AFTER 162 games for 30 teams we have reached the end of another baseball season. The field narrowed down to 10 as the postseason begins and the remaining teams are daring to dream. We may have one of the most loaded playoff brackets ever hosting three squads of 100 or more wins, just the sixth time in league history that has happened. Mix that in with an injury ravaged 97-win Nationals team eager for success, a red-hot Cubs team eager to defend their crown and Wild Card teams with the skills to win it all we’re in for one hell of a show this October!!
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1. Can Houston’s Pitching Match Their Batting?
THE health of Houston’s starting pitchers raised genuine concern throughout the season. The Astros best pitchers Dallas Keuchel (neck) and Lance McCullers Jr (back) combined to play just 45 games this year. The addition of Justin Verlander helps to ease the load on the other starters, but their pitchers will need to match their explosive, league-best offense if they are serious about contending.
2. Will The Kipnis Gamble Pay Off?
HE is an outstanding athlete, but Jason Kipnis has played just 11 games in center field for his career. The Indians are taking a huge risk by backing him in to produce for them over the course of the whole postseason. One miscue could swing a game and in turn a series, so all eyes will be on Kipnis once the ALDS gets underway.
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3. Can The Cubs Stay Hot And Pull Off The Rare Repeat?
OVER the second half of the season the Chicago Cubs have the best record in their league. That 49-25 mark (including a 15-4 stretch to end the year) helped them win their division and hit their stride at the perfect time of year as they prepare to repeat as World Series champs. No has done that feat since the ’99/’00 Yankees so Chicago will definitely have their work cut out for them.
4. Is Bryce Harper Up To Speed?
WITH just 18 at-bats since his return from a gruesome knee injury, many are wondering if Bryce Harper has enough miles under his belt for the playoffs. The MVP candidate missed 42 games through August and September and has played in five games heading into the Nationals upcoming battle with the Cubs in the divisional round. Time will tell just how rusty and in tune Harper is.
5. Will The Yankees Bullpen Avoid A Collapse?
AT times this season we have seen New York’s closers lose control of a match in the blink of an eye. The boast a dynamic bullpen with the likes of closer Aroldis Chapman supported by David Robertson, Chad Green and Dellin Betances. They have looked suspect at times struggling with chemistry and consistency, with the worst percentage of converting save chances out of all the playoff teams (61%). I have faith they can come together, but one slip up against the Twins and it’s over.
New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins
THIS is New York’s game to lose. They boast a better rotation, better starter and of course Aaron Judge. Minnesota has pulled off one of the rarest feats in baseball becoming the first team to lose 100+ games one year and make the playoffs the next year. The road ends here Twins fans.
VERDICT: Yankees W
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies
I’M hype to watch the Diamondbacks and Rockies play. At the start of the year, I thought that these two teams would be two of the top squads in the National League. I’m kind of tempted to side with Colorado, but not confident enough to pick them. Arizona has the battling firepower and Colorado has the pitching studs. Game on.
VERDICT: Diamondbacks W
American League Division Series
Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox
AS talented and record-breaking as Chris Sale has been this season, the Red Sox need more than him alone to knock off the Astros dominant batters. Boasting the likely AL MVP Jose Altuve as well as George Springer, Carlos Correa, Marwin Gonzalez and more, Houston is too good to not emerge as winners in a five-game series.
VERDICT: Astros W
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Cleveland Indians vs. New York Yankees
DON’T think the in-form team in baseball will romp New York here, the young Yanks can be competitive. After somewhat underperforming all season, the task to topple one of the most dominant teams we have seen in recent memory is a daunting one and one that they can’t overcome.
VERDICT: Indians W
National League Division Series
Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs
GOOD news for Nationals fans, Max Scherzer’s hamstring injury isn’t as bad as first feared. While he may only get one start in this series, the other stars in Washington are likely to end Chicago’s ambitions on repeating as champs. The Cubs do have some depth and talent to offer competition, but not as much as the Nationals.
VERDICT: Cubs W
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
THIS series will be the one to watch these playoffs in my opinion. A real test for the Dodgers comes in the form of a hot Diamondbacks team that won the fifth most games in all of the majors. Both LA and Arizona conceded the second and third fewest runs to opponents this year as well, so expect an enthralling and entertaining series!
American League Championship Series
Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians
HITTERS versus pitchers. High scoring excitement against lockdown defense through the form of superstar pitching. Therefore with both of their strengths clear, it will be interesting to see how both the Astros pitching and the Indians batting performs. If you look at both of those factors I think that Cleveland has the edge in a series with the potential to go the distance.
VERDICT: Indians W
National League Championship Series
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals
YES, the Dodgers have struggled in the second half of the year. Yes, the National League is loaded with teams that can expose their weaknesses. But, you don’t win 104 games by accident. Washington hasn’t won a playoff series since the team was based in Montreal back in 1981. I know how dominant the Nationals offense is, but with concerns over the health of their lineup, I’m backing the Dodgers to recapture the vibe and return to their dominant winning ways.
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Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
THE big one. In an action-packed, loaded playoff bracket the two best teams in each league emerge as pennant winners. After Cleveland’s heartbreak last season they will return bigger and better, ready to break their winning drought in the World Series. Many think that the Dodgers won’t make it this far with the Diamondbacks and Nationals are more likely to make it to the last series of 2017. This season we have seen everything that the Indians are capable of and how incredibly impressive they can be when they are on. For the first time since 1948, the Indians are champions.
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