League Championship Series Preview

Following a fairly unevenly-matched Division Series round, the MLB playoffs have advanced to the semifinals: the League Championship Series. This year’s American League matchup is between the #1 seeded Boston Red Sox and the #2 Houston Astros, and the National League matchup will be between the #1 seeded Milwaukee Brewers and the #2 Los Angeles Dodgers. Rosters are TBA.

I fully expect these series to go at least 6 games, since the teams will be much more evenly-matched.

American League Championship Series

Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 13 at 8:09 PM ET

Houston Astros at Boston Red Sox

Houston Regular Season Record: 103-59

Boston Regular Season Record: 108-54

Probable Starting Pitchers: Justin Verlander (HOU), 2.52 ERA vs. Chris Sale (BOS), 2.11 ERA

Verlander Postseason Stats: 12-6; 3.08 ERA; 140.1 IP; 1.005 WHIP; 10.1 SO9; 3.93 SO/W; 2017 ALCS MVP; 1 WS championship (HOU – 2017)

Sale Postseason Stats: 1-2; 6.19 ERA; 16.0 IP; 1.313 WHIP; 11.8 SO9; 7.00 SO/W

This year’s ALCS will feature the defending world champion Astros against MLB’s best regular-season team, the Boston Red Sox. The Astros’ formula for success has been strong starting pitching and a strong offensive attack from the top to the bottom of the lineup. Boston’s offense is led by OF Mookie Betts, the AL regular-season BA leader (.346) and arguably this year’s best offensive player in his league, and OF J.D. Martínez, the AL regular-season RBI leader (130). Boston also has strong starting pitching, led by perennial Cy Young contender Sale, but its middle relief weaknesses were exposed during the series against the Yankees. Its formula for success has been run support in back of starting pitching that can go deep in games in order to hand the ball to closer Craig Kimbrel (42 saves). Boston’s probable Game 1 starter Chris Sale appeared in relief during ALDS Game 4 on Tuesday.

Prediction: Houston in 7

National League Championship Series

Game 1: Friday, October 12 at 8:09 PM ET

LA Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers

LA Regular Season Record: 92-71 (includes Game 163 tiebreaker w/COL)

Milwaukee Regular Season Record: 96-67 (includes Game 163 tiebreaker w/CHC)

Probable Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw (LAD), 2.73 ERA vs. TBD (MIL)

Kershaw Postseason Stats: 8-7; 4.08 ERA; 1.046 WHIP; 9.8 SO9; 3.84 SO/W

This year’s NLCS will be a small-market vs. large-market matchup between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Milwaukee has the weakest starting rotation of any playoff team, but it has been successful thanks to offensive support from  the 1-2 punch of new OF acquisitions Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, and its shutdown bullpen arms. Brewers manager Craig Counsell successfully employed the “opener” strategy during the NLDS versus the Rockies rather than depend on his starting rotation, but I am not sure that will be as sound of a strategy during a seven-game series.

The Dodgers rallied to a sixth straight NL West Division championship this year despite a poor start and numerous injuries. LA has succeeded thanks to a top-ranked pitching staff (#2 behind Houston in regular season) and its #5 offense. Trade-deadline acquisition INF Manny Machado has provided significant offensive contributions in replacement of the injured INF Corey Seager.

Prediction: LA in 6 (fuck the Brewers)