2019 MLB Postseason
Yes, we know the Baltimore Orioles are a long way from playoff contention. That’s OK because they have a plan, and it seems to be going the way it’s supposed to go so far. It might be a few years before the plan comes to fruition, but that’s what we all signed up for.
That doesn’t mean we have to ignore MLB’s postseason. We’re all baseball fans here, after all. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at the postseason and try to figure out how things should go down. Keeping in mind, of course, that predictions are foolish and usually wrong, because sports are, you know, unpredictable.
(You can discuss this on the BSL Board here.)
NL Wild Card: Tuesday, 8 p.m. ET (TBS)
Brewers at Nationals
Milwaukee got here by winning 10 of 11 before a season-ending sweep by the Colorado Rockies. There is nothing particularly impressive about the Brewers, especially without Christian Yelich, who will probably finish second to the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger in the NL MVP race despite missing the last 20 days of the regular season. They score about as many runs as they give up and have built their record in part by performing really well in 1-run games (27-18).
The Nats did well for themselves after losing Bryce Harper and at 93-69, would have won the NL Central by two games. They’re known for their pitching, of course, but their 5.4 runs per game trailed only the Dodgers in the National League.
Max Scherzer starts against Brandon Woodruff, which seems to give the edge to the Nats, but Scherzer did not finish the season strong, putting up a 5.16 ERA in Sept. And keep in mind that Woodruff had a 2.19 ERA in the postseason last year.
AL Wild Card: Wednesday, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Rays at A’s
These teams have a combined payroll of about $155 million, which is less than 12 individual teams. This makes it easy to root for them – too bad one of them will be gone after Wednesday, and the other shortly thereafter. Both teams rely on pitching – the A’s allow 4.2 runs per game, the Rays 4.0. And both teams beat up on AL Central teams with a total lack of mercy (A’s 25-8, Rays 20-13).
Charlie Morton, a 2017 World Series hero for the Astros, will start for the Rays, while the Athletics have yet to name a starter. Who comes out on top in the Moneyball Bowl? It was 4-3 in favor of the A’s in the regular season, so figure this one for a coin flip. But in the end, give the edge to Tampa, due to Oakland’s trouble with the curve (.211 batting average against), which happens to be Morton’s best pitch.
Twins vs. Yankees: Friday
In recent history, the Yankees have seemingly made it their mission to torment the Twins in the playoffs, but before you start thinking “oh no, not again,” keep in mind that these teams might be more similar than you think.
Yes, the Yankees are known as the Bombers, but the Twins only won two fewer games (103-101) and scored four fewer runs (943-939), while actually hitting one more homer (307-306). In fact, these teams were the first to smash 300 home runs in a season in, well, ever. So this series could be a slugfest, but does that mean the Twins can shrug off recent history and change their fortunes?
Of course they can. Asking if they will, though is another story and in a five-game series, I’m going with the team that can trot out Aroldis Chapman to close out games. The Yankees took four of six from the Twins during the regular season, and I figure they’ll do something similar in the postseason.
Astros vs. Rays or A’s: Friday
The Astros are the franchise that the Orioles are attempting to emulate. They should be the franchise the Rays and A’s emulate, too … everybody for that matter.
After a blip in 2018, the 2017 champs are back and better than ever, led by AL MVP candidate Alex Bregman, a host of other great hitters, and dueling Cy Young candidates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole atop the rotation, it’s hard to imagine either Tampa or Oakland coming out on top in a five-game series. So we won’t. The Astros are 60-21 at home this season come into this series pretty much at full strength. Onto the next round for Houston.
Cardinals vs. Braves: Thursday (TBS)
With the Cubs falling off into disappointment and the Brewers hobbling along without Yelich, the Cardinals managed to slip in there and take the weak NL Central, thanks to a late-August surge in which they went 9-1 to take the division lead and never looked back.
The Cardinals don’t do anything spectacular on offense, but they do have the edge on Atlanta in the pitching department, led by solid youngsters Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson, though they lose some depth with Michael Wacha likely out.
The Braves did improve their staff, though, with the mid-season signing of Dallas Keuchel, who will likely start Game 1, as well as trades for bullpen arms Anthony Swarzak, Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin. They also possess Freddie Freeman, who has 30 homers against right-handed pitchers this season — and all of St. Louis’ starters are right-handed.
Dodgers vs. Nationals or Brewers: Thursday (TBS)
This might be the best team the Dodgers have had in their run of seven consecutive NL West titles, but is it good enough for a third straight trip to the World Series? And can they actually win it this time? As good as the Dodgers are, they are unlikely to dominate either Washington or Milwaukee, both of whom played L.A. to a near-standstill during the regular season.
The Dodgers have it all, as evidenced by their NL-best 1.7 run differential. (The Nationals are a distant second, at 0.9). If there is a weakness, it’s the bullpen, where Kenley Jansen’s heavy usage over the last several seasons appears to be finally catching up to him.
Still this offense should be good enough to get the Dodgers to the NLCS, thanks to leading MVP candidate Bellinger and an incredibly deep roster of sluggers, both old and young.
The rest of the way …
In the AL, the Yankees and Astros meet in the ALCS, with the Astros prevailing. Both of these teams can slug it, but it comes down to the Astros rotation vs. the Yankees’ bullpen and the ‘Stros are just deeper top to bottom.
The Dodgers take on the Braves and this will be harder than people think, but the Dodgers will prevail due to their experience, talent and Dave Roberts’ steady hand.
That means the teams with the two best records meet in a rematch of the 2017 World Series. (What can I say, I’m feeling chalk-y). And it will be the Astros all over again, with their second championship in three seasons.
The Astros are providing the modern-day blueprint for how to construct not only a baseball team, but an entire franchise, and the Orioles were wise to steal Mike Elias away from Houston and give him the keys to the Camden-mobile, asking him to do the same thing in Baltimore. Can he build the O’s from the ground up, create a pipeline of talent to the majors, which they will then be able to supplement with cash for key free agent signings?
When you see Houston hosting a parade once again, it’s OK if you take a moment to dream.
Bob Harkins is a former editor and writer for Time Warner Cable Sports in Los Angeles, where he helped cover the Dodgers and Lakers. Prior to that, he was a senior editor and writer for NBCSports.com, leading the site’s coverage of Major League Baseball for nine seasons. He always believed that Major League catcher was the toughest job in sports -- until he wrote a series on professional rodeo cowboys. Talk about tough!