The MLB postseason is underway after a so-so Wild Card round. We were treated to an absolute classic between KC and Oakland and then an absolute, old-fashioned blow-out between Pittsburgh and San Fran.
With 8 teams left, there really isn’t one true favourite. Things are wide open. So who will win?
American League Divisional Series
Detroit Tigers vs. Baltimore Orioles
Baseball is a funny game, one that I don’t understand. On paper, the Orioles are a terrible baseball team. Their three best players are all out for the playoffs – Machado, Davis, and Wieters. Their lineup is stocked with no-names and scrubs, like Ryan Flaherty, Steve Pearce, and Caleb Joseph. Their big offseason signing, Ubaldo Jimenez, was a bust. Their power hitting shortstop J.J. Hardy hit only 9 HR.
On paper, Detroit is a juggernaut. They have a huge offense with Cabrera, Victor and J.D. Martinez, Kinsler, Hunter, and Castellanos. They have a rotation with three Cy Young winners, and two other All-Stars, and a potential hall of fame closer.
Yet it was Baltimore who romped to a division title and Detroit who clinched on the final day of the season. It’s Baltimore who comes into this series as the favourite, and Detroit who is the underdog. Never-the-less, I think the Tigers, despite a shaky bullpen, have what it takes to pull out the upset.
Prediction: Detroit in 5.
Kansas City Royals vs. LA Angels
After squeaking past Oakland in a game for the ages, the Royals reward is a trip to LA to face the best team in the American League, who are led by the best player in baseball. Good luck!
But if the Royals proved anything this year, is that they can never be counted out. Despite a weak offence and a mediocre starting rotation, Kansas City kept finding ways to win. They used speed, bunts, and an outstanding bullpen to sneak past teams who relied on power.
But can they do it again? Can they get by a team that has tons of thump and pop, with Trout, Pujols, Hamilton, Kendrick, and Calhoun? There are serious questions about the Angels pitching, and there may be questions about how Trout fares in the playoffs for the first time.
Says here he will be fine.
Prediction: LA in 4.
National League Divisional Series
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
How does St. Louis do it? Year after year they find themselves in the postseason, despite having to overcome huge obstacles. This year was no different as they faced a huge divisional deficit to the Brewers, and a late season push by the Pirates to emerge as NL Central champions – despite poor performances by many of the guys they were counting on (Tavares, Wong, Craig), and a severe injury to Yadier Molina. Yet – here they are again.
They face the Dodgers in a rematch of last year’s NLCS. LA is led by the best pitcher in the world in Clayton Kershaw. But as good as he is, he always seems to struggle against the Cardinals. If he continues to struggle against them, that makes the starts by Zack Greinke and Hyun Jin Ryu that much more important.
I can see St. Louis beating Kershaw once, but if Greinke and Ryu hold form, that means the Cards will have to beat him twice. I can’t see that happening at all.
Prediction: LA in 5.
San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals
Of course the Giants are back in the playoffs – it’s an even numbered year! After winning it all in 2010 and 2012 San Fran is hoping for some more even number magic in 2014. With the Cy-worthy Madison Bumgarner taking over as team ace, and with a red hot Buster Posey, they have as good a chance as ever.
They will face Washington, a year removed from being one of the most disappointing teams in the game. This year, behind a solid rotation and a dominant bullpen, they dominated the NL East and are poised for a deep playoff run. A lot may rest on the shoulders of Bryce Harper, however. He used to be compared to Mike Trout as one of the best players in the game, but injuries and struggles have dropped his stature significantly. If the good Harper shows up, the Nats should win. If not….
Prediction: Washington in 5.
American League Championship Series
Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Angels
If the Tigers have actually made it this far, it is a good indication that the bullpen is righted itself and the starters are firing. That is bad news for the Angels, who despite having great offensive players, struggle a bit against power pitchers. The biggest difference maker may very well be Anibal Sanchez. Bumped from the rotation, Sanchez has the ability to give the Tigers 3, 4, or 5 quality innings from the bullpen if necessary. With injuries to their rotation, that is a luxury that LA simply doesn’t have. Miggy vs. Trout will get the headlines, but Sanchez will earn the accolades. Detroit in 6.
National League Championship Series
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
Clayton Kershaw against Stephen Strasburg. Baseball fans everywhere salivate at the thought. But there are more than just those two involved here, in what would be a series loaded with superstars. Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman, Jordan Zimmermann, Zack Greinke, and on and on and on. Washington won the season series 4-2, but I think there is something special about this Dodger team this year. Kershaw dominates, and the Nationals can’t keep up. Dodgers in 7.
Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Funny – I picked this exact same World Series last year, meaning there is likely no chance that it happens. But if it does – imagine the pitching match ups! Scherzer, Verlander, Price, Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu. Then you have Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler vs. Puig, Gonzalez, Ramirez and co. You have speed with Gordon and Rajai Davis. You have shaky bullpens, which means the potential for crazy late inning drama. Basically you have everything you’d want for a classic. I picked the Tigers last year, and I think I’ll stand by them again Miggy has to win once in Detroit right?
World Series Prediction: Detroit Tigers in 6.