The 2016 season was historic with two teams who had a long drought of not winning the championship as the Cubs and Indians squared off in the fall classic. Cleveland, on the strength of their bullpen, jumped out to a 3-1 series lead. Chicago had their backs against the wall and over 100 years of losing to break. Which they did with wins in game five 3-2, game six 9-3 behind their bullpen where the Cleveland bullpen got tired. Game seven was a classic for all time going into extra innings before the Cubs put up a pair in the 10th and held on to win 8-7.
What will the 2017 season in baseball bring? If it’s as exciting as the World Baseball Classic won by the USA, it will be filled with a bunch of dramatic moments and tape measure home runs. With some of the players ramped up and in midseason form they will be performing at a high level and make for a full season of quality play.
The American League is an interesting draw as the Central will go to Cleveland as they are the defending AL Champs and only got better adding Edwin Encarnacion. Kansas City still has its core players, but lack quality pitching. Detroit is in the same boat, but getting older and will make some noise maybe good enough for a wild card. Minnesota and Chicago White Sox are rebuilding. The West and East are wide open with plenty of teams loaded up and ready to bust out the bats and take the division. Texas is the defending division champs, though Seattle and Houston were right there for a playoff spot, but fell short in 2016. LA Angels were 74-88, but have a decent team to turn that around and make a run if they improve on their road record from last year of 34-47. Oakland is still rebuilding as they came in last place last year at 69-93. The East was the best division in baseball with four teams over .500 with Boston taking the top spot and adding Chris Sale in the offseason. Baltimore was second and are always solid with Machado leading the offense and Showalter at the helm. Toronto is also strong and re-signed Batista, but lost Encarnacion and replaced him with Morales. Toronto’s main strength is their pitching. The Yankees got younger and the youth gave them the shot in the arm they needed to finish 2016 above .500 at 84-78. Within 2016 they shredded some age and picked up a lot of prospects in trades. The Yankees brought back Chapman to solidify the bullpen and look to get big years from the baby bombers. Tampa Bay finished last and have a good young team, but they go with how well their pitchers do.
The National league will be a bit status quo with the East being a two-team race between Washington and the Mets. Miami, Philadelphia and Atlanta will be better than last year, but not enough to make the playoffs. The Central is the Cubs and everyone else like last year as they won the division by 17.5 games. The main question is can St. Louis or Pittsburgh make any noise in the division or wild card? Milwaukee and Cincinnati are still in rebuilding mode as they are a few pieces away from making a run. The West is going to be wild again this year as the Giants and Dodgers will continue their back and forth rivalry and be jockeying for first place position all season long. Colorado, San Diego and Arizona are going to improve closer to the .500 mark after all finishing 12+ games under .500. The biggest question isn’t who will make the playoffs, but who will finish where, the division winner or wild card?
The playoff teams will be Boston winning the AL East on the strength of their pitching and clutch hitting, Cleveland dominating to an AL Central crown with minimal competition, Texas taking the West with strong hitting and timely pitching. The wildcards will be the Yankees and Toronto. In the NL Washington takes the East, Cubs take the Central and San Francisco will play two solid halves of the season to take the West. The wild card winners will be LA Dodgers and NY Mets. The Yankees will win the wildcard play-in game to take on Cleveland who are just too veteran and the Yankees are a year away from serious contenders. Texas and Boston will go five games in the ALDS with Texas winning at home to advance to the Championship series. Cleveland and Texas will have an offensive ALCS with Cleveland returning to the World Series with some unfinished business. The NL playoffs will playout with the Mets winning the wildcard game over the Dodgers in an epic pitcher’s duel and setting up a showdown with the Cubs. Washington and San Francisco will have a great five game battle with San Francisco winning games Bumgarner starts, but it will be Washington winning in five. Chicago will have a tough time scoring against the quality pitching of the Mets who will advance to a divisional match up with Washington. Washington, having seen the Mets and their pitching 19 times during the regular season, will be poised to jump on the hitter’s pitches as Daniel Murphy has a monster series carrying the Nationals to the World Series. World Series match-up of Washington vs. Cleveland will be a great series, but Cleveland’s advanced hitting and deep bullpen will lead them to erase the memories of last year by winning the World Series in six games.
Written by Frank Jordan of VegasTopDogs.