On to the Series

Carlos Santana reacts to making the final out to send the Cleveland Indians to their 1st World Series Appearance since 1997
Carlos Santana reacts to the final out of the ALCS

The 2016 season has been a bumpy ride for the Cleveland Indians, but thanks to their manager and their team chemistry the Tribe have reached the World Series.

The biggest part of this team has been the decision making skills of manager Terry Francona. Tito has had plenty of experience in these high pressure situations and it has shown, most importantly when it comes to pitching decisions.

In Game three the Indians started Trevor Bauer, however after two thirds of an inning his stitches had ripped out and he was unable to continue. Tito spent the next 8 1/3 innings putting his best relief pitchers through more innings than most would be use to, however they answered the call by only allowing two runs on seven hits.

One of the most surprising, but important decisions of Game 3 came in the 7th inning when Francona brought in closer Cody Allen to help get the Tribe out of a tough inning. Not only was Allen able to get out of that inning, but he also got the first two outs of the eighth inning as well.

One of the biggest reasons that the Indians are headed to the World Series is the play of Andrew Miller. The righty was acquired by the Tribe at the trade deadline, and has proved to be a major piece of the puzzle for the team. He was awarded the ALCS MVP award, but promptly told everyone that he did not deserve it, and that the team around him was the reason he was able to accomplish what he did.

While Game 3 was a fantastic example of Terry Francona’s genius from the dugout, the Game 5 performance of young Ryan Merritt was something that can help the team throughout the next round. Before the game Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said that Merritt would be “shaking in his boots” when he took the mound at Rogers Centre on Wednesday evening. The opposite occurred as the young lefty threw 4 1/3 shutout innings before handing the game off to the rock-star bullpen. With unproven players like Merritt, only one major league start before Wednesday, showing that they can step into the spotlight when needed, the Tribe look poised to give their next opponent a difficult test.

It may be team chemistry and it may have a little to do with the man calling the shots, but there is one thing for sure, the underdogs are still among the teams that have a shot at bringing home the title. Their opposition will easily be the favorites in this upcoming series, but that has not seemed to mind the Indians before, and it should not bother them now.

Welcome to October

In most cases it took 162 games to decide who was worthy of battling for post-season glory. For the San Francisco Giants and the Toronto Blue Jays it took an extra game to decide who would have the right to face each conferences number 1 seed. Now it is time for the real games to begin!

In the National League we have two matchups that have the potential to be straight pitching duels.

San Francisco Giants v. Chicago Cubs

This matchup pits the best team in baseball against the team that has won the World Series in the past 3 even years. The Cubs had the best pitching staff in baseball. Led by aces Jon Lester and Jake Arrieta, Chicago was first in the league in ERA(earned runs average), Opp. BA(opponents batting average), and WHIP (walks plus hits per innings pitched). They were assisted by a lineup that was in the top 5 of the league in both runs scored and OBS (on base percentage). This combination of pitching and hitting led the Cubs to win 103 games.

Their opponents, the San Francisco Giants, had to rely on the Wild Card game to gain entry to the playoffs and therefore will not be able to count on a game 1 performance from ace Madison Bumgarner. This season, the Giants have counted on their pitching staff, who was 4th in baseball in ERA and WHIP. Where the Giants will struggle is at the plate. They were middle of the league in all hitting stats this year.

Because of the large difference in quality of these teams, the Chicago Cubs are the easy choice to move on to the NLCS.

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Washington Nationals

This series appears to be set up as another pitching duel. The Dodgers staff was 5th in ERA and 2nd in WHIP and Opp. BA. This was without having Clayton Kershaw for most of the season, but he is now back and looks ready to go for the post season run. On the other side of the field,  the Nationals pitchers were also top five in these three pitching stats this season. They are led by Max Scherzer and are looking to advance to the NLCS this year.

The other key component for these teams is hitting. Both teams are fairly even here as well. They spent the season being middle of the road at the plate, which makes this series likely to be dominated by pitching.

In the end, the Dodgers will be able to prevail as they have a deeper rotation to call on and that will allow their stars to be more sharp when they are called upon.

In the American League there are two vastly different series. The Toronto Texas series appears to be more of an uneven series, while the Boston Cleveland series seems to be evenly matched between the two teams.

Toronto Blue Jays v. Texas Rangers 

This series is not going to be a matchup of top pitching staffs. The Rangers were in the bottom 1/3 of the MLB. On the other hand,  the Jays are top 5 in pitching this year.

When it comes to performance at the plate, both teams rank in the top 10 in most categories.  Because of this, there is no edge at the plate due to the reliance on power hitters by both teams.

Despite having to play in through the Wild Card game, the Toronto Blue Jays will be successful in this series as they are the more well rounded team. Their pitching strength will help them keep the Rangers off the board, while their bats will give them a lead to work with. This series will be worth some extra attention not only because of the caliber of teams that are playing, but also because of their history. Earlier this year these teams had a brawl in their final meeting, which led to quite a few susensions, but also seemed to spark the Rangers to get to this point.

Cleveland Indians v. Boston Red Sox

This series features two teams with top tier pitching talent. Both of these staffs were inside the top 10 in ERA, WHIP and Opp. BA throughout the course of the 2016 season. With that being said, the Red Sox have the edge here since the Indians have two of their top pitchers, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, out for the rest of the year.

With the Tribe losing the edge in pitching, they will also be behind the eight ball at the plate as Boston was 1st in the MLB in runs scored, BA, OBS, and Slugging percentage. The Indians were not too far behind, placing in the top ten for each stat, however if they can not get runners on base then the most aggressive base running team in the majors will not be able to get runners in good position to score enough runs to beat Boston.

In the end Boston will come out of this series victorious due to the fact that the Indians have a weakened rotation and have been less successful at the plate than the Red Sox have been this year.