The MLB Postseason is back!
After a long season filled with the expected (Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, Astros were all good) and the unexpected (the Braves won the NL East, the Athletics made the playoffs, the Brewers have home-field advantage in the NL), we have the final 10 teams all aiming for one prize.
The saying goes that records go out the window in the playoffs, and well that may be true in single elimination sports (NFL), but in series sports, I don’t think it is that simple. While everyone has a clean slate now that the playoffs are here, the body of work that created a team’s record is still true and to win playoff series, it takes more than a fluke anything can happen moment. This is part of the reason why the Wild Card format is so exciting to me, in one game, truly anything can happen. It puts that much more emphasis on winning your division to avoid this game. The Brewers and Dodgers benefited immensely by winning their game 163s yesterday to avoid the one game elimination today.
As true as it is that anything can happen in one game, typically a better team will win a series, especially a 7-game series. So records are out the window, but the team’s identity has been formed, and that will lead to some great baseball this October.
Can the Dodgers finally end their World Series drought this season? Maybe. Can the Astros be the first team to repeat as World Series champs since the 1998-2000 Yankees? We will see.
Here is how I see the MLB Postseason breaking down this October:
AL Wild Card: Yankees over Athletics
Analysis: The Athletics are basically the Yankees on a budget. Both teams hit home-runs (Yankees #1 in MLB, Athletics #3), both teams have stellar bullpens (Athletics #3 in MLB, Yankees #4 in ERA), but the Yankees’ payroll is $179.6 million and the Athletics’ payroll is $80.3 million. With that being said, the teams are pretty even on paper, but I give the Yankees the edge since they are home and they play excellent at home (53-28 at home).
ALDS: Yankees over Red Sox
Analysis: This will be a classic rivalry battle. As division rivals, they faced each other 19 times this year, the Red Sox had the slight edge 10-9. Both teams score runs in bunches (Red Sox #1 in MLB, Yankees #2), so this will be a battle of which team can get better pitching. This is where I give the edge to the Yankees and why I think they win a tight series. Chris Sale has not looked the same in September since his injury, the Red Sox bullpen is shaky and are the Red Sox really going to be confident in David Price facing the Yankees?
ALDS: Astros over Indians
Analysis: This series will be an old school pitchers duel. The Astros had the best pitching in baseball (#1 in ERA as a team and #1 in bullpen ERA) and the Indians might have the deepest rotation in the game with four starters that had 200+ strikeouts (Carrasco, Kluber, Bauer and Clevinger). But actually, the Astros had the most strike-outs (pitching) in the MLB. When you consider that the Indians can attribute most of their success to feasting on a terrible division that contained 3 of the 4 worst teams in the AL (they had a 23-31 record against teams over .500, the worst of all playoff teams), the Astros should win this series.
ALCS: Astros over Yankees
Analysis: Same match-up, same result. As the Astros proved last year, they have the pitching to shut the Yankees down. And the scary part, the Astros pitching is actually better this year than it was last year. The Yankees home-run happy hitting is strike-out prone (3rd most in AL) and the Astros strike-out the most batters in the MLB. The Yankees have a strike-out dominant bullpen (#2 in MLB), but the Astros rarely strike-out (2nd fewest in MLB).
NL Wild Card: Cubs over Rockies
Analysis: Much has been said about the Rockies playing worse on the road compared to at home, but really the records were pretty close to even (47-34 at home, 44-38 on the road). At the end of the day, I think the travel will catch-up to the Rockies and the Cubs will prevail. The Rockies were in Colorado on Sunday, Los Angeles on Monday and Chicago on Tuesday, that isn’t a recipe for success.
NLDS: Brewers over Cubs
Analysis: Winning Game 163 and getting home field advantage will prove to be advantageous for the Brewers. These teams met 20 times in the regular season, with the Cubs having the slight edge 11-9. Both teams sport Top-5 pitching staffs (in terms of ERA) and both teams have MVP candidates (Baez and Yelich… side note, Yelich should win MVP). But, the Brewers have been on fire of late, on September 1st, the Brewers were in 3rd place, 5 games behind on the Cubs. On October 1st, the Brewers beat the Cubs to win the NL Central and claim home field advantage in the NL playoffs. The Brewers are good and peaking at the absolute right time.
NLDS: Dodgers over Braves
Analysis: The Braves are this year’s Yankees. They are contenders about a year earlier than most people, including myself, expected. The Dodgers are just too deep for the Braves to overcome this year. The Dodgers were #1 in the NL in runs scored and #1 in the NL in ERA. The Dodgers also have much more veteran leadership to get through this series.
NLCS: Brewers over Dodgers
Analysis: The Dodgers may have the best team ERA in the NL, but the Brewers have a better bullpen (#2 in ERA in NL). In the today’s game, bullpens are huge in the playoffs. When I see that Brewers had the best home record in the National League (51-30) and with how well they have been playing for the past month, I think they have what it takes to win this series.
World Series: Astros over Brewers
Analysis: The MLB may be hoping that I am wrong with this prediction since the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Dodgers all having much larger markets for ratings. I am still a believer that pitching wins in the playoffs and it is hard to ignore the Astros pitching, as mentioned earlier, they were #1 in the MLB in team ERA and bullpen ERA and it actually wasn’t even close. The Astros pitch well, make contact at the plate (2nd fewest Ks in MLB), and play stellar defense (#1 fielding percentage in MLB, Brewers are 26th). To me that is a recipe to win the World Series.
All stats from MLB.com, Payroll Data from Spotrac.com