You would think that after years of unsuccessful predictions I would get the message that I’m absolutely no good at foreseeing baseball future. But despite the countless hours spent trying to analyze a team’s roster and correctly select which would win any given series only to pick the wrong team — I’ve only made a handful of correct predictions to date — I’m going to give it a go once again.
Originally, I had the World Series being the Red Sox taking on the Cubs in my postseason predictions. With the Red Sox getting beaten out by the Indians in the first round of the playoffs, that prediction obviously didn’t come true, but getting the Cubs correct wasn’t half bad, considering they hadn’t been to the World Series since 1945. I now have a fifty/fifty shot at correctly getting the World Series right, but I’ll probably find a way to mess that up, too.
Game one takes place Tuesday night, with Jon Lester set to face off against Corey Kluber. It has all the makings of a great pitchers dual, but you never know what to expect with playoff baseball. In the end, I have the Cubs taking game one by the slightest of margins. Game two in Cleveland is another tossup, but I feel the Indians will have the crowd behind them and will be able to get to Jake Arrieta, who has been a bit shaky as of late.
Heading into Chicago for game three, I have the series tied at a game each. I think Kyle Hendricks will pick up right where he left off, earning the Cubs their second win of the series. Not wanting to see things slip away, I feel the Indians will even things up again in game four, with the final game of 2016 at Wrigley Field having the Cubs sent off with a victory. That would force them back to Cleveland up 3-2 on the Indians.
Following that, I don’t think the Cubs will waste any time in Cleveland, winning game six of the series, and earning their first World Series title since way back in 1908.
No matter what happens, this is set to be a remarkable series. With both teams facing generational droughts, either one would be bringing joy to their respective fan bases who haven’t seen a World Series Championship in decades. But despite the fact that the team with home-field advantage has won the last 24 out of 30 titles, I think the team celebrating when all is said and done will indeed be the Chicago Cubs.
Any doubt the baseball world had about the Cubs throughout the entirety of the NLDS against the Giants and the first three games of the NLCS against the Dodgers is slowly beginning to fade away. Despite their offense all but shutting down over the course of the playoffs to this point, the Cubs have been able to post 18 combined runs over their last two games, once again making them the heavy favorites in this postseason.
Sitting now just one win away from their first World Series appearance since 1945, the Cubs are on the verge of a season not seen in over seven decades. With the team to win game five of the NLCS going on to the World Series nine out of the last ten seasons, it’s all but assured — baring another Steve Bartman incident — that the Cubs will be celebrating big time come either Saturday or Sunday night.
But in order to make the World Series and have any amount of success in it, the Cubs will obviously need to continue hitting. Their pitching has been only decent to this point — other than Jon Lester, who has been phenomenal — and their offense has been far worse. Javier Baez has been tremendous to this point, as has Kris Bryant, but their other stars during the season of Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell are all hitting well under .200 thus far.
However, despite their struggles, I am with the majority of baseball fans who still believe in the Cubs and their ability to get the job done. Perhaps the past two games of the NLCS have given them enough confidence to keep the hit-parade going in the next dozen days or so. Although they must face Clayton Kershaw on Saturday, having to win just one of the final two games at home, the Cubs should make the World Series when all is said and done, even if it takes a full seven games.
How far beyond that they go is yet to be seen, but the Cubs have come much too far to stop now. Even if their pitching and offense aren’t on the levels they were over the length of the 162-game season, they still stand a good chance of giving the overachieving Indians a run for their money.
We very well could be just days away from it being 1908 all over again.
Over the past week, or so, I’ve been typing up individual posts on who I feel most deserves the awards of American League and National League Rookie of the Year, Cy Young and Most Valuable Player. I decided to post them in pairs, with Rookie of the Year coming back-to-back (A.L. then N.L.), followed by the same for Cy Young and MVP.
Some of the choices were easy, while others took a great deal of debate. But in the end, I went with my gut of who I feel deserves each award the most.
In case you missed a few (or all) of my Major League Baseball award posts, I wanted to do a brief recap of each of my picks. Although there are a couple of selections that people will likely disagree with, this is just the way I would vote if my vote had any say.
Here are my picks that I made for each category:
American League Rookie of the Year: Gary Sanchez
National League Rookie of the Year: Corey Seager
American League Cy Young: Justin Verlander
National League Cy Young: Max Scherzer
American League MVP: David Ortiz
National League MVP: Kris Bryant
Feel free to click the links associated with each award to be taken to my post on it, giving the full reasoning behind my picks. I’m planning to post a blog entry covering the winners of each award when they’re announced towards the middle of next month, comparing my original picks to the winners and giving my overall thoughts, so be sure to check back for that when the time arrives.
As I stated in my American League post, choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. Daniel Murphy, Joey Votto, Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rizzo were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the National League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
Joey Votto had a somewhat under-the-radar superstar season, after getting off to a horribly slow start. When all was said and done this season, Votto wound up hitting .326 with 29 home runs and a .440 OBP. Playing for a sparsely talented Reds club, it’s easy for Votto to get overlooked, but he was in fact very valuable.
Equally as valuable was Daniel Murphy. This season for the Nationals, Murphy hit a staggering .347, virtually getting a hit every night. Also hitting a career high 25 homers to go along with 104 RBI’s, the year Murphy had is certainly one to remember, but not one to award with the MVP.
One of the brightest stars in baseball at the moment, Anthony Rizzo, also placed in the running for MVP in the National League. With his 32 homers and .385 OBP, Rizzo helped propel the Cubs to the postseason for the second straight season. But regardless, the numbers simply aren’t there for him to win the award.
Once again, I made the very difficult decision of placing Nolan Arenado as runner up in the voting for MVP. Despite him having hit 41 homers with a mammoth 133 RBI’s on the season, I find it hard to give him my vote. Even so, there should be nothing taken away from the season he had. Arenado is in a class all his own.
With the second-place finish of Nolan Arenado, that leaves Kris Bryant on top for the Most Valuable Player in all of the National League. Although he recorded 31 fewer runs batted in than Arenado on the year, his performance day in and day out, including two five-for-five performances, helped cement the Cubs with the best record in all of baseball, subsequently giving Bryant the edge in the MVP voting.
Choosing the Most Valuable Player from each league is the most difficult decision of all the major baseball awards handed out at the conclusion of each season. With Rookie of the Year and Cy Young you can usually look solely at which player had the best overall stats, but Most Valuable Player sometimes involves a bit more than just stats. While it’s important that an MVP winner had a great statistical year, the best offensive player doesn’t automatically become the most valuable.
With that said, it was an even more difficult vote for me this season than it has been in seasons past. There are several players, including Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Mike Trout, David Ortiz and Mark Trumbo, who were all extremely valuable members of their given team in the American League. However, in the end, only one player can win the Most Valuable Player award.
The first player I’m forced to knock from this group is Mark Trumbo, who lead all of baseball in home runs this season but won’t lead them all in MVP voting. Despite smacking 47 big flies for the O’s and driving in 108 runs, helping to keep the Orioles in contention, Trumbo didn’t quite do enough to earn the honor.
Next off the list for me is Jose Altuve. For such a small player, Altuve has huge impacts each and every season, and this year saw more of the same. Playing in all but one game this season, Altuve hit a career high 24 homers and came up just shy of 100 RBI’s, all while batting .338. Even so, he didn’t do enough to make him the most valuable.
Also not the most valuable in my mind is Mookie Betts, but it’s not because the stats weren’t there. Betts hit .318 for the Red Sox and slugged 31 homers in addition to scoring 122 runs. If not for a couple of other players who had superstar-level seasons, Betts would be the easy pick for MVP. But he’s not this season.
Finishing second in MVP voting for the fourth time in his five year career is Mike Trout, as I’m seeing things now. He had the highest WAR — if that’s a stat you like — yet again of any player around baseball, coming from his great defense and .315/.441/.550 slash line. He was the most valuable Angels player by far, but not quite the most valuable American Leaguer.
That distinction goes to Boston’s David Ortiz. In this his final season in Major League Baseball, Ortiz posted stats never before seen by any player age forty or older. Hitting .315 while slugging a superb .660, Ortiz was able to record a 38 home run and 127 RBI season, pushing the Red Sox to another division title. With this being David Ortiz’s final campaign, it would be fitting to see him go out in style with the Most Valuable Player award.
As I stated in my American League Cy Young post, each season there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year was no different. Max Scherzer, Jose Fernandez, Tanner Roark, Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner, Noah Syndergaard, Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks all had years worthy of recognition, but in the end only one can with the National League Cy Young award.
Admittedly, there are a few others with unbelievable stats from 2016 in the National League not included on my list, but I decided to begin the discussion with Tanner Roark, who is one of the eight pitchers in the NL with an ERA below 3.00. Roark’s 2.83 ERA over the course of this season is quite remarkable, but with so much competition, it quickly leaves him on the outside looking in.
Another pitcher in Roark’s position is Johnny Cueto, who had an unbelievable year but still didn’t do enough to earn the Cy Young. Even so, Cueto’s 18-5 record with a 2.79 ERA helped get the Giants into the postseason once again, despite some offensive struggles, and he will be a big part in their success moving forward.
Jose Fernandez is the next pitcher I’m taking off the list, which is truly unfortunate. With the stunning news of his untimely death coming back in September, it would be fantastic to see him win the award. However, while I’m all for honoring his memory, there are other candidates who deserve the award more when you take a close look at the stats.
Despite getting the Mets into the postseason for the second straight season, Noah Syndergaard won’t wind up with the Cy Young award when all is said and done. But his 2.60 ERA and 218 strikeouts certainly stand out on a pitching staff that saw a plethora of injuries, and Syndergaard will likely continue to be the ace of Queens.
Three-thousand miles away, out in San Francisco, Madison Bumgarner had yet another great season of what has become a great career to this point. Bumgarner managed to strike out 251 batters over the span of 34 starts this season, and combined with Johnny Cueto to make on of the best one-two punches in all of baseball, but won’t take home the award when the voting is revealed.
Speaking of one-two punches, John Lester made up one half of perhaps the best duo in all of baseball for the Cubs. His 2.44 ERA was second best in all of baseball, and his .211 opponent batting average definitely jumps out, but so does Lester’s less than one strikeout-per-inning, making him fall short of the Cy Young award.
It came down to a couple of aces this season. But while Kyle Hendricks and his MLB-best 2.13 ERA initially makes him the heavy favorite, I couldn’t select him to pick up the award. His strikeout numbers are subpar at best, and while that isn’t always a deciding factor in the voting process, it is in this case.
For that reason, I went with Max Scherzer to win the National League Cy Young. He has the worst ERA of all the players on my list, at a dismal 2.96, but it’s his strikeout numbers that give him the edge in my mind. The Cy Young award is about utter dominance, and Scherzer’s 284 K’s (including a 20-strikeout performance this season) makes him the number one choice. Striking out 114 more batters than my runner up Kyle Hendricks, I made the tough but correct decision for the award this season.
Each year there are usually several pitchers from each league who have incredible seasons, making it difficult to choose between them for who most deserves the Cy Young award. This year is no different. The American League saw Rick Porcello, Zach Britton, Corey Kluber, Masahiro Tanaka, Aaron Sanchez and Justin Verlander all having great seasons. However, in the end, only one player can take home the Cy Young award.
Although Rick Porcello had a great season that helped carry the Red Sox into the postseason, I don’t feel he’s one of the top few candidates for the Cy Young award. His 3.15 ERA on the year is really good, and his 22 wins — given, wins aren’t as big of a deal as they used to be — stand out, but Porcello didn’t quite do enough all around to earn my vote.
Holding the same fate, Masahiro Tanaka also had a fantastic year, posting a 3.07 ERA over the course of nearly 200 innings pitched for the Yankees. However, his all around stats don’t really hold up when compared to the others in the running. Even so, Tanaka looks to be the ace of the staff moving forward.
Aaron Sanchez’s season was also something special, recording an American League best 3.00 ERA, and virtually taking the Blue Jays to the postseason. With that said, he still didn’t do enough to win the award, as he made a handful of starts fewer than the frontrunners, leading to his strikeouts being lower.
Finishing third on my list is Corey Kluber, who had an amazing year despite it not being on the level we have seen before from Kluber in the year he won the Cy Young. Kluber struck out 227 batters over 215 innings pitched, and held opponents to a .216 average on the year, but likely won’t win the award when all is said and done.
Happening only a handful of times in baseball history, I’m not completely against a reliever winning the Cy Young award, but they have to have posted an unbelievably historic year. Zach Britton certainly fits that category, recording a 0.54 ERA on the season while notching 47 saves, but I don’t see him as more worthy than a certain Tigers’ ace.
The deserving winner of the American League Cy Young — even if he doesn’t wind up being the one to win it — is undoubtedly Justin Verlander. Having a bounce back season, Verlander lead all of the American League in strikeouts, with 254 on the season, and recorded a mere 3.04 ERA while holding opponents to a .207 average. All combined, Verlander is the rightful winner of the top honor for pitcher in the American League.
As I stated in my American League Rookie of the Year post, watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the National League this season, with players such as Trea Turner, Brandon Drury, Junior Guerra, Aledmys Diaz, Ryan Schimpf, Tommy Joseph, Corey Seager, Trevor Story and Seung Hwan Oh all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
With so many names in theoretical contention for the award this season, it’s simply not practical to discuss them all, and thus I’ll take this time to go ahead and eliminate a few of them from my list right now. Brandon Drury, Ryan Schimpf and Tommy Joseph are the easiest to eliminate, as although they each has something special among their stats, the simply sit at the bottom of the pack when it comes to the running for the award.
Now having that out of the way, the next player I can take out is Aledmys Diaz. While he lead all of baseball in batting average for a good bit of time upon his arrival this season, Diaz fell off as the year went on. Even so, his 17 homers and 65 runs batted in to go along with an even .300 average make him a player worth watching in the future.
Next to be slashed off is Seung Hwan Oh, who is probably not a well known name to the majority of baseball fans. Even so, there is good reason to learn his name. Striking out 103 batters in 76 relief appearances for the Cardinals this season, Oh’s 1.92 ERA is very impressive, but not good enough to make me feel he is deserving of the award.
The other pitcher on my list — of the starting variety — is yet another young star in the making. Junior Guerra’s 2.81 ERA over 20 starts for the Brewers was truly one of the only bright spots of yet another down year for the Brewers. If he can keep that going in the future, Guerra could turn out to be a valuable part of Milwaukee’s rotation.
One of the toughest things for me to do is put Trea Turner finishing third on my Rookie of the Year list, but that’s exactly where I have him falling. His .342 average on the season with 33 stolen bases and 13 home runs make him a well-rounded future All-Star, but not the Rookie of the Year winner.
It came down to a couple of sluggers in my mind, with Trevor Story finishing runner up. Had he not have gotten hurt, things would’ve been much closer, with Story perhaps winning the award, but his 27 home runs and 72 RBI’s have him placing second. Given, this power surge could’ve been a fluke, but it would appear Story has found a home in Denver.
The winner of the National League Rookie of the Year award therefore falls to Corey Seager, who was the heavy favorite heading into the 2016 season. His stats are hard to ignore, as Seager looks to be the Dodgers’ starting shortstop for the next decade or more. Seager’s .308 average combined with 26 home runs and 72 RBI’s make him one of the game’s brightest stars in the coming years.
Watching young players succeed upon their first year in the majors is always fun. Though it never guarantees that any given player will carry that early success throughout their career, it’s always a good indication of which players are going to be stars for years to come. We certainly had a fair share of those type of players in the American League this season, with players such as Edwin Diaz, Nomar Mazara, Tyler Naquin, Gary Sanchez, Max Kepler and Michael Fulmer all having seasons worthy of recognition. However, in the end, only one player can win the coveted Rookie of the Year award.
This season for the Mariners, Edwin Diaz had an unbelievable rookie campaign, recording 18 saves and posting a 2.79 ERA over 51.2 innings in which he struck out 88 batters. But while he looks to have a bright career moving forward, there were several other better candidates for Rookie of the Year than Diaz.
Likewise, this season saw Max Kepler having a fantastic year, knocking 17 homers and recording 63 RBI’s. However, what’s keeping him from being a true contender for the award in my mind is his dismal .235 batting average. But while that’s disappointing, look for Kepler to raise that number as he gets more experience moving forward.
Tyler Naquin was another one of the standout rookies from the 2016 American League crop. Hitting .296 on the year with 14 homers, Naquin helped play a big role in carrying the Indians into the postseason. He should remain one of their big-time pieces in the future, but he didn’t do enough this season to earn the award.
As with Naquin, the Rangers’ Nomar Mazara is a player deserving of vast recognition, but not the award for Rookie of the Year. Getting off to an unbelievable start, but cooling off drastically as the season went on, Mazara’s 20 homers and 64 RBI’s are very impressive, but not impressive enough for any better than third on my list.
The same holds true for the stats of Michael Fulmer, who was the favorite for the award until the last bit of the season. Still, despite not having the strong finish to the year to cement an award win, Fulmer broke out in 2016 as one of the best pitchers on the Tigers’ staff, with his 3.06 ERA over 159 innings pitched.
That leaves just Gary Sanchez as the player who I feel is most deserving of the Rookie of the Year award for the American League. It is a bit of a controversial pick, as Sanchez’s 20 home runs and 42 RBI’s on the season came over the course of just 53 games played — not even a third of a full season. But despite that, Sanchez had an absolutely historical season that leaves little doubt in my mind that he should win the top honor for American League rookies.
For the fifth straight season, I made preseason predictions as to how I felt each division would play out, and for the fifth straight season I was extremely far off. For one reason or another, I’m not very good at making division predictions before a given season begins.
This year, though, I hope to finally correctly predict how the postseason will play out. While I’ll likely be off, either by a little or a lot, it’s always fun to make predictions. Who knows? Maybe I’ll get lucky and have a perfect prediction of how the postseason will unfold. You never can tell what may happen in October.
WILD CARD GAMES (AL October 4th & NL October 5th)
American League: Blue Jays Vs. Orioles
This is sure to be a great game between two great teams, and although it will be played up in Toronto, with the Blue Jays having home-field advantage, I think the Orioles will be able to prevail. The key reason behind that logic lies with Zach Britton, who can almost guarantee a win, should the Orioles be holding the lead heading into the ninth. With the Orioles having hit the most homers in all of baseball this season, they should be able to put together enough runs to pull out the victory, despite having to face Toronto’s Marcus Stroman.
National League: Mets Vs. Giants
I realize it’s an even number year, and therefore the Giants should be all but guaranteed to win the entire World Series — they won in 2010, 2012 and 2014 — but I don’t even see them making it past the Wild Card game. Yes, the Giants’ starter, Madison Bumgarner, had a stupendously great year, but the Mets have a Cy Young candidate of their own on the bump, in the form of Noah Syndergaard. With this sure to be a pitcher’s duel, one run very well could be the difference, with the Mets’ lineup simply having more thump than that of the Giants.
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 6th)
Indians Vs. Red Sox
Winner: Red Sox
I’ve been betting against the Indians all season long, so I’m a bit hesitant to go against them after they had the season they did. But although I don’t think this will be an easy task by any means for the Red Sox, I see them overtaking the Indians, especially with the injuries Cleveland began experiencing towards the end of the regular season. Without the full health of their rotation, I don’t see the Indians overtaking Boston. For that reason, when all is said and done, the Red Sox should be the team moving on to the ALCS.
Rangers Vs. Orioles
This is by far the most difficult decision I had to make to this point in the post, as both teams have very even rosters from top to bottom, and each have had rotations that have struggled at times. But despite all of that, the Orioles seem to be a bit better set up for a postseason push than the Rangers do. Having likely just won the Wild Card game in my mind against the Blue Jays, I feel that Texas won’t be able to withstand the momentum of the hard-hitting and hard-throwing Orioles for the full length of the series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES (Begins October 7th)
Nationals Vs. Dodgers
After several disappointing seasons in which many people envisioned great things for the Nationals only to watch them fall apart during or even before the playoffs, this is the year for the Nationals to finally win a few playoff games, in my opinion. Although they have a great deal of injuries, including those to several All-Star players, I don’t think the Dodgers will be able to compete with Washington when all is said and done, even with the best starting pitcher in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, leading their staff.
Cubs Vs. Mets
2016 is finally the year of the Cubs — or at least that’s what ninety-nine percent of the baseball world is happily telling themselves. Following a century-long drought of a World Series title, the Cubs seemingly have no holes whatsoever in their entire roster. Even though there’s a long way to go before the end of the postseason (they need to win eleven games to take home the Championship), there are still a lot of reasons to like the Cubs. I really don’t think this will be that competitive of a series, with the Mets lacking the all-around talent that the Cubs have.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 14th)
Orioles Vs. Red Sox
Winner: Red Sox
This will wind up being the end of the line for the Orioles as far as I’m seeing things now. If in fact they are taking on the Red Sox in the ALCS, I don’t think the Orioles will be able to beat them in the end. Even so, this series could wind up going to a sixth or possibly even seventh deciding game. It would truly be one of the best postseason series we’ve seen in quite a while, especially with it being the final season for David Ortiz. What each team lacks in pitching dominance, they more than make up for in power hitting, which could make this a back-and-forth series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES (Begins October 15th)
Nationals Vs. Cubs
If the Nationals manage to make it this far into the playoffs, it will include a small amount of luck, and I simply don’t think they will be able to defeat the powerhouse Cubs. As I’ve already stated, the Cubbies are one of the best all-around teams we’ve seen in quite some time, and the Nationals don’t seem to have what it takes to take down a team such as Chicago. With that said, I still think it would end up being an exciting matchup, just not quite as good as the ALCS would be. But then again, it’s October baseball, where the impossible happens on a regular basis.
WORLD SERIES (Begins October 25th)
Red Sox Vs. Cubs
What a World Series matchup this would be, between two great teams and taking place at two 100-year-old ballparks. With the Cubs looking to end their historical 108-year losing streak, and the Red Sox looking to send David Ortiz off into the sunset with style, neither team would want to give an inch in this series. I could easily see this matchup taking six or seven games to decide, with the Cubs ultimately just beating out the Red Sox. Thus, after nearly eleven decades without a World Title, I’m predicting this to finally be the year the Cubs win the World Series.