After over 2,400 games, Major League Baseball has narrowed its field to ten teams. In a month, one of these teams will be hoisting the World Series Trophy, the leagues premier awards will be handed out, and baseball will delve into another long and cold offseason. Before the end, the Unbalanced Baseball writers have made their predictions on who the hardware will land with at the end of the 2017 postseason.
Our World Series Champion Breakdown:
Cleveland Indians—Matt Delfino
The Indians’ starting pitching, bullpen, and their ability to compete at home and on the road will carry them to a World Series victory. The Indians relievers had the lowest FIP and xFIP this season, at 3.20 and 3.41 respectively. They also have second-highest groundball rate among the remaining teams behind the Diamondbacks. Their starting pitchers have a higher K/9 rate and a lower BB/9 rate than any of the remaining teams. Their entire pitching staff has the lowest ERA at 3.30. The Red Sox are the only American League team the Indians do not have a winning record against. The Indians are 5-1 against the Astros this year, 6-5 against the Twins, 3-5 against the Red Sox, and 5-2 against the Yankees. The Indians have a 49-32 record at home, and a 53-28 record on the road. That away record is tied for the best in baseball with the Houston Astros, who have a 48-33 home record.
Bringing back nearly the same team they had last year, the memory of 2016 is fresh in the minds of the Indians. With their bullpen depth, stellar starting pitching, and an offense led by Ramirez, Encarnacion, Lindor, and Jay Bruce, I predict the Indians will be your 2017 World Series Champions.
New York Yankees—Matt Mocarsky
I picked the Yankees to win the World Series, despite the fact that that can be eliminated in a flash Tuesday night. That’s why the odds are so low on them, as they should be. Putting aside the complications of a one game playoff, the Yankees are just as dangerous a team as any, should they advance.
Here’s a fun fact about the Yanks: they have nine full time players who recorded a wRC+ over 100. In the American League, only the Astros can make the same claim. Luis Severino, Sonny Gray, and Masahiro Tanaka are a top three that you can confidently go into the playoffs with. As for their bullpen? They only posted the best strikeout rate ever in the history of baseball (29.1%).
With that strikeout rate up to 33.9% in September, their relievers show no signs of slowing down. All of their starters are hot, including Masahiro Tanaka, who struck out 15 in his most recent start. On the offensive side of the ball, led by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, they tied for the best wRC+ mark (120) in all of baseball in the month of September. Remember the Indian’s 22 game win streak with a run differential of 220? They only managed to tie the Yankees in wRC+.
After the Indians, the Yankees had the best run differential in all of baseball. According to Pythagorean BaseRuns records, the Yankees were a 101-102 win team that got lucky. You can get an even better argument from Travis Sawchik over at FanGraphs, but they are absolutely a juggernaught.
Los Angeles Dodgers—John Edwards
You can take it or leave it, but the Dodgers are the best team in baseball. In a wild, rough and tumble NL west division where three (Three!) of the teams qualified for the postseason, just like the NL Central, the Dodgers still won 104 games. By fWAR, the Dodgers have both the best offense and the best pitching of any team in the NL. Their bullpen (which, as I’ve emphasized time and time again, is a huge factor in the postseason), is also the best in the NL, and manager Dave Roberts has been unafraid to use postseason relief strategies (like the ones we saw implemented with Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman). The Dodgers are stacked from top to bottom.
Even then, their odds of winning the World Series are still relatively small. Even by virtue of being the best team in the postseason, the Dodgers still don’t even have a majority odds of winning the World Series. It’s the nature of the postseason—the postseason is less than a month of games, and whoever takes home the Commissioner’s trophy isn’t necessarily the best team, simply the “hottest” team over the span of October. But when it comes down to it, the Dodgers are the most consistently good team, and have the best odds of being "hot," hence, they’re my pick to win it all.
Houston Astros—Mitch Bannon
As random as the MLB playoffs are, the best teams almost always manage to rise to the occasion. This year's Houston Astros will be no different.
The Astros have exactly what it takes to catch lightning in a bottle and win 11 games on their way to the World Series title. A rotation anchored by Ace Dallas Kuechel and Ace 2.0 Justin Verlander has been deadly down the stretch. If the Astros manage to get quality outings from at least two of Brad Peacock, Lance McCullers Jr., and Colin McHugh they will be able to leave the heaving lifting to their potent offense and dynamic bullpen. With SIX 4+ WAR hitters, the Astros had the best run scoring offense in baseball this season. With MVP candidate Jose Altuve teaming up with Springer, Correa, Gonzalez, Bregman, and others, their lineup has and will be tough to navigate for even the best pitchers the MLB has to offer. Ken Giles will need to be great, and Chris Devenski is likely to be heavily leaned on as well, but the Astros bullpen has what it takes to be the final aspect of this championship calibre team.