By Matt Straub
Ok, let’s try this again.
A year ago, despite what I believed was well thought out, reasoned arguments for my picks, I got just about everything wrong during the 2014 baseball playoffs. This time, with so many even series, picking the playoffs might be even harder than it was a year ago. If you know anything about me, however, you know I’m more than willing to put myself out there and make a prediction, even if it blows up in my face.
But we’ll talk about the Mets later. Today, let’s break down the American League Division Series.
Texas Rangers vs.
Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays are among the hottest teams in baseball, which makes sense since they put together a video game roster this summer. They were already competitive, then they added David Price and Tory Tulowitzki. The Blue Jays’ rotation is so deep Mark Buehrle, who finished the year with a 3.81 ERA despite getting hammered in an ill-fated start on short rest Sunday in an attempt to get him to 200 innings, might not even get a start in the postseason. Toronto’s bullpen isn’t great, but it is deep, meaning the Blue Jays are never out of a game.
The offense, however, is what makes the Blue Jays special. They have a murder’s row for a lineup which will test every one of the Rangers’ pitchers.
The Rangers, meanwhile, are playoff-tested already, having stormed past Houston, then hanging on in the final week to win the West. They have done a remarkable job without Yu Darvish. Their ace now is Cole Hamels, who struggled since coming over at the deadline but raised his game Sunday to help seal the division. He has a ring and will be a perfect foil for David Price.
Texas might have bigger names in its rotation, making this series a fascinating one. Toronto has more stars, but the Rangers might be deeper on the mound.
Matt’s pick: Toronto in 4
Brad's Pick: Toronto in 5
vs. Kansas City Royals
The network executives are sobbing, but for a baseball purist this one could be fun. These are two teams who want to run and use their athleticism instead of a parade of stars. Houston’s offense is conducted the way a kid would play MLB The Show: hit a homer or strike out trying. When they are on base, however, they’re threats to move.
Kansas City is known for stealing everything except first base. They’ll play small ball, move runners and use situational hitting. The Astros, meanwhile, are looking to hit the ball out of the park, making this a fascinating contrast in styles. Both teams can run, but Houston’s athleticism shows more often on defense. In fact, both these teams might be more fun to watch in the field than at the plate.
Houston struggled mightily down the stretch, but did well to find a way to make the playoffs. Like Texas, Houston has already proven itself tough enough for the postseason. I have picked against Dallas Keuchel twice in big games and he made me look silly, so I think it’s now time to officially call him an ace and not just someone who had a great year. Scott Kazmir hasn’t pitched well in his last couple of starts but is a hard-throwing veteran who can help the other young pitchers along.
Where Kansas City has the edge in its pitching depth. The rotation and bullpen are both full of fireballers and is much deeper than what Houston has. In a series which doesn’t have a lot of exciting offense, that will be the difference.
Matt’s Pick: Kansas City in 4
Brad's Pick: Kansas City in 3