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Major League Baseball post season preview

The World Series is here. (AFP PHOTO / SAEED KHAN)
Roar Guru
7th October, 2015
6

It’s finally, here. After the long slog through the regular season, October means the Major League Baseball post season has arrived.

With 162 games in the regular season, it’s pretty hard to keep up with, so this article will give you a run through the 10 teams hoping to play in the Fall Classic, and why I think the Toronto Blue Jays are a shoe in for the title.

National League Summary
Qualifiers: St Louis Cardinals, New York Mets, LA Dodgers, Pittsburgh Pirates (WC), Chicago Cubs (WC).

The Central Division was the strongest in the League this year, with the top three teams all qualifying for the post season, separated by just three games.

Pittsburgh won a colossal 98 games – enough to win any other Division in the country – yet have been consigned to tonight’s Wild Card game against Divisional rivals the Chicago Cubs, who embarked on a phenomenal eight-game winning streak to see out the regular season.

St Louis entered the post season with a 100-62 win-loss record, the best in the Majors. Having sown up the Central Division though, the Cardinals are in a bit of a slump, losing their last three matches. They will hope to change their fortunes quickly when they play the winner of the Cubs-Pirates Wild Card in the NL Divisional Series, starting Friday.

Elsewhere, the New York Mets surged into the post season by wrapping up the East with a 90-72 record, while the LA Dodgers join them by winning the West – beating last season’s World Series Champions, the San Francisco Giants, by eight games.

American League Summary
Qualifiers: Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros (WC), New York Yankees (WC).

Last season’s pennant winners the Kansas City Royals were the pick of the American League, narrowly winning the League and Central Division with a 95-67 record.

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In the East, Toronto were the first team to secure their spot in the post season, sweeping aside their famous divisional comrades by winning 93 games to finish six games ahead of the Yankees who picked up a Wild Card spot.

In that Wild Card game, the Yankees were defeated 3-0 by the Houston Astros in the Bronx on Wednesday (Australia time), Dallas Keuchel picking up his first career Post Season win to go with his 20-8 record this year.

The Astros finished just two games behind the Texas Rangers (88-74) in the West Division to secure their Wild Card spot, and will go on to play the Royals on Thursday (US time).

The Post Season Preview
The Post Season is likely to come down to a pitchers’ battle. This is wholly justified when you look at recent history. The Giants won the World Series last year on the back of one of the most incredible post season pitching displays of all time from Madison Bumgarner.

This year will be no different – with several teams boasting pitchers with hugely impressive records.

The LA Dodgers have the best defence on paper, but will be hoping that Clayton Kershaw (ERA 2.13 with 301 strikeouts) can put his previous Post Season troubles behind him this year. With Zack Greinke (earning a league best ERA of 1.66) as backup, the Dodgers have two of the best starting pitchers in the league.

But Chicago Cubs ace Jake Arrieta has had one hell of a year too. Starting 33 games for a league high record of 22-6, the 6ft 4in right hander has pitched 229 innings this year, recording 236 strikeouts. Even more remarkable has been Arrietas form since the All Star break. Since the midpoint in the season, he has recorded an ERA of 0.75. This is an all time record, and only the second time in history that a pitcher has recorded an ERA below 1.00 in the second half of the season.

The 29 year old joins LA’s Greinke as only the third pair of starters since 1920 to post an ERA of 1.80 or better while pitching at least 150 innings. This is the first season multiple pitchers have achieved this since 1968.

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The rest of the Cubs bullpen will need to up their game to match their two aces, but when Arrieta is starting, I’d back the Cubs every time.

That’s not to say the other teams are deficient in pitching resources. The Pirates (team ERA of 3.21 – second in MLB), Mets (3.43 – fourth), Astros (3.57 – sixth) and Cardinals (2.94 – first) have all had strong seasons on the mound.

Despite the justifiable focus on pitchers, runs win games and the Toronto Blue Jays have by far the most devastating offence around.

Third baseman Josh Donaldson looks a shoe in for the AL MVP award, scoring 122 runs off 620 at bats this season. His 122 runs are the most in the Majors this season, with teammate Jose Bautista not far behind with 108.

In 2015, the Blue Jays have scored the most Runs Per Game (5.50), the most Home Runs (232) and the highest On Base Plus Slugging Percentage (.797) in Major League Baseball. Thats some serious fire power and teams will have to pitch seriously well to stop the Canadians taking the prize north of the border for the first time since 1993.

So who’s going to win?

In the NL I think it will come down to the Cubs and the Dodgers, in what will be a pitching duel for the ages. I think the Cubs could edge it in. In the AL, Toronto just look too strong, and will beat the Royals in a tight series.

With the American League earning All Star honours for the third year in a row – and therefore home advantage in the World Series – I think Toronto’s offence will be too tough to beat and be crowned World Series Champions in early November.

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