Major League Baseball‘s postseason predictions are a lot like blind dates: We’ve all tried them at some point, but man, they rarely goes right.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying, right? So below, I’ve attempted to predict the entire 2016 postseason, knowing fully well that I’ll probably get everything all wrong. The MLB postseason is funny like that, but hey, maybe this is the year it all goes according to plan.

Maybe. Possibly. Hopefully. …


National League

If there is one thing I’ve learned since 2010, it is this: You do not bet against Madison Bumgarner in the postseason.

Maybe it’s his 7-3 record in the playoffs with a 2.14 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 77 strikeouts in 88.1 innings pitched. Or his three World Series titles. Or the fact that in the 2014 World Series, he started and won Games 1 and 5 (with a shutout in Game 5) and promptly returned in Game 7 to throw a remarkable five innings of shutout relief. 

In the postseason, there simply isn’t a pitcher you would want over Bumgarner. Not even Noah Syndergaard.

“You’re going to face great pitching in the postseason,” Mets manager Terry Collins told James Wagner of the New York Times, discussing the matchup against Bumgarner.

“We’ve got our hands full,” Kelly Johnson added.

But Yoenis Cespedes was undaunted.

“Everyone knows the quality of pitcher Bumgarner is, but the field has the last word,” he told Wagner.

Maybe. But more times than not in the postseason, when Bumgarner is on the field, the Giants win. It’s really that simple.

That being said, I’m not betting against the Chicago Cubs after the season they just had. The Cubs have a fantastic pitching staff, one of the best closers in the game in Aroldis Chapman, a talented lineup led by several superstars (take your pick of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell, to name a few) and incredible depth.

Joe Maddon is a mad scientist, meanwhile, and the Cubs will have home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs.

Or we could go the statistical route. The Cubs scored the second-most runs in the National League this year, were fifth in home runs and sixth in batting average. They also had the NL’s best ERA and batting average against, the most quality starts and were tied for first in shutouts.

No matter who they come up against—and I think they’ll face the Los Angeles Dodgers, who will benefit from not having to face Stephen Strasburg in the NLDS, in the NLCS—I think the Cubs are going to end their long title drought this season.


American League

While I feel confident in my National League pick, the American League is a bit more baffling. 

Let’s start with the Wild Card Round.

The Toronto Blue Jays won the season series against the Baltimore Orioles, though by the narrow margin of 10-9. They’ll have the home-field advantage in the win-or-go home contest, and the Orioles won’t be able to trot out their most consistent pitcher this year, Kevin Gausman.

On the flip side, the Orioles led the American League in home runs and have the game’s best closer this season, Zach Britton, who was perfect in 47 save attempts this year. 

If this game feels like a crapshoot, well, it probably is. In a completely non-analytical prediction—seriously, I’m totally guessing here and I’m not going to pretend otherwise—look for Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion to come up with some postseason magic in what could be their final postseasons with the Jays.

I’m not sure it will matter which team wins and faces the Texas Rangers, however. The Rangers posted solid stats across the board on offense, finishing third in batting average, fourth in runs scored and fifth in home runs. The team’s pitching was far less consistent, though Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish give the team an excellent one-two punch while Sam Dyson has locked down the ninth inning.

The Rangers have also been excellent in close games, though that doesn’t necessarily mean postseason success is on the horizon for the team. 

As David Schoenfield of ESPN wrote:

Rangers fans are convinced that the team’s 36-11 record in one-run games speaks to some kind of chemistry or clutch factor that bodes well for the postseason. Well, I can tell you that none of the teams that had the best record in one-run games in the past 10 seasons won the World Series.

Of course, it’s certainly better than being 11-36 in one-run games. I think the Rangers will beat either the Blue Jays or Orioles in the ALDS. I like their balance. But I also think that, regardless of the opponent, it will take all five games.

I feel more confident picking the Boston Red Sox to get past the Cleveland Indians and, ultimately, to reach the World Series. Part of that is Boston’s excellent offense, which leads the American League in runs and batting average. Part is a pitching staff that is third in batting average against and fourth in ERA and strikeouts.

But another major factor is that the Cleveland Indians have been decimated by injuries. A healthy Indians club might be able to topple David Ortiz and the mighty Red Sox. But I don’t see the Indians, as constructed, pulling off the feat.

Nor do I see Texas knocking off Boston. The Red Sox have the one-two punch of David Price and Rick Porcello to combat Texas’ Hamels and DarvishKoji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel are a nice combination in the last two innings, and the Sox come at opposing pitchers with waves of talented hitters, from Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia to Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts and Hanley Ramirez.

One other sneaky stat about the Red Sox: They are a solid 46-35 on the road. Texas’ home-field advantage won’t bother Boston. 


World Series

Look, I know the Cubs are the boring pick. Anybody can pick the club with the best record. But there are plenty of reasons to think that the Cubs may be the best team and still won’t win the World Series.

And yes, the “curse” looms large.

As one anonymous executive told Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Cubs will be facing far more pressure this offseason than any other team:

In the postseason, the pressure on both teams to win is usually about 50-50. But in this case… the pressure is on the Cubs every game, because of how well they’ve played, because of their record and, most of all, because of the expectations, especially in that city. If they lose one of the first two games at Wrigley, the pressure will be incredible.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, boast the game’s best offense. That will certainly play a factor.

“Their lineup is so deep and so good,” one AL executive told Stark. “The way they work counts, foul balls off, wear down pitchers, they’re just so good. And they hit good pitching.”

Another general manager told Stark:  “Boston’s offense is the singular best strength of all the teams.”

Fair enough. But Chicago’s hitting isn’t exactly chopped liver, and the team’s rotation is better. Chapman has been the far steadier closer down the stretch than Kimbrel and, honestly, the Cubs haven’t done anything on the field to suggest that they shouldn’t be the favorites to win the World Series. 

All season long, they’ve answered every question presented to them. Yeah, it’s the boring pick. But maybe, just maybe, it’s also the smart one.

Prediction: Cubs


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