The Wild Card round might be a hard act to top, but it looks like the rest of the playoffs are going to give it a go anyway. We kick things off in the Divisional round with a couple really solid matchups. Check ’em out!
Marco Estrada (TOR) versus Cole Hamels (TEX)
4:30 p.m. ET, TBS
Estrada really quietly had a fantastic season up north with the Jays, as he finished with a 3.48 ERA, .203 BAA, 1.12 WHIP (sixth in AL) and a K/BB ratio of 165-65 in 176 innings. That comes out to a solid 8.4 K/9 mark, his best since working as a swingman for the Brewers back in 2012. Estrada was better in the first half (2.93 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 0.99 WHIP) than the second (4.27, 8.3, 1.31), but he was also better on the road (3.39 ERA) than at home (3.57). Where he might get in troublea��and this has always been true for Estradaa��is with the long ball. He did a fairly good job keeping the ball in the yard in the second half (nine home runs in 71.2 innings), but he’s allowed at least 20 home runs in every season in his career in which he’s eclipsed 150 innings. The Rangers can really hit ’em as well, as they ranked seventh in baseball with 215 homers this season.
Hamels put together a really solid season, finishing top-10 in the AL in innings, strikeouts and ERA, but he also had one of the 10-highest amounts of walks. That’s sort of the Hamels specialty, as he can battle bouts of wildness where he’ll walk three or four batters per game but still manage to be rather successful. Of note for Hamels is that he pitched rather poorly down the stretch, with a 5.86 ERA in five September starts spanning 27.2 innings. Home runs were also an issue for Hamels, as he not only allowed five in September, but 24 all season. The ball could be flying out of Globe Life Park.
Rick Porcello (BOS) versus Trevor Bauer (CLE)
8:00 p.m. ET, TBS
Don’t let the wins fool you one way or the othera��Porcello had a really nice season. He finished in the top-10 in the AL in innings, strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP despite winning a stunning 22 games. Very little has gone to plan for Porcello since joining the Red Sox and signing a rather sizeable extension. This first year went poorly (4.92 ERA), and this year was a stark contrast. This year was also a stark contrast in that he did things quite a bit differently than he had in the past. His groundball rate was a career-low 43.1 percent, and he struck out more than a batter and a half per nine more than his career rate while slicing his walks to a career-low 1.3 per nine innings. And he did it all while not really drastically altering his pitch mix, as he threw a few more curves and a few less fastballsa��moving from a two-seamer to a four-seamer more exclusively, though that’s the sort of thing that usually increases grounders as opposed to the alternative. Nevertheless, it has worked for Porcello, who has been pitching big games for what seems like forever. Remember when he started Game 163 against the Twins back in 2009?
To say that Bauer starting Game 1 of the Division Series means that things didn’t go to plan is…a hell of an understatement. But with Corey Kluber needing a little more time with his groina��not as weird as it soundsa��and Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco most likely shelved for the fall, here we are. Bauer had a fairly good season working mostly out of the rotation for the Indians, finishing with a 4.26 ERA (3.99 FIP), 8.0 K/9 and an acceptable 3.0 BB/9. Again, where things aren’t ideal is that Bauer is coming off three of the four worst months of his season. Bauer’s ERA by month in the second half is 5.19, 4.04 and a staggering 6.39 in September, and as a result his second-half ERA (5.36) is far worse than his first (3.30). He was also somehow markedly worse at home (4.73 ERA) than on the road (3.67), so obviously that means he’ll probably throw six shutout innings and leave the rest to his capable bullpen, right? Baseball is weird, man.