Friday, October 12, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased LCS Picks

Will the Dodgers' season be dead after their Weekend at Bernie's?  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's going on, everyone?  This is Joey Beartran, and we've reached the last hurdle for four teams in their quest to reach the World Series.  As always, the Washington Nationals are not one of the teams participating in the League Championship Series, but we knew that since late September when they were eliminated from postseason contention.  Or perhaps we just knew that because they're the Washington Nationals.

While most of the baseball world waits to see which team will overpay Bryce Harper to underachieve for them, fans of the Brewers, Dodgers, Red Sox and Astros will be focusing on their current squads in the hopes that their favorite players will be soon be dousing each other in champagne while wearing futuristic sting-proof goggles.

For Milwaukee, they're hoping to become the second team to win pennants in both leagues, as the Brew Crew advanced to their only World Series in 1982 as a member of the American League, losing the Fall Classic in seven games to Keith Hernandez and his Cardinals cohorts.  Who was the first team, you ask?  That would be Houston, who represented the Senior Circuit in the 2005 World Series and the Junior Circuit last year.  The Astros are also trying to become the first team since the Bronx Bummers nearly two decades ago to successfully defend their championship.

In Beantown, Red Sox fans who know baseball history are confident that their 108-win team will move on to the World Series, especially since no team with 108 regular season victories has ever failed to take home the crown.  Meanwhile, the Dodgers are trying to win back-to-back pennants for the first time in 40 years.

So who will be raising pennants in their home stadiums on Opening Day 2019?  And which teams will be watching footage of the 2017 and 2018 Yankees to learn the proper way to clean out their lockers at the end of a postseason series defeat?

You can either stay up to watch the four-hour games and then be late for school or work the following morning or you can read on to find out who will win the NLCS and ALCS.  Because, as you know, my predictions are more dependable than Giancarlo Stanton in a clutch situation and they're always completely unbiased.  (Especially now that the Yankees are no longer around.)

National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Milwaukee Brewers

The Dodgers are playing in their third consecutive NLCS.  The Brewers are playing in their third League Championship Series.  Period.  There's no question that Los Angeles is the more experienced of the two teams.  But will that matter against a team that's won 11 straight games dating back to the regular season?

Los Angeles is the classic all-or-nothing team, as they scored 13 of their 19 runs in the NLDS via the long ball and struck out 35 times in 119 at-bats.  Basically, if you keep them in the park, they'll beat themselves, as evidenced by their .153 batting average in the Division Series when they didn't hit a home run (17 non-homer hits in 111 at-bats).

If you think that .153 average seems pretty low, then the Rockies say, "Hold my Coors Light."

Milwaukee's pitchers limited Colorado hitters to a .146 batting average in their three-game sweep over the Rockies.  Colorado, who hit 210 home runs during the regular season, failed to go deep in any of the three Division Series games against the Brewers.  In fact, the closest they came to hitting a dinger was probably when one of the Rockies' players hit a foul ball into the stands that fell inches away from their mascot.

Dinger has until April to rest up, thanks to Milwaukee's pitching staff.  (Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

The Brewers hit well (28 hits in the three games vs. Colorado), they're patient (16 walks in the NLDS) and their pitching has been dominant since late August, allowing an average of 2.56 runs per game over their last 32 games.  The Dodgers just hit home runs.  And the red hot Brewers' staff should prevent them from doing that in this series.

Prediction: Brewers in 6.

American League Championship Series

Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox

Houston set a franchise record by winning 103 games in 2018.  They also allowed just 534 runs during the regular season, which were the fewest runs allowed by the team in a non-strike shortened season.  Yet despite being arguably better than the team that won it all last year, the Astros will not have home-field advantage over the Red Sox because Boston won five more games during the regular season.  And you know what?

The Astros have the Red Sox right where they want them.

The defending World Series champions had an eye-popping 57-24 record on the road in 2018.  So packing their bags to play in another team's park is probably bad news for the home team, not the Astros.

Also, Boston's bullpen has had difficulty getting the ball to closer Craig Kimbrel, as no reliever who made at least 40 appearances for the Red Sox had an ERA under 3.18.  This is a problem on a team that did not have any starter pitch 200 innings, something the Astros wouldn't know a thing about, as three of their starters (Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole) topped the 200-inning mark.

When the Astros aren't outpitching you, they're bludgeoning you with their bats, as they outscored their opponents by an incredible 263 runs.  No other team was within 34 runs of Houston's run differential.

Boston's 108 wins were impressive, but they fattened their victory total by dominating the bottom feeders of their division (31-7 record against Toronto and Baltimore) and their interleague opponents (16-4 vs. their N.L. victims).  For all you kids out there, that's a 47-11 record against the Blue Jays, Orioles and the Mets' good buddies in the N.L. East, which leaves them with a 61-43 record versus all other teams.  That's a .587 winning percentage against those other squads.  Not bad, but not dominant, either.

Houston was equally good against everyone, especially when they went up against a left-handed starting pitcher.  The Astros were 37-23 versus southpaw starters, winning more games against lefties than any other team in the American League.  On a related note, Boston's top two starters throw baseballs with their left hand.

So do you remember that factoid I mentioned earlier about all 108-win teams going on to win the World Series that year?  Do you also recall that saying, "All good things must come to an end"?  I think the latter applies here.  And I'm not just saying that because I want the 1986 Mets to remain the last 108-win team to win a title.

Prediction: Astros in 7.

Only one 108-win had the teamwork to make the dream work.  Sorry, Alex Cora.  (Jim Davis/Boston Globe)

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