October Baseball is here. Eight teams enter the Division Series, but only one will be crowned World Series champions. So who will take home the Commissioner’s Trophy?
East Division Champions: Baltimore Orioles, 96-66, Last World Series title: 1983. Second playoff appearance since 1997
Central Division Champions: Detroit Tigers, 90-72, Last World Series title: 1984. Fourth straight division title
West Division Champions: Los Angeles Angels, 98-64, Last World Series title: 2002. First playoff appearance since 2009
1st Wild Card: Kansas City Royals, 89-73, Last World Series title and playoff appearance; 1985
2nd Wild Card: Oakland Athletics, 88-74, Last World Series title: 1989. Third straight playoff appearance
East Division Champions: Washington Nationals, 96-66, never won the World Series. Second playoff appearance in three years after just one in franchise history (1981 while still in Montreal).
Central Division Champions: St. Louis Cardinals, 90-72, defending NL Champions, seeking fifth pennant in 21st century and third World Series title since 2006. Fourth straight playoff appearance.
West Division Champions: Los Angeles Dodgers, 94-68, last World Series title: 1988. Fourth division title in seven years.
1st Wild Card: Pittsburgh Pirates, 89-73, last World Series title: 1979. Second straight playoff appearance after 20 consecutive losing seasons.
2nd Wild Card: San Francisco Giants, 89-73. Seeking third World Series title since 2010.
American League Wild Card Game: #4 Kansas City Royals defeated #5 Oakland Athletics 9-8 in 12 innings after coming back from 7-3 and 8-7 deficits. Catcher Salvador Perez hit the game winning single in the 12th.
National League Wild Card Game: #5 San Francisco Giants defeated #4 Pittsburgh Pirates 8-0 on Madison Bumgarner’s 4-hit shutout. Shortstop Brandon Crawford opened the scoring with a grand slam off Edinson Volquez.
American League Division Series:
#1 Los Angeles Angels over #4 Kansas City Royals in 5 games
Why: Going to a three-man rotation is a big risk for the team with baseball’s best record, but like the last playoff team to do so (the 2009 Yankees, who of course won it all) have baseball’s best offense led by baseball’s best player and a bullpen that improved substantially with the additions of Joe Smith, Huston Street, and Jason Grilli. Kansas City has the arms in the rotation and the bullpen to make themselves a tough out, but they won’t be able to keep up with Anaheim offensively
#3 Detroit Tigers over #2 Baltimore Orioles in 4 games
Why: Despite their star power, Detroit has underachieved in the regular season in the last four season and once again has to start the postseason on the road. However, their rotation of Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander (still an October threat even after a poor season), David Price, and a much improved Rick Porcello makes them a matchup to be feared in a short series. Despite their success, the Orioles’ roster has red flags as their starting pitching finished third worst in baseball in FIP (fielding independent ERA) and 17th in OBP despite finishing fifth in baseball in ERA+ and first in home runs. The Tigers will have the choice of Scherzer or Verlander in a potential Game 5.
National League Division Series:
#1 Washington Nationals (96-66, NL East champions) over #5 San Francisco Giants (88-74, 2nd NL Wild Card) in 4 games
Why: As the old adage goes, you can’t have too much pitching. The Nationals have the best in baseball and that’s why they are clearly the favorites to win the World Series. If they hit enough, they’ll be very tough to beat. The Giants got past the Pirates because of Madison Bumgarner, one of the better pitchers in the game, but not having Angel Pagan and Matt Cain are significant losses. Even with Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson, they don’t have enough to beat the Nationals, especially with Bumgarner going just once.
#2 Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68, NL West champions) over #3 St. Louis Cardinals (90-72, NL Central champions) in 5 games
Why: The Dodgers, the team with baseball’s highest payroll, were many people’s favorites in Spring Training, and for good reason. A rotation made of Clayton Kershaw (perhaps the league’s MVP), Zack Greinke (also a former Cy Young winner), and Hyun-Jin Ryu will be very tough to beat. The Cardinals, however, counter with a terrific rotation of their own: Adam Wainwright (20 wins, 2.38 ERA), Lance Lynn (15 wins, 2.74 ERA), John Lackey (the winner in Boston’s championship clincher last year), and Shelby Miller. The Dodgers have the edge on offense to make the difference in what should be the toughest series.
American League Championship Series:
Detroit Tigers over Los Angeles Angels in 6 games
MVP: 1B Miguel Cabrera (DET)
Why: The Tigers have the most talented rotation and a great offense, the Angels have the best offense and a dynamic bullpen. The Halos’ weakness will be starting just three pitchers (Jered Weaver, Matt Shoemaker, and C.J. Wilson), which will be a road-block for them to even get to the ALCS.
National League Championship Series:
Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers in 7 games
MVP: RHP Stephen Strasburg (WSH)
Why: Both are loaded on pitching and have offenses that can score. However, the Dodgers seem to be more top heavy than the Nationals, who seem to have absolutely no weakness on their whole staff.
Detroit Tigers over Washington Nationals in 7 games
MVP: Max Scherzer
Why: This may be one of the lowest-scoring World Series in years; that’s how good the pitching is. However, the Tigers have a little more star power, especially on offense, and they will finally get the job done this year after three consecutive playoff failures