The 2016 regular season is in the books around Major League Baseball and now it's on to October and playoff baseball for ten teams.
In the National League, the Chicago Cubs (103-58) are the obvious choice to advance to the World Series, which would be their first trip to the Fall Classic in 71 years.
The Boston Red Sox were the pick in the American League recently after they ripped off eleven consecutive wins to secure the American League East division title away from both Baltimore and Toronto, who are the wild card playoff teams in the junior circuit.
Yes, the AL East (the BEST division in baseball) has THREE playoff teams this season.
It should be an interesting post-season this year (as is usually the case in Major League Baseball) with the Cubs looking for their first World Series championship in 108 years.
Think about that . . . 108 YEARS!!!
The Texas Rangers have NEVER won a World Series and they are the top seed in the American League after cruising to the AL West title this season. They are led by the two-headed pitching monster of Cole Hamels and Yu Darvish. Oh, and they can hit the ball pretty well too.
Led by Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Mitch Moreland, Jonathan Lucroy, Ian Desmond and Rougned Odor, the Rangers can pound the baseball with the best of them.
The Cleveland Indians have pitching (though they are decimated with injuries to the starting staff right now) and can score runs as well and they too ran away with their division this summer, winning the AL Central by a country mile.
Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer are their top starting pitchers right now with Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco injured. The bullpen features Andrew Miller, a power pitcher who can set up or close. Cody Allen has been the closer, but if he slips, Miller is right there to help out.
The lineup features Mike Napoli, Tyler Naquin, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana. The Tribe can score runs, finishing in the top three in the American League in runs scored this season.
The Boston Red Sox led the majors in scoring this year and their pitching has gotten better as the season went along. Led by Rick Porcello (who had a career year this season) and David Price, the Bosox can't be taken lightly in spite of their erratic bullpen. Closer Craig Kimbrel must figure it out once the post-season starts.
They are the sentimental choice to come out of the American League as "Big Papi" David Ortiz is in his last season and has led the way along with Mookie Betts, Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia and a wrecking crew lineup.
The Baltimore Orioles are indeed a wild card in all of this post-season madness as they have perhaps the scariest offense in baseball when they are on.
The Orioles led the majors with 253 home runs this season and boast three players with 30 plus homers, including the league leader in Mark Trumbo, who blasted 47 dingers this season.
Along with him are Chris Davis (38), Manny Machado (37), Adam Jones (29), Jonathan Schoop (25) and Pedro Alvarez, who hit 22 home runs. Matt Wieters added 17 bombs, including two in the final game against the Yankees to help the O's clinch the playoff spot.
They also have the best overall bullpen and best closer in the game as Zach Britton finished with 47 saves in 47 chances and posted a 0.54 ERA, the best ever in major league history for a relief pitcher.
The Toronto Blue Jays will host the Orioles in the Wild Card Game Tuesday night and they feature big bats in their lineup as well.
Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista are their big sluggers while their pitching has been pretty decent throughout the regular season. Marco Estrada, Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez are all solid starters. Their bullpen is suspect but in a short playoff series, it's usually starting pitching that makes or breaks a team.
Back in the National League, the Cubs have the big targets on their collective backs as manager Joe Maddon looks to get them to the promised land for the first time since the 1945 season.
Featuring stellar starting pitching (Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and Jason Hammel) and a very reliable bullpen, including lights out, flame throwing closer Aroldis Chapman, they are indeed the team to beat.
The offense is solid as well and is led by MVP candidate Kris Bryant along with Anthony Rizzo. Adding punch to the lineup are Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, Jorge Soler, Dexter Fowler, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and even David Ross, who is in his final big league season.
The Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers will square off against each other in the Divisional Series and they both boast excellent pitching staffs. Washington is led by Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg and Tanner Roark has been solid all season as well. Gio Gonzalez is also a reliable starter.
The Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw, perhaps the best pitcher in baseball, leading the way while Rich Hill has been excellent since coming over in late July in a trade.
The offenses for those teams does enough to support the pitching and each team has a really good closer in their bullpen - Kenley Jansen for LA and the Nats have Mark Melancon.
The Nationals will be without catcher Wilson Ramos, who was injured late in the season. But they do have Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Anthony Rendon leading the offense.
The Dodgers have Rookie of the Year candidate Corey Seager along with Justin Turner, Adrian Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal, Howie Kendrick, Chase Utley and Andre Ethier in their solid lineup. Yasiel Puig can catch fire at any time as well.
The wild card teams are the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants and should not be taken lightly by the Cubs in the divisional round.
The Mets pitching staff shut down the Cubs offense a year ago in the NL Championship Series but it has been decimated by injuries in 2016, losing starters Matt Harvey, Jacob DeGrom and Steven Matz for the year.
They do have Noah Syndergaard and the ageless Bartolo Colon still available for the post-season, but they have to get past the Giants in the wild card game.
The Giants have won three of the last six World Series and have Madison Bumgarner leading the pitching staff, which also has Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samadjria and Matt Moore starting. The bullpen has been terrible this season, blowing 30 save chances.
The Mets have Yoenis Cespedes leading their lineup along with Jose Reyes, Wilmer Flores, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jay Bruce, James Loney and Curtis Granderson.
The Giants lineup features Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, Denard Span and Angel Pagan to generate the runs to support their pitching.
It should be an exciting October, so sit back, relax and enjoy the journey baseball fans.
Here's the Heftyinfo picks for the 2016 post-season and World Series . . .
Wild Card - Baltimore over Toronto
ALDS - Texas over Baltimore (five games); Boston over Cleveland (four games)
ALCS - Texas over Boston (six games)
Wild Card - San Francisco over New York Mets
NLDS - Chicago over San Francisco (four games); Los Angeles over Washington (five games)
NLCS - Chicago over Los Angeles (six games)
WORLD SERIES - Chicago Cubs over Texas Rangers in six games