Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Joey's Soapbox: My 2015 Obviously Biased Division Series Picks

I heard "O Canada" on the day this photo was taken.  We'll all hear it in the postseason for the first time since 1993.

Hey, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran and it's time to start the most exciting week for baseball fans - the division series week!  If you love baseball, you're about to get wall-to-wall excitement.  And if you're a fan of not getting any sleep and then getting to work late because you forgot to set the alarm at night, this week won't affect you because the late games are all on the weekend!

This year's division series matchups feature nothing but expansion teams in the American League, as Toronto (a league neophyte in 1977), Kansas City (born in 1969), Houston (took its first breath in 1962) and Texas (1961 newbies as the second coming of the Washington Senators) will battle it out to earn spots in the League Championship Series.

Meanwhile, in the Senior Circuit, you have teams that your great-great-great grandparents probably saw when they paid 50 cents for a box seat.  I'm talkin' 'bout the Cardinals, Cubs and Dodgers.  Hey, did I leave a National League team out?  Oh, yeah, and my New York Mets are playing in their first division series since I was just a cub (not the Chicago team).

So which teams do I think will come out of the four division series that will take place over the next week?  And why do I think they will advance?  Read on, my friends.  Read on.

American League Division Series

Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays

The Rangers went from last place to first place in claiming their first division title since 2011.  That was also the year the Blue Jays were finishing up their 18th consecutive season without a playoff appearance.  Texas was the only one of the six division champions that failed to win at least 90 games, while Toronto steamrolled their way through the final two months of the season to finish the season with 93 wins.  It was the Blue Jays' first season with 90-plus wins since their 1993 championship season.

Picking this series is actually quite easy.  Texas has Cole Hamels on its roster.  Toronto has a distinguished gentleman in R.A. Dickey.  The Blue Jays also have the ability to pound Hamels into submission.  And who wouldn't want to see Hamels get bludgeoned by the booming bats of the Blue Jays?  Just like Hamels himself, this one's a no-brainer.

Prediction: Blue Jays in 3.

Cole Hamels won't be smiling much when this series is over.

Houston Astros vs. Kansas City Royals

I love the Houston Astros.  I really do.  They have good pitching.  They have the most power of any team that plays south of the Canadian border.  And they swipe bags more than any other team in the American League.  That being said, I think the highlight of their season will be the victory over the Yankees in the wild card game.

Kansas City got some much-needed postseason experience last year, sweeping their way through the American League playoffs until they ran into the San Francisco Bumgarners in the Fall Classic.  And although they lost closer Greg Holland to a season-ending elbow injury, their bullpen is still better than adequate, combining to post a 2.73 ERA and 1.13 WHIP.

The Royals may not have much power, as no one on the team hit more than 22 home runs, but what they don't have in strength, they make up for it in smarts.  Kansas City makes lots and lots of contact, as evidenced by their .269 team batting average (only Detroit's .270 mark was higher in the A.L.) and their incredibly low strikeout rate.  The Royals struck out 973 times in 2015, which was 146 fewer whiffs than the next best team, Oakland.  And when you put the ball in play as often as the Royals do, good things usually happen.

Kansas City has home field advantage in this series.  They went 51-30 at Kauffman Stadium this year.  Houston will have to win at least one game there to have a chance of dethroning the defending American League champions.  That might be too much to ask for a team that finished a league-worst 33-48 away from home.

Prediction: Royals in 5.         

For someone who looks like he forgot his dentures when he pitches, former Met Chris Young has been quite dependable.  (Brad Remple/USA TODAY Sports)

National League Division Series

New York Mets vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

I'll make this quick and painless.  Unless if you're a Dodgers fan or a direct descendant of Tommy Lasorda.

Prediction: Mets in 3.

The Mets are going to step all over the Dodgers just like I stepped all over their field.

Chicago Cubs vs. St. Louis Cardinals

The fiercest rivalry in the American League is Red Sox-Yankees.  With apologies to Giants and Dodgers fans, the most heated rivalry in the National League is Cubs-Cardinals.  The Red Sox and Yankees have played each other in the postseason three times (1999, 2003, 2004) and also squared off in a one-game, winner-take-all Game No. 163 in 1978.  Meanwhile, this is the first time the Cubs and Cardinals have ever faced each other in the postseason.

This historic matchup of long-time rivals features the 100-win, first place Cardinals and the 97-win, third-place Cubs.  The Cubs are the hotter team entering the series, as they went 45-18 over their last 63 regular season games before defeating the Pirates in the wild card game.  But the Cardinals are the Cardinals.  They know what it takes to make it to the NLCS, as they've played in the league's final series in nine of the last 15 seasons, including the last four years.  St. Louis also handed Chicago 11 of its 65 losses.  Including the postseason, the Cubs were 90-54 against everyone else.

Jake Arrieta may have gotten the Cubs past the Pirates in the wild card game, but he won't be facing the Cardinals until Game Three of the division series.  And by then, Chicago could be more than halfway to being eliminated by St. Louis.  Arrieta will win his start, but that's the only game in which the Cubs will raise the "W" flag.

Prediction: Cardinals in 4.

It's not polite to point, Yadi.  As punishment, the Mets will take care of you this time in the NLCS.

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