After a six month regular season, the Major League Baseball playoffs are finally set. In the American League, the defending pennant champion Cleveland Indians take the top seed at a record of 102-60, followed by division winners Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox. The two wild card spots belong to the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins. In the National League, the Los Angeles Dodgers claim the top seed with an MLB best record of 103-58, followed by the Washington Nationals and Chicago Cubs. The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies round out the two wild card spots.
The New York Yankees enter the postseason led by rookie sensation and MVP favorite, Aaron Judge. In his first full year in the MLB, Judge set the rookie record with 52 home runs, as well as put up Ruthian numbers in runs batted in, walks, slugging percentage and on base percentage. Catcher Gary Sanchez contributed to his impressive sophomore campaign with 33 dingers of his own.
For the defending champions, Chicago Cubs, their 2017 roster does not look like the juggernaut that led them to the championship last year. That being said, the post All Star break Cubs team looked closer to their 2016 squad then at the beginning of the season. And as long as Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo are in that lineup, and Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester are on the mound, this team is a threat to anyone.
In the nation’s capital, the Washington Nationals are entering the playoffs years of failed expectations on their backs. For a team as talented as they are, the World Series has constantly alluded them. But like Chicago, the star power their roster boasters, from Bryce Harper to Daniel Murphy to Max Scherzer, makes them a contender for the crown.
The Cleveland Indians, who won a record 22 straight games earlier this year, enter the playoffs as 3-to-1 favorites to win the World Series, according to Vegas predictions. The Indians will be looking for redemption after blowing a 3-1 lead to the Chicago Cubs in last year’s World Series, widely considered to be one of the best World Series of recent memory. With AL Cy Young award favorite Corey Kluber on the mound and ace Andrew Miller anchoring the bullpen, it’s hard to argue with Cleveland entering October as favorites.
The LA Dodgers, who started extraordinarily strong but limped to the finish line, having lost 12 of their last 17, open at 7-to-2 odds to win it all. The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, the runaway NL Cy Young favorite and one of the best pitchers of the generation. Kershaw will need to have the same command he did in the regular season if they aim to return to the World Series for the first time since 1988.
The Houston Astros, sporting a 101-61 regular season record, enter as third most likely to win the World Series at 9-to-2 odds. The Astros’ success was something of a surprise this year, having missed the playoffs in 2016. They play fundamentally sound, mistake-free baseball and are captained by AL MVP favorite Jose Altuve, who led the league in batting average and hits this year. They have unquestionably the best offense in baseball, scoring an MLB-leading 892 runs, 35 more than the second highest total.
These three teams are the clear favorites as postseason baseball heats up, as far as the Vegas odds go. I predict the Cleveland Indians to defeat the Washington Nationals in the World Series. Cleveland has the best pitching staff in baseball between Kluber and Miller and has the third best offense in the MLB, statistically. They are a team without any real weaknesses—their only issue will be keeping healthy, as Miller and a host of other Indians toiled with injuries late in 2017.
Though Vegas thinks LA will be the one to battle Cleveland in the World Series, their awful September has me suspicious. Instead, I believe the Washington Nationals will defeat the Dodgers in the ALCS and march onto the World Series. They have one of the best players in the game in Bryce Harper, and they will be able to take advantage of the opportunities the inconsistent Dodgers will give to them. However, they’ll be no match for Cleveland. The Indians will roll in five games for their first World Series crown since 1951.