American League Championship Series: Toronto Blue Jays versus Cleveland Indians

The first surprise of this year’s American League playoffs came when the Toronto Blue Jays quickly disposed of the top-seeded Texas Rangers 3-0, followed by the Cleveland Indians sweeping the Boston Red Sox in the other matchup. Both teams have now had the opportunity to rest a few days and realign its starting pitching.

 

Toronto Blue Jays: While the general perception is the Blue Jays are nothing more that a “murder’s row” of sluggers with 3B Donaldson (37 HRs), 1B Encarnarcion (42 HRs) and RF Bautista (22 HRs in 116 games) anchoring a lineup that hit 221 HRs, the reality is they have a well balanced offence that finished 9th in MLB in runs scored with 759. The one thing the Blue Jays won’t be doing is stealing bases, something they only managed to do 54 times all season long.

 

The real surprise for the Blue Jays this year was the pitching staff. While the bullpen often displayed inconsistency and gave up too many runs at the wrong time, the starting rotation was solid as a rock. Overall, the pitching staff ranked 6th in MLB with an ERA of 3.78 behind strong starting performances by Sanchez 3.00 (15-2) and Happ 3.18 (20-4). It’s worth noting that closer Osuna (36 saves, 6 blown saves, .248 ERA) has been nursing a shoulder problem.

 

Cleveland Indians: The Indians earned home-field advantage in this series by playing steady baseball all year long. On offense, they finished 5th in MLB for runs scored with 777 and team batting average at .262. The primary difference between the Indians and the Blue Jays is the effectiveness of the Indians on the bases. They finished 3rd in MLB with 308 doubles and 4th in stolen bases with 134. The offense was led by 1B Napoli (34 HRs, 101 RBI’s), SS Lindor (.301 AVE, 99 Runs, 19 SB) and 2B Ramirez (.312 AVE, 84 Runs, 22 SB).

 

The pitching staff was good enough to finish 7th in MLB for ERA at 3.84, though the strength of the pitching staff lies in its bullpen. Of the starters, only Kluber (18-9, 3.14 ERA, 227 Ks) was consistent throughout the season. With that said, the starters only needed to get the team to the seventh inning where an incredible bullpen would take over. At the trade deadline, the Indians landed elite RP Miller from the Yankees. He finished the season with 12 saves, 24 holds, an ERA of right at 1.45 and an amazing WHIP of 0.69. He was perfectly complimented by closer Allen (32 saves, 87 Ks in 67 innings) and Shaw (25 holds).

 

Prediction: As good as these two teams are on offense, the feeling is it really comes down to pitching. The Blue Jays have a decided advantage with its starters while the Indians have the better bullpen. If Toronto scores 4-5 runs a game, the Indians could be in trouble. With that said, Cleveland has a way of creating runs on the base pads. They also hold a meaningful home-field advantage, having won 59 games at home, 2nd only in MLB to the Chicago Cubs.  Cleveland wins 4-2

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