The MLB playoffs are here! This tournament offers us a new opportunity, one to experience October baseball without the stress of a deep emotional commitment. We can sit back, relax, and enjoy the incredible baseball on display without fear of heartbreak around the corner. Is this line of thinking just a way of coping with a woefully disappointing Yankee season? Impossible to say.
What also may be impossible is predicting these playoffs perfectly, but that’s just what we’ll try to do. Although 12 teams come to the dance alive and with a chance, only one of them will win the last game of the year. Who will that be? Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled.
Tampa Bay-Texas was the only even split among these predictions, with little to separate these two sides. The Rays did outpace the Rangers by nine in terms of wins, but these clubs were one and two in the AL in terms of run differential. Tampa has the best pitcher in the series in Tyler Glasnow, with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer both out, but the Rangers might have the best position players, with Corey Seager and Marcus Semien leading one of the league’s best offenses.
Although there’s not a ton of separation in Toronto-Minnesota, our staff leans Blue Jays. The Twins might be the least heralded club in the AL bracket, having won the pitiful AL Central almost by default, but they come in with perhaps the most baggage, having lost their last 18 playoff games. Starters Pablo López and Sonny Gray will look to help them break that streak against a Jays club that never fully hit its stride this year, but has a chance to exorcise some of their own recent postseason disappointment.
Things are much more clear-cut in the Senior Circuit. The defending NL champ Phillies have a roster that will give it shot to repeat, with Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola fronting the rotation and plenty of position player talent to boot. Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwaber have 26 career playoff homers in 88 career playoff games between the two of them. Tied for the fewest wins among playoff teams, only four of us stuck our necks out for Miami, who will be without Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez, and with batting champ Luis Arraez banged up a bit, too.
Just four of us picked Arizona as well, even with the news that the Brewers will be without co-ace Brandon Woodruff. On paper, the Brewers do look stronger than the Diamondbacks even without Woodruff, but if Arizona can simply win one of the first two games (rookie Brandon Pfaadt gets the opener today after a busy final weekend), they will get to throw out both Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly to try and get past Milwaukee.
We’re forecasting a very orange ALCS, with the Orioles and Astros our primary picks to advance after resting up this week. It’ll be interesting to see how Baltimore’s starting rotation fares with a lack of big, battle-tested names, though the likes of Grayson Rodriguez and Kyle Bradish have looked quite impressive of late. Houston, on the other hand, enters with very few question marks on their roster.
A few of us tab the Phillies for a return engagement to the NLCS, and a few see the Brewers getting through the Dodgers. But in the end, the main call is chalk and another Dodgers-Braves rematch, which would mark the third time in four years the two sides would have squared off in the championship round. Of course, that was the expectation last year as well, before the Padres and Phillies upended everything.
The Orioles are our most common AL answer, which would give Baltimore its first pennant since it won its last World Series 40 years ago. Perhaps that’s a little surprising, as the Astros have all the pedigree and, even if this wasn’t their best regular season, seemingly all the pieces they’d need to repeat. It’s close in the NL, but a plurality of us see the Braves returning to the World Series looking for their second title in three years. Shout-out to Dan for the most chaotic pick of this exercise, that of Josh Donaldson for NLCS MVP.
Braves in six is our most common prediction, with about half of us seeing Atlanta secure the crown again. They are the postseason favorites by most models, with the best record in baseball and studs on both sides of the ball. Kunj calls for a Marlins title and Arraez taking home the World Series MVP, which would certainly be entertaining. Some of us see the Dodgers earning a second title in four years, with Freddie Freeman or Mookie Betts securing MVP honors. But ultimately, the 104-win Braves are the favorites for a reason.
Who do you think will come out on top? Let us know in the comments below!