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2019 MLB Postseason Preview

September is upon is, which means postseason baseball is on the horizon. Races are starting to heat up, so let’s see which contenders are still in it, and which teams have the best chance to go deep into October.

Wild Card Chasers

Oakland Athletics

I honestly don’t know how the A’s have stayed in the hunt for this long with THAT pitching. The two Matt’s (Chapman and Olson) have been great as expected, Marcus Semien is among the top shortstops in the AL, and Ramon Laureano has been sneakily good as well. Their pitching is headed by Mike Fiers, (yikes) Brett Anderson, (big yikes) and Homer Bailey (just throw in the towel). All jokes aside, Sean Manaea is making his return, and might help them a little down the stretch, in addition to trade deadline acquisition Tanner Roark. Liam Hendriks is their big arm in the bullpen this year, with Blake Treinen regressing after an insane 2018. This team seems like the odd one out in the 3-team Wild Card race this year. Prediction: No Postseason

Cleveland Indians

The perennial chokers were up to their classic underachievement to start the year, but they have catapulted themselves into the Wild Card race in the second half. Francisco Lindor has been a presence in the lineup, but the return of Carlos Santana to Cleveland has been the story of the lineup, with 32 homers and an OPS close to 1.000 so far. Jose Ramirez has turned it up recently, but he unfortunately is on the shelf with an injury, joining newcomer Yasiel Puig. Their pitching is banged up, with Kluber on the IL, and Carrasco only recently coming back from leukemia, and Danny Salazar is–you guessed it–injured again. The top of this team may be talented enough to reach the Wild Card Game, but not much farther. Prediction: Lose Wild Card Game

Chicago Cubs

Despite the heroics of Nicholas Castellanos, who can’t stop hitting homers after being acquired from Detroit, this team has underperformed again. Their lineup has been solid, with Contreras, Rizzo, Baez, Bryant, and Schwarber hitting home runs at good rates, and on the surface, their pitching looks solid, with Hamels, Darvish, Lester, Quintana, and Hendricks all staying healthy and doing okay, and their bullpen has some solid performers as well, namely Brandon Kintzler, Kyle Ryan, and Steve Cishek, but they don’t seem to know how to consistently win games, and they aren’t able to be counted on to win even one game comfortably, which is a bad omen for the postseason. Prediction: Lose Wild Card Game

Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have followed up an impressive 2018 with an even better 2019. The Chris Archer trade continues to pay dividends, as Austin Meadows is having a great year, and Glasnow was having a great year until a forearm strain sidelined him, but he is close to returning. Blake Snell was having a decent year until he got injured, but you may see him return before the season is over. Charlie effing Morton has been breaking ankles this year with his curveball this year, as he continues to impress. Their biggest weakness is hitting, with Brandon Lowe hitting the IL, they don’t have any big bats in their lineup. Their bullpen is unique and fantastic, as Kevin Cash likes to use an opener often. Ryan Yarbrough, Emilio Pagan, and Yonny Chirinos have been great for eating up innings for the club. Their pitching looks good enough to keep them in the game for a while, but if they can’t score much, they probably won’t win multiple games in October. Prediction: Win Wild Card Game, Lose in ALDS

Washington Nationals

The Nationals weren’t looking good early this year, as their bullpen was an absolute meme. Now, they score so many runs that their bullpen can’t possibly blow it, no matter how hard they try. Anthony Rendon is one of the top 5 hitters in the league, with an OPS well over 1.000. Juan Soto has been raking as well, with impressive plate discipline at such a young age (20). Their top 4 in their rotation (Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Sanchez) are candidates to go seven innings or more every game, which will be key down the stretch, as they don’t want to have to use that horrendous bullpen a lot. The pen is likely what will be the Nats’ downfall, as they seem like a good bet to win the Wild Card Game, but over the course of a best-of-5 series, they probably won’t be so successful. Prediction: Win Wild Card Game, Lose in NLDS

Second Round Hopefuls

St. Louis Cardinals

The Cardinals were busy this offseason, bringing in Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller to try to be competitive again in 2019. They accomplished that, but Goldschmidt and Miller haven’t been the keys to their success. The keys to success have been Paul DeJong, Marcell Ozuna, Dakota Hudson, Jack Flaherty, and a bullpen in which Andrew Miller is near the bottom of the totem pole in terms of performance. The Cards haven’t been flashy or outstanding at any point this year, but they are still on track to win the NL Central. That being said, their likely first round matchup of the Atlanta Braves seems very favored towards Atlanta. Prediction: Lose in NLDS

Minnesota Twins

The Twins might have the best lineup in the AL, which says a lot, considering the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros have all been hitting baseballs at alarming rates. It was the Twins, however, who just broke the single-season home run record, with under a month still left to play. The key cogs in this power hitting lineup are Max Kepler, (36 HR) Nelson Cruz, (35 HR in just 101 games) Mitch Garver, (26 HR in 77 games) and Eddie Rosario, Jorge Polanco, C.J. Cron, Miguel Sano, and Jonathan Schoop with at least 20 HR’s apiece, with Cron, Sano, and Rosario threatening the 30-HR club. Their pitching has turned heads as well, with Jose Berrios devloping into a great top-of-the-rotation arm, in addition to good seasons from Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda. Their bullpen has been good as well, with Taylor Rogers, Trevor May, and Tyler Duffey putting up ERA’s around 3.00. Unfortunately, the bottom few spots in the rotation leave a lot to be desired, and will likely be their downfall in the ALDS. Whether they play the Yankees or the Astros in the Division Series is still undecided, but they both seem to have an edge over the Twins. Prediction: Lose in ALDS

The Favorites

New York Yankees

The Yankees are definitely among the favorites to win it all this year, as they have the third-best title odds at +350. Their lineup is certainly capable of putting up monster numbers. With Stanton coming back soon, Judge fully back, and Urshela, LeMahieu, Mike Ford, and Mike Tauchmann having crazy, unexpected years, this lineup is one of the best in baseball. The bullpen has held its own this year, as Chapman and Ottavino have been locking down the later innings, and Dellin Betances seems close to returning as well. The achilles heel for this team is their starting pitching. Paxton has been disappointing, Severino is still hurt and unable to pitch (and if he comes back, he probably won’t be eating up many innings), Tanaka has been up and down, and Sabathia hit the IL recently. Even if their lineup can mash, the 2018 ALDS showed us that without good starting pitching, they won’t be able to make a deep run. Assuming they keep their large division lead, they would finish as either the 1-seed, (in which case they would play the winner of the Wild Card Game) or the 2-seed (meaning they would play the 3-seeded Twins). Regardless of their first round opponent, I see the Yankees winning their first series, but not getting any farther. Prediction: Lose in ALCS

Atlanta Braves

The Braves’ lineup is deadly. Freddie Freeman is leading the majors in RBI with 114, Josh Donaldson might finish with 40 homers, Ronald Acuna, Jr. may be one of the faces of the game, as he is threatening to have a 40-40 season, and Albies, Swanson, and Markakis aren’t bad either. Their pitching has turned a corner, as Mike Soroka is a definite Cy Young candidate, Dallas Keuchel has been good since he was signed in the middle of the year, Max Fried is a great middle-of-the rotation option, as well as Julio Teheran. Their bullpen was looking rough early in the year, but they bolstered during the deadline, adding Shane Greene, and Mark Melancon. Sean Newcomb, Anthony Swarzak, and Luke Jackson have been serviceable as well, making their bullpen a bit easier to look at. They will benefit from having an easier first round opponent than last year, as they are likely to face the Cardinals in the NLDS. After the Cardinals, however, they will likely have to play the Dodgers in the NLCS, which still seems too tall of a task for the Braves. That being said, it wouldn’t shock me to see the Braves beating the Dodgers, but I still see it as unlikely. Prediction: Lose in NLCS

Los Angeles Dodgers

Just when you thought the Dodgers couldn’t improve, Cody Bellinger told you to hold his drink. Bellinger has a case for MVP, and will likely finish in the top 2 with Christian Yelich. Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Joc Pederson, and Will Smith have also been key pieces in the lineup, with the first three names all likely to finish with more than 30 homers. Their pitching has been even better than their hitting. Hyun-Jin Ryu’s ERA has been around 2.00 the whole year, and Clayton Kershaw isn’t far behind him, thanks to an incredible past few starts. Walker Buehler is the third-best pitcher on the team, and would be an ace for any other team. Rich Hill looks to return from injury soon as well, making their postseason rotation as good as anyone’s. The bullpen has been spotty this year, with Kenley Jansen not performing as well as hoped, and the acquisistion of Joe Kelly hasn’t paid dividends. Julio Urias, Yimi Garcia, Dylan Floro, and Pedro Baez all have ERA’s near 3.50, which isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t outstanding. Ross Stripling has split time in the bullpen and starting games, and has done a decent job. Truthfully, this might be the best Dodgers team of the last 3 years, which is saying a lot. They seem like a lock for their third straight World Series, and are currently favorites to win the title, but the Astros seem like an overall better team. I think they both have equally dominant rotations, but the Dodgers lack what the Astros have in both hitting and bullpen performance. I don’t want to see the Dodgers turn into a meme for losing the World Series three years in a row, but that’s how it seems to me. Prediction: Lose in WS

Houston Astros

The Astros have been the consensus pick to win it all since the season started. Their performance this year has been even better than expected. In addition to great years from Bregman, Altuve, Correa, Springer, Verlander, and Cole, their new faces have been just as impressive. Michael Brantley is among the league leaders in batting average, hitting around .330. Yordan Alvarez is the expected AL Rookie of the Year, with an OPS close to 1.100. Yuli Gurriel will break 100 RBI thanks to a blistering-hot July and great August. Wade Miley and Brad Peacock have been great pieces in the back of the rotation, even with the latter being on the IL for a bit, and trade deadline acquisition Zack Greinke has been great as expected. Their bullpen looks great, with Osuna, Pressly, and Will Harris being lights-out. This team doesn’t have any glaring holes, and no matter who they face in the AL, they will most likely beat them. Their only real competition is the Yankees, and the Yankees don’t seem up to the task of slaying the Astros. The Dodgers are the favorite in the NL, and will likely reach their third straight World Series, but they will likely walk away empty-handed again. Prediction: Win World Series


Photo: Houston Chronicle

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