So the MLB Regular Season has come and gone. The landscape of baseball has changed dramatically in these last several months. Who would’ve guessed that Mark McGwire’s rookie home run record, which had stood for 30 years, would get obliterated by some Judge kid that strikes out about as frequently as a guy wearing crocs at the bar? Who would’ve thought the winning streak that inspired a bestselling novel and critically acclaimed movie would evaporate and become an afterthought? And who would’ve believed it if I told you at the beginning of the season that Noah Syndergaard would throw more spears at Dothraki than he would baseballs to catchers? Yep, all this happened already in this baseball season and the playoffs haven’t even started yet. Last year, the Chicago Cubs ended their fans’ suffering by winning their first World Series in 108 years. This year another drought, while smaller in quantity but by no means less significant, will be in danger as the Cleveland Indians look to end their 69-years (nice) of suffering, a streak they were one inning away from ending just last year. Before we get into the projections, let’s take a look at how the baseball landscape shaped up this season.
Boston Red Sox: 93-69
New York Yankees: 91-71
Tampa Bay Rays: 80-82
Toronto Blue Jays: 76-86
Baltimore Orioles: 75-87
Cleveland Indians: 102-60
Minnesota Twins: 85-77
Kansas City Royals: 80-82
Chicago White Sox: 67-95
Detroit Tigers: 64-98
Houston Astros: 101-61
Anaheim Angels: 80-82
Seattle Mariners: 78-84
Texas Rangers: 78-84
Oakland Athletics: 75-87
Washington Nationals: 97-65
Miami Marlins: 77-85
Atlanta Braves: 72-90
New York Mets: 70-92
Philadelphia Phillies: 66-96
Chicago Cubs: 92-70
Milwaukee Brewers: 86-76
St. Louis Cardinals: 83-79
Pittsburgh Pirates: 75-87
Cincinnati Reds: 68-94
Los Angeles Dodgers: 104-58
Arizona Diamondbacks: 93-69
Colorado Rockies: 87-75
San Diego Padres: 71-91
San Francisco Giants: 64-98
So that’s where each team stands following the conclusion of the 2017 MLB regular season. One thing that really stood out to me was three 100-win teams (Indians, Astros, Dodgers). This is the sixth time ever that three teams finished with 100 wins and the first time it’s happened since 2003. There’s a lot of firepower in the majors this season, so let’s get a look at each playoff team.
Minnesota Twins (85-77)
The Minnesota Twins were probably the last team I would’ve guessed at the start of the season would be in this position. They were abysmal last season and did not look like they had made any noticeable improvements between 2016 and 2017. Yet here they are, playing for their lives in the AL Wild Card game just a year after losing 103 games. A lot of credit goes to Manager Paul Molitor for this turnaround. Guys like Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton, and Eddie Rosario have been huge for the Twins and their development has to have Twins fans very optimistic about their future.
New York Yankees (91-71)
CF-Jacoby Ellsbury/Aaron Hicks
Aaron Judge is obviously the big story here. He’s going to run away with the rookie of the year and may even take home AL MVP after hitting .284 with 52 home runs and 114 RBI while also playing a solid right field. But the Baby Bombers, as they’re being dubbed, are more than just their 6’8 280-pound slugger. Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius have both been outstanding at the plate this year as well as in the field and their bullpen has been incredible, even if the 9th inning may get a little exciting. There was a lot of talk about this year being a rebuilding year for the Yankees but if this is what they call rebuilding, I’m terrified at what they consider to be competing for a championship.
Boston Red Sox (93-69)
C-Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon
CF-Jackie Bradley Jr
DH-Hanley Ramirez/Eduardo Nunez
It’s amazing to me that the Red Sox lose David Ortiz to retirement, have underwhelming seasons by the Killer B’s, and still finish with an identical record to last season. That is in large part due to the pitching staff, particularly Chris Sale. Sale has been downright nasty for the Red Sox, as I talk about in this article. But it hasn’t been just him that’s given this pitching staff a lift. Craig Kimbrel didn’t allow a hit to right-handed batters until JUNE!!! Drew Pomeranz may not have done anything spectacular, but from June-on, it seemed that every time he was pulled from a game in the middle of the sixth inning, the opponent only had one run against him. The Red Sox will have to clean up their inconsistencies if they’re going to have any hopes of unseating the Astros and Indians, though.
Houston Astros (101-61)
C-Brian McCann/Evan Gattis
LF-Marwin Gonzalez/Jake Marisnick
The Astros are a perfect example of how to properly build a team from the ground up. They were able to persevere through the 100-loss seasons and build a team that has as good a chance as any to win a World Series. They are perhaps the most dangerous team in the Majors offensively, as any player 1-through-9 can hurt you. But they’ve been doing that the last few years already. The big change that propelled them this high was the growth of their pitching staff. Dallas Keuchel returned to his 2015 Cy Young form and Lance McCullers and Collin McHugh looked like perfect complimentary pieces. On top of that, Justin Verlander has been terrific for them since he was acquired in August, posting a 1.06 ERA in his 5 starts with the team after a trade from the Tigers.
Cleveland Indians (102-60)
LF-Michael Brantley/Austin Jackson
CF-Jason Kipnis/Tyler Naquin/Bradley Zimmer
RF-Jay Bruce/Lonnie Chisenhall/Brandon Guyer
See all those extra names I have in the Indians’ projected outfield? That’s how deep this team is. Any one of those guys could start and would have a big impact on this club. The jury is still out on Michael Brantley’s health, which has been a major concern for the Tribe the last couple of years. But top-to-bottom I don’t know if there is a more complete team in baseball. And I haven’t even gotten to the fact that this team won 22 effing games in a row! This team came an inning away from winning their first World Series in 68 years last season that was without a healthy pitching rotation. Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar are completely healthy now and ready to aid Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber on a championship run.
Colorado Rockies (87-75)
SS-Trevor Story/Alexi Amarista
LF-Ian Desmond/Gerardo Parra
This team has two guys who could legitimately win NL MVP this season (Arenado and Blackmon). This has also been one of the best pitching staffs the Rockies have ever had, which admittedly isn’t saying much. Jon Gray, when healthy, is one of the most electrifying pitchers in the National League. The bullpen has been a huge bonus for this team this season as Greg Holland, Jake McGee, and Pat Neshek all had really nice seasons. This was a team that I had written in one of my classes was a dark horse team at the beginning of the season (granted, only my professor ever read that prediction so I guess it doesn’t really count) and they have proven me right every step of the way.
Arizona Diamondbacks (93-69)
What a difference a good manager makes. Torey Lovullo had success as the Red Sox interim manager at the end of the 2015 season when John Farrell was diagnosed with Leukemia. When Mike Hazen became the GM for the DBacks, he brought Lovullo with him to the desert. The result has been a resurgent year where they find themselves in a Wild Card spot, but only because they share a division with the Dodgers. JD Martinez has been absolutely unconscious this season after being acquired from the Tigers at the trade deadline and Paul Goldschmidt continues to compete for MVPs and rank among the best first basemen in the game.
Chicago Cubs (92-70)
SS-Javy Baez/Addison Russell
CF-Ian Happ/Jon Jay
Despite winning 11 fewer games than last season, the Cubs still find themselves kings of the NL Central. The pitching hasn’t been what it was in years past but still carries a lot of ability. Kris Bryant has been as dominant as ever and Javy Baez’s energy fueled a late season run that saw them return to their 2016 form after a very mediocre first half of the season. Wade Davis was a steal of a trade for the Cubs and has returned to his 2015 form that was so dominant at the backend of a championship bullpen. This team isn’t as scary as they were last season when they won it all, but if you take them lightly you will find yourselves swept and watching the rest of the playoffs on your couch.
Washington Nationals (97-65)
The Nationals have arguably the best pitching rotation in the majors. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez all carry sub-3 ERA’s and look to form a formidable postseason rotation. The problem has been their bullpen, but late season acquisitions Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson have shored things up nicely. Despite losing superstar Bryce Harper for an extended period of time, the Nationals hardly missed a step thanks to a breakout season out of Anthony Rendon. This is a team built for a deep playoff run after running away with the NL East seemingly from the moment the season kicked off.
Los Angeles Dodgers (104-58)
LF-Chris Taylor/Curtis Granderson
CF-Joc Pederson/Kike Hernandez
This is the hardest team to project. Sure, they won 104 games, but ever since Sports Illustrated published a cover that asked if this Dodgers team was the greatest team of all time on August 22, the boys in blue have gone 15-23 with an 11-game losing streak mixed in. They seem to be recovering, though, finishing the year as winners in 8 of their last 10 games. Like the Indians, this is a very complete team with a deep pitching rotation that starts with a perennial Cy Young candidate with loads of support around him. Clayton Kershaw will look to shake his playoff struggles in order to lead the Dodgers to their first title since 1988.
Wild Card Round: Minnesota Twins at New York Yankees
The Twins will be sending Ervin Santana to the hill to square off against Luis Severino of the Yankees. Both pitchers have been fantastic this season and this looks to be a low-scoring affair. However, the Yankees have too much firepower on offense and too deep a bullpen for the Twins to have much of a chance in this one.
Projected Score: Yankees 6 Twins 1
ALDS: New York Yankees (projected) vs Cleveland Indians
Last year the Indians swept the Red Sox in the ALDS very convincingly en route to a World Series appearance. Their playoff experience has them less wide-eyed than this inexperienced Yankees squad and they will likely make quick work of the Baby Bombers.
Projected Series: Indians 3 Yankees 1
ALDS: Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros
These two teams just got done playing a 4-game series in which the Astros took 3 out of 4. The Red Sox are limping into the playoffs, having only won 2 out of their final 7 games. The Astros will once again take 3 out of 4 in this series.
Projected Series: Astros 3 Red Sox 1
ALCS: Houston Astros vs Cleveland Indians
Two 100-win teams face off for the right to go to the World Series. Both teams have top-tier talent to go along with terrific managers. I give the Indians the edge, but they will be taken to the limit against this Houston team.
Projected Series: Indians 4 Astros 3
Wild Card Round: Colorado Rockies at Arizona Diamondbacks
These two division rivals will square off for the 20th time this season, the DBacks having taken 11 of those games. Colorado sends Jon Gray to face off against Zack Greinke in the desert. I’m going to give the edge to Arizona and I think Greinke is the difference in this one, as he has bounced back spectacularly after a disastrous 2016 season.
Projected Score: Diamondbacks 5 Rockies 3
NLDS: Arizona Diamondbacks (projected) vs Los Angeles Dodgers
The DBacks are the absolute last team the Dodgers want to see in the NLDS. Arizona has won 11 of their 19 games this season but has won each of the last 6 meetings. The DBacks seem to be LA’s kryptonite and I think they pull off the shocking upset.
Projected Series: Diamondbacks 3 Dodgers 2
NLDS: Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals
The Cubs and Nationals are two of the hottest teams in the National League and both have put it all together at the perfect time. This will be a hotly contested series but I think the Nationals’ superior pitching will be the difference in this series, though the Cubs will have something to say about that in Game 5.
Projected Series: Nationals 3 Cubs 2
NLCS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Washington Nationals
Two teams that are anything but traditional blue bloods throughout the history of Major League Baseball, Washington will be looking for the franchise’s first ever trip to the World Series, which includes their time as the Montreal Expos. However, momentum becomes a deciding factor when the playoffs come around as the 2016 Cubs, 2015 Mets, and 2014 Royals proved. I think the DBacks take this thing in 6 as their bats make the Nationals extraordinary pitching staff look ordinary.
Projected Series: Diamondbacks 4 Nationals 2
World Series: Arizona Diamondbacks vs Cleveland Indians
I have the Arizona Diamondbacks going from Wild Card darling to National League champions as they ride a big wave of momentum and appear in their first World Series since shocking the world in 2001. However, I think the Indians remind them who has been here before and the DBacks run out of steam and get stomped for what will ultimately be an uninteresting World Series, as the Cleveland Indians win the franchise’s third championship and first since 1948 in convincing fashion.
Projected Series: Indians 4 Diamondbacks 0
So congratulations to the Cleveland Indians on being my projected World Series champions. Get the champagne ready! Don’t agree with my picks? Let me know in the comments section or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10 and give me your angry feedback.