Six months ago, Opening Day arrived and for every baseball fan in America, with Opening Day came one thing. Hope. The hope that this would be the year for your favorite team. The belief that a young core might put it all together for a playoff run. Whatever situation your favorite team is in, on Opening Day we all hope that this is the year. Well, for now, that hope is gone for 19 teams. (19 because three teams are still fighting for two spots in the AL Wild Card) By Thursday night we will be down to 8 teams who are left with a shot at bringing a World Series trophy home.
The American League has had some real surprises this year, except for the Astros. The Yankees were expected to compete with the Red Sox for a division title, not completely dominate and run away with it. The Twins were not expected to make any noise at all, but they wound up owning the Central and never really giving the Indians a chance. I mean the Indians did tie for the division lead for 2-3 days, but that did not last long. The defending champion Red Sox never really competed from day 1. There was almost no roster turnover, and they were expected to finish atop the AL again. They horribly underperformed all season long and never even competed for a playoff spot.
At the moment it looks like Tampa Bay will travel to Oakland for the Wild Card game. I have so much respect for both of these teams because they make these runs to the playoffs with 2 of the lowest payrolls in MLB. Other than Tampa’s star-studded 2008 team though, neither of them have been able to make any noise in the postseason. That will prove right again as the Yankees and Astros both have too much star power for both of these teams. I like Oakland to win this game, but they will get either the Yanks or the Stros in the ALDS, and their run will end quickly.
In my mind, there are only two teams from the AL that can make a run at the World Series, and that is the Yankees and the Astros. No disrespect to the Twins or whichever team wins the Wild Card Game, but the Yanks and Stros have been on an ALCS collision course since about May.
The Yankees probably have the best lineup in baseball from top to bottom. LeMahieu is having an MVP type season and then throw in Judge, Sanchez, Gleyber, and Urshela, and there is not an easy out in this lineup. They are in the top 5 in every major offensive category including first in runs scored. The problem is the Yankees have needed all those runs because their starting pitching has been suspect and their overall pitching stats have been aided by a phenomenal bullpen.
The Astros, on the other hand, have, on paper, the best starting rotation in baseball. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole will probably finish 1-2 in Cy Young voting and then add in Zack Greinke, and you have a three-headed monster not ever seen before in baseball. The lineup is not too shabby either with the likes of Altuve, Springer, Bregman, and maybe Carlos Correa if he can come back from injury. They are just loaded at almost every position and will be a tough out in a 7 Game Series.
Astros over the Yankees in 6. I love the Astros pitching too much to pick against them in this ALCS plus you can see here why I do not like the Yankees to win the World Series.
The National League has been a bit different with no real big surprises. The Dodgers ran away with the West, and four teams were competitive in the East which is kind of what everyone thought would happen with the Braves running away with it. The only real surprise came from the Central where the Cubs were a popular pick to win that division, and they wound up missing the playoffs altogether.
The Nationals and Brewers both clinched a playoff spot this week, and the Nats are locked into the WC game. The Brewers though, are still chasing the Cardinals for the NL Central, and they have a chance to win it this weekend. I love the Brewers story. After losing Yelich with a month left, almost everyone counted them out. Well, they just went a 12-2 run to clinch a playoff spot in response to that. It has been a great story, but this season will not have a storybook ending. The Brewers do not have the pitching or the bats to last an entire series with any of the top NL contenders. If they do wind up playing in the WC game, I can’t see them beating the Nationals, but even if they win the Central, they will lose quickly to a real good Braves team.
The Nats, on the other hand, have one of the worst bullpens in baseball. You cannot get through a 5 or 7 game series in October without that bullpen being exposed. There is only one team who may play in the WC game that I believe can make a run, and that is the Cardinals. The Nationals and Brewers do not have the pieces needed to make a deep October run.
There is one massive favorite in the NL though in the Dodgers, but I think there are three teams who can make a run to the World Series. The Dodgers, Braves, and Cardinals all have the pieces to make a run. The Dodgers have a three-headed monster of their own in Hyun Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw, and Walker Buehler. Those three have all been great this season and are a huge reason why the Dodgers are tops in the league in ERA by half a run. You also cannot forget about their lineup with Bellinger, the probable NL MVP, and Justin Turner. This team won over 100 games, and at this point, anything less than a World Series win is a disappointment.
The Braves have one of the top 5 players in baseball in Ronald Acuna and maybe the most underrated superstar in baseball in Freddie Freeman. Mike Soroka has been a real pleasant surprise, but the pitching staff outside of him has been somewhat of a disappointment. They picked up Keuchel mid-season to bolster the rotation, but he was not even a shell of his old self this year. If the Braves are going to make a run, the pitching will need to be better. The bats will not be able to carry them through an entire postseason run.
The Cardinals are the same story as the Braves. The bats led by Goldschmidt, Wong, and Molina will not be able to carry this team through the playoffs. Pitchers not named Jake Flaherty will need to step up big time for them to make a run. What St. Louis does have to rely on that the Braves don’t is a reliable bullpen. They are 4th in the MLB in Bullpen ERA, and everyone knows a good bullpen makes all the difference in the world in October.
Braves over the Dodgers in 7. I like this Braves team, and Acuna is going to become a worldwide superstar with a huge postseason.
Marc is a NY boy born and raised. He currently resides in Knob Noster, MO as a member of the Air Force, but that has not taken his love for his NY teams. Living in total misery, Marc is a diehard Mets, Jets, and Knicks fan. One day he will be able to live without the Wilpons, Dolans, and Johnsons giving him nightmares.