Blue Jays-Indians ALCS Preview: Tip of the Tower Predictions

Oct 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; General view of the ALCS logo on the field one day prior to game one of the ALCS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 13, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; General view of the ALCS logo on the field one day prior to game one of the ALCS between the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /

After both teams swept their opponents in the ALDS, the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians are both entering the ALCS with momentum. While it should be a tight series, here’s our predictions on who will win the series.

The Toronto Blue Jays will take on the Cleveland Indians in the American League Championship Series with a chance to go to the World Series on the line.

For Blue Jays’ president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins, it’s a return to their old stopping grounds, as both were a part of the Indians organization prior to joining Toronto.

The series should be a close one since the two teams are, for the most part, evenly matched.

To help break it all down, Jake Middleton and David Morassutti join Chris Okrainetz to preview the series and give their predictions.

Who has the Edge?

Starting Rotation:

David Morassutti: While Cleveland has Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber, I believe the depth of starting pitching that the Jays have beats what Cleveland will throw out. Not having Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar does effect that, but given the way that the Blue Jays pitched against Texas I think a repeat performance is not out of the question.

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The Blue Jays also hit Kluber hard earlier this season when he went 3.1 innings allowing five runs on seven hits and four walks. Kluber has a 1-3 record in five starts with a 5.34 ERA and a whip of 1.67 against the Jays. He did pitch well at home against the Blue Jays going 6 2/3 innings while striking out eight and allowing only two runs.

If the Blue Jays want any success in this series they have to get to Kluber like they did against Cole Hamels last series.

Jake Middleton: Toronto. Statistically, these are the top two rotations in the American League in terms of starters ERA, and for the Indians it’s a real shame that their rotation is missing two of their top three “aces.” Losing not one, but two aces is a tough pill to swallow for any team, let alone a team as talented as this Indians one is.

If Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar were healthy I think the Blue Jays would be in big trouble, but thankfully for them, they are not. The Jays lucked out in that aspect, because the starting pitching matchups in this series heavily favour Toronto, who has four legit starters they can roll out with confidence in any game. For the Indians, if they can get five innings out of their starters every game that has to be considered a win, but in terms of an advantage in this series, the Blue Jays have a HUGE edge.

Chris Okrainetz: Without Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco, the Blue Jays have the deeper rotation in this series. Aside from Corey Kluber, who I think is easily one of the best pitchers in baseball, none of the Indians other three starters scare me if I’m the Blue Jays. Tomlin has been good this season, but he’s also slowed down during the second half; Bauer has been an inconsistent throughout his career and has shown flashes of greatness, but he has never truly “put it all together;” and Clevinger is a rookie who has decent stuff, but lacks experience.

Meanwhile, the Blue Jays have four starting pitchers who have proven that they can get the job done and also have playoff experience on their resume. Again, Kluber could be problematic for the Blue Jays, although they have hit him well this year, but I think overall Toronto has the edge when it comes to the starting rotation.


David Morassutti: This is a tough one because as good as Roberto Osuna was against Texas, Cleveland’s bullpen was impressive against Boston. Andrew Miller will be the x-factor in this series and if the Blue Jays can somehow get to Miller they can win this series. Jason Grilli, Joe Biagini and Osuna will be important for the Blue Jays, especially if Francisco Liriano is not healthy to start today.

Must Read: Breaking Down the Indian's Starting Rotation

Chris Okrainetz: The Indians, without question, have the bullpen edge in this series. With pitchers like Otero, Shaw, McAllister, Allen and Miller, Cleveland has the ability to shorten a game in a hurry, which is something the Blue Jays are unable to do.

Francona also showed during the Red Sox series that he isn’t afraid to use Miller for an extended outing, which is a huge asset for the Indians. Although the Blue Jays lineup isn’t riddled with left-handed hitters, Miller has been so dominant that it really doesn’t matter who they deploy him against.

As for the Blue Jays bullpen, it’s all about getting the ball to Roberto Osuna. Joe Biagini has been great this postseason, but aside from him, Jason Grilli, Brett Cecil and Francisco Liriano have each had their struggles during this last month. The Jays’ bullpen was fantastic in Game 3 of the ALDS, but despite their stellar performance, it just doesn’t compare to the Indians’ bullpen.

Jake Middleton: Cleveland. While I think the Blue Jays have a huge advantage over Cleveland in regards to starting pitching, the bullpen matchup is the exact opposite with the Indians having a massive advantage over Toronto.

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  • For the Blue Jays, how many guys can you throw out there and have confidence in? For me it’s two guys: Joe Biagini and Roberto Osuna. That’s absurd for a team with World Series potential, and while Grilli, Cecil, and Liriano are not awful options, they aren’t great ones either.

    The Jays are going to need their starters to go a minimum of six innings per start or the cracks in the Jays’ bullpen will be exposed.

    For the Indians they have three, maybe four elite level relievers in Dan Otero, Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw, and maybe even Zach McAllister. That’s five relievers who have the ability to shut you down at any time of the game, for any team that is a tall task to handle, and with the managerial style of Terry Francona, he has no qualms about pitching any of these guys in any inning and in any situation. This is Cleveland by a mile.


    David Morassutti: Cleveland has hit well in the postseason but Boston did not pitch well so the Blue Jays will make life harder on Cleveland. The question is whether the Blue Jays will be able to continue their hot hitting from the Texas series.

    Josh Donaldson has been hitting well this postseason and if he can continue that along with Troy Tulowitzki it could be a big problem for Cleveland. Although Jason Kipnis, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Coco Crisp are going to make this series tough for the Blue Jays, they do not have the track record that Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Donaldson and Tulowitzki have.

    Jake Middleton: Tie. Despite the massive gaps between the two teams with regards to the starting rotation and bullpen, the hitting is a different story, because to me it is relatively even. Even though the Blue Jays boast the superstar names like Martin, Bautista, Encarnacion, Donaldson, Tulowitzki, and even Travis, the Indians (who actually score more runs than the Blue Jays) have a very talented young lineup with the likes of Francisco Lindor (one of my absolute favourites), Tyler Naquin, Chisenhall, Kipnis, Santana, and the reinvigorated Mike Napoli.

    Add in the fact that the Indians are very pesky hitters like the Royals were, where they’re aggressive, but have good plate discipline and can battle, and they will be a tough matchup for the Blue Jays pitching staff.

    Also the balance of their lineup with lefties, righties, and switch hitters is an added advantage for them. Overall though, the Jays’ power is evened out by the Indians contact heavy hitters. This seems to be a toss up for me.

    Chris Okrainetz: While the Blue Jays are known to be the more prolific offence, I don’t think these two teams are as far apart as people like to think. The Blue Jays can hurt you with an overwhelming amount of power, which Texas experienced first-hand during the ALDS, but the Indians do their fair share of damage as well. The main difference is that Cleveland regulalry manufactures runs, while the Blue Jays hit gap shots or towering home runs.

    I’ll say the Jays’ offence has an edge in this series because of their ability to change a game with one swing of the bat. However, the Indians versatility of left-handed, right-handed and switch-hitters could give the Jays trouble. Add in their ability to wreak havoc on the base paths, too, and they can make things interesting.


    Jake Middleton: Cleveland. Sorry Gibby, but the clear and obvious edge goes to Terry Francona and Cleveland. The owner of two World Series rings, Francona has been there and done that with regards to managing a Championship team, and while he has an unorthodox approach to managing games as evidenced by his use of his bullpen this postseason, he has come up smelling like roses time and time again.

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    Despite the big advantage with regards to success, I have to give John Gibbons some credit for his pinch-hitting, lineup maneuvering, and his success with the starters and the bullpen. Gibby isn’t in the same class as Francona, but he has shown his chops the past two years.

    David Morassutti: As much as John Gibbons is making the right moves he does not have the experience that Terry Francona has with his two World Series titles. Gibby has the healthier rotation on his side, but Francona has the edge with the bullpen. What I think it will come down to is how both managers use their pitching in this series.

    Chris Okrainetz: I think the edge here has to go to Terry Francona. While his bullpen usage might be considered a bit unorthodox, Tito is one of the best tacticians in the game and he has a ton of experience, which is backed by his two World Series rings.

    This isn’t a knock on Gibbons, who, despite what his detractors think, has done a good job with this team. I get that Gibbons has made a few questionable pitching decisions, particularly with his late inning management, but, for the most part, he’s done a solid job managing this veteran team.

    In this series, however, it’s tough to argue against Francona being the better manager.

    Where will the Series will be Decided?

    Jake Middleton: The pitching. It is absolutely critical for the Jays to get a lead early against the Indians and get into their bullpen as early as possible. If the Jays can plate two or three runs in the first three innings, it would go a long way towards helping them win the series. If the Indians starters pitch like Texas’ did then this could be over soon, but I think it will be slightly better.

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    If the Jays can get to Cleveland’s bullpen early it will really help them in the battle of attrition. With that said, if the Indians can get to the Jays’ bullpen earlier in games, they will have the advantage.

    Chris Okrainetz: Like most playoff series, this one will come down to pitching. The bullpen will be important for the Blue Jays, as they need stability in the late innings, while the Indians need each starter not named Corey Kluber to go at least five innings for them.

    The Blue Jays will win this series if their starters can consistently go deep into games and their bullpen can deliver in pressure-pitch situations. The Indians will win this series if they can generate runs off the Blue Jays’ rotation, which would force Toronto to use their bullpen early, and if they can get at least four or five quality starts from their starters.

    Who will Win?

    David Morassutti: I say the Blue Jays win in six and move on to the World Series

    Jake Middleton: I’ll say Toronto in six games.

    I’m going with the veteran Blue Jays and their starting pitching. Cleveland is a fantastic team with a lot of young talent, but none of them have ever been here before, and their starting pitching is a legitimate concern. While I don’t think the Blue Jays will hit the 10 homers they have hit in four games thus far, they will still score some runs off the Indians weak rotation.

    I remember playing this team last year and thinking to myself, “this team is going to be really good, really soon.” While I didn’t think it would be this early, I think that their youth will be a disadvantage, so I’ll chalk this series up to the veteran laden Blue Jays who seem to have something special when playing in the post season.

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    Chris Okrainetz: I’ll say the Blue Jays in seven.

    After falling short to the Royals in the ALCS last season, I think the Blue Jays will get it done this time around. The Indians are without two of their best starting pitchers and although their lineup is pesky, it is manageable to pitch against.

    Ultimately, I think the three consecutive home games is a big advantage for the Blue Jays and I see them at least earning a split in Cleveland while winning two of three at home.

    The combination of experience from last season and momentum from this season has created a different feeling around this Blue Jays squad. Call it cliché, but from the walk-off wins, to the three champagne showers in one week, to the overwhelming fan support, to the dream matchup of Shapiro versus his old club, this Blue Jays team just has that October feeling of destiny attached to it.

    It won’t be easy, but I think the Blue Jays will return to the World Series for the first time since 1993.