Well, that was clever. Wrote the previews, then forget to publish them. These are a day old. Sorry.
Texas vs. Toronto: This series is viewed as the most lopsided among the Division Series, with Toronto heavily favored. I agree. Texas' big trading deadline acquisition, lefthanded starter Cole Hamels, will start in the second game on Friday and, if necessary, in the fifth game on Wednesday. However, the Blue Jays have the best record in the American League against lefties. They scored the most runs in the league (5.7 per game; the Rangers were a distant second at 5.1) and gave up the fewest (3.7; the Rangers were eighth at 4.6). I could see the Blue Jays sweeping this one. [Note: I wrote this before the Rangers won last night's game, 5-3. I still think the Jays will win the series. I'm assuming third baseman Josh Donaldson and right fielder Jose Bautista, who left Thursday's game with injuries, are healthy.] For a more comprehensive look at this series, see my Banished to the Pen colleague Barry Gilpin's preview here.
Houston vs. Kansas City: Another series with a clear favorite, as the Astros fell out of the American League West lead late in the season and struggled to qualify as a wild card, while the Royals had the best record in the American League. However, the Astros overall played better ball than their record indicated, based on the underlying statistics, while the Royals won five more games than their run production would predict. These two teams are a stark contrast: Houston hits home runs and strikes out in bunches, Kansas City batters led the league in contact and had the lowest strikeout rate, by far. Kansas City had a surprisingly weak rotation and a shutdown bullpen; Houston's rotation was solid, anchored by likely Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, and a bullpen that looked gassed down the stretch. I'm favoring the Royals in five because the Astros will get only one game from Keuchel and because the Royals pitchers were very effective against fly ball hitters, and no team hit a larger proportion of fly balls than the Astros. [Note: I wrote this before the Astros won last night's game, 5-2. I'm not feeling good about that prediction; if the Royals don't win today, it's going to be a real struggle for them.] For a more comprehensive look at the series, see my Banished to the Pen preview here.
Chicago vs. St. Louis: The Cardinals had the best record in baseball, but the Cubs had the third best. Like the Astros, the Cubs have a Cy Young candidate, Jake Arrieta, who was used in the wild card game and will thus be available in only Game 3 of this series. Unlike the Astros, who faded in the stretch, the Cubs had the best record in the National League in the second half of the year, scoring the second must runs in the league and allowing the third fewest since the All-Star break. The Cardinals are relying on a number of players coming off injuries who may or may not be at their best: catcher Yadier Molina, pitcher Adam Wainwright (who'll be available only out of the bullpen), and outfielders Randal Grichuk, Matt Holliday, and Stephen Piscotty. Pitcher Carlos Martinez is out with a shoulder injury and first baseman Matt Adams, recovering from a leg injury, is not on the Division Series roster. I pick the Cubs in four games. For more detail, see my Banished to the Pen preview here.
New York vs. Los Angeles: It's hard to imagine a New York vs. Los Angeles series not getting top billing, but the longtime Chicago/St. Louis rivalry and the Cubs' history (107 years since their last World Series championship) may take center stage. The story of this series will be pitching: the Mets' young guns vs. the Dodgers' two Cy Young contenders, lefty Clayton Kershaw and righty Zack Greinke. (The secondary story will be the Madoff-scammed financially constrained Mets vs. the more-money-than-God Dodgers.) Both teams had surprisingly good offenses (the Dodgers were seventh in scoring and the Mets eighth despite both playing in pitcher-friendly parks) and strong closers with OK-not-great middle relief. I'm taking the Dodgers in five games, as the Mets' record was juiced by playing in the very weak National League East (the club was 43-43 outside of their home division) while the Dodgers bullpen, a perennial weakness that helped torpedo their last playoff appearances, seemed to have found its footing after the All-Star break. For more detail, see my Banished to the Pen colleague Darius Austin's very thorough preview here.