ALCS Preview / Prediction

Cleveland Indians vs. Toronto Blue Jays

A lot of people have told me they no longer have interest in the ALCS because of the two teams in it. Sure, it wasn’t everyone’s prediction a week ago, but the two hottest teams in baseball are going to go best-of-7 to win the AL Pennant. Both teams swept their opponents in 3 games during the ALDS and both teams will have rested rotations with the extra time off.

Toronto hasn’t won a Pennant since 1993, and they went on to win the World Series that year. That was the year of the famous Joe Carter, Game 6 walk-off home run to win the World Series for the Blue Jays.

Everyone had high expectations for the Rangers and Blue Jays series with the history these teams have developed in the last year. The Jays swept Texas in 3 games. I thought the Jays would give them a series, but I didn’t see this coming. I don’t think many people saw Toronto advancing. They’re fired up now.

The Indians won their last Pennant in 1997 where they went on to lose in the World Series to the Florida Marlins thanks to a Game 7, 11th inning walk-off hit by Edgar Renteria. The Tribe hasn’t won a World Series since 1948, and you know they really want this one after winning the NBA title a couple months ago.

The Indians are coming into this series after sweeping the Red Sox in the ALDS and putting an end to Big Papi’s career just how Red Sox fans probably envisioned it. As AL Central Champions, they’ll get the home field advantage in this series.

Game 1: Friday, October 14th. Progressive Field

Corey Kluber vs. Marco Estrada

Game 2: Saturday, October 15th. Progressive Field

Trevor Bauer vs. J.A. Happ

Game 3: Monday, October 17th. Rogers Centre

Marcus Stroman vs. Josh Tomlin

Game 4: Tuesday, October 18th. Rogers Centre

Aaron Sanchez vs. Mike Clevinger

Game 5: Wednesday, October 19th. Rogers Centre (If necessary)

TBD

Game 6: Friday, October 21st. Progressive Field (If necessary)

TBD

Game 7: Saturday, October 22nd. Progressive Field (If necessary)

TBD

Cleveland Indians

The Indians showed everyone that they don’t need two of their best pitchers to be successful in the Postseason. No Danny Salazar, no Carlos Carrasco, no problem. Trevor Bauer wasn’t too sharp in his Game 1 start, but he did enough to get it to the bullpen, which was BEAUTIFULLY managed by Terry Francona. I’ll get to that in a minute.

Kluber out dueled David Price who always seems to struggle in Postseason starts and Josh Tomlin got through 5 solid innings to once again, pass the ball onto the beautifully managed Cleveland bullpen.

Had the series gone to a Game 4, I am not sure who the Indians would’ve put on the hill. This could be the only thing that concerns me with them going forward. Mike Clevinger is named as the 4th man in the Indians rotation for the ALCS, but he is penciled in for that start. If they need him out of the bullpen, they won’t hesitate to use him, causing the Tribe to run with 3 starters instead of 4.

If they run a 3-man rotation of Bauer, Kluber and Tomlin, then it makes me wonder about the consistency of Bauer and Tomlin. Factor in them going on short rest and it’s an even different game.

The Indians sured up their bullpen at the deadline. You’re all set with Cody Allen and Andrew Miller there to shut down any game. It’s so important come October. Ask the Giants about having a lock down guy in the late innings. They’ll preach that.

Terry Francona deserves all the credit in the world for his managing in the Boston series. Bauer was pulled after 4.2 innings in Game 1 and replaced by closer Andrew Miller. A closer in the 5th inning? Yes. And it is/was genius.

I’ve said that you should want to use your best relief pitcher in high leverage situations instead of saving them to get the final 3 outs of a game in a save situation only. Which is more impressive? A guy coming in when your team is up 1 in the 5th inning with the bases loaded and 1 out and getting out of that jam? Or coming in during the bottom of the 9th while you’re up 3 against the bottom half of the order?

Sure, these scenarios can change and you can’t predict the end of the game, but in the Postseason I want to get outs as easily as possible, and Andrew Miller is the way to do that. The best part is, he gets you out of a jam, and then still goes and other 1.2 innings on 40 total pitches. You can’t save the game if you don’t have the lead in the 9th.

Keep doing this Terry. The Tribe can very easily find themselves in a middle inning jam with guys like Edwin, Tulo and Bautista coming up while guys are on base. So go with the best guy to keep your lead. Don’t go to an innings eater who might give up the lead because the other team will then go to their best relief arms.

It goes back to the wild card with the Orioles keeping Britton in the bullpen and not throwing him at any point of the game. You can’t save your best arm just to hope he can close out a win. Use your best guy to put you in the best situation for winning.

If there was an ALDS MVP my vote (aside from Andrew Miller) would go to Jose Ramirez. I thought he had a fantastic series offensively and defensively. He hit .500 in the 3 games and was on-base at a .583 clip.

The offense is there. The defense has been sharp. The bullpen on lock-down. The question for me is the rotation. If the Blue Jays jump on any of the Indians starters in the first 3 games and the Indians are forced to use Clevinger, they could run away with it.

They’ll be facing one of the best rotations in the American League this year. It’s definitely a step up from Boston’s rotation, but as I said, Cleveland wants this one.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays will show you that if you don’t bring A+ pitching every game in the Postseason it can really hurt you. 10 runs in Game 1 off Cole Hamels in Texas. They went on the road and came out with a bang. Everyone in their lineup contributed. The big headline of that game aside from all the hitting was starter Marco Estrada.

Estrada wasn’t the ideal Game 1 starter when you have Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ, but he took the ball and went 8.1 innings giving up 4 hits and 1 run. That instantly set the tone for the rest of the series. Estrada has been named the Game 1 starter for the ALCS.

J.A. Happ gets Game 2, wild card starter Marcus Stroman Game 3 and Aaron Sanchez Game 4. I think the Jays match up nicely and have the advantage over Cleveland in this series especially come Game 4.

If it’s Clevinger and Sanchez then Sanchez has the upper hand. If it’s Kluber on short rest and Sanchez then I’m still taking Sanchez.

The bats won’t be a concern in this series. Donaldson hit .538 in the ALDS, Encarnacion hit .417, and Tulo hit .462. You don’t get a rest with this line-up, and when guys like Melvin Upton Jr. start hitting home runs, you’re in some trouble.

My biggest concern for the Jays going into October was the bullpen. They erased any doubts I had against the Rangers. Joe Biagini, Brett Cecil, Jason Grilli and Roberto Osuna were fantastic. Francisco Liriano was brilliant out of the pen in the wild card game. He saw action in Game 2, but took a line drive off the head and was taken to the hospital. Thankfully he only has a minor concussion and should be able to go by Game 2 of the ALCS.

John Gibbons has been using Osuna in tough situations as well. He won’t bring him in during a mid-game jam, but he didn’t hesitate to use the closer to record a 5-out save in Game 2. Osuna has gone more than 1.0 inning in each of his Postseason appearances in 2016. And once again, why not? Use your best guy as needed. Don’t keep him waiting and be left with him waiting.

There was some concern he was overused late in the season in the final Postseason stretch. He struggled with fatigue which got him lifted from the wild card game sooner than Gibbons would’ve preferred, but he waived it off and came back ready.

I never worry about Toronto’s offense. Their starting rotation was one of the AL’s best this year. Solid defensive play. Great bullpen as of late. They’re where they need to be heading into this series.

Prediction

The two teams played 7 times this year with the Indians taking the season series from the Jays 4-3. This series could easily go 7 games again, but I am taking the Blue Jays in 5.

There is something you can feel right now with the Blue Jays and I don’t think it can be slowed down. I like the way their starters stack against the Indians pitchers. Plus they’ll be looking for redemption after losing in the ALCS last year to the Royals.

 

 

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