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MLB Postseason predictions

On Friday, Oct. 7, the Major League Baseball (MLB) Postseason will kick off with the Wild Card Series. The postseason will have a format that baseball fans have never seen before: six teams from both the National League and the American League will fight for the World Series title. The seeding is decided by each team’s regular season record. The top three seeds are represented by the three division winners (in MLB, there are three divisions in each league). The remaining three seeds are titled the “Wild Cards,” as they are the remaining three teams with the best records. The Wild Cards can be in any division, so there is potential for four teams from the same division to be in the playoffs.

The top two seeds out of the six earn a bye through the first round. The remaining four teams will play a best-of-three game series with the three seed playing against the six seed and the four seed playing against the five seed. This bye is crucial for teams, as they get to rest for five days and set up their pitching rotation in any way they prefer. The other teams have to play a high-intensity three-game set with little room for error. The winners of the four/five series and the three/six series will move on to play the one and two seeds, respectively. This is known as the Division Series, which is a best out of five games or first to win three. After that there is only the Championship Series, which is a best of seven for the two remaining teams of both leagues. The World Series is the final matchup of the postseason where the best of the National League (NL) and Atlantic League (AL) face off.

Although it is valuable to know the format of the playoffs, it is much more important to know which teams are going to compete for the trophy. Each ballclub comes with their own strengths and weaknesses, which can heavily influence their respective game plans. For example, the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series Championship by relying on their dominant starting pitching. The Baseball Postseason is incredibly tough and I would say it is more difficult to win a World Series than ever before considering there are more teams and more rounds. The regular season does not matter anymore and whoever plays the best ball in October is going to win it all. The Atlanta Braves just last year only had 88 wins in the regular season, but they were able to take down the 106-win Dodgers and the 95-win Astros en route to their championship.

I will approach ranking the playoff teams in a number of tier lists. These may not mean much, but it will be interesting to look back at how I viewed each playoff team once it is all said and done. As we reach the later rounds, it will be much easier to see each club’s playoff formula and evaluate how they fare against the other remaining clubs.

The highest tier is “Championship Contenders,” as I believe these squads are far and away the best in baseball. The four squads in this tier are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, Atlanta Braves, and the New York Mets.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are on pace to win more than 110 games, which has not been done in the NL since 1909 by our very own Pittsburgh Pirates. Their lineup is easily the best in baseball with three MVP-caliber players at the top and a number of other great players to round out the bottom. The Dodgers lack the firepower of their starting rotations in years past, but they still fielded the lowest starter ERA this season. Their bullpen has also been statistically one of the best in the league as well. A championship win for this ballclub would put them in the conversation for greatest team of all time.

The Houston Astros are looking to return to the World Series after their loss in the Fall Classic last year. They have a Cy Young favorite in Justin Verlander to lead their pitching staff, as well as Yordan Alvarez to help power their lineup. Their rotation has been the model of consistency this season with six guys who can give you a quality start. This ballclub is very well-rounded with a ton of playoff experience, which makes them the easy favorites in the AL to win the pennant.

The Atlanta Braves want to be the first team to repeat as World Champs since the 2000 Yankees. They have one of the best bullpens in baseball with elite starters in addition. Their lineup features a number of great hitters who are going to compete every game. The Braves are primed for another deep run, whether they win the division or not.

The New York Mets are currently battling with the Braves for the NL East division title. They arguably have the strongest starting rotation in baseball with feared names Max Scherzer and Jacob Degrom at the top. Their closer Edwin Diaz has been nothing short of elite and their lineup is filled with scrappy hitters. It will be tough to oust this squad in a five or seven game series.

It is possible, even likely, that none of these teams will win the World Series, but I would not be surprised if it is one of them hoisting up that coveted trophy.

The next tier is titled “Serious Competitors,” as these teams are not as good as the ones named previously, but they can make deep runs in the postseason. The ballclubs included are the New York Yankees, St. Louis Cardinals, Cleveland Guardians, Seattle Mariners, and the Toronto Blue Jays.

The New York Yankees have MVP favorite Aaron Judge, but behind him there are some question marks. I almost placed them in the tier above, but their lineup and rotation have not completely sold me as of yet due to some identifiable holes. They still have great players at all corners of the diamond and the first round bye will certainly give them an advantage.

The St. Louis Cardinals have two NL MVP favorites in Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, who will be impactful throughout the postseason. They also have a few young players who have shined bright as well as the experience of seasoned veterans, those being Albert Pujols, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright, who all look to go out on top one last time. This mix of young and old could yield just the right magic for this squad to play far into October.

The Cleveland Guardians won the weak AL Central, but they strike me as a team that could easily go on a deep run. They have excellent starting pitching, a dominant closer at the back end, and a scrappy, young lineup that always plays 110%. This team is the youngest in baseball by average age, so the experience is not exactly there, but crazier things have happened.

The Seattle Mariners have not been to the playoffs since 2001, which is the longest drought in all four national sports. They just punched their ticket to dance and they could go even farther. They have a great pitching staff that they improved upon during the season with the acquisition of Luis Castillo. The lineup has me skeptical, but they can be great if certain guys step up, and the entire baseball world is excited to see the young rookie phenom Julio Rodriguez in the playoffs.

The Toronto Blue Jays have firepower throughout their batting lineup, as well as some key pitchers at the top of the rotation. As a team, they have underperformed in my eyes, but they could easily find themselves in the ALCS if the bats start going.

These ballclubs are still serious competitors, so I would not be surprised if a few of them end up in their respective Championship series.

The final tier of my postseason rankings is “Could Make a Splash.” These teams are either just in the playoffs or still fighting for a spot. They all have the talent to shock the world and win it all, but it just does not seem as likely. These clubs are the Philadelphia Phillies, Tampa Bay Rays, San Diego Padres, and the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Philadelphia Phillies have a great pitching staff with recognizable names and their lineup has big boppers up and down. The downside is their bullpen is questionable and their hitters can go cold in an instant. This team could be in the above tier, but they need to prove themselves just a bit more.

The Tampa Bay Rays are an oddity in baseball as their philosophy is just different than most baseball fans are used to. They do find ways to win games without a high payroll, so though they have few notable names on their roster, they seem to get it done. They can easily win a series or two, but they lack the talent to be placed in a higher tier.

The Milwaukee Brewers have been disappointing the last two months of the season, as they dropped far and fast behind the Cardinals, who won the NL Central division title. They are on the outside looking in as they trail the Phillies for the final Wild Card spot. If they were to get in, they have a great rotation and good bullpen. The lineup does not frighten anybody outside of Christian Yelich, but they do have a method to succeed.

If these teams play their cards right, they could certainly make their mark in October. The Baltimore Orioles will not be in the postseason, but they deserve some respect as they had a winning season for the first time in years. Hopefully, this young squad can stay relevant in the coming years.

After the World Series finishes up in early November, we can come back and laugh about how dumb I look with these tiers. Each ballclub will get their shot to prove me right or wrong and I will be watching it all unfold. October Baseball is the best baseball has to offer and I implore everybody to watch a game here or there. There is potential for some great matchups between absolute powerhouses as we go deeper into the playoffs. Something you have not seen before always seems to happen when watching a baseball game, and there is sure to be plenty of unforgettable moments starting later this week.