Experts from SI.com and FoxSports.com make their picks for the two League Championship Series matchups.
Indians vs. Blue Jays: Cleveland has the better bullpen, better base running and more depth in the lineup. Toronto may suffer from too many days off just when its offense had started to click, which is especially dangerous when you get two games in 20 hours in Cleveland to get the series underway. Indians in 7.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: Los Angeles may have to resort to Brock Stewart or Ross Stripling to start in Game 1 and a weary Kenta Maeda in Game 2. Just another reason why Chicago's season is so magical: Its NLCS opponent wore itself out just getting there. Even at full strength, the Dodgers don't have the depth the Cubs do. Cubs in 6
Indians vs. Blue Jays: Not sure why anyone would want my opinion—I picked the wrong winner in each ALDS, though I at least thought enough of Cleveland and Toronto to predict that each series would go five games. I like both clubs even more now (of course!), but I’m going with the Blue Jays for two reasons: 1) Their offense, which finally ignited in the Division Series, producing eight homers and an .895 OPS in three games; and 2) The Indians’ lack of pitching depth, which is more likely to be exposed in a best-of-seven than it was in a best-of-five. But I’ll also stand by what I wrote in my ALDS prediction: “Don’t underestimate Cleveland, a delightful surprise all season.” In other words, I have no clue! Blue Jays in 6.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: It was loser’s talk, but Nationals manager Dusty Baker had a point when he said that he would be interested to see the effect of NLDS Game 5 in the NLCS on Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen. Los Angeles, which already faced a lack of pitching depth, probably cannot beat Chicago without Kershaw and Jansen at their best. Heck, the Dodgers probably cannot beat the Cubs regardless. My sense is that Chicago will be liberated by its survival against the Giants and that it has too much talent for the Dodgers, who struggle with lefties and will need to deal with Jon Lester in Game 1 and three lefthanded relievers—Aroldis Chapman, Mike Montgomery and Travis Wood—all series long. Cubs in 5.
Indians vs. Blue Jays: Cleveland won the regular season series, 4–3, despite being outscored by 14 runs. A 17–1 defeat on July 3, the Indians' worst of 2016, explains that. By Friday’s first pitch, it will have been two weeks since either club lost, though Toronto’s winning formula, based on a finally hot offense and a deep rotation, seems likelier to hold up. Terry Francona’s strategy to overcome crushing injuries to starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar—which relies heavily on ace Corey Kluber, high-leverage relief weapon Andrew Miller and closer Cody Allen—worked beautifully in an ALDS sweep of the Red Sox. But Allen, for one, already looked gassed by the end of Game 3. A best-of-seven series will prove too much for the plucky Indians. Blue Jays in 6.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: No need to dig too deep here. The Cubs are superior to the Dodgers in virtually every way, and they’ve got two extra days of rest on a team that was stretched to the limit by the Nationals in the NLDS. Los Angeles doesn’t have the personnel to exploit Chicago’s primary weakness, which is its trouble controlling the running game, as no Dodger stole more than 10 bases during the regular season; the club as a whole swiped just 45. Enjoy it, North Siders. Cubs in 5.
Indians vs. Blue Jays: The Blue Jays set the bait at the end of the season, and I bit. Toronto hit .236 in September and October to finish out the regular season while posting a paltry .693 OPS. The momentum we so often look to for with teams headed to the postseason wasn't there. It didn't matter. Toronto had rattled off four straight wins this post season and it is showing no signs of slowing down. The Jays have a formidable starting four in Marco Estrada, J.A. Happ, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez which, because of injuries, is deeper than what Cleveland can counter with. Edwin Encarnacion continues to see his free-agent stock rise with a strong playoff showing so far (.375, three home runs, .938 SLG), and despite hitting no home runs in 18 at-bats, Josh Donaldson still has nine hits, including five doubles. The Indians have had a magnificent run and are a easy team to root for, but the burden on the bullpen will ultimately be too much. Blue Jays in 6.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: Game 5 of the NLDS was one for the ages, and Los Angeles continues to defy the odds. Clayton Kershaw threw only seven pitches in that game and should be fine to start Game 2 in the NLCS. That's imperative for me because it sets him up to go in Game 5 on short rest or to start Game 6 on full rest. It also keeps open the idea of him coming out of the bullpen in Game 6 and/or 7. The Cubs probably should have lost Games 1 and 4 against the Giants in the NLDS, but San Francisco gave both games away. Something will have to change in order for Chicago to beat the Dodgers, most notably the bats of Dexter Fowler, Jason Heyward, Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist waking up; they hit a combined .110 in the NLDS with two RBIs. They're certainly capable of doing that. but I'm sticking with Los Angeles to win what should be a great series. Dodgers in 6.
Indians vs. Blue Jays: Cleveland has the best starter in the series (Corey Kluber), this postseason's most lethal weapon (Andrew Miller) and a manager pushing all the right buttons in an insane October that is completely reshaping how we all think about elite reliever usage. With the little things—the bullpen, superior base running and platoon advantages—the Indians will move one step closer to making it official: 2016 is Cleveland's year. Indians in 6.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: There's so much to love about this matchup: two mad professors matching wits; the Cuban Missile versus the 51-pitch closer; a pair of young MVP candidates (Kris Bryant and Corey Seager); Chi-town vs. Tinseltown. Los Angeles was the league's best against righthanded pitching and would mostly likely face a righthanded starter five times in a seven game series. I still like my preseason World Series pick: Dodgers vs. Indians in the Fall Classic. Dodgers in 7.
Indians vs. Blue Jays: Despite a rotation missing two key starters, Cleveland was able to sweep the Red Sox in the ALDS thanks in large part to manager Terry Francona's aggressive and proactive use of his bullpen. That was particularly true for Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, both of whom threw at least 35 pitches and got four to six outs in each of their two outings. Getting by with that strategy will be more difficult in this series: Unless Corey Kluber pitches on three days' rest in Games 1 and 4 (and possibly 7), Francona must nurse not only Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin through the Blue Jays' imposing lineup but also rookie Mike Clevinger. The trio of consecutive games at the Rogers Centre will be especially difficult for Francona to lean on Miller and Allen, because there won't be any rainouts in a domed stadium to give his pitchers extra rest. Beyond that, Toronto has a deeper rotation, better defense (ranking first in the AL in defensive efficiency, just ahead of Cleveland) and the superior ability to call upon the home run. Blue Jays in six.
Cubs vs. Dodgers: In thrilling fashion, Los Angeles emptied its tank to get past the Nationals in the NLDS, but even if the Dodgers can get past the inevitable hangover and fatigue, they're the easier prey for the Cubs. That's primarily because of their vulnerability to lefthanded pitching: They were the league's least productive team against southpaws. While only one of Chicago's four starters throws from that side, it's co-ace Jon Lester who—after pitching his way into the Cy Young conversation during the regular season and delivering eight shutout innings in the Division Series opener—is set up to pitch Games 1 and 5 in the NLCS. What's more, the Cubs feasted on lefthanded pitching themselves, and with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill having gone on short rest just to advance, they're not likely to be in top form for very long here. Cubs in five.