The Hunt for Red October: 2017 MLB Playoff Predictions
The month of October is the most exciting month in the sports calendar. Football is in full swing. Hockey and basketball are just starting up. And finally, there's playoff baseball, where legends are born, and some of the best drama is played out. With crowds hanging on every pitch, moments are captured, and the momentum of games and even entire series can be swayed.
This year's playoffs feature some teams looking for their franchise-defining moments; some for the first time, others looking to reclaim their legacies at the top of the baseball mountain.
(AL Central Champions, 102-60)
Last year’s American League Champions are better this year on all fronts. For starters, they’ll have their primary starting pitchers back together in their rotation. The three-headed monster that is Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar (the latter two returning from injury, you may remember), have all amassed 17 wins and 190 strikeouts each this season. Kluber also led the American League in both wins and ERA. Combine that with the dominant force out of the bullpen that is last year’s ALCS MVP, Andrew Miller, and you’ll understand why this team was able to win 22 consecutive games earlier this season. The offensive juggernaut in Cleveland also continues to flourish, as Jose Ramirez has become one of the bright stars in this lineup. The additions of Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce have also bolstered the heart of the order for the Tribe. Cleveland’s the popular pick to win the World Series this year, not just because of the players on the field, but because they’ve got demons to slay that linger from last year. After blowing a 3 games to 1 lead against the eventual 2016 champion Cubs, this team appears ready to put the loss behind them and take their first championship title in over 60 years. Is Cleveland becoming the new Titletown, USA?
(AL West Champions, 101-61)
Dallas Keuchel. Justin Verlander. Brad Peacock. Jose Altuve. Carlos Correa. George Springer. Yikes. This team terrifies me. After years of successful drafting and player development, the time for Houston is seemingly now. Likely AL-MVP Jose Altuve has had one of the best seasons of his career, leading the league in both batting average (.346… what???) and hits (204). And then there was the acquisition of Justin Verlander in early September, making this team far more formidable. Verlander hasn’t lost since arriving in Houston, and his playoff experience will be crucial to the team getting off the right foot against the Red Sox in Thursday’s ALDS. In what will be one of the most intriguing matchups of the postseason, can the Astros defy their legacy of failures and be successful in October?
Boston Red Sox
(AL East Champions, 93-69)
All I can say is: Thank God for Chris Sale. I firmly believe the move to get Sale in the offseason was one of the most important trades in this franchise’s history, especially considering how many big-name players have backfired on them over the last 10 years. Sale has been an absolute stud for the Sox this year, leading the league in strikeouts with 308, the second Red Sox player ever (see Pedro Martinez) to throw over 300 K’s. While there has been the massive regression of 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello, there’s been the emergence of Drew Pomeranz, who had a great year this year with 17 wins of his own. And then there’s David Price, who has been relocated to the bullpen, which I think is a stellar move by the club, as he may play the role of the Andrew Miller-type throughout the postseason for the Sox with the way he’s been shutting down hitters out of the bullpen. As for the lineup, I’ll be honest- it feels very stop-start to me. They rid themselves of Pablo Sandoval, and thankfully were still able to solidify themselves at third base with the emergence of Rafael Devers. The “Killer B’s” make the outfield one of the best units in baseball. Even players like Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez have been solid at times. But this team is streaky, and has a tendency to flounder when they need to win most. Take the end of this season, for example, when they mounted a 15-6 record to start September, but backed into the playoffs after losing 4 of their last 6. The big question: what has this team learned from being swept out of the playoffs last year?
New York Yankees
(AL Wild Card, 91-71)
I have been saying for a while that the Yankees are going to be really good in a few years, that all that player development will finally pay off. Well folks, here we are. The Yankees are no longer the AARP of baseball. Instead, they’ve revitalized themselves (and their insufferable, obnoxious fan base) with young, likable talent. Aaron Judge has been like the second coming of Christ, clocking 52 home runs and 114 RBIs. Don’t forget that rotation, too, which I believe is largely underrated. With all the coverage of Judge that ESPN rams down our throats, remember that this team acquired Sonny Gray from Oakland at the deadline, to add to a rotation that includes C.C. Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, and Luis Severino. I don’t trust their bullpen, if there’s anything to dislike about this team (I mean, they’re the Yankees, so I dislike everything about this team, but I digress). Dellin Betances is not a reliable reliever. Aroldis Chapman is no longer a reliable closer. I expect the Yankees to make things interesting, but not interesting enough to beat the Indians. Sure, they were able to beat up on Minnesota in the Wild Card game, but there’s a reason this team only finished with 91 wins.
(NL East Champions, 97-65)
Thankfully, the Nets play in one of the weakest divisions in baseball, and Bryce Harper’s freak injury hasn’t cost them their season, and he’s finally returned to the lineup. However, this team has a history of disappointing NLDS defeats: last year losing to the Dodgers after being up 2 games to 1; losing to the Giants in 2014, and blowing a 9th inning lead to lose to the Cardinals in 2012. Now, the bullpen is finally no longer a complete mess, and they’ve still got Max Scherzer at the front of the rotation. Daniel Murphy and the emergence of Michael Taylor can give one hope on offense, but we’re all anxiously wondering if Harper can return to form after his injury. Overall, this team is playing a Cubs team that is itching to erase any doubts of a World Series hangover. How much juice to the Nationals have left in the tank?
(NL Central Champions, 90-72)
This team went from 103 wins a year ago to just barely squeaking into the playoffs. Thanks to a soft NL Central, the Cubs were able to lock up the division, winning 7 of their last 10 games. Now, the pitching is obviously not as dominant as last year. Four Cubs pitchers last year won 15 or more games. This year, not a single pitcher has even reached that mark. It’s also difficult to be skeptical of the offense, as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have been solid all season. The most important factor for the defending champs is similar to that of the Indians: they have something to prove. The Cubs were favored to repeat as champions this year. Instead, a lukewarm 2017 campaign has left many feeling doubtful about this team’s success. However, this team still finished the season white hot, and are facing a Nationals team that is dealing with a multitude of problems (I mean, hell, they’re not even starting Scherzer in game one, I think that’s a red flag right there). Don’t count out the Cubs quite yet. There are more W’s to be flown.
Los Angeles Dodgers
(NL West Champions, 104-58)
In a 50-game stretch, how many games do you expect a fairly decent team to win? 25? 30? 32, if they’re really good? The Dodgers won 43 games between June 7th and August 6th, the best 50-game record in baseball since 1912. With a powerful lineup including Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig. Oh, and they also feature Adrian Gonzales, Chase Utley and Curtis Granderson. There’s also the rotation: Clayton Kershaw has returned to form, winning 18 games, most in the majors this season; Alex Wood and Kenta Maeda- 29 wins, 291 strikeouts between them; Rich Hill- 12 wins and a 3.32 ERA. And then there’s the kicker: the Dodgers went out and got Yu Darvish at the deadline from the Rangers (man, there’s some great pitching on ALL these teams this year). So, to tie all this together, the Dodgers followed up their 43-7 streak with an 11-game losing streak. Not to mention the fact that they aren’t very good at succeeding in the playoffs. Now, this year may be different, but which version of the Dodgers will show up? Will we see the 11-game losing streak Dodgers, or will we see a team whose league-best 104-win record says they’re ready to win it all this year?
(NL Wild Card, 93-69)
This Diamonbacks team doesn’t have the worst record among playoff teams. They’re actually right in the middle, tied with the AL East-winning Red Sox. Only four other teams (Houston, Cleveland, Washington, and Los Angeles) have better records. It’s just that the Dodgers won 104 games and Arizona… didn’t. But this team is one to feel good about, especially in this first round against the Dodgers. Zack Greinke beating Clayton Kershaw? Not unlikely. Greinke won 17 games this season, struck out 215 and has an ERA of 3.20. This guy’s been nothing short of dominant. Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin and Taijuan Walker have also bolstered the rotation, giving Arizona a formidable group of pitchers. Even Fernando Rodney’s 39 saves is nothing to scoff at. And then there’s Paul Goldschmidt, who leads this team in almost every offensive category. This team matches up very well against the Dodgers, who are 8-11 against the D-Backs. Will we have another Wild Card team make it to the World Series?
Houston Astros (101-61) vs. Boston Red Sox (93-69)
Verlander (15-8) vs. Sale (17-8)
Keuchel (14-5) vs. Pomeranz (17-6)
Peacock (13-8) vs. Fister (905)
All the matchups are great, but this one has to be one of the most intriguing series of the entire playoffs. Something to keep in mind: none of Boston’s starters have ever won a playoff game. EVER (Okay, so David Price did win once out of the bullpen. That doesn’t count.). But the Red Sox have the ability to grind. Any game that goes into extra innings does favor them, after all, as they’ve won 15 games that have been decided with extra innings. Overall though, I think the Astros are the superior team, both in the batter’s box and on the mound. The Red Sox get one win in this series, but that’ll be all she wrote.
Prediction: Houston wins series, 3-1.
Cleveland Indians (102-60) vs. New York Yankees (91-71)
Gray (10-12) vs. Bauer (17-9)
Sabathia (14-5) vs. Kluber (18-4)
Tanaka (13-12) vs. Carrasco (18-6)
Home field advantage is the key in this series. The Yankees are 51-30 at home this season, the best in baseball. Away from home, they’re a respectable 40-31, but the Indians are too good to let any home games slip away from them. With the presence of such dominant pitching, both from the starting rotation and out of the bullpen, I doubt any games will get out of hand for Cleveland. The Yankees make it interesting by winning two games at home, but I think Cleveland is too strong. They’ll win the series in 5 games.
Prediction: Cleveland wins series, 3-2.
Washington Nationals (97-65) vs. Chicago Cubs (92-70)
Strasburg (15-4) vs. Hendricks (7-5)
Gonzales (15-9) vs. Lester (13-8)
Scherzer (16-6) vs. Quintana (11-11)
Don’t let the pitching matchups fool you. I think this one will fall Chicago’s way. History has told us that you should never count the Cubs out, and that the Nationals aren’t able to get past the NLDS without puking all over themselves. This series will be no different. Chicago matches up well with Washington, and the fact that the Nets won’t be starting Max Scherzer until game 3 in Chicago raises some eyebrows.
Prediction: Chicago wins series, 3-1.
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58) vs. Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)
Kershaw (18-4) vs. Walker (9-9)
Darvish (10-12) vs. Ray (15-5)
Hill (12-8) vs. Greinke (17-7)
Again, the D-Backs are 11-8 against their NL West rivals this season, which might tip the scales toward Arizona to upset the NL’s best. But I think it might be too little, too late. With Ray unexpectedly pitching in the NL Wild Card game against Colorado, it leaves his status for game 2 of the NLDS in doubt. He would be available to pitch on full rest in Game 5, but by that point, the series may be all but over. Overall, I expect an exciting series, with Arizona maybe stealing one, or even two. But I think the Dodgers are better, and more importantly, hungrier. LA wins this one handily.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins series, 3-1.
ALCS: Houston Astros vs. Cleveland Indians
Indians vs. Astros. What kind of universe are we in? Both these teams sucked less than five years ago. But hey, give them both credit for being here now. This will be a star-studded series on the rubber and in the batter’s box, with dream matchups like Kluber vs. Verlander, Carrasco vs. Keuchel, and Salazar vs. Peacock. As far as the better lineup is concerned, I give the edge to Cleveland. Astros 2B Jose Altuve has been disappointing in the playoffs, with only 4 hits in 26 at bats, and a .154 average. The Indians are simply the better team, and they’ll be able to overcome Houston’s pitching and advance to the World Series for the second consecutive year.
Prediction: Cleveland wins series, 4-2.
NLCS: Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Two teams. Two insufferable fan bases. A sequel for the ages. This year, the fortunes of both franchises have turned, with the Dodgers running away with the National League. In short, I think the Dodgers simply want it more. Clayton Kershaw desperately wants to do away with his playoff demons in years past, and the time to break his personal glass ceiling is now. There will be no repeat for the Cubs this time around. Better luck in the next 108 years.
Prediction: Los Angeles wins series, 4-1.
World Series: Cleveland Indians vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
This is the matchup we all wanted to see. Two teams, both running away from their respective leagues, duking it out in the World Series. The Indians may have more at stake, with a 68-year championship drought on the line, but the Dodgers have more to lose, as their core players are beginning to age, with a history of disappointing playoff defeats. Cleveland appears like the more solid, complete team. If pitching wins championships, the Tribe has it, between Kluber, Carrasco, and Salazar, and Miller out of the pen. I believe they’ll out-duel Kershaw, Darvish, and Hill. If the series is decided at the plate, I (again) think Cleveland’s lineup is better all around, with Encarnacion, Ramirez, and Bruce providing a dangerous middle of the order. This is the emergence of the Cleveland Indians as the new power in baseball. They will end their championship drought, finally ushering in an era of success in Cleveland.
Prediction: Cleveland wins series, 4-3.
Who do you think will win it all this October? Leave a comment down below.