As of tomorrow, the postseason will finally be here. And it will be in new form, as there will be two play-in wild cards games between the Cardinals and Braves in the NL and the Orioles and Rangers in the AL. Looking back at my own predictions for the season, I managed to get seven of ten teams accurate for the postseason. I most accurately predicted the NL Central while missing on the AL Central–the Royals young studs struggled, the Indians had no pitching and only a mediocre offense, while the White Sox were one of the stories of the season. I missed big on the Orioles and As, but who didn’t? Those were real surprises while Arizona’s mediocrity and the Nats’ postseason birth weren’t nearly as surprising. About the only award I’m likely to get right was the AL Cy Young (David Price), but again, I’m not sure that many people foresaw Mike Trout’s season for the ages (more about the MVP in a upcoming post).
Those surprises are now in the books. The As, on the last day of the season playing the Rangers, managed to take the AL West crown. This despite a team .310 OBP that ranked 24th in the majors. Similarly, the Orioles nearly took the AL East crown, settling for a wild card position despite owning a run differential of only +7 and ranking 23rd in OBP with a .311. The Nationals, whom I had the pleasure of watching here in DC, won 98 games, the most in the majors, on the back of a absurdly talented young rotation. Without Stephen Strasburg, however, while they be able to take the World Series? Here are my picks for the season:
AL Wild Card: Rangers over Orioles (starting Joe Saunders just can’t work, can it?)
NL Wild Card: Braves over Cardinals (Kris Medlen’s changeup is better than Kyle Lohse’s, although Lohse had a pretty impressive season–never would have guessed that)
Tigers over As (Tigers are a solid offensive team with a three-headed monster of a rotation in Verlander, Fister and Scherzer. Not sure As magic can continue.)
Yankees over Rangers (Yankees are right behind the Rangers in run scored, but have a significantly advantage in pitching)
Reds over Giants (the Reds have Joey Votto, who I believe is still the best hitter in baseball as attested to by his .474 OBP in 475 PAs/111 games this year, but otherwise their offense is poor. However, the Reds rotation of Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and yes Bronson Arroyo is deep and their bullpen with Aroldis Chapman gives them the advantage.)
Nationals over Braves (Nats have a balanced offensive attack with only catcher as a clear weakness, while their rotation even without Strasburg remains a strength with Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman leading it.)
Tigers over Yankees (this is a gut pick more than anything–the matchup is close. Yankees have a more balanced lineup and good pitching, but the Tigers have the highest talent between Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Austin Jackson, Max Scherzer and Prince Fielder. I’ll take the talent.)
Nationals over Reds (Also believe this is a close matchup and here I’m going with my local team. Again, I’m taking the higher end talent–I just don’t think the Reds can score enough against the Nats to win a series against them.)
Nationals over Tigers in seven games
Yes, this is a optimistic and hopeful pick as much as anything. Why would I want to pick our AL Central competitors over the admittedly feel-good story of the Nationals? Strasburg is unlikely to appear in the postseason, but one has to think that a Strasburg-Verlander matchup in the postseason would be a dream spectacle. Regardless, it would be fun to see the hyper-active Bryce Harper take on Verlander. I think the Nats still have the latent to win it all and would be glad to see them do so, but I do hope that Strasburg makes an appearance. Having said that, I sadly wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the Yankees who win it all this year. Let’s just hope they don’t.