After a long MLB season, that was full of big-time home runs and emerging stars, we are finally in the playoffs. In the NL, The Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals won their divisions, while the Rockies and Diamondbacks will square off in a Wildcard playoff on Wednesday. In the AL, the Indians, Red Sox, and Astros won their divisions, while the Twins and Yankees face off tonight in a wildcard playoff. Some of these teams are fairly surprised to see in the Playoffs. The Twins, for instance, we a 100 loss team last year. We have known about their good farm system for a while, but it took until this year for those players to finally start helping the team. Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, Nationals, Astros, and Indians, and Red Sox, were less surprising. The playoffs are chock full of talented young superstars, such as Kris Bryant on the Cubs, Cody Bellinger on the Dodgers, Mookie Betts on the Red Sox, Aaron Judge of the Yankees, and much more. It was a fun season in the MLB, and it should be an even better playoff. Who will rise to the top, and who will sputter out? Let’s find out.
Twins at Yankees
Both of these teams have made great stories in this season. We already talked about the Twins amazing turnaround from last year, but we haven’t talked about the emergence of the young Yankees Hitters. Aaron Judge took the league by storm. Although he had a cold stretch in the middle of the season where all he did was strikeout, he got back on track and ended up breaking the record for home runs by a rookie. The Yankees are second in runs scored, and 5th in team ERA. The Twins meanwhile, are 7th in runs scored, but only 17th in team ERA. The Twins are sending Ervin Santana out to the mound, while the Yankees send Luis Severino. This matchup favors the Yankees. Severino has been solid inside the small dimensions of New Yankees Stadium all year, with a 3.7 ERA. Strikeout pitchers tend to do well as they rely less on flyball outs. Ervin Santana, on the other hand, has struggled all of his career in the small ballpark, and has even called the ballpark “a joke.” He is 0-5 in his career in the ballpark, with an ERA over 6. Santana is a fly ball pitcher, and in Yankees Stadium, fly balls tend to go over the fence. Twins are going to have to put up a lot of runs if they want to win. Their best bet for that is to get on top of Severino early because the Yankees bullpen has been masterful. As great as the Twins story has been, it comes to an end tonight.
Prediction: Yankees win
Rockies at Diamondbacks
This matchup is similar to the Yankees vs Twins, in that it features one team that is top in the league in both ERA and runs scored, and one team that is top in the league in runs, but are in the bottom half of teams in terms of ERA. It is no surprise that the Rockies tend to give up runs, seeing as they play in one of the only ballparks where it is easier to hit home runs than Yankees stadium. Were this in Colorado, it would be tough. The Rockies are one of the best home teams in baseball, but on the road, they are only 1 game over .500. The game will see Rockies pitcher Jon Gray go up against the Diamondbacks Zack Greinke. Grienke is no stranger to pitching in the playoffs, having pitched in over 9 playoff games, with a respectable ERA of 3.55. He has struggled in his past two outings, getting knocked out of the game in just four innings both times. He has had decent success against the Rockies this year, although Carlos Gonalez tends to be able to hit him well. Jon Gray has never pitched in the playoffs, but he has had a breakout season. Surprisingly, he pitches better at home than he does on the road, with his road ERA topping 4.0. He did pitch well in the two games he played at Chase Field though. However, the fact this is in Arizona, and the Diamondbacks have the pitcher with more experience, I have to take them to win.
Prediction: Diamondbacks win
AL Divisional Series
Red Sox vs Astros
Both of these teams are well balanced and loaded with great young talent. The Astros have scored more runs than anyone else in the league, and while they struggled pitching-wise during the first half of the season, the acquisition of Justin Verlander, put them on another level. 4 players hit over 20 hrs for them. 5 players have an OBP over .370. Jose Altuve, stood out more than anyone, with an Avg near .350, 24 home runs, 32 steals, and over 200 hits. They come into the playoffs playing as good as anyone and calling them this years Cubs, wouldn’t be a stretch. With a great young team of hitters, and solid pitching held down by the veteran Verlander, they are in great position. While the Red Sox haven’t been quite as good hitting wise, their pitching has been great, in particular, Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz. They are helped out by a talented lineup featuring Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Hanley Rameriez, Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, among others. Still, as talented as the Red Sox are, the Astros have just been on another level. They come into the playoffs winning a series over the Red Sox 3-1 and should keep that up.
Prediction: Astros win series in 4
Yankees vs Indians
We already talked about the Yankees, but we haven’t gotten to talk about the Indians. They were one of the best stories in Baseball near the end, with their record-breaking 22 game win streak. And it wasn’t just luck, the Indians are obviously a good team, and have been for a couple years now. They have the best team ERA in the league and have scored the sixth most runs. The streak helped them earn the best record in baseball. But did they peak too soon? They didn’t necessarily cool off after their streak was snapped, going 11-4 after the streak to finish the series. But history doesn’t bode well for teams who go on late-season streaks. The Indians may have used up all their good grace on that streak. Is there such a thing as peaking too early? I think there is. I personally saw it with the Phillies in 2007. Both them and the Yankees have good bullpens, and good bullpens tend to be the key to deep playoff runs. Both teams also offer solid rotations. I think the x-factor- is Aaron Judge. We saw the Cubs young hitters carry them last year, and I can see Judge and Gary Sanchez doing the same this year.
Prediction: Yankees win series in 5
NL Divisional Series
Cubs vs Nationals
The Nationals during their current stretch of success have been notorious for choking and underperforming when things get important. They have all the talent, with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg int heir rotation, and Bryce Harper in the lineup, but things just never seem to work out. This year, the come into the postseason with Scherzer ailing with an injury. The Cubs, on the other hand, are trying to repeat. They struggled throughout the season, and many expected them to keep up the trend of world series winners missing the playoffs the following year. But as the season went on they managed to right their ship, and get back to playing like the team that won it all last year. Both teams can boast a talented lineup, and a talented pitching staff, as they are each top 10 in both runs and ERA. This will come down to, which team can I trust to step up the most. The Cubs have made two straight NL championship series, the Nationals tend to flounder in the playoffs. I wonder if Nationals fans will leave before the game is over if any of these games go late again since that is what they did in the past.
Prediciton: Cubs win series in 4
Diamondbacks vs Dodgers
Every year it is the same with the Dodgers it seems. They have one of the best regular season teams, and then get to the NLCS, and lose. They are always a good team, but never the team that wins. They fell apart to my Phillies multiple times, thank you Jonathan Broxton, they have fallen apart against the Cubs, the Mets, and against the Giants. I don’t think I even need to break down the talent on their team because the result is inevitable. No matter how good their lineup is, no matter how good their rotation is, they will lose in either the NLDS or the NLCS. This year, since they are playing the Diamondbacks, who are good but not special, I think they will make it to the NLCS.
Prediction: Dodgers win series in 4
AL Championship Series
Yankees vs Astros
This will be a fun series. Two of the best young lineups in baseball, going head to head, trading home runs. It is the type of series that can bring baseball back to the forefront of American sports. Baseball fans love to talk tradition, pitching battles, and “Unwritten rules,” of respect, but what is going to save Baseball, is the influx of hitters with swagger. A couple years ago when the Blue Jays and Rangers played and swapped big-time home runs, that was the type of series America wants to see. People may complain about Jose Bautista’s bat flip, but that was a great moment, that got people talking baseball. So these two young lineups full of power could be similar. But who will win it? Astros have a bit more talent and have had the better year overall. I think the Astros take the series, but it will sure be fun to watch.
Prediction: Astros win series in 6
NL Championship Series
Cubs vs Dodgers
I already gave away how this series will go. I don’t get why so many people continue to pick the Dodgers. Nothing ever changes. What makes this year different than the past decade? Some teams, are just chokers. The Bengals in the NFL, the St Louis Blues in the NHL, the Clippers or Thunder in the NBA, and the Athletics and Dodgers in the MLB. Quite simply, the Cubs and Dodgers are close enough in talent, that I can look at the fact the Cubs have proven they can win, while the Dodgers have proven they can’t win, and be fairly confident in this outcome.
Prediction: Cubs win series in 6
Cubs vs Astros
Again, another battle of great, powerful, young, lineups. With some good veteran pitching on both sides to boot. So who wins this matchup? Is it Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and the Cubs? Or Jose Altuve, George Springer, and the Astros? I thought early on while the Astros were playing well, that we were looking at something special. The Cubs already won a world series, after waiting 100 years to see one, they can wait one more year to see their second. Astros have been building up like the Cubs for a while, and it all comes together this year.
Prediction: Astros win series in 7