Library of Congress

2017 Playoff Predictions

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The playoffs are weaponized randomness. The one-and-done Wild Card games are like Russian roulette, only with worse odds. As such, the sorts of caveats we offer with our usual regular season predictions apply even more so now. Picking playoff winners is a fool’s errand. Luckily, we here at HardballTalk are not afraid to look foolish.

As a general observation, the Indians strike us as the strongest team in the AL. Both Bill and Ashley like the Nationals in the NL. I’m less sure about that, even though it wouldn’t surprise me if they advanced. I just think the Cubs look a bit stronger than them and that the Dodgers have figured out their late season problems and will finally move past the NLCS. For what it’s worth, Ashley picked the Nationals to win it all way back in March. Bill picked the Dodgers. I picked the Cubs to repeat. At least Ashley has the courage of her long-held convictions. Bill and I drift with the wind. Men, right?

Anyway, here you go. If you place actual wagers based on these predictions, God help you.

CRAIG

AL Wild Card: Yankees over Twins

NL Wild Card: Diamondbacks over Rockies

ALDS1: Astros over Red Sox in 5
ALDS2: Indians over Yankees in 4

NLDS1: Cubs over Nationals in 5
NLDS2: Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 5

ALCS: Indians over Astros in 6
NLCS: Dodgers over Cubs in 6

World Series: Indians over Dodgers in 6

 

BILL

AL Wild Card: Yankees over Twins

NL Wild Card: Diamondbacks over Rockies

ALDS1: Astros over Red Sox in 4
ALDS2: Indians over Yankees in 4

NLDS1: Nationals over Cubs in 5
NLDS2: Dodgers over Diamondbacks in 3

ALCS: Indians over Astros in 7
NLCS: Nationals over Dodgers in 6

World Series: Indians over Nationals in 5

 

ASHLEY:

AL Wild Card: Yankees over Twins

NL Wild Card: Diamondbacks over Rockies

ALDS1: Astros over Red Sox in 5
ALDS2: Indians over Yankees in 3

NLDS1: Nationals over Cubs in 4
NLDS2: Diamondbacks over Dodgers in 4

ALCS: Indians over Astros in 5
NLCS: Nationals over Diamondbacks in 6

World Series: Nationals over Indians in 6

The Astros gave the Yankees an opening. Keuchel and Verlander will try to close the door.

Associated Press
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If Game 4 of the ALCS had been even remotely conventional, it’d stand at 3-1 in favor of Houston right now. The Yankees’ starter pitched well but got no run support. A mighty Astros team with an ordinarily good closer in Ken Giles had a 4-0 lead in the late innings. As the Yankees set out to mount a comeback, a base runner fell down in between first and second and should’ve been dead to rights. This is playoff baseball, however, so stuff, as they say, happens. The runner was safe, the closer struggled, the Yankees rallied and now we’re tied 2-2.

But are we even at 2-2?

On paper, no, because the Astros now will send Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander out in Games 5 and 6, and that gives them a clear advantage. Keuchel dominated the Yankees in Game 1, tossing seven scoreless innings and striking out ten batters. Verlander struck out 13 batters in a 124-pitch complete game in which he allowed only a single run. Beyond the mere facts of the box scores, however, the Yankees have looked profoundly overmatched by both of the Astros’ aces, in this postseason and on other occasions on which they’ve faced off against them. Most notably in the 2015 wild-card game at Yankee Stadium when Keuchel pitched six scoreless innings in the 3-0 victory.

But remember: stuff happens.

Stuff like Aaron Judge‘s and Gary Sanchez‘s bats waking up. The two most important sluggers in the Bombers lineup combined to go 3-for-6 with two doubles, a homer, a walk and five RBI in last night’s victory. Each of them had been silent for the first three games of the series but if they’re heating up, the Yankees will be a lot harder to pitch to.

Stuff like Masahiro Tanaka showing that he can tame the Astros’ lineup. Which he did pretty well in Game 1, giving up only two runs on four hits in six innings. He was overshadowed by Keuchel in that game, but it was a good performance against a strong lineup in a hostile environment. Tanaka pitches much better at Yankee Stadium than he does on the road, so don’t for a second think that the Astros bats will have an easy time of it today.

Stuff like the Yankees bullpen still being the Yankees bullpen. Yes, the Astros got to David Robertson yesterday, but it’s still a strong, strong group that gives the Yankees a clear advantage if the game is close late or if they hold a lead.

All of which is to say that we have ourselves a series, friends. While, 48 hours ago, it seemed like we were on our way to an Astros coronation, the Yankees have shown up in a major way in Games 3 and 4. If you’re an Astros fan you should feel pretty confident with Keuchel and Verlander heading into action over the next two games, but we have learned that absolutely nothing is guaranteed in the postseason.