By: Jon Dula and Connor Keehn
With postseason baseball beginning today, it’s time to get excited. The NL wild card draw was determined on the last day. The AL wild card teams play like division champs. This time of year really feels like the only time where nothing should surprise you. It’s October baseball, and we are incredibly hyped. Here’s how we think everything will go down from Tuesday and Wednesday’s wild card match ups, to the World Series winner at the end of the month.
Wild Card Overview: If you haven’t checked out our latest Bold vs. Cold Take piece, Dula talks about the Nationals and how they have a legitimate shot at beating the Dodgers in the NLDS. Of course, they have to get by the Brewers first. With Max Scherzer at the helm in Washington against the Yelich-less Brewers, this only makes sense that the Nationals will prevail. It is worth noting that young ace Brandon Woodruff will be starting in only his 3rd career playoff game for the Brewers. We’ll take Max at home for this one. Nationals 6, Brewers 3
As for the American League, Both these teams are ridiculously good. The A’s and the Rays both have won a nice chunk against the Yankees and Astros in all of their head to head match ups this year. The A’s are 8-11 against Houston and the Rays are 4-3 against them. The Rays are 7-12 against the Yankees and the A’s are 4-2 against them. The A’s lost in the Wild Card game a year ago to the Yankees and are looking to avenge it. Unfortunately, even being home won’t be enough to beat Tampa Bay. They have the second best road record and will continue to be road warriors on Wednesday. This is by far the hardest game to pick of the first round because of the fact that both of these teams are built for a deep run in the postseason. The other reason is because they are scarily similar.
Crazy right? This one is a toss up. But I’m going to have to go with Tampa on this one simply because they have the best bullpen in baseball and will use that to their advantage in a one game win-or-go-home. Don’t get me wrong, The A’s Bullpen is elite also but if we had to have one, we’re taking the Rays. Rays 5, Athletics 4
ALDS Overview: The Yankees and Twins should be a great series.Losing German is huge for the Yankees. He’s thrown exceptionally well in big games this season. In games where the offense saved him, which some may argue was a lot, he only missed his spots here and there. This really is a big loss for them. On the flip side, their offense has been firing on all cylinders pretty consistently all season and they are incredibly deep on the offensive side. As with the Yankees, the Twins weakest spot (not that it is even “weak”) is their pitching. Their offense has been so superlative at the top 7 of the order that their pitching has been overshadowed. If their pitchers can ramp it up and prevent the Yankees from hitting the long ball, this could get interesting fast. With home field advantage and a poor taste in their mouth, Look for the Yankees to advance. Yankees win series 3-1.
As for the other, regardless of whether or not we are right about the Rays, the Astros still look good to advance. With home field advantage and Cole looking to throw game 1 and, if necessary, game 5 for the Astros, they’ll look to overwhelm two really good teams. We think a lot of people will pick the Rays or the A’s to come out on top as the upset pick of the playoffs. However, ours is on the opposite side of the bracket. The Astros had 4 of the best 5 hitters according to average the last over a 2 month stretch of the season. Altuve, Bregman, Brantley, and and Springer all will look to stay hot. Top to bottom, this team is down right scary. Astros win series 3-1
ALCS Overview: The Yankees and Astros have two of the best lineups in baseball. This one should be a lot of fun. Yes this series could go either way, but home field is too valuable in this series. As stated prior, The Astros and Yankees should be able to throw who they want, when they want. The pitching matchups will set up (if the series goes 7), 2 starts for Verlander and 2 for Cole. Yes Cole doesn’t like pitching in big games. But this time he’ll realize he has home field and a powerful lineup at his back. The Yankees, on the other hand, need their pitching to be better than it has ever been. If they’re going to win the series, Severino and Tanaka both have to pitch on the same level as Verlander and Cole. Is it possible? Maybe. But the advantage is there for Houston. Overall, we expect this series to go the distance. If the Yankees are in a situation where they can win in game 6, they’re in good shape. Unfortunately for them, has the two best words in all of sports written all over it… Game 7. Astros win series 4-3
NLDS Overview: Keehn mentioned my previous bold take on our last Bold Take vs. Cold Take article which predicted this matchup between the Nationals and Dodgers. Allow me to reiterate some of the key points from that article. While the Dodgers did win the season series 4-2, the first series came in May while the Nationals were still working the kinks out and they did not ever face Patrick Corbin. They did beat Anibal Sanchez twice but the second time it was at the fault of the bullpen and in the playoffs it could be possible that Sanchez comes out of the bullpen for Washington. So you add Sanchez in relief against Strasburg, Corbin, and Scherzer, and you’ve got yourselves a legitimate problem if you’re the Dodgers. Game 1 will probably be a classic matchup between Strasburg and Kershaw but Kershaw has historically struggled in the postseason so if the Nationals can take Game 1 then it’s probably a wrap on the series. Also, expect a huge postseason from underrated MVP candidate, Anthony Rendon, who is in for a huge payday this offseason. I expect the top seed in the National League to go down here. Nationals win series 3-1.
The next matchup is the Atlanta Braves taking on the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams in baseball since July but I think the young Braves are finally ready for a deep postseason run. Last year, when they lost to the Dodgers in the NLDS, Dansby Swanson missed the series with a foot injury which may not seem like a huge deal but it absolutely hurt Atlanta’s defense. The Braves also have two guys who are going to finish top 10 in MVP voting in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Freddie Freeman. Maybe even three if you consider the season Ozzie Albies had. The development of the Braves young pitchers Max Fried and Mike Soroka will be pivotal in this series along with the help of veteran pitchers, Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran. The Braves are also top 5 in all major batting categories in the National League while St. Louis finds themselves consistently outside of the top 10. However, when it comes to pitching categories the Cardinals seem to have the edge based on statistics. But I don’t think the Cardinals rotation will be able to handle a five game series against guys like Acuna, Albies, Freeman, Donaldson, and Markakis. Braves win series 3-1
NLCS Overview: In the Championship Series I believe that we will see a divisional matchup between the Braves and the Nationals. The Braves won the season series 11-8 and have won 4 of the last 6 meetings between these two teams. The Braves currently have Washington’s number and if the matchup ends up happening then I think the Braves will have no problem defeating their divisional rivals a few more times to reach their first World Series since the 90s. The batting stats between these two teams are eerily similar as for most categories no more than 3 positions separate them in rankings. I think what we will see is a series between to evenly matched teams for a very entertaining series. Fortunately, the Braves have home field advantage for a series that has the potential to go a full seven games. I believe the Braves can take games 1 and 2 if they can put Soroka and Fried on the mound in those games. They will probably drop Game 3 in Washington against a speculated matchup against Corbin. Game 4 will also but a tough game for the Braves having to matchup against Strasburg or Scherzer. But I think if the Braves can take a 2-2 tie back to Atlanta they will take Game 5 and then finish the Nationals at their home field in Game 6 to win the series. The Braves actually have a better record against the Nationals in Washington this season so I don’t think clinching a game out in D.C. will be an issue. Braves win series 4-2
National League Champion: Atlanta Braves
Coming from a smaller market, I think the talented Braves will surprise some people this postseason with their abilities. They don’t have the same exposure as a team from Los Angeles but they are just as talented as any team in baseball, except for the Astros but more on that later. A big name that might not be on everyone’s radar going into the postseason is Julio Teheran. He’s been with the Braves since 2011, the second longest tenured Brave behind Freddie Freeman. For the Braves rebuilding seasons, Teheran was their ace but due to the development of their young pitching and the addition of Dallas Keuchel he has moved to fourth on the rotation. It will be interesting to see if the Braves decide to go with a four man rotation or not but if they decide to go with a three man rotation watch out for Teheran to be thrust into some significant situations. After a quick exit last postseason, casual baseball fans were unable to be exposed to the extraordinary talents of young players like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna Jr., but this time around they will become household names with a deep run to the World Series.
American League Champions: Houston Astros
Loaded at every position, the Astros are the best team in baseball. With a lot of hype going to the Dodgers to make it back to the World Series, the Astros are the ones to look out for. They have dominated all year and have two guys who could be in the conversation for Cy Young. When you look at their lineup, there are no holes and there are no easy outs. Look for a guy like Gurriel to have a sensational postseason in light of all the all-stars they have. This team is ready for another title run. It won’t be easy, though. But we think that with the explosiveness of this offense coupled with their loaded rotation and home field throughout the playoffs propels them to a match up with the young talented Braves.
Amazing young talent like Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Ozzie Albies and seasoned veterans like Freddie Freeman and Michael Brantley highlight a great match up between two well-balanced teams. With a healthy Dansby Swanson, the Braves look to shock a lot of people just by being in this series. For years they’ve been building their roster through the young talent of their farm system. Will it be enough to beat the juggernaut? It’s more of the same thing with we talked about with the Yankees series; it’s possible but home field is too powerful. Of all the young players in baseball, Acuna would have to be at the top of every GM’s list. This is the kind of series where although they don’t win, Acuna has a real postseason coming-out party and puts up a stance for his name to be mentioned in the top 10-15 players in the league. It will be extremely tough for the Braves offense to take advantage of Verlander and Cole, especially those games in which would be home. Guys like Freddie Freeman deserve a ring at some point in their career. Regardless of how the Braves do in this series, it cannot be denied all that Freeman has done for this franchise and for the young players. With all that being said, we’re going to go with Houston on this one. The stars seem to align for them to win their second World Series title in the last 3 seasons. This series is by no means a wash. Look for it to go 6 or 7 games. Astros win series 4-2
Keehn’s World Series MVP: Yuli Gurriel
Dula’s World Series MVP: Michael Brantley