Who’s Ready for an Indians-Cubs Rematch?

The final question mark of the postseason matchups was answered with the Red Sox’ 6-3 win over the Astros Saturday night, giving Boston the AL East crown, relegating the Yankees to the Wild Card game. With first pitch of the 2017 postseason coming Tuesday at 8pm, it’s time to rank the field 11-1, and it looks like we’re gonna have our first World Series rematch since the Yankees and Dodgers faced each other in 1977 and 1978. Given how incredible last year’s series was, that’d be great, thanks.

 

#11. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

OK, fine, they didn’t make the playoffs, but Mike Trout is so good it seems foolish to count them out.

#10. Minnesota Twins

You hate to dismiss these guys because what they’ve accomplished is amazing. Not only did they become the first team to go from 100 losses one season to the playoffs the next, they did it despite management seemingly throwing in the towel and selling at the deadline; and having All Star slugger Miguel Sano on the DL for the last six weeks of the season. Sano is finally back, but it’s unclear he’ll even be added to the postseason roster. Staff ace Ervin Santana has been crazy lucky this season with a .247 BABIP covering up the fact that he’s surrendered 31 homers, and he has a spotty October record to say the least. Despite appearances to the contrary, Byron Buxton can’t get to every ball, but you should tune into the Wild Card game just to watch him, he’s amazing.

#9. Colorado Rockies

They’ve got a rotation full of promising young talent, but no shut-down ace, and despite the fact that Rockies litter the NL offensive leaderboards, their lineup is weak as they have .703 OPS on the road, where they play just .500 ball. Charlie Blackmon is the Coors poster boy with 13 of his 14 triples and 24 of 37 home runs coming at home. The Rockies have also been outscored 101-69 in 19 games against Arizona, their opponent in the Wild Card game.

#8. Arizona Diamondbacks

Zack Greinke very quietly added to his Hall-of-Fame resume with another 6-WAR season, leading a staff of starters with no weak links. Paul Goldschmidt continues to do it all, and JD Martinez has been on a homer binge for the ages, but the rest of the offense leaves much to be desired. Arizona is among the top three in extra-inning wins and one-run wins, which means they’ve been winning with some slim margins, that kind of luck tends to run out.

#7. New York Yankees

Lost in all the surprise over how quickly this team has come together is the fact that they have the second-best run differential in baseball. Aaron Judge just finished one of the great rookie seasons of all time, setting rookie records for homers, walks and strikeouts, and leading the American League in all three plus runs scored, and this despite going into a two-month slump that saw him K 86 times in 242 PA with a .197 batting average. Luis Severino, meanwhile, has emerged as an ace, and Aroldis Chapman has regained his all-world form. Nobody wants to face these guys. The only reason they’re ranked this low is because they have to play in the Wild Card game against Minnesota, for which they’ll have to use Severino, meaning he won’t be able to go in the ALDS until game three against Cleveland.

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#6. Boston Red Sox

They went on a 14-3 tear that started on September 5 and gave the faithful hope that maybe the ship had been righted, but leaks have been springing ever since then. Mookie Betts has been battling inflammation in his wrist, Eduardo Nunez has been hobbled by a bum knee, and ace Chris Sale has a 4.09 ERA, fueled by 13 homers over his last 66 innings. A week ago these guys would’ve been a dark horse candidate to make a run, now…? That said, their .540 winning percentage against teams at or over .500 is third-best in baseball. Their secret weapon will be David Price, who is just back from injury, and doesn’t yet have the stamina to start, but has been electric in five appearances out of the pen, retiring 26 of the 32 batter he’s faced in eight-and-two-thirds innings.

#5. Washington Nationals

One could easily put the Washington Nationals at number three, but then one might recall the concise analysis of ESPN’s Sam Miller: The National League stinks. According to Miller, when you adjust their winning percentages to reflect strength of schedule, the Nats are a 93-win team, while the ‘Astros are 104-win team. The Nats have the best trio of starters in baseball in Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg, but Scherzer left his final start of the regular season with a hamstring cramp in the fourth inning – if he’s less than 100%, the Nats are gonna have trouble. Luckily they have NL Pitcher of the Month for September, Stephen Strasburg, to step in, givign Scherzer time to heal. Meanwhile, the lineup is riddled with questions and holes. Is Bryce Harper 100%? Can Trea Turner deliver? Can the Grim Reaper hold off on collecting Jayson Werth’s baseball soul? Will Matt Wieters ever hit again? That said, Harper, Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, and Daniel Murphy can do enough damage to go deep in the playoffs.

#4. Los Angeles Dodgers

It’s seems impossible that this team went on a 52-9 run earlier this year that was promptly followed by a 9-22 skid. They do feature the best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw, but he’s yet to really get it done in the postseason. The lineup is the best in the NL top-to-bottom, featuring Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, but they’ve posted a .710 OPS over the last six weeks. But, the rotation is loaded and they were good enough for long enough that they’ve got home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, so who knows?

#3. Chicago Cubs

They struggled mightily for the first half of the season, but they’ve been the second-best team in baseball since the All-Star break, gong 49-25 with an MLB-best .811 OPS and a 3.78 ERA that’s seventh-best. Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo remain the best corner combo in baseball, while catcher Wilson Contreras has been outstanding. Jake Arrieta regained his form down the stretch, as has Kyle Hendricks since coming back from 6 weeks on the DL, and they still have an amazing bullpen. Let the title defense begin!

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#2. Houston Astros

This offense is so balanced that they have an MLB record eight guys who’ve played 100+ games with an OPS+ over 120. They led the AL in runs, hits, doubles, batting average, OBP, SLG, and total bases. They have the best double-play combo in Carlos Correa and presumptive MVP Jose Altuve, and their only weak spot is, ironically, at DH, where Carlos Beltran appears to have finally run out of steam – but given that he’s among the greatest postseason hitters ever, maybe he’s wort keeping around. Adding Justin Verlander at the deadline was a huge boost to a rotation that had been a little thin after ace Dallas Keuchel. These guys would be the favorites in a lot of other seasons.

#1. Cleveland Indians

But this is 2017, and the Cleveland Indians are playing like a team possessed. Following a June 14 loss to the Dodgers, the Indians were 31-31 — since then they’ve set the Major League record* for consecutive wins and gone 71-29, including 32-4 down the stretch. 3B Jose Ramirez finally emerged as a star this year, and Francisco Lindor struggled early, but was the driving force of the winning streak. But what sets these guys apart is the pitching. Corey Kluber has emerged as an MVP candidate by going 18-4 with a 2.27 ERA, Carlos Carrasco has bounced back to have his best season ever, and Trevor Bauer has managed not to cut his finger off with any of his toys. And then there’s the bullpen, led by the phenomenal Andrew Miller (1.47 ERA, 92 K’s in 61.1 innings) and backed up by Zack McAllister, Nick Goody, Dan Otero, and Cody Allen, who combined for a 2.86 ERA in 239 innings. These guys lost one of the most heartbreaking game sevens in World Series history 11 months back, they’re ready for redemption.

 

Tuesday

Minnesota Twins vs New York Yankees

8pm ET on ESPN

 

Wednesday

Colorado Rockies vs Arizona Diamondbacks

8pm ET on TBS

 

Thursday

AL Wild Card Winner vs Cleveland Indians

7:30pm ET on FS1

 

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

4pm ET on FS1

 

Friday

Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals

7:30pm ET on TBS

 

NL Wild Card Winner vs Los Angeles Dodgers

10:30pm on TBS

 

Boston Red Sox vs Houston Astros

2pm ET on FS1

 

AL Wild Card Winner vs Cleveland Indians

5pm ET on FS1

 

Saturday

Chicago Cubs vs Washington Nationals

5:30pm ET on TBS

 

NL Wild Card Winner vs Los Angeles Dodgers

9pm ET on TBS

 

Sunday

Cleveland Indians vs AL Wild Card Winner

TBD on FS1

 

Houston Astros vs Boston Red Sox

TBD on FS1

Watch the MLB playoffs on FS1 by subscribing to Sling Blue; on ESPN by Subscribing to Sling Orange; and on TBS by subscribing to Sling Blue or Orange

All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference

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