September 2016: Looking Forward to The World Series

We’ve reached the most exciting part of the year! It’s the end of baseball season – we are looking forward to who could win the World Series.

You know there is always some type of “playoff magic” to look forward to. What team is going to make a special run? Then there’s the award debates- do you pick Betts or Trout? Could this be a historic year where a reliever wins the Cy Young?

These are all questions that are creating debates across the country.

But, before we dive into those debates, we should take a moment to cherish the loss that was Jose Fernandez.

Jose Fernandez

Baseball lost one of its elites in a boating accident on September 25, 2016. He had an incredible story that led to his time in the Majors.

Fernandez grew up in Cuba and is rumored to have attempted to escape Cuba as many as 14 times.

His final attempt was successful and including heroic efforts to save his mother’s life. After she had fallen off the boat, he dove into the water to rescue her. About 7 years later, Fernandez made his major league debut.

He was one of the greatest pitchers of his era, Fernandez passed away at 23 years old. He is first all-time in K/9 from 20-23 years old.

To be sure it was a reasonable we further isolated the stats to include pitchers with at least 300 innings pitched.

Fernandez finished his career with an 11.25 K/9. For comparison purposes, you should remember that Randy Johnson had a career 10.61 K/9 and Pedro had a career 10.04 K/9. To say Fernandez was a special pitcher would be an understatement.

Multiple sports personalities that knew Fernandez closely said that he was all about enjoying life. Eduardo Perez said that Fernandez created an infectious joy that spread to his friends and teammates on a daily basis.

The Marlins found that there was a bump in attendance – to the tune of 30,000 fans when Fernandez pitched.

I’m sure part of that is Fernandez’s dominance, but the reality is, many of the Latino fans felt like they knew Fernandez personally.

One of the most moving pre-game ceremonies you’ll ever see happened in the Marlins’ first game after Fernandez’s death.

Every Marlin wore a Fernandez jersey. The stadium was silent as the team stood by the mound- which had the number 16 painted on the back.

Multiple players rubbed dirt on their leg- paying homage to Fernandez never using the rosin bag, because that didn’t make sense to him.

In a show of love and emotion that may never be matched on a baseball field, the players stood, listening to a single trumpet play “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” which could have sent chills down your spine.

After the song was played, both teams met at the mound to embrace each other, showing solidarity and appreciation for attempting to move forward.

The Marlins team knelt at the mound; many players in tears, as they listened to Giancarlo Stanton offer his insight and inspiration.

Fighting back tears of his own; Stanton said something along the lines of “We’ll all come together and help each other out. We’re going to do this somehow. Just put your hand on somebody if somebody is struggling, pick them up. And we’re going to find a way to do this. I love all you guys.”

It’s quite touching to hear that type of raw emotion on the field as a teammate has tragically passed. Stanton is typically a man of very few words, so to hear him “rally the troops” is all the more powerful.

Fernandez was a part of that city, and a face of the franchise, and Stanton couldn’t have put it at better- they had to do it, somehow.

The Marlins found a way to move on (with a leadoff HR and a victory, I might add) and so did Major League Baseball. The playoff battle continued, the Vegas odds were run, and the stars continued to dominate.

September was a month full of bright, young stars. The brightest star in the league seemed to be Gary Sanchez (at 22 years old) who is pushing for AL rookie of the year. He may fall short, but it certainly won’t be because of how well he played.

In September, Sanchez had 9 HR, 14 Runs Scored, and 21 RBI. That had him tied for 4th in HR, 9th in RBI, and 11th in Runs Scored. He struggled with a .229 average, but has a respectable .303 average on the year.

After struggling at the beginning of the season, Byron Buxton seems to have put it together. In September, he had a .286 average with 7 HR and 18 RBI.

That put him, squarely, at second among rookies for the month in HR and RBI.

The real shining star of the season has been Trea Turner who has converted from a middle infielder to a Center Fielder.

Trea Turner

He’s done quite well, especially with the transition happening at the Major League level, in the middle of a season.

In September, Turner had a .321 average with 13 extra-base hits. He finished second among all rookies with 17 runs scored and led rookies with 11 steals.

He showed the ability to play well in every aspect of the game and showed the world that he deserves consideration for Rookie of the Year.

Turner’s primary competition for NL Rookie of the Year is Corey Seager who finished September with a September with a .294 average, 8 extra-base hits, and 10 RBI.

He struggled with power a bit, and some would argue that pitchers are adjusting to him.

I would argue that he’s just not hitting the ball as far, but you can’t call a .294 average struggling by any means.

What is truly interesting is to see teammates who are able to push each other to be the best player possible. Arizona is a perfect example of this.

Before this year, there have been a total of 5 teams that have had 2 players with 20 HR and 30 SB in a season. The Diamondbacks may be team #6 to do so.

Jean Segura has already reached those marks (20/32) and Paul Goldschmidt is on the brink of doing so (23/29).

What is really interesting is projecting the Diamondbacks into next year- AJ Pollock could be the third player on their team to reach those numbers. That would be a first in Major League History.

Likewise, there are teams who know what they do well and specialize in just that. The Baltimore Orioles currently have 250 HR which puts them 5th all-time for a single season. However, these Orioles realize that they aren’t a very fast team.

They’ve currently got 19 steals which is tied for the 5th least number of steals in a season. 19 would be the least a team has stolen in 44 years!

Given that the Orioles are leading for the AL wildcard as of the this writing, I guess you should applaud them for their ability to know their strengths and weaknesses.

The Cubs are great at a lot of things- 3rd in Runs, 2nd in OBP, 1st in ERA and Shutouts. There is one thing that most people would guess the Cubs are great at- getting hit by a pitch.

Chicago Cubs

Surprisingly, they’re historically great at HBP. In baseball history, there are only 11 eams to have at least 90 HBP (Coincidentally, all hae occurred since 1996- ‘roid rage maybe?).

The Cubs have 96 HBP which is 3rd all time. Shockingly enough, they’re only 7 away from the record. I don’t see that being broken, but it’s a rather surprising accomplishment.

The Cubs are also the first team to ever have at least 1400 strikeouts and a team ERA of 3.15 or lower. The closest team to those stats would be the 2015 Cubs.

In fact, no other team has had 1400 strikeouts with an ERA of 3.50 or lower.

It looks like the Cubs may have the key to an elite team- good ERA, strikeouts to get out of a bind, and OBP to help score runs.

Of the 9 teams that have ever had 1400 K’s and an ERA below 4.00, the average record is 90-72. That record would guarantee a spot in the playoffs this year.

Let’s take a look at the other teams that are looking forward to October.

Boston locked the division up with about 1 week left in September when they went to Baltimore and won 4 games in a row. That was good enough to put the Sox at 5-2 against the Orioles in September alone.

They’ve won their division with an elite offense (most runs scored in baseball, 8th in HR, 1st in Avg. and OBP) and above average pitching (9th in ERA, 8th in WHIP).

Cleveland has a top 5 offense (4th in runs, 6th in average, 7th in OBP) and a top 10 pitching stave (7th in ERA, 10th in Quality Starts).

The Indians haven’t been on fire as of late, but more so maintained their lead as they kept their .579 winning percentage in the month of September with a 15-11 record (.577 winning percentage).

The Rangers have been one of the best teams in baseball since the beginning of April. That’s largely due to their offense (6th in Runs, 5th in Avg) being able to consistently produce run support for their pitchers.

Their pitching has been about average at best (22nd in ERA, 7th in Quality Starts). The pitching has been great, but is quite consistent (Starters ERA: 4.4, Relievers ERA: 4.39). That may not be enough to get it done in the playoffs.

Washington has used elite pitching (2nd ERA, 4th in Quality Starts, 3rd in Batting Avg. Against) with good, not great hitting (9th runs, 17th in avg., 10th in OBP).

Some would say that the Nationals season swung in their favor when they went 6-1 in a two week span against the Mets.

They’ve made an interesting run as they had 19 games against division opponents. Those games didn’t matter as the Nationals already had a big lead.

The Cubs may have won their division in the off-season, but they did have to actually play. They’ve had an elite offense (3rd in Runs, 2nd in OBP) and an even better pitching staff (1st in ERA, 1st in Quality Starts, 1st in OBP allowed). The Cubs need to win the World Series.

This is one of few times that I truly believe a franchise is in an “all or nothing” situation. They’ve waited too long and faced too many “curses” over the years for them to falter when they’re easily the best team in the league.

The Dodgers may the new Yankees of Major League Baseball. There is one team that has a higher payroll than the Yankees- the Dodgers.

Not only are they higher, the Dodgers payroll is almost $42 million higher than the Yankees.

The average of the other 5 division winners is $168,507,328, meaning the Dodgers’ payroll is roughly $100 million higher than the rest of the division winners. Saying they bought the division isn’t entirely fair though.

They have an average offense (13th in runs, 17th in OBP) but have elite pitching (4th in ERA, 2nd in OPB allowed) despite letting Zack Greinke walk in the off-season.

They’ve had timely hitting that worked its way through close games because of their elite pitching staff. Adding Rich Hill at the all-star break only improved all of that.

Now, we look at the likely wildcard teams. As of the writing of this article, the Orioles lead the Wildcard race by 1 game.

For them to miss out on the wildcard, they’d have to lose each of their last two games while, both, the Blue Jays and Tigers win their final two games.

Given the Orioles resurgence (16 wins in September), mixed the Blue Jays’ struggles (11 wins in September, only won back to back games twice in September) the Orioles should be fine.

The Tigers did manage 14 wins and back-to-back victories on 4 occasions in September.

In the NL, the Mets have a 1 game lead on San Francisco. Like the Orioles, the Mets would have to lose both games to be out of a wild card spot.

Seeing as the Mets have scored 5+ runs in 7 of their last 8 games, I don’t see that happening. The one game that they didn’t score 5 was the Jose Fernandez game.

With the Mets averaging 7.6 runs per game over their last 8, I feel pretty confident in saying that they’ll win at least one of their last two.

Likewise, the Giants have been on fire offensively scoring 7+ in 3 of their last 4 games.

The Cardinals (1 game back of the Giants) have scored 7+ in 2 of 4, but have also only allowed a total of 10 runs in 4 games. In short, the final 3 days of the season are going to be very entertaining.

So, let’s look at playoff predictions

American League

Wild Card

Orioles vs. Tigers – With how he’s been pitching, I can’t argue against Justin Verlander. That’s just one of the downfalls of a 1 game playoff.

Especially given that he will have 1 week’s rest before the start. Tigers, decidedly.

ALDS

Rangers vs. Tigers

I’d love to offer game-by-game scenarios, but I’m not sure that we have that type of knowledge. Both teams have a great offense, but I like the Tigers pitching significantly more than the Rangers.

The Rangers are only scoring .08 runs per game more than the Tigers. They’re allowing .18 runs more. In a short series, that doesn’t seem like much, but I think the Rangers’ bullpen blows at least 1 lead and the Tigers have the best pitcher (Verlander) and the best Hitter (Cabrera) in the series.

When the game is on the line, I trust the best athlete on the field. Those players are in Detroit. The Tigers win 3-2.

Red Sox vs. Indians

It’s saddening to say that I don’t see this series close at all. Kluber/Carrasco/Salazar vs. Price/Porcello/Wright sounds like a great series, but that’s not what the series is going to be.

In reality, you’re hoping to see Kluber start game 1 (the Indians are saying he “should” be ready. With Carrasco and Salazar both out, Bauer is the second pitcher, and then it’s a bit up in the air. Right now, it looks like Josh Tomlin, then back to the top of the rotation.

Given how good the Sox hitting is and the fact that they’ll, essentially, be facing starters 1, 4, and 5 in the first three games, I don’t like the Indians Chances. 3-1 Red Sox.

ALCS

Red Sox vs. Tigers

This is the matchup that dreams are made of. Based on how the rotations work out, it seems that both teams will be able to start with their ace and move on from there.

We can look forward to matchups of Price/Verlander, Wright/Fulmer, and Porcello/Pelfrey. I think the Sox make Porcello their third starter because that gives them a better chance to steal 2 out of 3 games.

Both offenses are elite, and they’ve got great pitching, so there’s no guarantee that anyone can predict what will happen.

I’m going to put my money on the Red Sox.

They’ve been here more often and they know how to get it done. Besides, how can you not hope for Big Pappi to win the Series in his final season? 4-2 Red Sox.

National League

Wild Card

Mets vs. Giants

In what will shock many, I think the Mets manage to beat the Giants. Syndergaard is able to match Bumgarner in a pitching duel for the ages, and I don’t think the Giants are able to take advantage of Syndergaard with steals.

Given the offensive onslaught that the Mets have had in recent games (7.6 runs per game in their last 8), I think they’re able to make it through the WC game. The Mets win 3-2.

Cubs vs. Mets

The Mets were able to write a magical story to the World Series last year, largely because of Cespedes and Murphy, but do they have it in them again this year? Sadly, I don’t think so.

With the Mets using Syndergaard in the WC game, they’ll be missing their ace in game 1. What’s worse, the Mets #3 and #4 have a combined 15 career MLB starts.

So, you’re, likely, looking at Arrieta/Colon, Lester/Lugo, and Syndergaard/Hendricks. While Lugo is 5-2 with a 2.67 ERA, I don’t see him matching Lester who has been in the situation before.

The Mets offense is going to have to continue to be elite, and I don’t see it happening against the best pitching in baseball. Cubs win 3-1.

Dodgers vs. Nationals

Despite the lack of competition between these two teams during the season, I think this will be a great series.

The Nationals are a great team with great pitching, and they took advantage of being able to pick up a guy like Daniel Murphy.

These teams met 6 times in 2016. The Dodgers went 5-1, including 2-1 in Washington D.C. The only game that the Dodgers lost was the game where they were locked down by Gio Gonzalez.

In my opinion, Gio should face Kershaw in game 1, but I doubt that happens. Realistically, you’re looking at Kershaw/Scherzer, Hill/Gonzalez, Maeda/Roark, repeat.

I think the Dodgers’ pitching is able to stifle the Nationals bats. The Nationals manage to steal two games and make it a great series. Dodgers 3-2.

Cubs vs Dodgers

Now this is what October baseball is all about. The most expensive team vs. the best team in baseball. With the way MLB sets up the post season, I see both teams getting to start with their ace.

Arrieta/Kershaw is a generational quality matchup. Arrieta has been the more notable pitcher this season. I would imagine part of that is due to Kershaw’s DL stint.

However, Kershaw has allowed more than 2 ER twice in 20 starts this season. Arrieta has done so 12 times this season. When looking at games with 1 ER or less, Kershaw 11 has and Arrieta has 14.

So, it’s going to be an interesting matchup between the two, and could be the defining moments of the series as they’ll face off twice. Even after the two aces, it’s going to be a pitcher’s series.

So, it comes down to which team is able to scrape together enough runs to win. I think that’s going to be the league-leading offense of the Cubs. Cubs 4-2.

World Series

Cubs vs. Red Sox

What a story, Theo Epstein’s new team vs. his old team. Big Pappi may get to ride off into the sunset with one more ring. At one point, the two most cursed franchises in baseball. Now, they face off, to see who the best is.

The Sox boast the best offense in baseball and the Cubs are right on their heels. The key difference is the .89 runs per game fewer that that Cubs have allowed.

The Cubs also have a Quality Start (6+ IP, 3 or less ER) 15% more often than the Red Sox. The Sox went 14-6 in Interleague play, while the Cubs managed 15-5 in interleague play.

In almost every aspect of the matchup, the teams are nearly tied.

So, let’s look at the matchups from the pitch staff. After all, pitching wins championships. Arrieta, Lester, and Hendricks all have reason to argue for the Cy Young award. Shockingly, Arrieta may have the worst season with a (whopping) 3.10 ERA.

When the third pitcher on your team has an ERA of 1.99, you’re doing something right. Let’s not forget that Lester has a 2.85 post season ERA I n14 starts.

The Red Sox boast a former Cy Young winner of their own in David Price. Even in a season where he went 17-9, Price had a, relatively high, 4.04 ERA.

The Cubs have 12 pitchers with a better ERA and at least 25 innings pitched. The Sox do boat 5 players with 20+ HR (the record is 7). They also have 8 batters with an OBP of at least .350.

So, in short, this is going to be an incredible series. I don’t see it being any shorter than 6 games. I think the Cubs get a huge advantage by having Hendricks pitch the first game in Boston.

Having a pitcher who doesn’t allow runs start in a hitter’s park should do them some good.

I think Chicago finally breaks “the curse” and wins the series 4-3 in Chicago with Aroldis Chapman striking out the side to march into the history books.

What do you think will happen this season? Who will create the magic moving forward? Who is going to be 2016’s Daniel Murphy? I hope you’ve enjoyed our recaps throughout the year.