Dan's Dugout: It's Playoffs Prediction Time!! • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: It’s Playoffs Prediction Time!!

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Now that the wild-card winners have been determined, it’s time to predict the outcome of the playoffs.

First, let it be said that recent history shows the teams with the best records over the 162-game regular schedule rarely reach the World Series anymore, let alone win it.

That’s not comforting to fans of the Chicago Cubs, who haven’t reach the Fall Classic since 1945 or won it since 1908. As nice as it would be for the Goat Curse to finally fall, can the Cubs translate their 103-win campaign into that elusive world championship?

Here’s how the playoffs figure to fall, at least from this perspective:

American League

Division Series — Texas won the most games (95) in the AL and has the home-field advantage in the

Edwin Encarnacion tied David Ortiz with an AL-best 127 RBI Image Credit: Bill Menzel

Edwin Encarnacion tied David Ortiz with an AL-best 127 RBI
Image Credit: Bill Menzel

best-of-five crapshoot, giving Cole Hamels a chance to pitch twice. But Toronto’s firepower, which powered the Jays over the Orioles in a wild-card game that went 11 innings, will be formidable in both ballparks. Look for a close series with the experienced Rangers winning in five.

Boston should have an easier time defeating their former manager, Terry Francona, and his upstart Cleveland Indians. With two front-line starters down, the Tribe can’t contain the Sox sluggers or match their pitching — especially in the late innings. Don’t be surprised to see David Ortiz & Company sweep.

Championship Series — Recent postseason history suggests the Sox are fully capable of a steamroller effect, sweeping even the toughest opponents. Boston won 93 times, clinging to the top wild-card spot in a difficult division, and scored more often than anyone else, thanks to Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley, Jr., and Ortiz — all candidates for American League Most Valuable Player. Hamels might pick up a win but he’ll be the only Ranger who does. Red Sox in five.

National League

Jake Arrieta has two no-hitters in the past two years

Jake Arrieta has two no-hitters in the past two years

Division Series — The Cubs held opponents to a .209 batting average, best in baseball since 1910, and have three Cy Young candidates in Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Jake Arrieta plus two MVP contenders in Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. They also have Aroldis Chapman throwing bullets from the bullpen. San Francisco has Madison Bumgarner, a one-man show in 2014 who might start only once in this best-of-five. Chicago in four.

Dusty Baker’s laid-back rule worked wonders in Washington, where the Nationals won 95 times and finished eight ahead of the second-place Mets. One of two teams never to reach the World Series, the Gnats can be pesky — especially if Daniel Murphy is healthy — but Bryce Harper had a bad year and let his 2015 MVP trophy tarnish. If Max Scherzer pitches twice, the Dodgers will lose those games. But they may win the other three, thanks to Clayton Kershaw and budding superstar Corey Seager. Bet the Bums in five.

Championship Series — Substitute Kershaw for Bumgarner and the Cubs have a less formidable obstacle. With their three horses and Chapman to back them, Joe Maddon’s men will find the NLCS a six-gamr warmup for the World Series. Cubs in six.

World Series

Like the final round of the playoffs, the World Series is a best-of-seven battle. But this year, it’s going to

David Ortiz hardly seems ready to retire. Credit: Bill Menzel

David Ortiz hardly seems ready to retire.
Credit: Bill Menzel

produce a myriad of scintillating story lines.

It’s Cubs versus Red Sox, a match that not only pits two long-time “curse” victims but the two century-old ballparks still used by big-league clubs.

Although good pitching usually stops good hitting, playing the series in a pair of bandboxes will neutralize that theory. Hitters will dominate, with Big Papi primed for a huge sendoff into retirement. He already had the best last regular season of any previous player so why not end with another exclamation mark?

If both teams win all their home games, the Red Sox will win their fourth world championship since 2004. But the crystal ball says this is a strange year: the Giants will not be world champions for the fourth straight even-numbered year, the Dodgers will not dominate the playoffs after winning their division for a club-record fourth straight time, and neither New York team will play deep into October.

With former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein the architect of the 2016 Cubs, he might get to celebrate a Chicago victory at his old stomping grounds in Boston. So here’s the whopper of all predictions: the Cubs will break their curse, win their first world championship since 1908, and celebrate at Fenway Park.

Rick Porcello blossomed into a 20-game winner for the Red Sox

Rick Porcello blossomed into a 20-game winner for the Red Sox

All they have to do is win one of the four games in The Hub and all three at home. Defeating David Price, Rick Porcello, and Craig Kimbrel won’t be easy but the Cubs have the ammunition. They just have to hit the target.

Elsewhere in baseball:

Did anyone other than a few Giants fans ever hear of Connor Gillaspie before he won the NL wild-card game with a three-run homer in the ninth against Mets closer Jeurys Familia? . . .

Only three men on the Mets roster for the wild-card game were also on the roster of the 2015 Mets team that went to the World Series . . .

Look for big changes in San Diego, where Padres pilot Andy Green says the only players promised regular spots next year are infielders Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte . . .

After spending just a single season as assistant GM in Cleveland, 33-year-old Derek Falvey was in the right place at the right time, bagging a new spot as executive VP and chief baseball officer of the Minnesota Twins . . .

Also in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers will retain manager Brad Ausmus even though the club missed the postseason for the second straight season . . .

Are-you-sitting-down dept.: Zack Grienke had an unsightly 4.37 earned run average — by far the worst

Zack Grienke did not deliver on his huge Arizona contract

Zack Grienke did not deliver on his huge Arizona contract

of a career that included ERA crowns in both leagues — in the first year of an Arizona deal that paid him $1 million per start . . .

Future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki turns 43 in October but has been re-signed by the Miami Marlins after a strong season that included his 3000th hit . . .

Surprise slugger Khris Davis is the only Oakland outfielder certain to return . . .

Losing starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. down the stretch definitely kept Houston from a repeat postseason appearance . . .

Contrary to the concept of Hall of Fame manager Tony La Russa, their chief of baseball operations for the moment, the Arizona Diamondbacks plan to place more emphasis on analytics next season . . .

Nolan Arenado should get many MVP votes

Nolan Arenado should get many MVP votes

Because his team lost more than it won, Colorado third baseman Nolan Arenado won’t be National League MVP despite leading the National League in home runs (41, tied with Chris Carter) and runs batted in (best-in-majors 133) . . .

Among the teams on the hunt for veteran starting pitchers are the Angels, Athletics, Braves, Pirates, and Phillies.

 

 

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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