Friday, October 16, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: My 2015 Obviously Biased LCS Picks

I'm a bear, not a Cub.

What's shaking, everyone?  This is Joey Beartran, back with more postseason predictions that may or may not be biased.  Have you been following along with my prognostications since the playoffs began?  If so, you would know that I correctly picked both wild card game winners and three of the four division series winners (stupid Cardinals had to put a blemish on my record).

It's now time to continue sharing my expert picks with you, as tonight we'll kick off the first of two league championship series.  But first, here's a little tidbit that is sure to make your brain explode like Marvin in Pulp Fiction.

The four participants in this year's league championship series (Blue Jays, Royals, Cubs, Mets) have each not raised the World Series trophy in over 20 years, with Toronto being the most recent champion, having won it all in 1993.  That's the first time since the advent of divisional play in 1969 that none of the final four teams had won a championship in more than two decades.  (The 2006 final four teams - Tigers, Athletics, Cardinals, Mets - had their most recent champion in 1989, when Oakland won it all.)  And the odd thing about that 20-plus year drought is that prior to this season, the Blue Jays had gone the longest without a postseason appearance - 22 long years.  But they're still the most recent World Series champion of the four remaining teams, as the Royals and Mets haven't won it all since they won consecutive championships in 1985 and 1986, respectively, and the Cubs haven't worn the World Series crown in about a thousand years, give or take a couple of campaigns.

This year, someone will end an over two-decade dry spell.  But before we get to that point, we have to whittle down the contestants from four to two.  And these are the teams that will be left standing in late October and perhaps early November.

American League Championship Series

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Kansas City Royals

Let's get one thing out of the way quickly.  The Blue Jays played their home games outside of this country.  But their offense was completely out of this world.

Toronto led the American League in home runs, doubles, runs scored, walks, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and spectacular bat flips.  Their pitching wasn't as potent, but it wasn't that bad either, as the Blue Jays were fifth in the league in ERA, third in WHIP and issued the fewest walks of any staff in the league.  But I did find one problem with their pitching.

Will the A.L. flag rise in K.C. again?
Four of the team's five starting pitchers produced FIPs above 4.00.  That's not good.  At all.  The only starter under 4.00 was David Price, and he produced his exceptional 2.22 FIP in only 11 starts with the team.  And because the team regularly bludgeoned its opponents, they pitched in fewer save situations than most teams.  But when games were tight, the bullpen did not come through as well as they would have liked.  Toronto's bullpen had a combined 4.47 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in save situations, which contributed to the Blue Jays' awful 15-28 record in one-run games.  When Toronto blew out the opposition (winning by five or more runs), the team won 37 of 49 games.  When their opponents kept the game relatively close (within four runs), the Blue Jays were a sub-.500 team (56 wins, 57 losses).

Meanwhile, Kansas City had an exceptional bullpen that recorded 56 saves (second in the A.L.) and posted a 2.22 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in save situations, which pretty much explains the high save total.  That allowed the Royals to win tight contests (23-17 in one-run games) as well as affairs that were not very competitive (26-17 in blowouts).

Pitching wins championships, and as long as the Royals and Blue Jays are keeping the score close, that will swing the pendulum in Kansas City's favor dramatically.  Well, that and the fact that the Blue Jays had a losing record on the road, Kansas City was 51-30 at Kauffman Stadium and the Royals have home field advantage in the series.

Prediction: Royals in 7.

National League Championship Series

Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets

Dude, do you really have to ask?  No analysis necessary.  And you can not throw out the narrative of the Mets losing all seven regular season games to the Cubs.  That was pre-Cespedes, pre-Conforto, d'Arnaud and Wright were on the disabled list, and players like Eric Campbell, Johnny Monell, John Mayberry Jr. and Darrell Ceciliani all started games against Chicago.  Any team could be a world beater against those guys.

The Mets are a different team now.  A better team.  They just won a series in which former and future Cy Young Award winners started four of the five games.  Jake Arrieta might be the Cubs' Mike Scott (minus the scuffing), but the rest of the staff is not that impressive to me.

The Mets have several aces, and Cubs hitters will be introduced to all of them just minutes before they return to their dugouts after making yet another out against them.

New York will make Chicago fly the "L" flag.

Prediction: Mets in 5.

I ain't 'fraid of no Cubs.  And neither should the Mets.

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