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MLB postseason: Born to be wild

Major League Baseball’s 2016 campaign came to a conclusion two weeks ago, on Oct. 2. Two days later, the postseason kicked off with two extraordinary Wild Card games in Toronto and in New York. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, Edwin Encarnacion channelled his inner 1993 Joe Carter and walked the Toronto Blue Jays off into an American League Division Series (ALDS) rematch versus the Texas Rangers. On Wednesday, Oct. 5 in New York, the National League Wild Card game developed into an epic pitcher’s duel into the ninth inning, when the Giants’ Conor Gillaspie hit a three-run home run off New York Mets’ closer Jeurys Familia. This proved to be the game-deciding hit, as the Giants won and moved on to play the Chicago Cubs in the National League Division Series (NLDS), thus finalizing the eight-team postseason bracket.

This year’s National League postseason bracket had three out of four teams vying to make significant history: The Washington Nationals were looking to win their first World Series, the Cubs were looking to win their first World Series in 108 years and the Giants were looking to win their fourth consecutive World Series in an even year (they’ve managed to win the 2010, 2012 and 2014 series). While a championship would not make substantial, franchise-changing history for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team is still looking to win its first one since 1988.

The NLDS matchups were the Dodgers versus the Nationals and the Giants versus the Cubs. Although it is an even year, the Cubs decimated San Francisco and eliminated them from the playoffs. The Dodgers took their NLDS in a nail-biting decisive fifth game, denying the Nationals their first ever NLCS for at least another year.

The NLCS matchup between the Cubs and Dodgers should be nothing short of thrilling. The Cubs sport an excellent 3.77 team FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching), compared to an equally excellent 3.76 Chicago team FIP. Batting-wise, the Cubs have a great .772 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) and an above average 107 OPS+ (an adjusted metric of OPS that takes ballparks into consideration; 100 is considered good). The Dodgers sport a 3.61 FIP pitching-wise and a .728 OPS and 98 OPS+ on the offensive side. Expect the Cubs to take the series.

In the American League, the ALDS matchups were Blue Jays versus the Rangers and our hometown Boston Red Sox versus the Cleveland Indians. In a surprising turn of events, the Indians swept Boston out of the playoffs, effectively putting an end to Big Papi’s career, while the Blue Jays did the same to the Rangers.

Expect a big offensive performance in the American League Championship Series (ALCS); the Indians sport a good 3.91 team FIP, and have a good .759 OPS and a 94 OPS+. The latter statistic is just a bit lackluster. The Jays on the other hand sport a less respectable 4.05 FIP. Offensively, though, the Blue Jays’ OPS clocks in at .755, with an OPS+ of 100. Look for a lot of runs and an exciting series that could go seven games.

The World Series will be difficult to predict given the championship series hasn’t started yet. The American League has home-field, so in my predictions the Blue Jays would have at least that advantage. The Cubs have better hitting statistics, which will work well both at Rogers Centre in Toronto and at Wrigley Field in Chicago. They are also in much better shape pitching-wise, and good pitching will be key to winning the series. If I had to pick one to win, look for the Cubs to win it all for the first time in 108 years.

All statistics taken from BaseballReference.com.

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