Sep. 26, 2016
2016 ALCS Preview: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Indians
The Toronto Blue Jays and the Cleveland Indians meet in the American League Championship Series. Both teams took very similar paths, sweeping their respective American League Division Series opponent. Both teams are rested and have momentum, huge factors in the postseason. Cleveland has home-field advantage in the series, which should turn into quite a battle.
The Blue Jays and Indians have very different offensive strategies. The Blue Jays rely on the big hit and home runs where the Indians try to steal bases to set up key hits. In the regular season, the Indians outscored the Blue Jays by 18 runs. That is not a lot especially over a 162 game season. The Indians lead the AL in stolen bases (134) and the Blue Jays had the 7th best slugging percentage in the AL (.426). Both teams know their identity on offense and are both very good at their respective scoring styles.
The starting pitching matchups should be very competitive, after Game 1, where the Jays have Marco Estrada (3.48 ERA) vs. the Indians Corey Kluber (3.14 ERA). Kluber was dominant in Game 2 against the Red Sox where he threw seven scoreless innings with seven strikeouts and three hits allowed.
Game 2 features J.A.Happ (3.18 ERA) for the Blue Jays vs Trevor Bauer (4.26 ERA). Happ has been fantastic during the regular season and just as good in the playoffs. In his one start vs. the Texas Rangers, he let up one run over five innings but gave up nine hits.
Bauer did not fair any better when he gave up three runs in 4.2 innings against the Red Sox. If Happ is able to translate his regular season results to the postseason the Blue Jays will have the advantage, but if not this game could turn into a high-scoring game.
Then, Game 3 will feature Marcus Stroman (4.37 ERA) vs. Josh Tomlin (4.40 ERA). Stroman has dominated the Indians, allowing two runs in 14 innings in the regular season, but Tomlin has let up seven runs over 10.1 innings with four home runs against the Blue Jays this season. The game will be in Toronto so this game could get ugly quickly for the Indians. The only lights-out pitcher in the series is Kluber, which gives the Indians a slight edge.
The Indians definitely have the advantage in the bullpen which is highlighted with Andrew Miller (1.55 ERA) and Cody Allen (2.51 ERA, 32 saves). The Indians had the fourth-best bullpen ERA in MLB (3.45 ERA).
Indians manager, Terry Francona, deserves a lot of credit for the bullpen. His unique use of Miller is why. Instead of being used in a setup or closing role, Miller is used in a very situational role to get the Indians out of jams.
The Blue Jays bullpen (4.11ERA) is in the bottom half of the American League. A lot of games between these two team will be close and the shutdown bullpen that the Indians have a big effect.
These are both very good teams, but with their slight edge in starting pitching and bigger edge in the bullpen, it is hard to see the Blue Jays sneaking out a victory.
Prediction: Indians 4-2