October baseball is traditionally reserved for those teams lucky and talented enough to survive the 162-game slog that is the regular season and the crapshoot of the playoffs. However, we shouldn't forget the teams on the other end of the spectrum, the teams that failed to meet expectations (or set them too low in the first place). With that in mind, below I simulate a mirror version of this year's playoffs, with the cellar dwellers in each division joining the next two worst teams in each league in a 10-team quest for ignoble glory.
|Division||American League||National League|
The Rangers and Diamondbacks, as the worst teams in their respective leagues, get the privilege of hosting the wild-card winner. Meanwhile, the Cubs host the Phillies on the weakness of their run differential, while Boston will visit Minnesota.
As I have done in recent articles, I'll be utilizing Matt Hunter's SaberSim website for all simulated games. This time we have the added bonus of using the end-of-season stats for 2014 as predictors, rather than the preseason ZiPS numbers.
American League: The host Astros took out the White Sox 6-3, with Jose Altuve going 2-4 and Jason Castro (!) hitting two home runs. Chris Carter hit one as well, enough to overcome Jose Abreu and Avisail Garcia's blasts for the Sox.
National League: Johnny Cueto and the Reds shut down Jorge de la Rosa and the Rockies 4-0 in Colorado, with Todd Frazier and Tucker Barnhart both hitting home runs. Cueto allowed only three hits through eight innings, with Aroldis Chapman pitching the ninth (way to not underutilize your closer, hypothetical Bryan Price).
(I'll give game-by-game breakdowns for the LCS and World Series.)
Astros at Rangers: Astros win three games to one, with the Rangers' only win being a Derek Holland shutout in game 2.
Red Sox at Twins: Twins win in a sweep, with the deciding game coming on Ricky Nolasco's shutout at Fenway Park. Mookie Betts' four hits in game 2 are not enough.
Reds at Diamondbacks: Reds win three games to one, as the D-Backs were only able to win game 1. Johnny Cueto comes through again and only allows five hits.
Phillies at Cubs: Cubs win in a sweep, including an 8-0 shellacking in the clincher. Anthony Rizzo hits three home runs in the series.
Game 1: 3-2 Twins. There's not really much to say about this game.
Game 2: The Twins take a 2-0 lead in the series with an 8-3 win, led by Kennys Vargas going 4-5 and Chris Herrmann and Aaron Hicks each going 3-4.
Game 3: The Astros win 4-1 to halve the Twins' lead, largely thanks to Robbie Grossman's big day: 3-5, home run.
Game 4: Tommy Milone comes up with a gem, and the Twins take advantage of three walks from Brett Oberholtzer to win the game 3-0 and go ahead in the series 3-1.
Game 5: More walks from the Astros pitching allows the Twins to cruise to a 5-1 victory and take the series going away.
The Giants match well with the Royals
The Giants might present trouble for a strength of the Royals.
Game 1: Jake Arrieta twirls a three-hitter, Rizzo hits another home run, and the Cubs take the opener 2-0.
Game 2: The Cubs continue their dominance with another 8-0 win. Rizzo hits yet another home run, and Junior Lake hits two.
Game 3: The Reds get a 10-inning, walk-off win, with Brayan Pena and Todd Frazier both hitting home runs to make up the 3-2 scoreline.
Game 4: Another Cincinnati win by the same 3-2 margin. The series is now tied, notwithstanding Rizzo's sixth home run of the playoffs.
Game 5: The Reds stay perfect at home with a 6-2 win and send the series back to Wrigley up by a game.
Game 6: The Cubs force a deciding Game 7 behind two home runs from Jorge Soler in a 10-0 win.
Game 7: Arrieta gives up three runs and the Cubs can only muster a Junior Lake solo shot. The specter of Steve Bartman continues to haunt the Cubs, as they can't even win the ultimate losers' bracket. Rizzo gets the MVP despite the loss.
I assumed both teams were able to set up their rotations properly for this series, since Cueto hadn't gone since game 4 of the NLCS and the Twins had plenty of rest days. I also assumed that Billy Hamilton had returned from his concussion and Ryan Ludwick played DH when the Twins hosted.
Game 1: The Reds take the opener 5-1, with Devin Mesoraco matching Brian Dozier's solo shot and Cueto pitching well.
Game 2: Dozier hits another home run, this time in a winning cause as the Twins even the series.
Game 3: Mike Leake, of all people, hits a home run to lead the Reds to an easy 4-1 victory. This seems like a good time to remind everyone of the last pitcher to hit a home run in the World Series, Joe Blanton in 2008. Before that, it was Ken Holtzman all the way back in 1973.
Game 4: Cincinnati explodes for a 9-3 win, thanks to Hamilton's 3-5 day and Mesoraco's home run. Dozier hits his third home run of the series, but it's not nearly enough for Minnesota.
Game 5: The Reds clinch the title with a 4-2 win as Cueto supports himself with a pair of hits.
This post may have been more appropriately published at Beneath the Box Score, but in lieu of splitting the blog into more sections than there are Planet of the Apes movies, this'll have to do. And as you watch the Royals and Giants battle it out over the next week-plus, try not to forget all the teams that never had a chance.
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All simulations run on SaberSim.
Steven Silverman is a featured writer at Beyond the Box Score and a student at Carnegie Mellon University. He also writes for Batting Leadoff. You can follow him on Twitter at @Silver_Stats or email him at Steven@SilverStats.com.