If trying to predict division winners is folly at this time of year, then attempting to project the playoffs is almost comical. However, for some strange reason, that’s what we like to do as Opening Day arrives. This week, I revealed my picks for the forthcoming season, beginning with the National League before moving on to the junior circuit. Please feel free to re-read those articles, but here’s a brief reminder of my predicted playoff teams and their records.
East: Blue Jays, 91-71
Central: Royals, 90-72
West: Astros, 89-73
Wildcard: Indians, 88-74; Rangers, 87-75
East: Mets, 94-68
Central: Cubs, 99-63
West: Dodgers, 92-70
Wildcard: Pirates, 93-69; Cardinals, 92-70
So, I will now attempt to predict the 2016 postseason, a full six months before it begins. The margin for error is obviously huge, so please don’t be offended if your team is not selected as prospective World Series champions. I’ll go with my gut and intuition, and hope for the best.
American League Wildcard Game – Rangers over Indians
A masterful matchup of Corey Kluber and Cole Hamels at a raucous Progressive Field, but the Rangers’ experience of a hostile environment in Toronto last October will give them the edge. Cleveland’s wait for a championship continues, while Texas rides on as a legitimate contender for a first World Series title.
National League Wildcard Game – Pirates over Cardinals
Pittsburgh finally cracks the code and wins a Wildcard game. The Cardinals fight all the way, against a tidal wave of public sentiment, but ultimately run out of steam in the big game. Gerrit Cole pitches a gem and Andrew McCutchen powers an offence that finally gets a taste of sustained October baseball.
ALDS 1 – Blue Jays over Rangers in four
Much like last year, Toronto bludgeons its way through the first round, with the power axis of Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion proving too tough to handle. The Rangers give it their all, but the rotation isn’t aligned optimally and the Jays thrive off a phenomenal atmosphere at Rogers Centre.
NLDS 1 – Cubs over Pirates in four
With Cubmania in full swing, the North Siders deliver with a scintillating offence and effective pitching from Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester. Pittsburgh tries to make the most of a first full playoff series since 2013, but the national force of momentum behind Joe Maddon’s team is too much to overcome.
ALDS 2 – Astros over Royals in five
In a highly anticipated rematch, Houston prevails behind the magic of Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel. Kansas City keeps things interesting, thanks to that relentless lineup, but the quality of pitching just simply isn’t there. Their title defence ends, while the Astros’ hunt for glory continues.
NLDS 2 – Dodgers over Mets in four
In another repeat of last year’s meeting, the Dodgers put it all together and capture revenge. Clayton Kershaw is heroic, and Los Angeles proves to be a more well-rounded team. The Mets’ sensational rotation is good, but not great, under the bright October lights, as the pennant slips from their grasp.
ALCS – Astros over Blue Jays in six
The Blue Jays’ offence is stifled, relatively speaking, by a greatly underestimated Astros rotation. Both teams are propelled by passionate fanbases, but Houston emerges as a team of superior balance and quality in depth. Toronto cannot contain Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer, a dynamic trident that secures the Astros’ first pennant since 2005.
NLCS – Dodgers over Cubs in seven
With the whole world rooting for Chicago, and all logic pointing towards a first Cubs pennant in 71 years, the Dodgers are finally freed from all pressure to fulfil their enormous potential. In a monumental series of incomparable drama, the Cubs are stopped by Clayton Kershaw, who secures his legacy with gutsy, historic pitching. The Dodgers finally put it all together, reaching a first World Series since 1988, while Wrigleyville is sadly devoid of championship champagne for a 108th consecutive fall.
World Series – Dodgers over Astros in five
The Astros’ magic finally runs out, as the World Series proves one hurdle too far for a young group. Kershaw is once again dominant for Los Angeles, etching his name further into baseball lore, while burgeoning stars like Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Corey Seager deliver when it really matters most. In his final season, Vin Scully even calls one of the games, to the delight of all. The Dodgers end their 28-year championship drought, and finally justify the vast expenditure by ownership.
Finally, here are a few quickfire predictions for the season ahead.
AL MVP: Carlos Correa
NL MVP: Anthony Rizzo
AL Cy Young: David Price
NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw
AL Rookie of the Year: Byung-Ho Park
NL Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager
AL Breakout Player: Brian Dozier
NL Breakout Player: Stephen Piscotty
AL Comeback Player of Year: Hanley Ramirez
NL Comeback Player of the Year: Jonathan Lucroy
Enjoy the season. It should be a lot of fun.