All week long, we’ve been previewing the upcoming Major League Baseball season, and after picking our top teams, it’s time to crown a World Series champion.
For those that have missed an edition or two, here’s who we picked to be among the 10 playoff teams in MLB this season:
AL West Champion: Houston Astros
AL Central Champion: Kansas City Royals
AL East Champion: Toronto Blue Jays
AL Wild Cards: Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Angels
NL West Champion: San Francisco Giants
NL Central Champion: Chicago Cubs
NL East Champion: New York Mets
NL Wild Cards: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals
Now, with our picks locked in, it’s time to go through the playoff picture.
Wild Card Games: Boston over Los Angeles, Pittsburgh over Washington
The wild card contests are a total coin-flip, but we’ll try to take a stab at justifying the picks anyway. Boston will likely pitch David Price in a winner-take-all game, and although he hasn’t been able to really come through in the postseason during his career, the tide eventually has to turn for him.
As for Pittsburgh, they are one of the most complete teams in baseball, and even though we’re picking the Cubs to finish ahead of them in the Central race, a Gerrit Cole start in this game will be enough to knock off the Bryce Harper-led Nationals.
Division Series: Kansas City over Boston, Houston over Toronto, Chicago over Pittsburgh, San Francisco over New York
The Royals are a pesky bunch, and with Price throwing in the wild card game, they jump out to an early lead and bury the Red Sox. The Astros have a better pitching staff than the Blue Jays, and with the lineups closer in terms of ability, we’re picking Houston narrowly there.
In the National League, the Cubs will be able to set their pitching staff and have home-field advantage over Pittsburgh, giving them two critical edges to go along with their potent lineup, which can score in a variety of ways. The Giants may not have the horses in the rotation that the Mets do, but they’re defensively sound and their pitching is good enough to overcome a Mets’ offense that has been weakened a bit by the departure of Daniel Murphy, and the Giants move on.
Championship Series: Kansas City over Houston, Chicago over San Francisco
Much like the Cubs in 2015, one gets the sense that the young Astros may have a tough time figuring out how to deal with their opponent in a really tough series. With home-field advantage, we’re giving Kansas City the edge here.
In the N.L., the Giants have some serious weapons to deal with, including Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, but the Cubs are absolutely built for a playoff series like this. Jason Heyward could go bonkers at the cavernous AT&T Park, and Ben Zobrist could also help set the table for the rest of the Cubs’ power hitters.
World Series: Chicago over Kansas City
Look, we all know that the accusations of “bias” are going to be flung here, and it’s a totally reasonable conclusion to draw. But there’s one thing that has to be kept in mind:
The Cubs are the most complete team in baseball.
Sure, the Mets likely have a better pitching staff. Sure, the Royals are incredible defensively. Heck, the Tigers have a lineup full of mashers.
The thing is that Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein have seen numerous weaknesses in this club and have used free agency to shore them up. John Lackey is going to make the Cubs’ rotation really strong come playoff time. Zobrist and Heyward are the perfect guys to get on-base ahead of power hitters.
This team has everything they need to go far this season, and even though history suggests that picking the Cubs is a fool’s errand, it makes sense to crown them as the best team in baseball.