Sidelines: this week in sports

Photo Credit: Toronto Raptors

Photo Credit: Toronto Raptors

World Series Preview

It turns out starting pitching does matter. The two teams with the best rotations in baseball are set to duke it out in a World Series matchup that is bound to be one filled with pitching duels.

The Houston Astros’ postseason rotation features two absolute monsters in Justin Verlander and Gerritt Cole, with Zack Greinke as a more than formidable third option. The Washington Nationals will be matching this with Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer, followed by Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez as their third and fourth starter. Ironically both teams have former Blue Jays as closers in Roberto Osuna and Daniel Hudson.

This postseason has only confirmed that the starting pitcher is the most important position in baseball. The New York Yankees have had the league’s best offence for two years now, yet were unable to string together hits against the Astros elite rotation. Even moreso, New York only had two reliable starters in Masahiro Tanaka and James Paxton, and neither can hold a light to Verlander and Cole. The Yankees have the best bullpen in the league, but even the best of relievers can’t bail their starters out in, say, four out of six ALCS games.

In all honesty, this series was very winnable for New York. They should’ve won game two, which would’ve put them up 2-0 heading back to The Bronx, and stranded 22 runners in scoring position in the series. Aside from Gleyber Torres and DJ LeMahieu, who combined to hit .314, the rest of the Yankee offence hit a measly .180, including absolutely abysmal performances from Gary Sanchez and Edwin Encarnacion, who combined to ‘hit’ .097 with 22 strikeouts in 41 at-bats. It seemed that Edwin and Houston’s Yordan Alvarez were in a let’s-see-who-can-strikeout-more contest (Alvarez went 1-22 with 12 K’s), although the latter’s team was able to pick up the slack.

Jose Altuve, the 5’6/160lb hitting machine was named ALCS MVP, and rightfully so, after the former AL MVP hit .385 in the series including the walk-off homer in Game 6 that sent the ‘Stros to the World Series.

It seems forever since the last time the Nationals played, seeing as they swept the Cardinals back on October 15. Their offence is good, but very top-heavy (unlike the Astros whose seventh hitter (Carlos Correa) bats .280). Granted an Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Ryan Zimmerman heart of the order is pretty deadly, but they definitely do not have the offensive depth that Houston does. Let’s not forget about NLCS MVP, Howie Kendrick, who all of a sudden hit .344 this season at age 35, a year after tearing his Achilles.

Houston is undoubtedly the favourites to win this series, but with the talent of Washington’s rotation (plus the extra rest their arms have had as opposed to Verlander’s) it should be a fun and exciting series. Think I’ll pick Houston in 5 with Gerritt Cole winning the MVP, and then winning the offseason when he gets a bajillion dollars during free agency.

Raptors honeymoon season begins

The Raptors are set to open their 25th season tonight against New Orleans and while the pregame championship banner/ring ceremony is sure to be a memorable event, the Raptors aren’t really playing for anything this year. And you know what, I’m absolutely fine with a laid-back, let’s-just-have-fun season where no one really cares what happens. The Raptors are certainly going to milk this championship out as long as they can (exhibit A, the ticket prices, ugh), but are still likely to make the playoffs and win a round.

Since the Raptors had to wait so long until Kawhi made his decision, they struck out on virtually all the tier one and two free agents and had to settle for the likes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson (who are basically the same player, I still don’t get signing both) while also looking overseas in the case of Matt Thomas.

Head coach Nick Nurse has made it abundantly clear who he trusts and who he does not; he ripped into Hollis-Jefferson and Johnson when asked about their understanding of schemes and overall effort in a media scrum and then went on to play his seven-man rotation (Lowry, VanVleet, Powell, Anunoby, Siakam, Ibaka, Gasol) exclusively in the first quarter of their final preseason game against the Nets.

It sucks that Zion Williamson won’t be making his NBA debut in Toronto tonight (he just underwent knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus and is out 6-8 weeks), as I’m sure everybody who watches the game (myself included) will be a little disappointed, but I’m still very excited to watch this new Pelicans team. I’m still a big believer in Lonzo Ball and can’t wait to see Toronto’s own Nickeil Alexander-Walker make his NBA debut. Should be a fun year in NOLA.

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