With Tuesday and Wednesday’s Wild Card games decided, the rest of Major League Baseball’s post season is ready to get under way as both of the American League Division Series start today.
The two National League Division Series begins Friday.
There are some relatively new faces to the postseason, considering that Houston Astros are making their first trip to the playoffs since 2005, the New York Mets are playing in October for the first time since ’06, the Chicago Cubs since ’08, and the Toronto Blue Jays made the playoffs for the first time this century.
The rest of the teams in the bracket are very familiar with the post season. Even the Texas Rangers, who haven’t made it past the Wild Card round since 2011, have a roster filled with playoff experience.
It’s one of my favorite times of the year, so here are my predictions for the four Division Series.
Rangers at Blue Jays
In this series you have two of the three highest-scoring offenses in the MLB during the regular season. Texas scored 751 runs, which is still 140 runs less than Toronto scored.
But you also have two pitching staffs that gave up a lot of runs during the regular season. Now, it should be noted that the Rangers’ staff significantly improved with the addition of Cole Hamels.
In the playoffs offense goes down for the most part. More pitchers are used, which doesn’t give batters enough looks at one specific pitcher to really figure him out.
That’s what, along with experience, will determine this series.
The Rangers have playoff experience and they have much better starting pitching.
I think you are going to see the Blue Jays lineup relatively shut down for the most part in this series, and I think you are going to see the Toronto players take a while to adjust to the moment and the spotlight of the playoffs.
Prediction: Texas wins series, 3-1
Astros at Royals
The last time each of these teams were in the playoffs, they were playing in the World Series. For the Royals it was last year against the Giants, and in the case of the Astros, it was in 2005 against the White Sox.
In both instances the teams that play each other Thursday lost.
Pitching worries me for both clubs.
Johnny Cueto has proven he is not a big game pitcher, and Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura are both very streaky pitchers. On the flip side, though, outside of Dallas Keuchel, the Astros don’t exactly have a rotation built for the post season, either.
Kansas City and Houston were each in the top 10 in scoring during the regular season, however, the ways they scored their runs were very different. Houston relies heavily on the long ball, whereas Kansas City is content with scoring a majority of their runs via singles and doubles.
If Kansas City showed us anything last year at this time, it’s that the Royals aren’t afraid to get into a high-scoring affair in the playoffs.
With that being said though, I don’t think we’ll see the Royals make the trip back to the World Series.
Prediction: Houston wins series, 3-2
Above is the entire schedule for the post season
Cubs at Cardinals
It will be an NL Central showdown in the NLDS between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals. These two teams are obviously very familiar having played one another 19 times during the regular season.
St. Louis won the regular season series 11 games to eight, and most of the games were tightly contested match ups. 13 of the games were decided by three runs or less.
Like a lot of these Division Series are this year, it’s the new kids on the block (Cubs) taking on a playoff proven team (Cardinals).
It’s no secret that St. Louis had a lot of its success this season without having a consistent lineup or pitching staff with guys like Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, Jason Heyward, Matt Holliday, Matt Adams and others all missing time with injuries. The good news for Cardinals fans is that despite all the injuries, the team is relatively healthy heading into the playoffs.
Wainwright is back after missing almost all of the season, and Molina is back after sitting out part of September with a thumb injury, although he is not fully 100-percent healthy yet.
In the other dugout, Joe Maddon’s club didn’t have to deal with the injury bug much during the regular season, and they have a little momentum heading into the NLDS after beating the Pirates Wednesday 4-0 at PNC Park.
I think experience is what ultimately decides this series – the Cardinals have it, and the Cubs don’t.
Prediction: Cardinals win series, 3-1
Mets at Dodgers
Mets fans might remember that the last time their team played in the playoffs New York’s first series was against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Mets swept that series before eventually losing in seven games to the Cardinals, who went onto win the World Series.
But that was 10 seasons ago. Both of these teams are completely different.
My main problem when looking at this series is trying to figure out which Kershaw we’re going to see. Will it be the Kershaw of the regular season who is nearly unhittable, or will it be the Kershaw we’ve seen in the playoffs that can’t make it through the fifth inning?
Game 1 will be the first time since 2013 that Kershaw has faced a team other than the Cardinals in the post season, but it will also be the first time for each of the Mets pitchers pitching in the post season period.
The Mets offense seems to be more dangerous than the Dodgers does, and their pitching staff is built better for the playoffs. Something to keep in mind, though, is the health of Yoenis Cespedes. He really sparked the offense in the second half, but him not being fully healthy could be bad news for the Mets.
With that being said though, I don’t see the Dodgers making it to the NLCS.
Prediction: New York wins series, 3-2