Tagged: Curse of the Billy Goat

Because The Game Is On The Schedule

True professional ball players continue playing hard even when the game means nothing. Baseball changes gears in August. The trade deadline has passed, the contenders and pretenders made moves, and the teams with no hope for the Postseason continue their march through the remaining season. The Major League season is a long, tough journey of 162 games in six months. No weekends off and few true off days with no games or travel. Baseball is a hard game played by hard people. 

No matter how much a player loves the game, playing for a lost cause is difficult. Few are surprised by the losses piled up by the Marlins and Orioles, yet players continue playing hard in this long season. Imagine doing that over an entire career. 

The Mariners began 2019 winning 13 of their first 15 games. Things were looking up for Seattle’s Kyle Seager. In eight seasons with Seager, the closest the Mariners have come to the Postseason was finishing second, nine games behind the Rangers and three out of the Wild Card in 2016. The October drought for Seattle and Seager appeared ready to end after the hot start this season, but it was a mirage. The Mariners are 35-69 since and are 10 games out of fourth place in the American League West. Kyle Seager continues extending his lead as the active player with the most games played without playing in the Postseason. He has played 1218 games, 200 more than second place, Jean Segura

Kyle Seager.jpg
Kyle Seager plays hard, even though most days there is nothing to play for in Seattle. (Stephen Brashear/ Getty Images)

Kyle Seager is outpacing his contemporaries, but he is not halfway to breaking the all time record. 2,528 career regular season games played, zero Postseason games. Mr Cub, Ernie Banks, sits atop the career leader board of being a true professional. The always cheerful Banks had two brushes with the Postseason. On August 16, 1969, the Cubs led the Mets and Cardinals by nine games. Chicago then proceeded to finish the season 17-26, including an eight game losing streak. The streaking Mets raced past Chicago on their was to a World Series Championship.

In 1970, the Cubs finished five games behind the Pirates. Chicago led Pittsburgh by five games in mid-June before falling and remaining a few games behind the Pirates for the rest of the season. Banks was a part time player in 1970, retiring retire after the 1971 season. Mr. Cub never played October baseball. Luke Appling, Mickey Vernon, and Buddy Bell can relate. This quartet are the only members of the 2,400 games played without playing in the Postseason club. No one wants to join the club. 

Pitchers have time to think between games, a luxury not given to position players. Even Mike Marshall and his record 106 relief appearances for the 1974 Dodgers, had days off. Zach Duke and Steve Cishek have pitched the most games among active pitchers without pitching in the Postseason. Duke has appeared in 570 games, but never a Playoff game. He was on two Postseason teams, the 2011 Diamondbacks and 2012 Nationals. However, both were quickly eliminated before Duke pitched. While Duke has the most games pitched without pitching in a Playoff game, Steve Cishek has not even sat on the bench during the Postseason. Cishek has pitched in 556 games, but not one in the Postseason. While Duke and Cishek are due a Postseason reward, they are not alone as Felix Hernandez’s greatness was wasted in Seattle. King Felix has 411 career starts, but none in the Postseason. Seattle last made the Postseason in 2001, four seasons before Hernandez arrived. Despite Hernandez’s dominance, the Mariners have finished within 10 games of the Division winner just twice in his career, 2007 and 2016. Injuries and a rebuilding team does not give much hope for King Felix to ever pitch in the Postseason.

FelixHernandez
Even perfection on the mound could not help Felix Hernandez reach the Postseason. (Dean Rutz/ The Seattle Times)

Pitchers give their arms to baseball and Lindy McDaniel was no different. He pitched in the most Regular Season games, 987, without pitching in the Postseason. The closest McDaniel came to the Postseason was in 1966 while pitching for the Giants. San Francisco was tied for the National League lead on September 1 before losing seven of their next 10 games. The Giants never recovered, losing the Pennant to the hated Dodgers by 1.5 games. McDaniel is not alone in never tasted October baseball. Hall of Famer Fergie Jenkins made 594 career starts, the most ever without pitching in the Postseason. The majority of his career was with the Cubs as they sought to exercise the Curse of the Billy Goat, yet Jenkins’ closest brush with October was with another cursed team, the Red Sox. In 1977, Boston battled the Yankees and Orioles all season, but when the Red Sox lost their lead in mid-August their season was over. The Red Sox and Orioles both finished 2.5 games behind the Yankees. Jenkins spent a few seasons pitching for the Rangers before returning to Wrigley in the twilight of his career. Never again coming close to October baseball.

Professional baseball is a grind. The excitement of the season wanes as the summer heat punishes players marching through the Regular Season. The season’s true dog days are in August for teams with nothing left to achieve. Some players are seeking new contracts or securing jobs, while others are playing just because it is their job. Hustling down the line, making a diving catch, sacrificing your body becomes more difficult when the season is lost but there are still games on the schedule. While baseball focuses on those making a Postseason push, remember the rest of baseball are professionals and continue to play hard. They show up everyday because the game is on the schedule.

DJ

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Predictions That Did Go Wrong 3.0

Before predicting what will happen during the 2017 Major League season, let’s take a look back at The Winning Run’s predictions for the 2016 season. Once again we did a terrible job of guessing the final standings and playoffs. We are terrible at predictions, but we are consistent at our terribleness. So without further ado, a look back at our sad attempt at predicting the 2016 Major League season.

National League East

Prediction Reality
1 New York Mets Washington Nationals
2 Washington Nationals New York Mets
3 Miami Marlins Miami Marlins
4 Atlanta Braves Philadelphia Phillies
5 Philadelphia Phillies Atlanta Braves
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The death of Jose Fernandez was a shocking reminder that baseball is just a game. (Rob Foldy/Getty Images)

National League Central

Prediction Reality
1 Chicago Cubs Chicago Cubs
2 Pittsburgh Pirates St. Louis Cardinals
3 St. Louis Cardinals Pittsburgh Pirates
4 Cincinnati Reds Milwaukee Brewers
5 Milwaukee Brewers Cincinnati Reds

 

National League West

Prediction Reality
1 Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers
2 San Francisco Giants San Francisco Giants
3 Arizona Diamondbacks Colorado Rockies
4 San Diego Padres Arizona Diamondbacks
5 Colorado Rockies San Diego Padres

 

American League East

Prediction Reality
1 Toronto Blue Jays Boston Red Sox
2 New York Yankees Baltimore Orioles
3 Boston Red Sox Toronto Blue Jays
4 Baltimore Orioles New York Yankees
5 Tampa Bay Rays Tampa Bay Rays

 

American League Central

Prediction Reality
1 Kansas City Royals Cleveland Indians
2 Cleveland Indians Detroit Tigers
3 Detroit Tigers Kansas City Royals
4 Minnesota Twins Chicago White Sox
5 Chicago White Sox Minnesota Twins
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In 2016, not every team could take a punch from the competition. (AP Photo/CSM/Albert Pena)

American League West

Prediction Reality
1 Houston Astros Texas Rangers
2 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Seattle Mariners
3 Texas Rangers Houston Astros
4 Seattle Mariners Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
5 Oakland Athletics Oakland Athletics

 

Playoffs

Wild Card

American League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Cleveland Indians Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Toronto Blue Jays Baltimore Orioles

 

National League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Pittsburgh Pirates San Francisco Giants San Francisco Giants New York Mets
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Francisco Lindor and the Indians came so close to a World Series Championship, but Cleveland will have to wait at least one more season. (Jason Miller/ Getty Images)

Divisional Series

American League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Toronto Blue Jays Cleveland Indians Toronto Blue Jays Texas Rangers
Houston Astros Kansas City Royals Cleveland Indians Boston Red Sox

 

National League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Chicago Cubs Pittsburgh Pirates Chicago Cubs San Francisco Giants
New York Mets Los Angeles Dodgers Los Angeles Dodgers Washington Nationals

 

Championship Series

American League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Toronto Blue Jays Houston Astros Cleveland Indians Toronto Blue Jays

 

National League

Predicted Winner Predicted Loser Actual Winner Actual Loser
Chicago Cubs New York Mets Chicago Cubs Los Angeles Dodgers

 

World Series

Games Won Prediction Games Won Actual
4 Games Houston Astros 4 Games Chicago Cubs
2 Games Chicago Cubs 3 Games Cleveland Indians

We did not get much right, but we did correctly predict six teams in their final standings, five playoff teams, and two Divisional Series Winners, and the National League Championship winner. Our predictions were not as accurate as in the 2015 final standings, but we found greater success in the playoffs. The playoffs are where it really matters, right?

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The Cubs are World Series Champions. (Ezra Shaw/ Getty Images)

Predicting the final standings for the regular season is not an easy task. Our predictions in 2015 (11 of 30 correct) were much higher than our average, so it came as no surprise that in 2016 our predictions fell back to earth. We were correct that the Miami Marlins would finish third in the National League East, ahead of the rebuilding Braves and Phillies but well behind the Nationals and Mets. The Cubs were the easy pick to win the National League Central, far outpacing the rest of the division.The National League West was a two team race from the beginning, but we were correct that the Dodgers would out last the Giants over the course of the season. Finally we were correct in predicting the American League East would leave the Rays behind and the American League West would leave the Athletics behind as both teams finished last in their division.

Our predictions in the playoffs were much better in 2016. There are ten playoff spots, we selected half the teams before the season began. The Chicago Cubs, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Dodgers, and San Francisco Giants all made the playoffs, but despite having half the teams in the playoffs correct, we did not do a great job of predicting what they would do once they made it to October. We were correct in predicting the Toronto Blue Jays would win the American League Divisional Series. We correctly predicted the Chicago Cubs would win the National League pennant, although we felt they were not yet ready to break the Curse of the Billy Goat. Opps.

The 2016 Major League season was not what we predicted it would be; it was better. No matter how careful we are in making our predictions, we will be wrong more often than we are right; such is baseball. Every season has its memories, for the Cubs it was finally winning the World Series after waiting more than a century. The Reds, Braves, Twins, Athletics, and other continued to rebuild. Every team is trying to get better, but not matter what baseball is unpredictable. We hope we are better at predicting the 2017 season than we were the 2016 season. However, there are only three guarantees that we can make: 1) baseball is unpredictable, 2) our predictions will turn out to be horribly wrong, 3) baseball makes everything better.

DJ, JJ, JB, and BL

Finally

The 2016 World Series was a classic. Game 3 was one of the greatest games I have ever watched, yet it does not come close to Game 7. Two teams and their fans have waited a lifetime, or more, to win the World Series and for the Chicago Cubs the wait is finally over.

The drought since their last World Series championship for the Chicago Cubs (108 years) and Cleveland Indians (68 years) was well documented. Many fans had lived and died without ever seeing their team lift the Commissioner’s Trophy. In any World Series where the teams are so evenly matched there are one or two players who rise to the occasion and give their teams the extra push they need to win. Leading into the Series it was easy to think Anthony Rizzo or Kris Bryant for the Cubs or Corey Kluber or Francisco Lindor for the Indians would provide that extra push. The struggle between the teams was ultimately between the managers, Terry Francona and Joe Maddon. Francona and Maddon currently sit 30th and 66th on the all time managerial wins list. They are a combined 301 games over .500 in the regular season, and have each guided two different teams to the World Series. Francona and Maddon played the World Series like a chess match, mixing and matching the opportunities they were presented with the players on their roster. Each trying to see several moves ahead to outwit the opponent.

kluber
Corey Kluber started three times for Cleveland and left it all on the mound. (Ken Blaze/ Custom)

Game 3 is one of the greatest games I had ever seen played. The game saw great pitching and defense. Neither Josh Tomlin or Kyle Hendricks pitched beyond 4 ⅔ innings, but they both kept their team in the game. The Indians relied upon Andrew Miller (1 ⅓ innings) Bryan Shaw (1 ⅔ innings), and Cody Allen (1 ⅓ innings) to secure the 1-0 victory. The key was Bryan Shaw’s ability to bridge the five out gap between Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Limiting Miller to 17 pitches and Allen to 18 pitches meant keeping them fresher for longer as the World Series wore on. Despite the Cubs losing Game 3, Joe Maddon still utilized his bullpen in a way that set him up for success later in the Series. After removing Hendricks, Maddon brought in Justin Grimm (⅔ inning), Carl Edwards Jr. (1 ⅔ innings), Mike Montgomery (⅔ inning), Pedro Strop (⅔ inning), and Aroldis Chapman (1 inning). Spreading the workload around meant keeping arms fresh and the pressure on the Indians. Edwards Jr. took the loss for the Cubs. He retired Cleveland in order in the Top of the 6th. The top of the 7th started with a single to right field by Roberto Perez, Michael Martinez entered the game to run for Perez. A sacrifice bunt by Tyler Naquin moved Martinez to second base. One out with a man on second is not horrible, however a wild pitch allowed Martinez to move to third. Rajai Davis was walked to set up a double play, but the next batter, Coco Crisp, singled to right scoring the only run of the game. A single bad pitch cost the Cubs Game 3.

The hype around a Game 7 rarely lives up to the expectations. This Game 7 was one of the few exceptions. The pressure to perform when any mistake cost your team the World Series is immense. Once again the fingerprints of Terry Francona and Joe Maddon were all over this game. The Indians and Cubs combined to scatter 24 hits, commit four errors, and allow 15 runs, yet the game felt like the final score was 3-2. Timely hitting and bend-but-do-not-break pitching and defense were the deciding factors for who was crowned World Series champions.

rajai
Rajai Davis hit the biggest home run of his life when the Indians needed it the most. (Fox)

Joe Maddon rode Kyle Hendricks as far as he felt he could and lifted him after 4 ⅔ innings and just 63 pitches. The move seemed questionable at the time, but Maddon is the one getting paid to make these decisions, not us. After Hendricks, the Cubs relied on Jon Lester (3 innings), Aroldis Chapman (1 ⅓ innings), Carl Edwards Jr. (⅔ inning), and Mike Montgomery (⅓ inning) to bring home the victory. Lester was the bridge the Cubs needed to get to Chapman. The trust in the veteran left-hander was well founded. Handing the ball off to Chapman for the final four outs exposed how much Chicago had relied on their closer throughout the series and he finally ran out of gas. Rajai Davis hit the biggest home run of his life to tie the game. 93 pitches at maximum effort over three days against the same team takes a toll on any pitcher, and on a pitcher as unhittable as Chapman, he suddenly is human. After taking a two run lead in the Top of the 10th inning, Maddon believed his best option was to call upon Carl Edwards Jr. to get the final three outs. Edwards Jr. has just two career saves, the first on September 1, 2016 with the Cubs leading the National League Central by 15.5 games and the second on the final day of the 2016 regular season. Not exactly high pressure moments.

Cleveland never gave up, every time they would be down, they continued to crawl their way back into the game. Corey Kluber gave the Indians everything he had in his third World Series start. Terry Francona had to bring in Andrew Miller after one pitch in the 5th inning, as it was clear Kluber was done. Andrew Miller was exhausted like Kluber and Chapman, yet he still found a way to give Cleveland 2 ⅓ innings before making way for Cody Allen. The Cubs went hitless against Allen over two innings, allowing the Indians offense to catch up. The Cleveland bullpen was stretched to the breaking point, and Bryan Shaw allowed two runs in the Top of the 10th inning that secured the Cubs victory. Yes, Shaw allowed the World Series clinching run, but he is not to blame for Cleveland’s defeat. Simply one team finally defeated the other.

celebrate
It is finally next year for the Cubs. (Brian Cassella/ Chicago Tribune)

There are games and World Series where one team does not necessarily win, but rather the other team loses. The 2016 World Series was just the opposite. Both the Indians and the Cubs played like champions. There was no Madison Bumgarner or Reggie Jackson in this World Series where a single player put the entire team on his back and carried them to the title. Instead, both teams used team baseball to carry themselves to the edge of a championship. The Cubs were a better team in only a few moments in the seven game series, but when two teams are so evenly matched that is the difference between winning and losing. 49 of the 50 players on the Indians and Cubs rosters appeared in at least two games; John Lackey’s only appearance was as the Cubs starter in Game 4. Terry Francona and Joe Maddon used every ounce of energy available on their bench, and the Cubs had just a little more.

It took team baseball to end the Curse of the Billy Goat, but it was also team baseball that nearly kept it going for another season. The statistics are close, but the Cubs led in more offensive statistics and the Indians did not win any of these key pitching statistics. Here are the numbers for proof:

Offense

Cleveland Indians

Chicago Cubs

At Bats

232

245

Runs

27

27

Hits

55

61

2B

10

10

HR

7

8

Walks

24

22

Strike Outs

59

64

Batting Average

.237

.249

On-Base Percentage

.321

.316

Slugging

.371

.404

OPS

.691

.720

Pitching

Cleveland Indians

Chicago Cubs

ERA

3.71

3.43

Saves

1

2

Innings Pitched

63

63

WHIP

1.317

1.254

The 2016 World Series was an amazing seven game series to watch and enjoy. The numbers only confirm what we all know, this World Series was phenomenal. The fans of the Indians and Cubs were tortured while the rest of the baseball world were given the opportunity to step into their world for just a few days. I do not envy the stress and anguish felt by both teams and fans bases, but for the Cubs it was all worth it in the end. At last Cubs fans you do not have to wait until next year, celebrate for all the Cubs fans who were not able to see the Cubs win their third World Series championship. There is nothing to be upset about Indians fans your team gave you a great ride, the nucleus is there for Cleveland, you just have to wait a little longer.

Chicago Cubs Fans Gather To Watch Game 7 Of The World Series Against The Cleveland Indians
Cubs fans have waited a long time and celebrated accordingly. (Scott Olsen/ Getty Images)

P.S. This World Series was so heavily based upon team baseball that individual awards were not so easy to pick, nor did individual candidates stick out from the crown. Congratulations to World Series Most Valuable Player Ben Zobrist. Enjoy all the technology and stuff in your new Chevrolet Camaro.

DJ

October Fest

The World Series is set; the Cleveland Indians against the Chicago Cubs. One of these teams is about to break a long championship drought. Every pitch and swing will be over analyzed because, in some way, they matter. Tension builds with every pitch and the players know one moment can define their career. Welcome to the World Series, October baseball at its finest.

The Cleveland Indians won the American League Central crown for the first time since 2007. Cleveland has some great players like Francisco Lindor and Corey Kluber, but the key to their success has been team baseball. The Indians ranked 5th in MLB in Runs Scored, 4th in Stolen Bases (1st in the American League), 10th fewest strikeouts, 9th most walks, 3rd in the American League in sacrifice bunts, 2nd in sacrifices flies, 5th in team batting average, and 7th in team OBP. Offensively Cleveland wasted few opportunities to score runs. A successful season offensively means nothing if the pitching and defense cannot hold leads. Defensively Cleveland committed only 89 errors and had a .985 fielding percentage. Pitching has brought Cleveland four wins away from their first World Series victory since 1948. Indians pitchers allowed the 4th fewest hits, the 7th fewest runs, 6th fewest walks, 4th most strikeouts, and the 7th best team ERA in the Majors. All five members of the Indians rotation (Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar) made at least 25 starts and won at least 11 games. Cody Allen led the team with 32 saves with Andrew Miller making a significant impact on bullpen longevity after his trade to Cleveland late in the season. Consistency from the starting pitching meant less stress and strain on the bullpen, allowing the relievers to measure their efforts through the season. Team baseball allows the Indians to recover if a player or two do not perform. While not producing the nationally recognized super stars, team oriented baseball can produce a World Series championship.

world-series-trophy
Which team will raise the Commissioner’s Trophy in 2016? (Jamie Squire/ Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs won the National League Central by 17.5 games with 103 wins. The Cubs were clearly the best team in regular season baseball. Offensively the Cubs scored the 3rd most runs, drew the most walks, were 2nd in OBP, and hit into the 5th fewest double plays. A lineup that includes Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, and Ben Zobrist intimidates any opposing pitching staff. Defensively, Chicago allowed the fewest runs per game, which is also a reflection upon their pitching staff. The Northsiders had the lowest ERA and WHIP, allowed the fewest hits, the fewest runs, the 6th fewest home runs, and had the 3rd most strikeouts. When your team is out scoring most of the league and allowing the fewest runs that is a recipe for success. If one side falters the other side can keep the team rolling. Every member of the Cubs starting rotation (Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, Kyle Hendricks, John Lackey, and Jason Hammel) made at least 29 starts, collected 11 wins, pitched 166 innings, with an ERA below 3.85. Combined the starting rotation averaged over six innings per start, which late in the season meant the bullpen had just two innings to pitch before turning the ball over to Aroldis Chapman. Less work for the bullpen means fresher arms in high pressure situations and in the playoffs. The Cubs are easily recognizable for their play on the field, yet their super stars still play team baseball. Every team needs at least one player to elevate their game if they want to win it all, and the Cubs have plenty of players capable of doing so.

Saying it has been a while since the Indians or Cubs have won a World Series is an understatement. The Communist Party rose to power in China a year after the last Indians’ World Series victory. Since then, segregation was declared unconstitutional, man went into space and to the moon, AIDS emerged, the internet was invented, and the Indians have played over 10,000 games. Wrigley Field opened six years after the last Cubs World Series victory. It was followed by the United States participating in seven wars, the election of 16 Presidents, 11 Amendments being added to the Constitution, four states joining the United States, and the Cubs playing over 15,000 games. It has been a while for both teams.

Regardless who wins the World Series, 1948 and 1908 were a long time ago and another World Series victory is within reach for one of these two teams. The teams on the field are playing each other as much as the history of their own team. The attributable curses that have held these teams back for decades may finally be broken. Let us hope that the 2016 World Series has been worth the wait.

DJ

How Did We Get Here and What Is About To Happen?

Welcome to the Fall Classic.  The World Series has arrived after an exciting run through the playoffs.  The Kansas City Royals will face the New York Mets for the right to lift the Commissioner’s Trophy as the champion of Major League Baseball.  The Kansas City Royals last won the World Series in 1985.  The New York Mets last won the World Series in 1986.  The championship drought for one of these teams is about to end after many, often painful, years.

So what has led us to this World Series?  How have we navigated from the Wild Card games through the playoffs and finally to the World Series?  The field has gone from 10 teams down to just 2 teams.

The Commissioners' Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

The Commissioners’ Trophy is awarded to the World Series winning team. (http://blog.gospikes.com/?p=162)

National League Wild Card

Chicago Cubs 4, Pittsburgh Pirates 0

The Pirates were once again a formidable team during the regular season, but they fell short in the Wild Card game.  Behind their young bats and Jake Arrieta’s complete game shutout, the Cubs showed they were the superior team, at least for one day when it mattered the most.

American League Wild Card

Houston Astros 3, New York Yankees 0

The New York Yankees coasted into the Wild Card game, and not in a good way.  They struggled down the stretch and benefitted from early season success to make it into the playoffs.  Unfortunately, they met the Houston Astros who were hungry and playing much better baseball.  Each passing inning, the energy inside Yankee Stadium seemed to wane just a little more until reality could no longer be denied.  Dallas Keuchel and the Astros bullpen shut down the Yankees line up and Houston rode the power of Colby Rasmus and Carlos Gomez into the ALDS.

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

The Houston Astros are back. The won the Wild Card game a year ahead of schedule. (www.wdsu.com)

National League Divisional Series

New York Mets 3 games, Los Angeles Dodgers 2 games

The Mets and Dodgers alternated wins throughout the series.  The turning point of the series was in Game 2 with the injury to Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.  The Mets ultimately lost Game 2, but Tejada’s injury rallied the team together.  Tejada’s injury from Chase Utley’s “slide” could have derailed the Mets.  Instead, behind their young pitching staff and Daniel Murphy the Mets would not quit.  The Mets faced Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke in four of the five games and split those games.  The Dodgers were beaten with their best pitchers on the mound by a team who refused to quit.

Chicago Cubs 3 games, St. Louis Cardinals 1 game

Game 1 showed how dominant the St. Louis Cardinals could be, and it brought back the memories of the Curse of the Billy Goat for Cubs fans.  However, after Game 1, the Cubs took command of the series by winning the next three straight to eliminate the Cardinals.  The Cubs did not run away with the series, winning the final three games by seven runs total, but St. Louis was never able to answer the Cubs offense.  The Cardinals remained competitive but, after Game 1, it never felt like they had a chance.

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

The Chicago Cubs were overcoming the Curse of the Billy Goat. (www.deadspin.com)

American League Divisional Series

Toronto Blue Jays 3 games, Texas Rangers 2 games

The Texas Rangers jumped out to a two game lead, putting the Toronto Blue Jays on the brink of elimination.  The Blue Jays, the presumptive favorite heading into the series, would not go quietly.  Forcing a decisive Game 5 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Blue Jays held a slim 3-2 lead heading into the 7th inning.  In a bizarre moment, Rougned Odor scampered home to score the tying run after Russell Martin’s return throw to Blue Jays’ pitcher Aaron Sanchez hit the bat of Rangers’ outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, while Choo was still in the box.  The Blue Jays responded in the bottom half of the 7th inning with a four run outburst, which included the now infamous Jose Bautista home run bat flip.  This completed the comeback and Toronto was on to the ALCS.

Kansas City Royals 3 games, Houston Astros 2 games

The Kansas City Royals and Houston Astros went back and forth in the first four games of their ALDS.  Neither team able to break the other team down and truly dominate a game.  All this changed in Game 5, when the Royals’ experience and the Astros inexperience showed through.  The Royals’ hitters finally broke down Houston’s pitching and were able to turn around a 2-0 deficit in the 2nd inning and turn it into a 7-2 victory.  Simply put, the Royals used some of the knowledge and nerves from their 2014 World Series run to finally put away those pesky, overachieving Astros.

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Jose Bautista and the bat flip that put the Blue Jays in the ALCS. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

National League Championship Series

New York Mets 4 games, Chicago Cubs 0 games

The Chicago Cubs did not lose the NLCS as much as the New York Mets won it.  The Cubs never lead throughout the four game sweep.  Daniel Murphy and the trio of Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard, and Jacob deGrom were magical, even when they did not have their best stuff.  Jeurys Familia and Bartolo Colon were there to pick up the slack when the young arms needed a little help reaching the finish line.  The Cubs simply lost to a better team, no Curse needed.

Daniel Murphy lead the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

Daniel Murphy led the Mets to a sweep of the Cubs one home run at a time. (www.fosports.com)

American League Championship Series

Kansas City Royals 4 games, Toronto Blue Jays 2 games

Games 1 and 2 showed the Royals were the better team.  However, the Game 3 slugfest proved that the Blue Jays were not going to go down easy.  Kansas City had batting practice in Game 4, winning 14-2 in Toronto.  Toronto forced Game 6 with a 7-1 victory in Game 5.  Back in Kansas City at Kauffman Stadium, the Blue Jays and Royals proved they were an even match.  The margin of victory was Lorenzo Cain’s speed and Wade Davis’ tenacity.  Cain scored from first on a single by Eric Hosmer in the bottom of the 8th inning, in part due to Jose Bautista not throwing to his cutoff man.  The Royals took the lead and called on Wade Davis for a little more.  Davis got two outs on eight pitches to end the Blue Jays’ 8th inning, waited through a 45 minute rain delay, then pitched the inning of his life.  Davis got the final out with a fast runner on second and third by getting Josh Donaldson to ground out to third.

Lorenzo Cain's dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

Lorenzo Cain’s dash around the bases was critical in the Royals returning to the World Series. (www.cbssports.com)

World Series

New York Mets vs. Kansas City Royals

The 2015 World Series has the New York Mets playing against the Kansas City Royals.  The National League champion New York Mets won the National League East division by 7 games, with a record of 90-72.  Once in the playoffs, the Mets beat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.  The American League champion Kansas City Royals won the American League Central division by 12 games, with a record of 95-67.  The Royals beat the Houston Astros in the ALDS and the Toronto Blue Jays in the ALCS.

World Series Predictions Sure to Go Wrong

Before the beginning of every season The Winning Run predicts how each team will finish, which teams will make the playoffs, and who will win the World Series.  Each year we are horribly wrong about almost everything.  It is with this understanding that we give our predictions about the World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets.

*A note about our predictions for MVP, we did not allow Daniel Murphy to be selected because everyone would pick him.  Therefore, we each have our secondary MVP prediction listed and collectively we have predicted Daniel Murphy for MVP.

The Winning Run’s official 2015 World Series predictions:

John:

Champion: Mets in 6 games.

MVP: Jacob deGrom

Jesse:

Champion: Mets in 5 games.

MVP: Lucas Duda (actually Daniel Murphy in disguise)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

The Mets have a proud history of disguising themselves as other people. Just as Bobby Valentine. (www.usatoday.com)

Bernie:

Champion: Royals in 6 games

MVP: Alcides Escobar

Derek:

Champion: Royals in 7 games.

MVP: Eric Hosmer

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

The San Francisco Giants won the World Series in Kansas City last year. Who will win this year? (www.popsugar.com)

Collectively, beyond Daniel Murphy for World Series MVP, we do not agree on much.  We are split on which team will win.  We believe the series will go six games.  We predict that a baseball player for either the Mets or the Royals will win the MVP (this is the only prediction we feel we definitely got right).  Our predictions are most likely wrong, as is our tradition, but we might get lucky this time.  The 2014 World Series was fantastic, and the Royals are back for another try with a fairly young but experienced team.  The Mets are playing beyond their years with a playoff pitching staff that has not been seen since the Atlanta Braves in the 1990’s.   Regardless, whether we are right or wrong, we hope the 2015 World Series will be just as exciting as the 2014 edition of the Fall Classic.

DJ

Moving On

The Chicago Cubs have finally clinched a playoff series at Wrigley Field. Let that sink in for a moment.  It only took the Northside faithful 99 years to see their beloved Cubs clinch a series at the Friendly Confines.  None of that matters right now though.  Chicago’s youth movement powered them past the best regular season team in baseball, the St. Louis Cardinals.  Both teams fought through the toughest division in baseball and survived to make the playoffs and we pitted against one another in the NLDS.  Every baseball fan knows the lore of the Cubs.  Wait until next year (the eternal optimist).  The curse of the Billy Goat (very much real).  Steve Bartman (the scapegoat for a team that fell apart after a fan did what any fan would do, try to catch a foul ball).  Wrigley Field has kept the Cubs relevant even when the team was just plain awful.  No matter how terrible the team was the bleachers were usually full even during mid-week day games.  Wrigley Field was a destination for any and every baseball fan, including this one who sat in the right field bleachers three years ago during a Cubs victory against the Giants.

Some may call the Cubs, or some other team, a team of destiny.  Others will say it is time to break all the curses and bring a World Series championship to Wrigley.  Whatever you call them the Cubs are fun to watch.  They are playing far beyond their years and appear to have the ability to make a run at winning it all.  They are playing hard and with a style all their own.  Manager Joe Maddon is managing the team the way he wants.  He seems relaxed yet focused, which is rubbing off on his youth squad.  They have escaped the Wild Card game, which was a bridge too far for the Pirates and Yankees.  Undoubtedly, the Cubs have avoided the injury bug, which may have doomed the Cardinals.  They have avoided the decisive Game 5, unlike the other remaining six team, where any and everything can happen, good and bad.

The 1908 World Series champion Chicago Cubs (www.grayflannelsuit.net)

The 1908 World Series champion Chicago Cubs (www.grayflannelsuit.net)

The Cubs were stripped down to the bones and rebuilt after a couple lackluster seasons following back to back seasons of playoff disappointments.  Credit is due to General Manager Jed Hoyer and President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for their masterful job in getting quality returns on their trades and through the draft.  Both Hoyer and Epstein understood the task ahead of them and have seen the fruits of their labor.  The Cubs might win the World Series this year, or they might not.  Regardless how their season ends, the Cubs are relevant again.  Go to any Cubs away game and it has the feel that you are at a Cubs home game.  This can be annoying, but it speaks to the love and passion of the long-suffering fan base.  The Northside faithful are hoping for a World Series championship.  It is too soon to know if it is finally next year for the Cubs.  However, regardless of what happens during the rest of the playoffs, the Cubs are moving on to the NLCS.  This is good for these young players, for the Northside faithful, and for baseball.  The game is better when every team has a legitimate chance to win it all every so often, and it is time for the Cubs to get their shot.

Go Cubs Go.

DJ