World Series Prediction: Anyone but the Cardinals

The 2015 baseball playoffs are in full swing. Unlike most pundits and fans, I have opted to make my selections for the World Series after the playoffs have already started.

This may seem a bit like cheating since the American League has already played two games in each Division Series and the National League has already played one. The fact is, it's not cheating. I simply ran out of time to get this done last week.

No of this changes the fact that my wish for the World Series hasn't changed. I'll enjoy this year's championship as long as it doesn't involve the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals finished this year with a record of 100-62. I believe they have been in the playoffs every year since 1892. No need to fact check that. It's a little known stat you won't find in the record books. The Cardinals have been in the playoffs so many times that they are automatically awarded the NL Central title on the first day of the season. That's how consistent they are.

In reality, since 2000, the Cardinals have been in the playoffs 11 times. Appearing in four World Series (winning two), the Cardinals have been a model of consistency. Pitching, hitting, coaching, you name it. The Cardinals do it right, with or without superstars. I don't even hate the Cardinals. I am simply tired of seeing them in the playoffs. It's time to let someone else have a shot.

That's because the Cubs, also a NL Central team, have put together a magical year a season ahead of schedule. Led by Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta (22-6, 1.77 ERA), the Cubs won 97 games and are looking to end a curse that has plagued them for far too long.

Trouble is, the Cubs are playing the Cardinals and are already losing the series 1-0.

One half of the other NL Division Series match-up is the New York Mets. The Mets have also arrived a year ahead of schedule. They won what turned out to be a weak NL East division thanks to dominating pitching performances and a slick defense.

The Mets were fourth in the NL in ERA (3.43) and their staff held opponents to a .243 batting average. I'll give you one guess as to which team had the lowest ERA in the National League.

The downfall of the Mets maybe an offense that disappears for stretches at a time. They ended up 7th in the National League in runs scored but only batted .244 on the season.

Finishing one spot behind the Mets in runs scored are their playoff opponents the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers battled injuries and inconsistencies on the offensive side all year as they won the NL West. Adrian Gonzales hit 28 home runs, drove in 90 runs, and hit .275 to lead the Dodgers but even he had his usual second-half struggles.

The focus of this series will be the pitchers, as witnessed in the Mets 3-1 game one win. Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and Jacob deGrom of the Mets became the first starters to both strike out 11 batters in a postseason game. This series promises to be a low scoring affair.

If you want hitting, you'll know doubt want to turn to the Toronto Blue Jays. They smashed their way to the AL East crown by scoring 891 runs, 127 more than the next closest American League team. MVP candidate Josh Donaldson had 41 home runs and 123 runs batted in to lead the Blue Jays. David Price was a nice mid-season pickup to bolster an average pitching staff.

A week ago I might have predicted the Blue Jays to club their way to the World Series. That was before they lost the first two games of their division series with the Texas Rangers.

In a theme all-too-familiar in this years MLB playoffs, the Rangers weren't even supposed to be here. When they traded for Cole Hamels in July, many figured the Rangers were simply loading up for next year. Trouble is, no one told the Rangers. Hamels certainly helped, as did the resurrection of Prince Fielder. After missing most of last year, Fielder hit .305 and drove in 98 runs in leading the Rangers to a 46-28 record after the All-Star break.

The Rangers second-half surge coincided with the second-half struggles of the Houston Astros. The Astros are another of these young teams with homegrown talent that perhaps arrived on the playoff scene a year early. They dominated the American League in the first-half of the season but only went 37-34 in the second half. Even worse was an 11-16 September in which the Astros posted a 4.88 team ERA.

They managed to pull things together in time to secure a AL wildcard spot on the final day of the season. The Astros defeated the New York Yankees in the wildcard game and took game one in the ALDS versus the Kansas City Royals before dropping game two.

The Royals ended up with the American League's best record, finishing at 95-67. They are looking to get back to the World Series a year after falling to the San Francisco Giants. Surprisingly, it has been the offense of the Royals that led them to the league's best record. They were 7th in the majors in runs scored (724) and third in batting average (.269). The pitching staff is still slightly above average, relying on a bullpen to secure victories to make up for a group of starters that ranked 24th in quality starts.

Looking at these brief overviews of each team, everything is pointing to the (yawn) Cardinals to win the World Series. Thirty years ago, the Royals beat the Cardinals in the World Series. The state of Missouri would no doubt love this match-up again in 2015. And the state of Missouri might be the only people to watch the World Series if that happens.

That's why I'm picking the Rangers to face the Cubs. One of these teams needs to get that World Series monkey off of their backs and this year will be that year. In fact, I'm taking the Cubs in six games. 2015 is their year.

Or maybe I've jinxed them. Then, the curse can be assigned to me and finally blame can be taken away from that poor goat.


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