The 2015 MLB League Championship Series

A couple weeks ago, I ranked the ten MLB playoff teams this season. I also made predictions about who’d win. Well, the Wild-Card games and the four League Division Series are over, so let’s see how they (and I) did before looking ahead to the two League Championship Series.

AL Wild Card Game: I predicted the Yankees would beat the Astros, so I got this one wrong. But considering I’m a Red Sox fan, I’m thrilled that the Yankees lost.

NL Wild Card Game: I couldn’t predict a winner for this game. I like both the Pirates and Cubs, they both were outstanding this year, and I knew it would be a great game. For reasons explained in my Top 10 post, I want the Cubs to win the whole thing, so I guess I wanted them to win this game too.

NLDS Cubs-Cardinals: I correctly predicted that whoever emerged from the NL Wild Card Game would beat the Cardinals, and I was right! This was the only series not to go the full five games, the Cubs winning it in four. One step closer, Chicago…

NLDS Mets-Dodgers: The Dodgers’ 1-2 pitching punch of Kershaw and Greinke are dominant in the regular season, and I thought they’d win this series. For some reason, they’re not so dominant in the postseason. I was wrong, the Mets won, thanks to timely offense and solid pitching, particularly from Jacob DeGrom. After Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada got his leg broken by Chase Utley’s controversial slide into second, it was hard not to rally behind the Mets.

ALDS Astros-Royals: I expected the Yankees here, losing the series to the Royals. The young, upstart Astros took the defending AL Champs to the brink, but the more experienced Royals outlasted them and Johnny Cueto retired the final 19 batters he faced in his 8-inning Game 5 start. Still, Houston has a lot to look forward to in the next few years—including a 2017 World Series title. (You read it here, folks!)

ALDS Rangers-Blue Jays: This was a series for the ages. I predicted the potent Toronto offense to crush the Rangers, but Texas took the first two games. On the verge of elimination, the postseason-starved Blue Jays simply wanted victory more, best exemplified by the crazy seventh inning of Game 5. After a bat-deflected throw back to the pitcher caused Texas to take the lead, the Blue Jays didn’t let the momentum shift get to them. Texas made three errors on three consecutive plate appearances—all trying to get out the same baserunner! Seriously, an error at first base, then one at second, and then one at third. When the dust (and the debris tossed on field) was cleared, Jose Bautista knocked a 3-run HR to put Toronto up for good. I don’t care that he stood there and admired the ball. In a regular-season game, that’s showboating, but in the late innings of an elimination playoff game, it’s emotion and adrenaline.

Success rate of my predictions: Wild-Card Games 50% correct (1-1), Division Series 75% correct (3-1).

Now to the League Championship Series, which are really difficult to predict:

 

American League: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

     

It has been 22 years since the Blue Jays last appeared in the playoffs (they won the World Series). It has been 12 months since the Royals last appeared in the World Series (they lost), and they haven’t won it in 30 years. Hmmm…30 years before 2015 is 1985—significant years in the Back to the Future trilogy. Wouldn’t you know that the 1985 ALCS featured the Royals beating the Blue Jays? How awesomely freakily connected to those movies can this postseason be? Both teams traded for supposed ace pitchers (TOR’s David Price & KC’s Cueto) who have had spotty postseason performances. Toronto has a killer offense, but Kansas City has more playoff experience. They’re pretty balanced, though the Royals have the best bullpen still in contention. If Toronto wants to win this series, they have to bash the ball around—and out of—the field and knock KC’s starting pitchers out by the 4th or 5th innings. After that, their bullpen takes over. I expect this series to last the full seven games with a reversal of 1985’s ALCS and Toronto emerging victorious.

Prediction: Blue Jays in seven games.

 

National League: Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

    

The country should be throwing their support at the Cubs. They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 and haven’t even been to it since 1945. The Mets won it in 1986 against the Red Sox and were last there in 2000 (“subway series” lost to the Yankees). These are also two very even and balanced teams, so either could win it, and it also could take seven games. After all, isn’t that good for baseball and fans of baseball—that both series go all the way to the end? The Mets benefited by a dismal season by the Washington Nationals (who I thought at the start of the season would win it all). They’ve got some great pitching, defense, and offense, but I’m going to give the slight edge to the Cubs—and not because of the Back to the Future II prediction. They’re on a hotter win-streak, having won their final 8 games of the regular season and 4 out of their 5 playoff games. They’ve got a general manager (Theo Epstein) who understands how to build a team for the regular season (97 wins was third best in all of baseball) and for the postseason. They’ve got a manager (Joe Maddon) who brought his former team (Tampa Bay Rays) all the way to the World Series in their very first postseason appearance in 2008. They’ve got a Game 1 starting pitcher (Jon Lester) who has two World Series victories under his belt. If he wins Game 1 and Jake Arietta follows suit, these Cubs will go back to a place they haven’t been in 70 years and look to the future of a World Series appearance.

Prediction: Cubs in six games.

Play ball!

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