This year’s baseball playoff  is equally loaded with returning winners and new faces

The 2017 Major League Baseball postseason is underway and if the first couple games are any indication of what’s in store for the rest of the month, we should prepare for something great. Eight teams vying for the title. Who will it be? Will the baby Bronx Bombers shock everyone and take home a title before they were supposed to contend? Can Houston ride that relentless offense all the way? Will the Cubbies become baseball’s first repeat champion since the Yankees in 2000? Can the Dodgers turn their amazing regular season into postseason glory? Will the Diamondbacks snakebite everyone all the way to the title? Can the Indians win their first title since 1948? Will the Red Sox add a 4th title since 2004? Or can the Nationals bring a title to the nation’s capital? Just sit back and enjoy this next month. It only happens once a year and it’s such a fantastic ride.

American League Divisional Series

Houston Astros/Boston Red Sox
With the late-season addition of Justin Verlander, (5-0 with a 1.06 ERA in five starts with Houston) the Astros solidified a somewhat shaky rotation and simply look like too much to handle for the Red Sox. Altuve, Springer, and Correa form a deadly threesome at the top of the Houston order and are a primary reason they were the highest scoring offense in baseball this season, tallying almost 900 runs (896). Look for Houston to score and score often against a subpar Boston pitching staff.
Astros over Red Sox in 4.

Cleveland Indians/New York Yankees
Here come the tribe! Fresh off a record-breaking 22-game win streak late this season, Cleveland enters the 2017 postseason hot and vengeful after a heartbreaking Game 7 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series. Can Aaron Judge and the rest of the young Yanks continue their growth against a pitching staff that boasted a 3.30 ERA and 1.16 WHIP (both tops in the AL)? The Yankees have rebuilt quicker than expected and put together a great season but I just see it ending here and rather quickly to a more experienced and deeper Indians team.
Indians over Yankees in 4.

National League Divisional Series

Chicago Cubs/Washington Nationals
The defending champs (can’t believe I just wrote that in reference to the Cubs) begin their title defense with a very tough matchup. With some late additions (Sean Doolittle and Brandon Kintzler) to their once ragged bullpen, the Nationals have drastically upgraded an area needing improvement for any sort of postseason run. The Cubs saw a 5.5 game deficit at the All-Star break turn into a 6 game cushion by the time they wrapped up the NL Central crown in the last couple weeks. A big factor in this series will come down to a couple former NL Cy Young winners and their hamstrings. Jake Arrieta has been not so Jake Arrieta-ish over his last couple outings due to a lingering issue with his hamstring and in his most recent start, Max Scherzer left early due to his own hamstring issue. Can these two aces pitch and if so, when? Scherzer’s questionability is more troublesome for the Nationals and gives the Cubs an edge in the end.
Cubs over Nationals in 5.

Los Angeles Dodgers/Arizona Diamondbacks
The Dodgers cruised, for the most part, through this season. It included a ridiculous couple months of seeming invincibility, going 43-7, completing the best 50-game stretch in baseball since 1912. Shortly after that stretch of hotness, they went the opposite way and fell back to earth, going 1-15 during a 16-game stretch later in the season. While they are more the former than the later, that doesn’t mean they get a free pass to the NL Championship Series. Enter the Arizona Diamondbacks. Following a 2016 season, which saw them underachieve and finish in last place, they righted their ship (and more particularly their pitching staff going from an ERA of 5.09 last season to 3.66 this year) and finished with a 93-69 record and the first NL Wild Card slot. Following a most entertaining NL Wild Card game win over the second wild-card winning slot Colorado Rockies, they now have their sights set on an upset of those streaky NL Leading Dodgers. This is not an ideal matchup for Los Angeles. The Diamondbacks won the season series 11-8 while outscoring them by a hefty margin of 99-71. The city of Los Angeles is going to feel very snakebitten during this series as the Diamondbacks continue to be a pest to the Dodgers.
Diamondbacks over Dodgers in 5.

American League Championship Series

Houston Astros/Cleveland Indians
Wow. What a series this will be! One team has played in a World Series once and never won (Houston’s only appearance was in 2005) and the other hasn’t won since 1948. Kluber and Carrasco against Verlander and Keuchel. Houston and their major league-leading 896 runs scored this season versus Cleveland and their major league-leading 3.30 ERA. In the end, I think the tribe have too much balance and march off into the fall classic once again, in hopes of ending their own championship drought.
Indians over Astros in 7.

National League Championship Series

Chicago Cubs/Arizona Diamondbacks
Will the Cubs have a healthy Jake Arrieta by the time this series arrives? His health could be vital in this potential 7-game series. The teams met six times this season with each winning three. Each team also won twice in the other’s ballpark. This is a pretty evenly matched series with the Cubs getting the slight edge in hitting while the Diamondbacks hold the slight edge in pitching. The series could come down to Chicago having home field advantage as the Cubs are 48-33 at Wrigley this season while the Diamondbacks are just 41-40 away from Chase Field. The opportunity for Chicago to become the first repeat champion since the New York Yankees 3-peated from 1998 to 2000 continues.
Cubs over Diamondbacks in 7.

2017 World Series

Chicago Cubs/Cleveland Indians
Golden St./Cleveland, Alabama/Clemson, and now Cubs/Indians. The sports landscape has certainly had its share of rematches lately in title games and this season’s fall classic will be no exception. Once again, the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians will square off, with one club looking to turn last season’s destined run into a potential dynasty and the other looking to end their own championship drought. The Chicago Cubs started slowly this year, as the “championship hangover” definitely lingered around much longer than most people thought (the Cubs entered the All-Star break sporting a not-so-stellar 43-45 record). After the break though, it was a different story, as the Cubs finished the season at 92-70 (a 47-25 post All-Star break record) while leading the league in most offensive categories and a pitching staff that turned a down first half into a vastly improved second. Cleveland was no slouch itself in the second half as they went a major league leading 51-18 including that record-breaking 22 game winning streak. Whether it’s Bryant, Rizzo, and Schwarber or Lindor, Ramirez and Bruce (who has been very good since coming over from the New York Mets on August 10th of this year) both lineups have firepower as well as postseason experience despite the vast number of younger players on both sides. While this year’s (both teams are positioned to be contenders for years and it would not be surprising see them both battle a number of times) clash may not live up to last season’s epic seven-game series, it wouldn’t surprise me if it did. Maybe a rain delay in extra innings is even in the stars? In the end, though, it’s a different year and different same result. Congratulations Chicago, you’re home to baseball’s newest dynasty: your Cubs.
Cubs over Indians in 7.