Well, a week in and us Blue Jays fans are in a better mood than last year after 7 games! It hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops for Toronto so far, but getting a split against the Yankees then taking 2 of 3 against the White Sox is quite respectable. As well, we look at the games and see they’re doing some of the things they absolutely must do to compete this year. They’re hitting home runs, as they did last year too, but at times running the bases (see Kevin Pillar’s steal of second, third and even home in one inning against New York!) which was a sore spot last year; the starting pitching has been quite adequate across the board and the bullpen, good. (2.32 ERA in an average of just over 3 innings per game.) Almedys Diaz so far is looking more 2016 All Star rather than 2017 run-of-the-mill (.813 slugging percentage in a very limited sample of 6 games). Pillar and Smoak are hot. All the things are in place for the team to hit the 87 wins I projected and make the playoffs…but let’s remember there’s a lot of baseball to play between now and October.
To finish of the early predictions which I’ve put here the last week or so, let’s take a look at a few more …
AL MVP – Francisco Lindor , Cleveland . if the Indians cruise to their third straight division title, as they should, Lindor stands to win some hardware as voters typically opt for a standout player on a playoff-bound team. At 24,it’s only Lindor’s 4th season and by and large, his trajectory has been nothing but up so far. Although his .273 average last year was off a bit, he hit career highs in doubles (44), homers (33), RBI (89), walks (60) and OPS (.842). He’s hit more balls hard and in the air vs. ground each season, and that trend has continued thus far in the young 2018. Throw in some rather great “D” at short, and he should be obvious. Other playoff teams may have more great players “splitting the vote”.
Runners up – Jose Altuve, Houston , maybe the best player in the game, leading the league’s best team; Mike Trout, LA Angels, because he’s always good and voters like him a whole lot!
AL Cy Young – Chris Sale, Boston two reasons. One he may well be the best pitcher in the AL, if not baseball. Entering his 7th season as a starter, he’s been as dominant as anyone in the past four years, and kept improving over the past three years- 274/233/308 K, ERA of 3.41/3.34/2.90 Last year he averaged almost a striekout and a half an inning, and had his 4th 200 inning year (which a generation ago was nothing but now puts him among the game’s current elite.) His ratio of K’s to BBs was 7:1. So far, although he’s only two starts in, he’s K’d 15 in 11 innings, allowing just one run. If the skinny southpaw stays healthy, don’t be surprised to see a career high of 18 or more wins, an ERA under 2.75 and another Nolan Ryan-like strikeout total. The second reason- as long as he’s in the running, voters may well go the Denzel Washington route. Just like Oscar voters in 2001 gave Washington an Academy award for Training Day, a year most thought he was out-acted and his performance was not one of his greats. Presumably the voters thought he had been overlooked in the past and deserved an award for his body of work. Baseball voters will do the same for Chris if he’s close.
Runners up – Corey Kluber, Cleveland ; Marco Estrada, Toronto (hey, we have to have a dark horse somewhere! I think Marco may have put it all together this year)
and the playoffs-
We already saw I pick LA over Chicago in the National with the Dodgers returning to the World Series therefore.
AL, as we saw in the past two posts, I see Toronto and Boston facing off in the Wild card, then going up against Houston while Cleveland and the Yanks would take on each other in the other ALDS.
Alas, the Sox might beat Toronto at Fenway, especially if they could arrange their pitching to get the aforementioned Sale on the mound for the one game. Either way, the Astros should make short work of eaither team.
I think Cleveland would edge out NY and go on to see Houston. Again, I see the ‘stros being too strong. Therefore…
World Series– once again, Houston vs. LA. And I would think, assuming they’re not suddenly jaded by success, Houston win it all for the second year running.