Welcome Back to the Call to the Pen! The Wild Card games were intense! The kind of tension that only comes in October. The one-game Wild Card format has grown on me. At first, I thought it needed to be some type of series because that’s what baseball has always done and the one-and-done format seemed cruel to the teams playing in it. I thought you were wasting an ace pitcher, making the players in it more tired, giving an easier path to the postseason, and giving the Division winners too long of a break; but I’ve since changed my mind. First and foremost, it’s made the last week of the season very exciting. Teams still need to win games to jockey themselves into position for home-field. Because the stipulation of not playing a divisional opponent in the LDS round has been taken away, we’re seeing teams actually making the effort to win rather than rest up–or even better, they’re trying to find the happy medium between the two strategies. This year’s NL breaks this idea because the Cubs would have faced the Wild Card Team anyway but we saw it affect the AL in the last week with the Rangers/Red Sox/Indians finishing within two games of one another. We actually still would have gotten Mets/Giants and Jays/O’s because they tied in record, although both would have been Game 163 instead of playoff games. The fact that an extra team in each hasn’t made the chase less exciting, it’s made it more exciting: more teams in the mix and the home-field struggle for a single game make the final week in September a spectacle to keep your eyes on. The Wild Card games themselves have all been great. Yes, Madison Bumgarner won’t be the Game 1 starter against the Cubs but watching his legendary October career continue to build is something we’ll be talking about forever. Bumgarner is one who put the Wild Card Game on the map, but it will continue to be awesome to watch in the years ahead. Sorry for the long rant. As promised, I’m going to preview each round as the playoffs continue…
Division Series Preview
Texas Rangers (1st West, 95-67) vs. Toronto Blue Jays (1st Wild Card, 89-73)
I referenced this earlier this week, but I don’t trust Texas at all. Their offense is great but their pitching, particularly their bullpen (25th in MLB in ERA), hasn’t been too get as they finished the regular season with a +8 run differential. Texas has built a great lineup having made great acquisitions since they traded for Cole Hamels at the 2015 deadline, but the Toronto lineup is more complete. The Jays have one of the better pitching staffs in the Bigs and we all saw the explosive power their lineup can exert in the ALWC. I’m sticking with my original pick: Jays in four. Game 1 is this afternoon at 4:30pm on TBS from Arlington.
Boston Red Sox (1st East, 93-69) vs. Cleveland Indians (1st Central, 94-67)
From my post the other day: “This series will determine the American League Champion. Each team is pretty well rounded but Cleveland really brings the pitching and Boston really, really brings the bats. The Sox bats beat the Indians pitching, Boston moves on in five.” To expand on this: Boston had the best offense in baseball: 1st in Runs (208) and on the slash-line(.282/.348/.461 in Avg/OBP/Slug). What makes the slash-line so impressive is that the Sox hits so many doubles, the fact that they were 9th in homers didn’t matter towards their slugging percentage. Boston gets on base and brings runs in with a hammering force. I’m sticking at Sox in five though because Cleveland’s pitching is solid. Game 1 is tonight at 8:00pm on TBS from Cleveland.
Chicago Cubs (1st Central, 103-58-1) vs. San Francisco Giants (2nd Wild Card, 87-75)
The Cubs won’t get their revenge, but they’ll have to move through a great team nonetheless. The Giants have been a curious case in the second half of the year. The trades SanFran made at the deadline made them poised to go for their fourth-straight even-year title run but they had the worst second-half record in baseball for a long time. Madison Bumgarner has made a lot of people believe in the even year magic but the Giants will have to get through the wall that the Chicago starters have been in 2016. With Lester and Hendricks going in Games 1 and 2, the Giants will need to steal at least one to give themselves a chance. Good thing they have Cueto and Samardzija going in those games. Cubs win in four, the Cubs’ lineup is a whole lot tougher than the Mets’. Game 1 is tomorrow night at 9:00pm on FS1 from Wrigley.
Washington Nationals (1st East, 95-67) vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (1st West, 95-67)
From the post on Monday: “The Dodgers were great against the Nats this year and this series won’t be any different. Washington is bogged down by injuries, LA moves on in three.” I’m going to revise this to LA wins in four now. While I love Clayton Kershaw, something tells me Scherzer will spin a gem at home tomorrow night. Game 1 is tomorrow evening at 5:30pm on FS1 from our nation’s capital.
Disagree with the Picks? Let me know in the comments. Nothing from the Wild Card games changed my thoughts on the winners, but the tension has made me extremely excited to watch Playoff Baseball.Follow @geordo9