ALDS: Texas vs. Toronto
Raise your hand if you had the Rangers and Blue Jays in the ALDS when spring training began? No one? Well, no hard feelings, as this is one of the surprise match-ups of the postseason.
It’s easy to say that both these fine clubs drastically changed their fortunes at the trade deadline. Texas’ addition of Cole Hamels gave them the true No. 1 they lacked in their rotation after Yu Dravish underwent Tommy John surgery in March. Toronto’s roster overhaul included landed them ace lefty David Price, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, outfielder Ben Revere, and several pieces to the bullpen.
Toronto will have playoff baseball in the Rogers Centre for the first time since some guy named Joe Carter homered to win the 1993 World Series. Before we get to the series prediction, we can predict it’s going to get loud in Canada. The atmosphere is sure to give the Blue Jays a home field advantage.
When most people think of Toronto, they think of that long, unforgiving lineup which lead the majors with 232 homers. Josh Donaldson could be your American League MVP. Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and the return of Tulowitzki make this the most intimidating lineup in the game.
While offense can help punch your playoff tickets, it’s pitching that carries a team towards the title, and this Blue Jay rotation beyond David Price does not get enough credit. Young gun Marcus Stroman, who many believed wouldn’t play this season due to a knee injury suffered in March, returned to the rotation in September to post a 1.67 ERA in four starts. The seemingly forgotten R.A. Dickey knuckleballed his way to a sub-4 ERA in over 200 innings. Marco Estrada also chipped in 181 innings of 3.13 ERA ball. As good as the Jays lineup is, their underrated rotation gives them another dimension.
In one season the Rangers went from worst to first. Their blockbuster acquisition of Cole Hamels gives them an ace to counter Price. Hamels does not get enough credit as a big game pitcher, evidenced by his complete game victory on the season’s final day to wrap up the division (his 2008 World Series MVP isn’t too shabby, either). However, the Texas rotation does not matchup well with Toronto’s after Hamels. Yovani Gallardo has been solid, but there’s questions marks after that. Derek Holland has the talent to be a front of the rotation guy, but his 4.91 ERA suggests otherwise. If this series goes more than three, there’s a good chance it’s Hamels on short rest to carry Texas as far as he can take them.
The Texas lineup is no joke. While not as fierce as Toronto’s, they still pack a powerful punch. Prince Fielder is a candidate for comeback player of the year, Adrian Beltre, Mitch Moreland, and Mike Napoli provide plenty of long ball ability, and Sin Soo Choo finally is playing like the player they thought they signed to a huge contract not too long ago.
Texas might be the feel good story of the year, but the Blue Jays have too much depth and talent not to advance.