Can the Chicago Cubs kick the goat to the curb and break the curse? Is David Ortiz’s Hall-of-Fame career about to get a story-book ending? Do the San Francisco Giants have more even-year magic in them?
Who’s the favorite to call themselves the 2016 World Series champions? Let’s take a look.
Wild Card Round
Toronto Blue Jays over Baltimore Orioles
The AL East was brutally tough this year. All five teams finished in the top 15 of numberFire’s power rankings, and two of them were in the top six. One of those top-six teams was the Toronto Blue Jays, and that’s enough to put them over the Baltimore Orioles.
The big area that helped separate the Blue Jays from the Orioles is their starting pitching. Marcus Stroman had the sixth-best SIERA in baseball over the second half of the season, and Francisco Liriano’s SIERA dipped all the way to 3.04 in the month of September. The Orioles’ best starter was clearly Kevin Gausman, but he threw 106 pitches on Sunday, meaning the Blue Jays’ advantage here will only increase.
San Francisco Giants over New York Mets
It’s honestly just impressive the New York Mets made it this far, given the laundry list of injuries they’ve had in the starting rotation. Unfortunately, they run into a fully-healthy unit in the Giants that could pull through despite the trek across the country.
Obviously, Noah Syndergaard’s going to play a huge role in how this shakes out. He finished things on a high note in the regular season, striking out eight batters over six innings with no walks against the Miami Marlins, but his second-half 3.35 SIERA wasn’t quite on the same level of dominance he displayed before the All-Star break. Additionally, much of his value comes from his ability to get whiffs, but the Giants have the second-lowest strikeout rate in the league against righties. It should be a tight game, but the Giants do hold the edge when it comes to the power rankings.
Boston Red Sox over Cleveland Indians
This is a tough one for the Cleveland Indians for a bunch of reasons. Not only do they lose some gusto due to the injuries within their starting rotation, but they drew the worst possible card for their division-series opponent. This eliminates Cleveland, even though they enter the playoffs as numberFire’s fourth-ranked team.
If Cleveland’s starters can simply be respectable, though, and make this a battle of the bullpens, it’s pretty clear which side would hold the advantage. Craig Kimbrel’s fastball lost some zip in September with an average velocity of 96.9 miles per hour, down from 97.4 before that. He finished the final month with a 4.61 SIERA, and the Indians have both Cody Allen and Andrew Miller to fire as necessary. Cleveland’s down in the power rankings, but that doesn’t mean this is close to a sure thing.
Toronto Blue Jays over Texas Rangers
We’ve seen this script before, and we can only hope for a moment as ill what this series produced last year.
Another similarity to last year is the Texas Rangers’ low power ranking. They enter as numberFire’s 16th-ranked team, the lowest of any squad that made the playoffs. Their plus-eight run differential was just the third-best mark in their own division, and the Blue Jays topped them by 85 runs in that department. This makes their 95-67 record appear a bit fluky, especially when you consider their Pythagorean win-loss of 82-80.
One key element here not factored into the power rankings is the return of Shin-Soo Choo. Choo was limited to 210 plate appearances this year, but in that sample, he had a hard-hit rate of 43.2% and a 9.8% soft-hit rate. If the Rangers are able to keep up their winning ways and give the power rankings the nah wave, Choo could be a big reason why.
Washington Nationals over Los Angeles Dodgers
Similar to Cleveland-Boston series, this one is tough. The Los Angeles Dodgers scorched the ball down the stretch and got their rotation healthy, and they enter the playoffs fifth in the power rankings. They just run into the third-ranked Washington Nationals.
A pivotal game in this series will likely be Game 3, the first in Los Angeles. There, Gio Gonzalez is expected to get the ball for the Nationals against Kenta Maeda for the Dodgers. Not only does Gonzalez have a 3.45 SIERA since the start of August, but the Dodgers finished the regular season dead last in wRC+ against lefties. If the Dodgers can’t snag one of the first two games in Washington, this series could be done before it even gets back to Clayton Kershaw for a second time.
Chicago Cubs over San Francisco Giants
Finally, we get to peep the national darlings in the Cubs. Although the Giants put up a stiff test, sitting seventh in the power rankings, it’s not quite enough to derail this story just yet.
Further, these power rankings don’t reflect home field, and that will be a major factor in the Cubs’ favor. They had a 2.72 ERA at home this year, easily the best in baseball. The Dodgers were second at 2.97, and no other team was below 3.40. The Cubs’ ERA jumps to 3.60 on the road — still the second-best mark in the league — but this team will be a hard one to topple as long as they’ve got the ivy behind them.
Boston Red Sox over Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays got through to the ALCS by defeating numberFire’s 12th- and 16th-ranked teams, respectively, in the first two rounds. They don’t quite get that luxury against the Red Sox, and it’s enough to send Boston to their fourth World Series in the past 13 years.
The Red Sox finished the regular season atop the power rankings among AL teams with a 1.29 nERD. The Indians were second at 0.93, and the Blue Jays third at 0.83. Because of this, the Red Sox enter the playoffs with 19.2% odds of winning it all. With a league-leading 113 wRC+ and the 11th-ranked pitching staff in terms of SIERA, it’s hard to blame the algorithms for slobbering all over Big Papi’s compadres.
Chicago Cubs over Washington Nationals
This isn’t about the Nationals, who ended the regular season with the third-highest nERD in the league. It’s all about their opponents, and it’s just not a fair fight given the injuries the Nationals have suffered.
Not only are the Nats likely without Stephen Strasburg, who will miss at least the first round, but their offense has taken blow after blow recently. Wilson Ramos is out for the year with a torn ACL, and both Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper missed time down the stretch because of dings and dents. A fully-healthy group of Nationals would be an interesting unit against the Cubs, but as things stand right now, the Cubs are headed to their first World Series since 1945.
Chicago Cubs over Boston Red Sox
As you’ve probably noticed, we’ve been skirting around addressing where the Cubs sit in power rankings. That’s because they’re first by a country mile, and they’re heavy favorites to get Wrigleyville dancing in a few weeks.
As mentioned before, the Red Sox led the AL with a nERD of 1.29. The Cubs led all of baseball at 1.87, making them 0.58 runs better than the Red Sox on a neutral field, and no other team was above 1.00. It’s hard to overstate how dominant the Cubs were in the regular season.
Because of this, the Cubs enter the postseason with 28.2% odds of winning the World Series, making them the only team above 20.0%. The Red Sox come close at 19.2%, and then the Indians are third at 13.6%. Simply put, it’s the Cubs followed by everybody else right now.
Again, all of this is before we factor in home-field advantage, pitching matchups, changes in bullpen usage, and so on. But based on the regular season, the Cubs have themselves some dandy odds of finally breaking that century-long curse and sitting atop the baseball world.
|Boston Red Sox|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Toronto Blue Jays|
|New York Mets|
|San Francisco Giants|