Previewing what should be two incredible American League Division Series matchups
Boston Red Sox VS Houston Astros
This series has the Eastern division champs going against the Western division champs. What has the potential to be an epic battle between two teams with a lot of strengths and few weaknesses, I don’t give the Red Sox the edge in many categories here in this matchup.
But, that doesn’t mean they don’t have a chance.
They have played well most of the season, in large part to their pitching. They have a very nice balance of pitchers in their rotation, and a pretty solid bullpen. Their staff ranked 4th in ERA, 3rd in strikeouts, 5th in WHIP and allowed the 5th fewest runs in the league.
Like any team, they have had a lot of ups and downs throughout the season, but they stayed pretty consistent. The Yankees gave them a run for the division title, but the Red Sox held them off and won it by two games.
They didn’t hit for much power this year, ranking 27 in the majors with just 168 homers. But they are good at manufacturing runs. With good speed, and situational hitting, Boston figured out how to win without hitting the ball out of the park. That’s key in the playoffs. Sure the home run is a nice way to add runs quickly, but as the temperature drops in the fall, there is a bit of a decline in the pop off of the bats. Of course home runs still exist, and are important, we’ve already several huge home runs in the Wildcard games, but grinding out runs with timely, clutch hits are just as important.
The Astros have been a consistently good team all year. They do a lot of things very well and as a team. They were even displaced from their home field while the city recovered from Hurricane Harvey, but they still managed to take care of business.
Their offense hits well for average, 1st in the majors. They hit for power, 2nd in the majors in home runs and 1st in slugging percentage. They steal bases, 8th in the majors. And they strike out the least in the majors.
Pitching? Yeah, they’re pretty good at that as well. Astros pitchers are 2nd in the league in strikeouts. 7th in WHIP, and are in the middle of upper third of most other statistical categories. They had some injuries in their staff, and they acquired Justin Verlander from the Tigers, and are now looking at a potentially dominant and healthy starting rotation.
Here’s my prediction. The Red Sox and Astros are going to play each other tough. There may even be several games decided by a run, maybe two. As good as the Red Sox have been, they will fall short. I think the Astros lineup will be too much to handle 1-9, and not give the Boston staff any room for error. I feel like Boston will win a game, possibly two, but I think the Astros take it in 4, maybe 5 games.
New York Yankees VS Cleveland Indians
Now I will preface this by saying I am a fan of the Indians, and dislike the Yankees. I will look at this series objectively though, because the Yankees scare me a little bit. I was at the best game of this little rivalry when I attended the midge game in 2007, when the Tribe got a little extra help from the annoying little bugs. Ironically, today marks the 10 year anniversary of that game.
The Yankees are good. They have a very scary lineup known as the Baby Bombers. They hit the ball a ton and score a lot of runs. Aaron Judge led the team as a rookie with over 50 homers, and the Yankees led the league in homers with 241. They had the second most RBI, and the third best average. They ran pretty well also, ranking 7th in stolen bases, and led the league in walks. They do strike out a lot however, and that could come back to hurt them against good, strikeout pitchers like the Indians have.
But aside from hitting, they pitch well too. They added Sonny Gray via trade this year, and group him with CC Sabathia and Luis Severino, and that’s a nice rotation. Severino was not good in the Wildcard game, at all. He only recorded one out and gave up three runs. As we saw though, the Yankees have a phenomenal bullpen. In the regular season, the staff as a whole were 5th in ERA, 4th in strikeouts, 3rd in WHIP, and allowed the 4th lowest runs total in baseball.
The Indians have had a very dominant season, mostly through the second half of the season. How dominant? Well, 22 wins in a row dominant. That streak helped propel the Indians to the best record in the American League, and giving them home field advantage through the AL side of the playoffs. So how were they so dominant? Pitching. Flat out, pitching. Their offense is no class A ball type of offense, but a dominant rotation and a dominant bullpen has made them what they are this year.
As a staff, led by the front runner to be this year’s Cy Young award winner, Cory Kluber, Indians pitchers were amongst the best in the majors and ranked 1st in ERA, 1st in strikeouts, 2nd in WHIP, 1st in complete games, they’ve allowed the fewest runs, earned or otherwise, they’ve allowed the fewest home runs and the fewest walks. That’s really, really good pitching.
But their offense has been very good as well. From 1-9, they have very few holes in their lineup, and don’t give pitchers a break. They ranked 5th in batting average, 7th in RBI, 6th in runs, 2nd in on base percentage, tied for 2nd in slugging percentage, had the 2nd fewest strikeouts in the league and were 4th in walks.
So who’s going to win the series? I am going with my home team here. It will probably go all five games, but I think the Indians will take the series. Their pitching is so dominant that I think they carry them to the next round. They are patient at the plate, which will allow for more walks, and with extra base runners, their lineup will be able to score runs, even off of the good staff the Yankees have. The series will be close, and hard fought, but the Tribe will advance to face the Astros in the ALCS.
Whether my predictions are right or wrong, these should be some great matchups to watch. Solid pitching, clutch hitting and some power will make all of these games exciting.