With the regular season entering its final weekend and a couple of races yet to be decided, it is time to make some predictions about the most unpredictable of postseasons. Baseball sometimes feels like less of a sport and more of a game of luck, with clear underdogs winning far more games than in any other sport, and goofy bounces sometimes having more of an impact on the game than the actual skill of the players involved. The MLB playoffs are truly a time when any team can win the whole thing, no matter how pathetically they stumbled into a title in a bad division. Unfortunately, this isn’t looking to be one of those years.
As much as I’d love to see a Cinderella story or some miraculous run by a team that’s never won it all before (Brewers and Rockies, I’m looking your way), I just don’t see it happening this year. My prediction is that the Houston Astros will bring baseball its first repeat champion since the delightfully hated Yankees teams of the late 90s (a wonderful era for baseball, if you like steroids and monotony).
The Red Sox may be the story of the year, having one of the best regular seasons of all time, but I think they’ll fall just short playing the Astros in the ALCS after hitting their way through the early rounds. The Astros pitching staff is just that good. Their team ERA at 3.13 leads the AL by over a half of a run and leads the entire MLB pretty generously. Chris Sale hasn’t shown his late season woes that have bit him in the past, so this could change things if he manages to put it together in the postseason this year. Still, the Astros have a more well-rounded pitching staff that should be able to handle the powerful Red Sox offense.
The Cubs, despite their horrific recent play, should roll through their weak NL opponents, annoying even more fans who want to see something interesting. They have the best mix of young talent and established veterans, and their NL-leading bullpen should help them eke out the close games, even if the offense is struggling (except for Javy Baez, of course). Sorry, Brewers fans, but even if the Crew manages to miraculously win the division on the last day of the season, the Cubs have the experience needed to knock off their neighbors to the north. No matter who has home field advantage in that series, Cubs fans will show up in droves, as is tradition.
The NL pennant, however, is as far as the Cubs’ magic will take them. A drawn-out battle against the rival Brewers and a pitcher-killing NLCS against the Rockies will leave them too battered to take on the powerhouse Astros. Houston, looking to get revenge on Chicago for the 2005 World Series that we all know never happened thanks to the top-notch reporting of ESPN, will bring out their brooms and sweep the Cubs quite handily. Baez will be the sole bright spot in World Series for the Cubs, as the other big bats fall silent and the starting pitchers falter.
So, there it is, the MLB’s first championship repeat since the 1990s. That’s also the decade that the Houston Rockets repeated, so there’s some sort of symmetry there, if you really stretch to find it.