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The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

2016 MLB Playoff Breakdown


Photo Courtesy of dannymac15_1999 via

After six months and 162 games, we’re finally here: the MLB playoffs. Last year, the Kansas City Royals ended a 30-year championship drought by defeating the National League champion New York Mets in the World Series.

There are several more long droughts that have the potential to be broken this year. The most notable is the 108 year-drought of the Chicago Cubs. The team hasn’t won the World Series since 1908, and hasn’t won the National League championship since 1945. This year, however, they dominated the league, winning 103 games and taking the National League Central crown by a whopping 17.5 games.

Following the one-game Wild Card playoffs earlier this week, we have eight teams ready to tackle the League Division Series. Here’s a look at all of them:


BOSTON RED SOX (AL East Champions) v. CLEVELAND INDIANS (AL Central Champions)

Once upon a time, the Red Sox were the Cubs of the American League: a historically popular franchise unable to win the World Series. In 2004, they finally ended their 86-year drought and won the championship. Since then, they’ve won the World Series twice more, in 2007 and 2013.

After two consecutive last-place finishes in the American League East, the Red Sox rebounded nicely this year, winning 93 games to take home the division crown by four games. They were helped by designated hitter David Ortiz, who, in his final season, had a renaissance campaign. He led the American League in doubles (48), runs batted in (127), and slugging percentage (.620). Center fielder Mookie Betts had an MVP-quality season, hitting .318 while leading the league in total bases, and posting a very impressive 9.6 wins above replacement.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Cleveland Indians haven’t won the World Series since 1948, and haven’t been there since 1997. After a decent season last year, the team put it all together in 2016, with 94 victories and an American League Central championship.

Unlike the Red Sox, the Indians do not have an especially potent offense. Only two players on the team (first baseman Mike Napoli and designated hitter Carlos Santana) hit at least 25 home runs, and Napoli was the only man on the team with 100 RBI. In contrast, Boston had three 100 RBI men.

The big strength of the Indians was in their pitching. 2014 Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber had a great season, finishing fourth in the AL in walks and hits per inning pitched (WHIP) with 1.06, and fifth in strikeouts with 227. He was supported by Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom had excellent seasons. Unfortunately, Salazar and Carrasco will miss the postseason with injuries. Trevor Bauer, fourth on the staff with a 4.26 earned run average (ERA), will be forced to assume the role of a No. 2 starter in the rotation, and will start game one of the ALDS on Thursday.



Last year, these two clubs played in an epic American League Division Series. It went the whole five games, with Toronto rallying after falling behind two games to none in a best-of-five series. Jays slugger Jose Bautista played the hero with a dramatic three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh inning of game five.

This year, the Rangers come in to the playoffs with the best record in the American League, at 95-67. Already a great offensive team, they made some big moves at the July 31 trade deadline, acquiring outfielder Carlos Beltran from the Yankees and catcher Jonathan Lucroy from the Brewers.

They added on to a lineup that already included future Hall of Fame third baseman Adrian Beltre, who despite being 37 years old, hit .300, knocked in 104 runs, and slugged a team-leading .521. At age 22, second baseman Rougned Odor showed signs of promise, hitting 33 home runs. Outfielder Ian Desmond was signed as a free agent in the off-season, and turned in a solid rebound year, leading the team in runs scored, with 107.

The strong Blue Jays lineup is one that would give any pitcher pause, even Texas’ aces, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnación led the team in home runs, with 42 of them, and drove in an American League-leading 127 runs. He came through in the clutch on Tuesday night, when his three-run home run in the bottom of the eleventh inning gave the Jays the victory in the American League Wild Card game against the Orioles. Third baseman Josh Donaldson was the American League MVP last year, and had another great season this year, posting a team-best OPS (on base + slugging) of .953.

Toronto’s pitching isn’t too bad, either. J. A. Happ won an impressive 20 games for the Blue Jays, Aaron Sanchez led the league in ERA at 3.00, and four out of the five starters in the rotation struck out at least 160 batters. They’ll hope to quiet the Rangers’ bats in this best-of-five match, and advance to the American League Championship Series for the second straight year.



In their 47-year history, including their time as the Montreal Expos, the Nationals have never even been to the World Series, much less won it. The storied Dodgers, meanwhile, have won six championships, but none since 1988.

The anchor of the Dodgers’ staff is future Hall of Fame pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The three-time Cy Young winner was on his way to another award-winning season when he started experiencing back trouble in late June. Had he pitched enough innings to qualify, he would’ve easily been the league leader in both ERA and WHIP.

Los Angeles made a big move at the trade deadline, acquiring starter Rich Hill from the Oakland Athletics. Even though he only made six starts for the Dodgers, Hill was excellent in all of them, posting a 1.80 ERA while striking out 39 batters in 34 innings. He’ll be another big piece of a possible Dodgers playoff run.

The Nationals, meanwhile, have pitcher Max Scherzer, the likely winner of the NL Cy Young Award. He led the league in wins (20), WHIP (0.968), and strikeouts (284). In May, he made baseball history by throwing just the fifth 20-strikeout game in MLB history. A game one pitching showdown between Kershaw and Scherzer will be one that baseball fans will not want to miss.

While the strength of both teams lies in their pitching, their offenses are worth watching. Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy finished second in the NL batting race, with a .347 average. He was also the only National to hit at least 25 home runs and drive in more than 100 runs. Right fielder Bryce Harper, the reigning NL MVP, slumped a bit this season, batting just .243 with 24 home runs. His strength this year lay in taking walks; he drew 108 free passes, by far the most on the team.

For the Dodgers, the backbone of their offense is rookie shortstop Corey Seager. He had a fantastic debut campaign, leading the team in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and runs scored. He hit 26 home runs to boot, one behind catcher Yasmani Grandal and third baseman Justin Turner for the team lead.


CHICAGO CUBS (NL Central Champions) v. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (NL Wild Card Champions)

The Cubs dominated the National League Central, winning the division while sporting a 103-58 record. Their main strength lies in their pitching staff: 2015 Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, National League ERA leader Kyle Hendricks, and Jon Lester, who led the team in wins (19) and strikeouts (197).

On their offensive side, third baseman Kris Bryant is the leading candidate for the National League MVP honors, hitting .292 with 39 home runs and 102 RBI. First baseman Anthony Rizzo was almost as good, hitting 32 homers and driving in 109 runs.

For the Giants, their strength lies in starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner. He pitched a gem in the National League Wild Card playoff game, shutting down the New York Mets by allowing no runs on four hits. In 97 postseason innings, he has a very impressive 1.94 ERA. Johnny Cueto provides rotation depth, winning 18 games with a 2.79 ERA in his first season in the San Francisco rotation.

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2016 MLB Playoff Breakdown