MLB Playoffs: Predicting the ALCS

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Updated: October 14, 2016

It’s been an exciting postseason so far, with come from behind, extra-inning walk-offs, a couple sweeps, and even a game five! After attempting to predict both ALDS series (hey, I’m batting .500!) it’s now time to take a shot at the ALCS!

I predicted both series would go the distance, so naturally they were both sweeps, with the Indians taking out the Red Sox and the Blue Jays handling the Rangers. Neither team was exactly favored in their respective series, but the Blue Jays are looking like the most dangerous team in the playoffs, with seemingly everything clicking for them, and the Indians pitching stepped up and shut down a potent Sox lineup. Let’s take an in depth look at this matchup!

Lineups – No team in the playoffs can match this Blue Jays’ offense. From top to bottom the Blue Jays have power, depth, speed, power, players who can get on base, power, players who can work a count, and also lots of power.

Typically, offense is hard to come by in the playoffs; with more off days in between games, managers can stick to only their best starters, use their best relievers longer and more often, and play to the matchups. We’ve seen this every year, and this year has seen more of the same, with the Rangers, Red Sox, and Cubs all having great offenses silenced to varying degrees in their respective series.

The Blue Jays are the exception, however, putting up twenty-two runs in their three game sweep of the Rangers. They mashed ten home runs, walked fourteen times, had four batters bat over .350, and had pressure on the Rangers basically every inning of every game.

The Indians, on the other hand, relied on shut down pitching and clutch hitting in their series more than offensive firepower. They hit five home runs in their series, and three came in one inning. They have the ability to put up runs, but the Blue Jays hold an obvious and decisive edge here. Advantage, Blue Jays.

Pitching – It seemed like the Indians were limping into the postseason with young stud pitches Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar ruled out of the ALDS, Corey Kluber dealing with a nagging injury of his own, and Trevor Bauer ice cold down the stretch.

All the Indians starters did in this series was combine to pitch seventeen innings and allow only five earned runs on thirteen hits while striking out seventeen batters and walking only four, highlighted by Kluber’s seven shutout innings and seven K’s in game two. Josh Tomlin, taking the place of Carrasco and/or Salazar, allowed only two runs over five innings in a clinching game on the road in Boston, which is no light feat.

All three pitchers were more than up to the task, and that’s before mentioning the bullpen, headed by Andrew Miller. The indians used four relievers to pitch nine innings, and they allowed only two runs on eight hits with fourteen strikeouts against only four walks. Miller is versatile, and instead of being locked into a specific role, Manager Terry Francona elects to dispatch Miller in the highest leverage situations based on need and matchups, and Miller will pitch as long as needed.

In his two appearances, Miller entered in the fifth and sixth, respectively, and pitched two scoreless innings in each. Using your best reliever when you most need him instead of only a save situation gives you such an edge, and Francona uses it better than anyone, and with a strong bullpen around Miller, it is a true weapon with the potential to swing a series in the Indians’ favor all on its own.

The Blue Jays bullpen was also awesome in its series, with closer Roberto Osuna pitching two perfect innings each in games two and three, and looking awesome doing so. The bullpen did show small cracks in game three, allowing the Rangers to tie the game, but in their four games (including the Wild Card game,) the Blue Jays’ pitching staff has been pretty much lights out.

Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, and Marcus Stroman all had strong starts, and Aaron Sanchez had a great season and has enough talent that you can assume he’ll bounce back from an uneven start in game three. All things considered, the Indians hold the edge here, but it’s not by as much as you would think. Edge, Indians.

Managers – John Gibbons does a perfectly adequate job of putting his team in a position to succeed, but the truth is that this Jays team is so loaded with talent in every facet of the game that I could probably manage this team and get them where they are now.

Over the course of a long and grueling 162 game season, a manager’s job is to keep his team positive, loose, motivated, and all on the same side just as much as anything on the field, and by all accounts both managers do just that. Francona has his hands all over his team much more than Gibbons, and his out-of-the-box thinking in regards to the bullpen and lineup construction (Carlos Santana batting leadoff!) contributes greatly to his team’s success. Combined with his playoff experience, the edge here goes to the Indians, although exactly what that means is up for debate. Edge, Indians.

The Bottom Line – This might not be what many people were expecting when this playoffs started, but both teams looked so solid in their respective sweeps that there is no question they deserve to be here.

The Indians have the bullpen and the pitching to shut down the Blue Jays, but whether they actually will is the biggest question in this series. The Blue Jays appear to have the pitching to match up against the Indians the way they shut down the Rangers, but their track record suggests they could regress in this series.

If the Indians are able to jump out to early leads, it could be enough to win games with the way their bullpen is pitching. Logic says side with pitching in the playoffs, always, but the Blue Jays are clicking on all cylinders right now, and they have such an advantage with this lineup that can easily pummel even the best of pitching staffs into submission. If their pitching continues to show up the way it has so far, the Blue Jays are easily the best team in the playoffs, and should be headed to the World Series. Blue Jays in six.

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