Rich Hill recovered from his blister issues and kept his magic arm/motion intact after coming over at the trade deadline, and Kershaw is healthy again. Additionally, Puig, after an embarrassing demotion, appears to have found himself again and looks like he can stabilize the outfield situation.
The Nationals finished with 95 victories in a relatively weak NL East. Their 95 win total was two below their Pythagorean Win – Loss projection. Unlike the Dodgers who are getting healthy, the Nationals have been decimated by injury at exactly the wrong time. Ramos will be sorely missed behind the plate (and at the plate), Strasburg’s injury weakens the top part of the team’s rotation, and Harper appears to be playing hurt (with no improvement in sight). Luckily for the team, Scherzer has maintained his Cy Young level performance and Tanner Roark has been extremely effective as a starter. Upgrading from Papelbon to Melancon has also been a positive and will continue to pay dividends should the Nats wind up with a lead late in the 8th or going into the 9th. The addition of Daniel Murphy has allowed the team to weather some offensive issues elsewhere. It’s going to be tough for the Nats to match up against the well-rounded Dodgers. Pick: Dodgers in 4
American League Division Series:
Toronto is coming off a huge extra-inning wild card victory over the Orioles. They now travel to Texas to face the 95 win Rangers in a best of 5 match-up. The Rangers were the league’s luckiest team in 2016. Their Simple Rating System of .2 wasn’t even the best (or second best) in their own division. Additionally, their Pythagorean Win – Loss record of 82-20 may be the best indicator of what to expect from them in the playoffs, especially since they are only +8 runs better than their opponents on the season (lowest, by far, of all playoff teams). With all these measures, one may ask, how in the world did the Rangers end up with 95 victories and home field advantage through the playoffs? The simple answer is that good things happen when you find ways of dominating one run games and pulling out games that go into extra innings.
The regular season match up between the Jays and Rangers was intense (Exhibit A: Odor punching Bautista in the face). Although the Jays won the head to head match-up 4 games to 3, the telling statistic was that they outscored the Rangers 36-21 in these seven games. Both teams are strong at the plate and have solid bullpens. However, the starting pitching favors the Jays. Pick: Blue Jays in 4.
Cleveland has been decimated by injuries, especially to their starting pitchers. This does not bode well for them having to take on the potent Red Sox line up (878 runs scored this season). Furthermore, Baseball Reference’s Simple Rating System indicates that the Red Sox are the class of the American League and nobody is a close second. The Red Sox Pythagorean Win – Loss record of 98-64 was also seven wins better than the Tribe’s (91-70). Boston won the head to head match up during the regular season 4 – 2 and outscored the Cleveland 31 to 18. If the Red Sox pitching staff shows up, I don’t see the Tribe making it out of the Division round. Pick: Red Sox in 5.
For the Wild Card round predictions and team write ups, click here.