The 2015 MLB regular season concluded on Sunday, and 10 teams are set to duke it out for a chance to win the World Series.
ALDS: #3 Texas Rangers @ #2 Toronto Blue Jays
Led by MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays feature a trio of sluggers that have combined for 120 home runs and 348 RBIs to lead Toronto to its first playoff appearance since I was 1 year old (1993). Toronto was mediocre throughout the first half of the season, but after acquiring ace David Price and superstar shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, they surged ahead of the Yankees in the second half to capture the AL East title. Price lead the league with a 2.45 ERA while fellow starter Marco Estrada finished 5th in ERA at 3.13. The Texas Rangers followed a similar path to the playoffs. After hanging out in 3rd place watching the Angels and Astros battle for the division, Texas acquired Cole Hamels at the deadline and finished the last month strong to take home the AL West crown. DH Prince Fielder and 3B Adrian Beltre lead the offense. There is no doubt that Toronto has the advantage on offense, but while Texas has the edge with pitching I think the Blue Jays will ultimately win this series in 5 games.
ALDS: Wild Card Houston Astros @ #1 Kansas City Royals
From 2011 to 2013, the Houston Astros lost at least 106 games each of three straight years including 111 losses in 2013. Just two years later, they opened the postseason on the road and defeated the Yankees to reach the ALDS, where they will face the defending AL champion Kansas City Royals. The Astros enter the playoffs with the lowest win total of any playoff team with 86, but the Royals enter the postseason with the highest ERA among starting pitchers for teams in the playoffs. I think the Astros have a great chance to pull off the upset in this series. Keuchel and McHugh have been great all season long, and Kazmir has the postseason pitching experience to make an impact. On the other side, Yordano Ventura has been wildly inconsistent, midseason acquisition Johnny Cueto has been mediocre since the trade, and Edinson Volquez isn’t exactly an ace. Houston has the bats to get the job done as well: Jose Altuve batted .313 with 15 HR this season while Carlos Correa, Evan Gattis, and Chris Carter all belted over 20 homers on the year. Astros win the series in 5 games.
NLDS: #3 New York Mets @ #2 Los Angeles Dodgers
The New York Mets finally return to the postseason after an 8 year drought. New York is led by a trio of excellent starters – Jacob DeGrom (14-8 2.60 ERA), Matt Harvey (13-8 2.71 ERA), and Noah Syndergaard (9-7 3.24 ERA) – in addition to rookie sensation Steven Matz (4-0 2.27 ERA) to round the best starting rotation in the MLB this season. Despite being among the worst offensive teams for a large part of the season, the Mets stayed competitive and picked Yoenis Cespedes at the deadline to provide a major spark to the lineup. Although the closer Familia (42 saves 1.87 ERA) has been lights out, the Mets bullpen is still their biggest weakness going into this series. On the other hand, the Dodgers have pair of their own aces. Clayton Kershaw (16-7 2.16 ERA) and Zack Greinke (19-3 1.66 ERA) have been the most dominant 1-2 punch in all of baseball. The biggest X factor in this series however, is Clayton Kershaw’s consistent postseason failure. Unless he proves otherwise, I like the Mets to win this series in 4 games.
NLDS: Wild Card Chicago Cubs @ #1 St. Louis Cardinals
The Chicago Cubs return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 after taking down division rival Pittsburgh, and will now take on another division rival in the St. Louis Cardinals. For St. Louis, it’s become World Series or bust as they put up their 9th 100 win season and seem like a lock to at least make the NLCS every single year. They are probably the deepest and most complete team in the playoffs. The pitching staff features veteran John Lackey, Lance Lynn, and Michael Wacha while the offense is paced by Matt Carpenter and Matt Holliday. Joe Maddon’s Cubs feature great young talent with rookie Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Kyle Schwarber in addition to the most dominant pitcher in the game right now: wild card winner Jake Arrieta. The Cubs also have postseason veteran and proven winner Jon Lester starting in Game 1, but I think the Cardinals are just too deep and the only game the Cubs will win is Arrieta’s lone start. Cardinals in 4.