Friday, October 16, 2015

2015 Division Series Recap and Championship Series Preview

My pre-postseason picks:

ALDS: Royals over Yankees in 5
ALDS: Blue Jays over Rangers in 4
ALCS: Royals over Blue Jays in 7
            ALCS MVP: Johnny Cueto

NLDS: Cubs over Cardinals in 4
NLDS: Dodgers over Mets in 3
NLCS: Cubs over Dodgers in 5
            NLCS MVP: Kris Bryant

World Series: Royals defeat Cubs in 7
            World Series MVP: Eric Hosmer

As the the Championship Series begins tonight with a match-up between the Kansas City Royals and the Toronto Blue Jays I figured it would be a good time to recap what has happened so far and give my predictions for the rest of the way.

Postseason to this point (10/16/15)

ALDS: Royals over Astros 3-2
ALDS: Blue Jays over Rangers 3-2
ALCS: Royals - Blue Jays

NLDS: Cubs over Cardinals 3-1
NLDS: Mets over Dodgers 3-2
NLCS: Cubs - Mets

Division Series Recaps:

The first division series to conclude was the Chicago Cubs over the St. Louis Cardinals in four games and it was the only series where I correctly picked not only the winner but also the number of games.  The Cardinals took game one behind an absolute gem by John Lackey but were thoroughly overpowered in the following three games.  Highlighted by a game three where Arrieta finally showed some vulnerability allowing 4 runs across 5.2 innings pitched but also struck out 9.  But these 4 runs were nothing as the Cubs went on to hit a major league postseason record six home runs, one by each of the first six batters in the Cubs lineup.  The following day the Cubs finished it off behind a stellar all hands on deck bullpen effort after starter Jason Hammel was pulled in the fourth inning after walking Jhonny Peralta to leadoff the inning.  This was the first time in the history of Wrigley Field that the Cubs had clinched a postseason series at home and it made them the first team to advance.

The next division series to conclude even if it was only by hours was the Toronto Blue Jays over the Texas Rangers in five games.  Despite game two going 14 innings before the Rangers finally won it that game was completely overshadowed by the events of game 5.  Game five was pretty uneventful heading into the bottom of the 6th inning with the Rangers holding a 2-1 lead.  Then Edwin Encarnación hit a massive home run to tie the game and it woke the crowd in Toronto up big time.  Then we get to the top of the 7th and it looks like the Blue Jays might get out of the inning without allowing any more runs after Rougned Odor reached third with 2 out but then with Shin-Soo Choo at the plate the strangest play of the postseason happened.  Russell Martin went to throw the ball back to Aaron Sanchez but the ball hit the hand and bat of Choo and bounced into play, Odor being heads up came home to score but not before umpire Dale Scott had called time.  This resulted in a long umpire conference that concluded with the run counting and the Rangers taking a 3-2 lead, Choo then immediately struck out to end the half inning.  The top of the 7th was also something that is rare in baseball the Rangers started out the half inning by making three errors, two by shortstop Elvis Andrus, allowing Martin, Pillar and Goins to all reach base with no outs.  After Revere grounded into a fielder's choice MVP candidate Josh Donaldson hit a little blooper that resulted Odor misplayed that scored Pillar to tie the game at 3 but it also resulted in Revere being out at second since he was not running because it appeared to be an easy play for Odor.  With two outs Jose Bautista stepped to the dish and hit the biggest home run in Toronto since Joe Carter in game six of the 1993 World Series.  With a 1-1 count Rangers right-hander Sam Dyson threw Bautista a 97 MPH two-seam fastball that he absolutely crushed to put the Blue Jays ahead for good and send them to the ALCS.

The second game 5 of the division series this one between the Kansas City Royals and the Houston Astros began almost immediately after the Blue Jays and Rangers concluded and this game was nothing compared to the one it was following.  After allowing a two-run home run to Luis Valbuena in the second inning Johnny Cueto did not allow another baserunner striking out eight before handing it off to closer Wade Davis who closed out a decisive 7-2 Royals victory and advanced them to their second consecutive ALCS.

In game two of the Dodgers-Mets series Chase Utley 'slid' into second to break up the double play and in the process broke shortstop Rubén Tejada's leg.  This has sparked a debate that is still going on regarding player safety and what is considered a dirty slide and this one play has overshadowed the rest of the series.  In my opinion while it was a poor attempt at a slide, if you can even call it a slide, it is not a dirty play and within the rules.  Utley's intent was to break-up the double play not to injure Tejada and Major League Baseball has shown in the past that they will allow these types of plays.  A month ago Utley had a worse slide against the Padres and no one even talked about it, Chris Coglan broke Jung-ho Kang's leg and the next day the only people still talking about it were Pirates' fans.  But that brings us to the last game of the division series.  Also a game five this one between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets.  Two nights after Clayton Kershaw threw the Dodgers a gem to keep them in the series and give them a chance to win it at home Zack Greinke was good allowing 3 runs across 6.2 innings with 9 strikeouts but was not quite good enough to defeat Jacob deGrom and the Mets.  After struggling in the first deGrom grinded through the next five innings without allowing another run despite having some control problems and not having his best stuff before handing the ball off to Noah Syndergaard who threw an inning after warming up four times.  Syndergaard then handed it off to Jeurys Familia who threw the last two innings without allowing a baserunner to conclude a 3-2 Mets win.  This sent the Dodgers home and sent the Mets back home to host the Cubs on Saturday night.

Championship Series Predictions:

Kansas City Royals - Toronto Blue Jays:

I am standing by my previous prediction of Royals over Blue Jays in seven games with Johnny Cueto throwing them two huge games, game three and game seven.  With those huge games he takes home ALCS MVP and advances the Royals to the World Series for the second straight year.  Despite this prediction I believe Edinson Volquez gets hit around while Marco Estrada is good, not great, but good enough to out-pitch Volquez in a Blue Jays game one win over the Royals.

Chicago Cubs - New York Mets:

I have to slightly change up my prediction for this series considering I initially had the Dodgers but I am going to stand by the Cubs but bump it up from five games to six while sticking with Kris Bryant as NLCS MVP.  Bryant finally gets going on the road with at least one home run at Citi field before returning to Wrigley and playing extremely well like he has all season.  I think the Cubs lose game one in New York before taking game two.  They then return to Chicago taking games three and five, dropping game 4 due to a less than adequate outing from Jason Hammel.  When the series returns to New York the Cubs win game six clinching a trip to the World Series behind another stellar performance from their ace Jake Arrieta and home runs from Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo.

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