The 2016 regular season is over, and the field is set for the MLB playoffs, which begin Tuesday.

The postseason field was largely set heading into Sunday, with a handful of games determining the last few wild-card spots.

The Toronto Blue Jays beat the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, 2-1, denying Boston a chance to host Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Cleveland Indians. Toronto earned a wild-card spot earlier in the day following the Detroit Tigers’ 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves.

The Blue Jays will host the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday to determine who faces the Texas Rangers in the ALDS.

In the National League, the New York Mets will host the San Francisco Giants on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the NL Division Series against the Chicago Cubs.

Below is a look at the 2016 playoff schedule and two lingering questions surrounding a World Series contender from each league.


2016 MLB Playoff Schedule


Postseason Storylines

Can the Indians Overcome Injuries to Key Players?

Nobody was happier than the Indians to see the regular season end, since it means they can go a few days without another important player getting hurt.

Cleveland has played the entire season without one of its best hitters, Michael Brantley, while Yan Gomes has been limited to 73 games. Just when the veteran catcher was nearing his return, he fractured his wrist on his rehab assignment in September.

As if that’s not bad enough, Carlos Carrasco is out for the postseason, while Danny Salazar’s availability is still up in the air. Oh, and Cy Young Award contender Corey Kluber suffered a quad strain as the regular season drew to a close.

Relief pitcher Andrew Miller talked about how a total team effort helped compensate for all of the injuries, per’s Paul Hoynes: “It’s not the bullpen, it’s not the defense, it’s not the offense, it’s not the starting pitchers. This team just finds a way. I don’t remember what [manager Terry Francona’s] quote was exactly, but he made an awesome quote about a week ago when he said, ‘We’ll figure it out.'”

Miller and his fellow relievers will be a big factor in whether the Indians advance to the American League Championship Series and beyond. Cleveland paid a steep price to acquire the dominant lefty, and this is when he’ll be expected to deliver.

A great bullpen can take a team a long way in the postseason. Just ask the Kansas City Royals, who rode their late-inning relievers to a World Series title in 2015.

As a whole, the Indians bullpen is among the best in baseball:

Cleveland isn’t devoid of offense. Mike Napoli hit a career-high 34 home runs this year, while Francisco Lindor is one of MLB’s top shortstops. Jose Ramirez continues to exceed expectations and deliver in the clutch.

The starting rotation has been a big reason for Cleveland’s success, though, and it’s impossible to win in the playoffs without good pitching. With Carrasco out and questions over Salazar’s and Kluber’s health, Francona will need to rely on his bullpen.

Hoynes already penned an obituary for the Indians’ World Series title hopes, illustrating the level of despair in Cleveland.

Francona has done a great job of working around the team’s injuries, and a number of players have stepped up to fill the void.

The Indians shouldn’t be written off, but their outlook doesn’t look promising.


Do the Cubs Live Up to the Hype?

Few teams in recent years have had higher expectations than the 2016 Chicago Cubs, and they’ve performed as expected.

They won 103 games and were the first team to clinch a division title (Sept. 15) this season. On an individual basis, Kris Bryant is the favorite to win the National League MVP Award, while the Cubs have two pitchers—Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks—in the top five of’s NL Cy Young predictor.

When the Cubs hired president of baseball operations Theo Epstein in 2011, it was perfect. After helping the Red Sox end their title drought, Epstein was taking over the most historically snakebitten franchise in baseball. The Cubs couldn’t have found anybody better to break their supposed curse.

When he joined the club in 2015, manager Joe Maddon explained how the work of Epstein and the front office was starting to bear fruit. He added Chicago found the perfect combination between the two schools of player development, per the Chicago Tribune‘s Mark Gonzales:

It doesn’t happen everywhere. It’s not like this everywhere. The way it has been built, the attention to detail, the human side. It’s not just numbers. There’s a very human side to all this. It’s a great balance. You have to strike a balance.

Any form of extremism is a bad moment, whether it’s liberal or conservative. Extremism is not good. There’s really a balance to be struck, especially in the business world and in our industry. Sometimes it tends to want to gravitate to either side and not understanding that both sides do matter right now.

Last year’s National League Championship Series sweep at the hands of the New York Mets was a disappointing outcome. But most fans kept the result in perspective.

The Cubs won only their second playoff series since their 1908 World Series triumph. In addition, last year’s trip to the playoffs was a look at what’s to come.

All of the stars are aligning for Chicago. Epstein has assembled a World Series-caliber roster, and in Maddon, the Cubs have one of the most tactically astute managers in the big leagues.

The team showed its desperation when it acquired Aroldis Chapman at the trade deadline. Presumably, the Cubs’ window for success extends beyond this season. With that said, failing to collect a World Series ring would be a terrible way to end an otherwise great campaign.


Note: Stats are courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise noted, and the full playoff schedule is available on

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