“Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”
Well, we’re sure not Angels here at TCB, so here are our picks for the other ALDS champion.
Originally our staff considered writing our picks for the Astros/Indians ALDS. As it turns out, none of us are are disloyal enough, illogical enough, or maybe brave enough to pick against our beloved Stros, So instead we will speculate on who will emerge as the Astros opponent in the ALCS, starting with the Wild Card game and then the winner of the other ALDS.
Universal caveat: In a one game series like the Wild Card any team could win, even the Baltimore Orioles. And even in a five game series, luck often decides the outcome. So we fools at TCB will try to pick the Astros’ opponent in the ALCS. And whoever among us who is right is a genius, right?.... Nah, probably just lucky.
bilbos: Red Sox
The three prospective Astros opponents can all mash the baseball with about equal proficiency, but they also all come into the playoffs with questions on the pitching side. All three teams have team ERA’s over the last month and last fourteen days significantly higher than their season averages. For the Red Sox Chris Sale, David Price, Craig Kimbrel and Rick Porcello are all limping into the playoffs.
Similarly, for the Yankees Masahiro Tanaka is slumping again at season end, joined by David Robertson and Aroldis Chapman.
The A’s staff, overachieving peripherals all year, is finally seeing regression from the likes of Brett Anderson, Shawn Kelly, Trevor Cahill, Mike Fiers and most disastrously Lou Trivino. Given their vulnerable starting pitching, the sudden loss of depth in the bullpen could be a fatal Achilles heel for the A’s.
Therefore, I like the Yankees in the Wild Card Game. First, they have two legitimate TOR starters in J.A. Happ and a recently rejuvenated Luis Severino, along with enough bullpen depth to back them up, especially Zach Britton. The Yanks certainly have the bats to get to whomever the A’s put out as a starter, and with their recent bullpen woes the A’s likely don’t have the depth to succeed with the tandem opener/bullpen approach.
I have been high on the A’s since they took 3 out of 4 against the Astros in June, but although still swinging the bats, the A’s staff peaked a few weeks too soon.
For the ALDS I have to take the easy choice and pick the Red Sox, in large part because of home field advantage and that the Yankees will have burned one of their few reliable starting pitchers in the Wild Card. Both teams come in with problems with both their starting and relief pitching, so I expect a lot of runs from two teams that know how to bomb. And despite its recent woes, the Sox staff is better from a season average standpoint, so if these staffs regress to their season averages, clear advantage Red Sox.
One caveat. The Yankees have been playing without their Ruthian slugger Aaron Judge in the second half until recently. He has not yet regained his form, but if he gets hot during the ALDS he could change the whole chemistry of the Yankees and perhaps the balance of the series... If.
Chris Perry: Yankees
The Wild Card game is interesting because it features two of the top four MLB offenses (the Astros clock in at #5, by runs scored, and the A’s and Astros are tied at #3 in wRC+ with two other clubs), and an even match in overall pitching, by runs allowed. This is a hard game to predict because I believe it will be determined by the starting pitching, and the starting pitcher for each club is guaranteed to be a recycled veteran having a surprisingly good year. For the A’s, it will be Mike Fiers, Edwin Jackson, Trevor Cahill, or Brett Anderson. Seriously. That reads like the rotation of a last-place fantasy baseball club. The Yankees will throw Masahiro Tanaka or J.A. Happ. Personally, I’m rooting for Fiers vs. Happ, for the “former Astros” angle.
My pick is the Yankees, who will go with a slightly more patient and powerful lineup, and I just can’t trust the A’s rotation.
The resulting ALDS should be interesting; the Red Sox have scuffled in the last month and also feature a rotation that after Chris Sale prompts some eyebrow-raising skepticism. I would take the Yankees over the Red Sox (‘dat bullpen!) but the Red Sox over the A’s (‘dat rotation...).
It might seem weird to pick against the winningest club in baseball, but I like the Yankees’ lineup versus a likely starting rotation that posted a non-Sale ERA of around 3.80 during the 2018 regular season.
Hebrew Hammah: Yankees
When you look at run differential, the top 6 teams in order are: Astros (263), Red Sox (224), Yankees (187), Cleveland (174), Dodgers (172), and finally the A’s (137). It is telling 5 of the top 6 are in the AL play-offs. So who do I think will be our ALCS opponent? The Yankees.
Why? Well, the Yankees are coming in hot, having a outscored their opponents by 19 in their last 3 games, which had 1 game against the Rays and 2 against the Red Sox, and having won 7 of their last 10. Which is the best of all our potential opponents. They also set the all-time record for Home runs tonight, and were the first team to ever get 20 home runs from all 9 spots in the line up, living up to the Bronx Bombers name.
The playoffs are a roll of the dice, and having a hot hand makes a huge difference. The Yankees have a stacked team that had some key injuries hamper their performance this year. They come into a tough 1-game playoff with the A’s, but if they can make it through that, the beat up Red Sox could be very vulnerable.
Exile in St. Louis: Red Sox
“I hate to be boring, but the Astros will face the Red Sox in the ALCS. The Red Sox have been a dominant team. They have a lineup that wears people out. They have very good starting pitching. Although it’s not as good as the teams playing on the other side of the AL bracket, it’s much better than what the Yankees and A’s can throw out. The Yanks don’t have mojo, and have mostly been owned by the Red Sox this year. The A’s have been grinding away for months, and I suspect some of their guys are exhausted. Whatever team wins the WC, it will face a rested, hungry team with home field advantage, that happens to have the best ML player in 2018 (Betts) and the most dominant (when healthy) starter in Sale.
Although in my ex-Astro dream scenario, Laureano throws out a Red Sox at the plate to end the series and elevate Daniel Mengden, on the basis of a stellar long relief appearance, to folk hero status, I think it’s more likely in any such dream that JD Martinez crushes whatever mediocre arm he faces from the Yanks or A’s.
Scottydouble: Red Sox
AL Wild Card: Oakland Athletics @ New York Yankees, Wednesday, Oct. 3, 8 p.m. ET
New York: The Yankees find themselves in a similar position as last year: Hosting the Wild-Card game against an unexpected postseason participant. The Yankees can mash the ball (most home runs as a team all-time) and have one of the deepest bullpens in the league. A question mark is how much will the Yankees get from their starter?
Oakland: The Athletics have been the biggest surprise in baseball this season. What the A’s do best is play defense, and that is largely influenced by their star third-baseman Matt Chapman. But the A’s can also mash. Khris Davis leads MLB in home runs and the team ranks third overall. Oakland—which also has one of the best relief corps in the league— may also try to turn this into a bullpen game.
Prediction: What a fun matchup this should be. We saw last year how imposing that Yankee Stadium crowd can be in the playoffs (I was actually in attendance for Games 3 and 5 of the ALCS) and it helped New York crawl out of an early hole against the Minnesota Twins in last season’s AL Wild-Card game. Oakland has a postseason score to settle with the Yankees and if the A’s didn’t play in the Bay Area, I’d be more inclined to root for them (I despise the Warriors). But they do, and the game is being played in NYC, so I’m taking the Yankees to advance, 7-4.
AL Division Series: New York Yankees @ Boston Red Sox, Starts Friday, Oct. 5
New York: If the Yankees do advance, they will find themselves in another familiar position: On the road, facing the team with the best record in the American League in a 5-game series. Last year, the Yankees fell into an 0-2 hole against the Cleveland Indians before storming back behind Didi Gregorius and Co. to win three straight and stunningly advance to the ALCS. Some of the Yankees stars (Aaron Judge and Gregorius) are dealing with or returning from injury, and that may be a key factor in this series.
Boston: Offense has been the major strength for the Red Sox all season (akin to last year’s Astros squad). Boston leads the Majors in runs, RBI, OBP, SLG, is second in stolen bases, and third in K%. The pitching staff has been pretty good for the Red Sox this season, too, but fatigue and health issues seem to be cropping up after 162 games. Can Cy Young-candidate Chris Sale overcome his past playoff struggles, and which version of David Price will we see?
Prediction: Yankees-Red Sox is definitely what the television networks want, and I gotta be honest, it’s what I want to see as well. Boston-New York is a long and storied rivalry involving two of baseball’s most legendary franchises, and it is typically good theater. Beyond the entertainment value of this series, advanced stats suggest the two teams aren’t separated by much. Whether you use their Expected W-L derived from ESPN or Pythagorean W-L, the teams are only separated by a few games (not the massive divide reflected in the standings). The Yankees have fared decently against Boston this year as well, minus a four-game sweep in early August at Fenway. But the Red Sox starting pitching dwarfs New York’s, in my opinion, and Boston’s offense is just too strong for a bullpen to handle over the course of a series. It’ll be a great series, but I’ll take the Red Sox over the Yankees in 5 games.
Theo: Red Sox
Betting on the outcome of one game in baseball is a good way to go broke quickly, and betting on best-of-five series aren’t going to save you that much in the long run. While both of those are true, it’s definitely still fun. I’m going to mostly go with my gut on these as a result, so let’s see if last night’s leftovers give any predictive powers.
Wild Card Game: I’d like to see the Athletics pull out a surprise win over the Yankees, as I don’t really have any bad blood against them other than general divisional rivalry, I like several of their players (I even got to interview Chad Pinder and Sean Manaea the year they played in the Cape Cod League), and I’m generally sick of the Yankees at this point. I think their lineups are pretty close, so there’s a good chance it’ll come down to the starting pitcher, which definitely favors the Yankees. They have numerous good options to pick from, while the A’s will mostly be trying to find the least-bad match-up. It could still happen, but it’ll take someone (Trevor Cahill maybe?) throwing the game of his life.
Red Sox-Wild Card Winner: The Red Sox are just so good this year that it’s hard not to pick them, especially against a team that will have blown their best starter in a Wild Card game. Anything can happen in a short series, and there are plenty of questions about Chris Sale to be worried, but I’ll stick with Boston this series.
AstrosFuture: Red Sox
I’ll take Oakland in the Wild card over the Yankees. I like Oakland’s bullpen and they seem to have timely hitting. The yankees are dealing with some injuries as well.
I don’t expect the A’s to get past the Red Sox though. The Red Sox offense has too much firepower. And the top of the rotation for the Red Sox is solid too. So I expect to see an Astros vs. Red Sox ALCS!
I know I’m probably going to hear it in the comments section for this one but my pick is for an AL West ALCS.
Wild Card: The two teams are having similar months to close out the season, but I think that ultimately relief pitching will give the A’s a slight edge as they squeak by the Yankees. While it’s not clear who will start for NY as of this writing, I don’t expect the starters to go deep on either side and once you get into the bullpen Oakland has an advantage. Not to mention that there’s the slugging factor and with that short porch in right field I can see Khris Davis and indeed several of the A’s prodigious sluggers popping a few balls out. While the Yankees certainly can as well, their offense is a little banged up and I don’t expect as much production out of key contributors Judge and Didi. Oakland Wins 6-4
ALDS: I know the popular pick here is the Red Sox but I think people are putting too much weight on their regular season record as opposed to recent performance. Boston’s pitching, which has been a strength most of the season, has had some issues in recent weeks. Sale and Porcello are big question marks in their rotation right now even with Cora expressing confidence in both. Eovaldi and Price have been sharp this month, but I think that Oakland can get back to California with a split and once in their home park they can fend off the Sox. Like in the WC game, I believe that Oakland’s bullpen will end up being the saving grace for them across the series since I don’t see Boston’s starters, except for Price, going deep thanks to general October desperation. Oakland Wins Series in 4 Games.
Spencer: Red Sox
There is no easy road to the World Series in the AL, no matter your draw. Both Boston and Houston, the presumptive favorites to reach the ALCS, will have their hands full with their first-round opponents despite markedly better regular seasons. I feel comfortable projecting an A’s win in the Wild Card game- the Yankees have the same roster composition issues as they have the last two seasons, making them a dubious postseason pick in my estimation. With Luis Severino struggling somewhat in the second half, they lack even one starting pitcher who inspires confidence in a playoff setting. When picking playoff series/games, I weight starting pitching over all else, and while Oakland may not have a rotation full of household names, I think that likely starter Mike Fiers can give them 4 or 5 solid innings (twice through the lineup) before turning things over to the outstanding Oakland bullpen to finish the job. This game feels similar to the 2015 Wild Card game between the Yankees and the Astros, and I think the AL West will prove victorious in New York again.
It’s for more or less the same reasons that I project a Red Sox win in the ALDS- the Boston rotation may not be on the level of Houston’s, but they have a clear advantage over Oakland in this area and they project for more offense in a typical series as well. For the A’s to prove victorious their bullpen will need to be next to flawless, and that’s not something I generally like to bet on, even as good as the A’s back-end has been. I would be surprised by a sweep, but I’d also be surprised if the Red Sox played an elimination game in the first round. My prediction is that Boston takes games one and two at home, and Oakland defends their home field in game 3 before dropping an elimination game 4, ending an outstanding season that has solidified them as the primary competition to the Astros in the AL West.