Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Joey's Soapbox: My 2018 Completely Unbiased Division Series Picks

Will my crew pick the Brew Crew to advance?  Like I'd give that away in the opening photo.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

What's going on?  This is Joey Beartran, and I'm ready to roll out my picks for the American League and National League Division Series.  And of course, as always, they will be completely unbiased.  That means I won't pick a team because of how they did or didn't do when they played the Mets.  I also won't pick against a team because they just happen to have someone on their roster that may have broken a former Met's leg,  Nope, that would be biased.

I will, however, pick the teams I feel have the best chance to advance to the League Championship Series.  And those picks will be based on pertinent statistics, postseason experience and whether or not they have Curtis Granderson on the team.

So who will move one step closer to the World Series just to have a light-hitting catcher such as Mike Scioscia or Yadier Molina deliver a key blow in the ninth inning?  And who can't seem to get over the events of 1988 or 2006?  (Spoiler alert:  That would be me.)

It's time for me to put my Post-Traumatic Mets Disorder aside and share my picks for the 2018 A.L. and N.L. Division Series.

National League Division Series

Colorado Rockies vs. Milwaukee Brewers

The Rockies and Brewers have no World Series titles and just two Fall Classic appearances in their combined 75 years of existence.  But once this best-of-five series is over, one of the two teams will be four wins away from a pennant.

Colorado wasn't expected to compete with the powerhouse Dodgers for the N.L. West title.  Nor were they supposed to beat the battle-tested Cubs in the N.L. Wild Card game.  But the Rockies did both, and now they might pay for it against the team with the best record in the National League.

Because ace pitcher Kyle Freeland was used in the Wild Card game, he will only be available to pitch once in the Division Series.  And by the time he takes the mound in Game Three, the Rockies could very well be facing elimination.

Colorado is going with Antonio Senzatela as its Game One starter.  Senzatela started just 13 games this season and was wild in his only appearance against the Brewers, walking three and hitting a batter in five innings of work.  Game Two starter Tyler Anderson made 32 starts for the Rockies and won just seven of those starts.  Was he just unlucky like Jacob deGrom in that his offense hit the snooze button whenever he was on the mound?  Not exactly.  Anderson pitched to a 4.55 ERA and allowed a team-high 30 home runs in 176 IP.  That doesn't bode well against a Brewers team that finished second in the National League with 218 homers.

While Milwaukee is feasting on the likes of Homer Happy Anderson and Antonio Send Nutella (autocorrect works in mysterious ways), the Rockies will be facing Junior Guerra and Jhoulys Chacin.  Neither pitcher is a household name or a Cy Young candidate.  But against the Rockies, they won't need to be.

Game One starter Guerra has unreal home/road splits, boasting a 2.48 ERA on the Miller Park mound and a 6.97 ERA away from it.  Where is Game One being played?  In the city made famous by Lenny and Squiggy, of course.  Meanwhile, Game Two starter Chacin became the first N.L. pitcher to make 35 starts in a season since Chris Carpenter in 2010.  Chacin finished the year with a solid 3.50 ERA and a career-best 1.16 WHIP.  And how has he fared in his career against the Rockies?  He's held them to a .203 batting average and .642 OPS.  No other National League team has a lower batting average against Chacin in his career and only the Giants, Diamondbacks and Phillies have a lower OPS.

By the time Freeland takes the mound in Game Three at Coors Field, the Rockies might be staring at elimination.  They'll also be staring at the fearsome threesome of Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw and MVP frontrunner Christian Yelich, who combined to produce 103 HR and 304 RBI for the Brewers.  And they did that without playing half of their games at 5,280 feet above sea level.

In the battle of beer cities, Miller > Coors.  And it's not even close.

Prediction: Brewers in 3.

Did I mention that Curtis Granderson is a Brewer?  Yet another reason to pick them to win.  (Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

Atlanta Braves vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers needed a 163rd game to win their sixth consecutive N.L. West title, or eight fewer than the Braves claimed during their unprecedented run of 14 straight division crowns.  It's no surprise that Los Angeles is in the Division Series.  What is surprising is that Atlanta is joining them, as the Braves entered the 2018 campaign just trying to avoid their fifth consecutive losing season and instead won 90 games after averaging 90 losses per season since 2014.

Los Angeles led the National League in ERA, which is not unusual for a team known for its pitching.  But check this out.  The Dodgers used a whopping 31 pitchers during the season, yet none of them pitched enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, not that Jacob deGrom was going to let any of them compete with him for that honor.  Ninety-year-old Rich Hill was the only Dodger to reach double digits in wins and Alex Wood led the staff with just 27 starts.  So I guess you could say they're well-rested.  It was truly an odd season for the Dodgers' pitching staff.

Their hitters, on the other hand, were the epitome of all-or-nothing.  The Dodgers set franchise records in both home runs (235) and strikeouts (1,436).  But most of their homers came with no one on base.  In fact, their 157 solo shots were more than the total number of homers hit by five major league teams.  So basically, a good pitching staff that isn't susceptible to the long ball and can strike out a batter or ten should be able to handle the Dodgers' bats.

For the record, the Braves allowed the third-fewest homers in the majors (153) and finished in MLB's top ten in strikeouts recorded (1,423).  Just like Chase Utley, this one's a no-brainer.

Prediction: Braves in 4.

Rejoice!  Chase Utley will officially be retired after this series.  (Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

American League Division Series

Cleveland Indians vs. Houston Astros

In this battle between the last two American League pennant winners, let's not look at the defending World Series champion Astros and instead focus on the three-time A.L. Central champion Cleveland Indians.

The Indians became the first team in history to have four pitchers strike out 200 or more hitters, as Carlos Carrasco (231 Ks), Corey Kluber (222 Ks), Trevor Bauer (221 Ks) and Mike Clevinger (207 Ks) spent most of the year sending opposing hitters back to their respective dugouts.

On the offensive side, Cleveland produced a trio of 30-HR hitters (Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Encarnacion) and was also the American League's biggest threat on the bases, producing a league-leading 135 stolen bases.

But there's just one problem with the Indians.  And it's a pretty big one.  Are you ready for this?

Oliver Perez is their best relief pitcher.

The former Met boo magnet made 51 appearances for the Indians in 2018 and produced a 1.39 ERA and 0.74 WHIP.  He also struck out 43 batters while walking just seven.  How did his colleagues in the bullpen fare?  You may want to sit down for this one.

Closer Cody Allen had a 4.70 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in 70 appearances.  Six other relievers not named Oliver Perez made at least 30 appearances for the Indians.  All six had an ERA of at least 4.24 and a WHIP north of 1.26.

Basically, if your best option out of the bullpen is O.P., then you're pretty much D.O.A. against a team like the Astros.  It also doesn't help that the Indians' 91-71 record was a product of playing in baseball's worst division, as they went 49-27 against their fellow A.L. Central teams and 42-44 versus non-division opponents.  Needless to say, Houston doesn't call the A.L. Central home.

This series shouldn't be close.

Prediction: Astros in 3.

Playing the defending World Champions would make anyone go prematurely gray.  (William Purnell/Getty Images)

New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox

I'll make this simple for you without being biased.  The Red Sox became the fourth team in history to win exactly 108 games.  They matched the victory total of the 1970 Baltimore Orioles, 1975 Cincinnati Reds and 1986 New York Mets.  What do those three teams have in common besides the number of regular season happy recaps?  Champagne in late October, that's what.

Had the Red Sox won 109 games instead of 108, there would be no guarantee of a parade because the 1969 Orioles had that many victories and didn't win it all.  (I wonder who did...)  Similarly, if the Red Sox had lost their final regular season game to finish the year with 107 wins, they would have matched the 1931 Philadelphia Athletics' victory total.  The A's lost the Fall Classic that year to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Meanwhile, the Yankees became the ninth team since 1980 to finish the season with exactly 100 victories.  How many championships were won by the previous eight 100-win teams?  It's the same as the number of Washington Nationals postseason series victories.  In fact, five of those eight 100-win teams didn't even make it to the League Championship Series.

So forget about the stats.  Forget about head-to-head records.  (The Red Sox won the season series against the Yankees anyway, in case you were wondering.)  History cannot be denied.  Teams with 108 wins take home the crown.  Teams with 100 wins make plans to play golf during the World Series.

Prediction: Red Sox in 5.

Fenway Park, where Evil Empire dreams go to die.  (EL/SM)

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