ALCS Preview: Though Indians rank higher in Box-Toppers rankings, Blue Jays have chance because of key Tribe injuries

Though the Cleveland Indians rank higher in Box-Toppers team rankings, they have been weakened by the loss of two top pitchers as they face the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series.

However, the Indians did overcome their loss and beat a more highly rated Boston Red Sox team in the AL Division Series to advance to the best-of-seven game ALCS that begins Friday in Cleveland.

Below are position-by-position match-ups of each player likely in the starting line-ups for both teams, along with the likely four starting pitchers and closing pitcher, plus the top extra active pitcher. Also listed are each player’s Box-Toppers points earned in 2016, along with their overall rank among all players.

The Indians rank fourth in Box-Toppers team rankings with an accumulated 123.7 Box-Toppers points their players earned in 2016. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays rank ninth with 114.0, the lowest of the five AL teams that qualified for the playoffs.

But the Indians are hurt by the absence of two of its three best pitchers in the series, who had 24.9 (or about 20 percent) of the Indians’ total Box-Toppers points.

  • Danny Salazar, 12.5 Box-Toppers points, ranked 24th among all players, eighth among AL pitchers. He suffered a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm on Sept. 9. He may be available if the Indians make the World Series. 
  • Carlos Carrasco, 12.4 Box-Toppers points, ranked 28th among all players, 10th among AL pitchers. He is out for the remainder of the season with a broken hand, suffered Sept. 17.

The Indians do have the highest-rated AL player—pitcher Corey Kluber has 21.2 Box-Toppers points, ranked fifth among all players and first among AL pitchers. The Indians also have the highest-rated middle relief pitcher in the AL, Andrew Miller, with 8.0 Box-Toppers points, ranked 92nd among all players.

The Blue Jays meanwhile have the AL’s highest-rated third baseman, Josh Donaldson, with 9.7 Box-Toppers points, ranked 57th among all players. They also have the third-highest-rated AL starting pitcher in J.A. Happ, 14.7 Box-Toppers points, ranked 11th among all players.

When matching starting batters for the two teams, the Blue Jays have the Box-Toppers points advantage, 6-3. The Blue Jays have three starting batters among Box-Toppers’ top 100 players, while the Indians have none. Those Blue Jays are:

  • Catcher Russell Martin, 10.5 Box-Toppers points, ranked 29th among all players, sixth among AL batters.
  • Third baseman Josh Donaldson, 9.7 points, ranked 57th among all players, seventh among AL batters.
  • First baseman Edwin Encarnacion, 8.0 points, ranked 80th among all players, 15th among AL batters.

In addition, the Blue Jays have two other batters who had lackluster 2016 seasons but who have been among Box-Toppers batting leaders in previous seasons:

  • Right fielder Jose Bautista had just 1.0 Box-Toppers point in 2016, but in 2015 had 10.0 points, second among AL batters. His best year was 2010 when he had 15.2 Box-Toppers points, first among AL batters.
  • Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki had just 1.0 Box-Toppers point in 2016, but in 2014 had 11.6 points when he was with the Rockies, leading all National League batters.

In the pitching matchup, the Indians would have the clear and distinct advantage if Salazar and Carrasco were healthy and available. Without them, the two teams’ starting staffs are roughly even. The Indians hold the slight edge among closers.

If you add the prospective starters’ Box-Toppers points in the chart below, the Blue Jays have the advantage—92.5 points vs. 81.6.

One final note: In March, Box-Toppers somehow made the correct preseason forecast that the Indians and Blue Jays would face off in the American League Championship Series and the Cubs and Dodgers would face off in the National League Championship Series.

Really, nothing more to say about that, just tooting my own horn since it’s unlikely ever to happen again. Honk.

American League Championship Series Game 1, Blue Jays at Indians

The pitching matchup Friday:

Blue Jays—Marco Estrada, 11.0 Box-Toppers points, ranked 37th among all players, 15th among AL pitchers.

Indians—Corey Kluber, 21.2 Box-Toppers points, fifth among all players, first among AL pitchers.

About Box-Toppers—Box-Toppers tracks who most helps their team win the most games. Using standard box score statistics, Box-Toppers uses a simple formula to determine a Player of the Game for each Major League Baseball game played. That player is the person who contributed most to his team’s win. In regular season games, players earn 1.0 Box-Toppers point for being named Player of the Game and can earn bonus points for being Player of the Day or top player or batter in their league for the day.

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AL Championship Series player comparisons

Likely starting players for the Blue Jays and Indians listed by position with their Box-Toppers point total (BTP) for the 2016 regular season and their overall rank among all players:

Pos Blue Jays BTP Rank Indians BTP Rank
1B Edwin Encarnacion 8.0 80 Mike Napoli 6.5 139
2B Devon Travis 1.0 572 Jason Kipnis 0.0 816
SS Troy Tulowitzki 1.0 539 Francisco Lindor 7.0 119
3B Josh Donaldson 9.7 57 Jose Ramirez 1.5 512
CA Russell Martin 10.5 29 Roberto Perez 0.0 865
CF Kevin Pillar 2.0 415 Tyler Naquin 2.0 484
LF Ezequiel Carrera 0.0 935 Coco Crisp 3.0 325
RF Jose Bautista 1.0 534 Lonnie Chisenhall 3.5 301
DH Michael Saunders 5.2 194 Carlos Santana 2.5 375
SP J.A. Happ 14.7 11 Corey Kluber 21.2 5
SP Marco Estrada 11.0 37 Trevor Bauer 11.4 34
SP Aaron Sanchez 10.7 45 Josh Tomlin 5.0 202
SP Marcus Stroman 6.7 132 Mike Clevinger 3.0 353
CP Roberto Osuna 3.0 319 Cody Allen 7.0 115
PI Francisco Liriano 8.0 78 Andrew Miller 8.0 92