2019 MLB Postseason Predictions:
A season filled with ups and downs, drama and record-breaking achievements has come to an end, and the excitement of a World Series chase is here. Possibly the biggest storyline that has remained dormant over the past month is the Boston Red Sox being one of the first contenders to be eliminated from the playoff picture. The Red Sox struggled for a majority of the season, leaving them on the outside looking in for the AL Wild Card. The lights-out offense of last season wasn’t able to live up to expectations this season, making way for a new champion this year. The 2019 playoff picture consists of a mixture of teams expected to make the postseason, such as the Dodgers and the Astros, and some surprises like the Rays and the Twins. Here’s an in-depth look at each team along with a prediction of how their championship runs will play out.
Houston Astros (107-55, AL West Champs)
The Houston Astros were expected to be competitive and were almost guaranteed to be a postseason contender coming into this season. What was not expected was how dominant they truly would be. With an offense led by AL MVP candidate Alex Bregman and an elite pitching rotation headlined by AL Cy Young candidates Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, the Astros have proven themselves to be worthy favorites for the World Series. Houston has dominated on all aspects this season, posting impressive numbers such as being: 3rd ranked fielding errors at 71 (tied with Kansas City, so, do what you want with that), 3rd ranked in runs scored (920), home runs (288) and RBIs (891). They were also ranked 1st overall this season in OBP (.338), SLG (.495) and OPS (.848). This offense backed by Cole and Verlander’s pitching (ranked 1st and 2nd overall in almost every major category) have made this team truly dominant, which contributed to them clinching home-field throughout the entire postseason. Cole finished with a league-leading 326 strikeouts, with Verlander coming in second at an even 300. Cole finishes the regular season with a 2.50 ERA, and Verlander comes in second again at 2.58. Along with the Dodgers, the Astros have been one of the most consistent teams this season as they hope to carry that consistency into the postseason as they go for their 2nd world series title since 2017.
New York Yankees (103-59, AL East Champs)
After hiding in the shadows to the Red Sox last season, the New York Yankees were itching for redemption. The Yankees dropped their first series of the season to the Baltimore Orioles (yeah, you read that right). While an opening series loss doesn’t seem that dramatic, it was the poor pitching and amount of errors in that series that made fans nervous. The errors wouldn’t go away, as the Yankees would register 99 fielding errors in 2019, ranking them 20th in all the majors. The pitching would clean itself up, with the Yankees falling right around the middle of the league, ranking 14th in the majors with their squad posting a 4.31 ERA. The Yankees were forced to deal with multiple injuries this season, including an oblique injury to All-Star slugger Aaron Judge. Judge was placed on the injured list in April and rejoined the team after two full months in late June. However, the Yankees offense didn’t miss a beat as they posted a league-leading 943 runs scored this season. The Yankees lights out offense will definitely continue to be a storyline this postseason
Minnesota Twins (101-61, AL Central Champs)
The Minnesota Twins came out of nowhere this season. In a division that was expected by the majority to be won by the Cleveland Indians, the Twins came storming out of the gate and have become a true postseason threat. The biggest storyline for this season is the Twins absolutely dominant offense. The Twins ranked second in runs this season, posting 939 which is short by just 4 behind the Yankees. They also crushed the home-run record for a team in a single season with 307, easily cruising past the Astros previous record of 288. The “juiced ball” has led to some fans seeing home runs or runs scored in general as irrelevant or almost fabricated stats. So, if that’s where you fall and you’re not sold yet, here are some other numbers: they ranked 2nd overall in team slugging percentage at .494, team OPS at .832 and team batting average at .270. The Twins’ last postseason appearance was in the 2017 AL Wildcard game against the Yankees in which they lost 8-4. Minnesota is looking to win their first-ever World Series title as their powerful offense led by Nelson Cruz (.311 BA, 41 HR, 108 RBI) heads into the Bronx for the ALDS
Oakland Athletics (97-65, 1st AL Wildcard)
The Oakland Athletics performed exceptionally well in the 2nd half, going 63-31 after the All-Star break. Oakland remained under the radar most of the season, and their playoff position took many by surprise. They battled with the Clevland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays down the final stretch for a Wildcard position. The A’s second-half success over the past few seasons has helped put them into playoff contention for the past 2 seasons. Oakland finishes the season ranked 8th in the majors for runs scored with 845. The A’s offense has also been quietly dominant, finishing the season ranked 6th in the majors for ERA with their rotation posting a solid 3.97. The A’s will have to rely on their offense led by third basemen Matt Chapman as they face Charlie Morton on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay Rays (96-66, 2nd AL Wildcard)
The Rays are back in the postseason for the first time since 2013. The Rays suffered a serious of injuries early on in the season, including star pitcher Tyler Glasnow who had a right forearm strain that kept him off the mound until September. The Rays had 7 key players spend time on the injured list this season, but they didn’t let that stop them. One of the biggest boosts to the Rays offense was the turnaround catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The Rays acquired d’Arnaud from the Dodgers, who at the time was struggling immensely, but has since been a bolt in Tampa’s offense, helping them make this playoff push. Multiple injured players for the Rays were able to return in September, turning a team that was perceived to be sellers at the deadline into a playoff team looking for a strong postseason run. The strongest factor in the Rays fight for their postseason was their strong pitching rotation. The Rays were ranked 2nd in team ERA this season at 3.65, right behind the Dodgers. The Rays only dealt an impressive 123 walks, second to Toronto’s 55. They were also able to hold opponents to a batting average of .243. While the importance and relevance of these stats is a common debate in the judgment of good pitching in this “juiced ball” era, numbers don’t lie and their numbers are nothing short of impressive. If the Rays want to make their postseason trip longer than their one-game trip to Oakland, they’re gonna have to hope for a strong outing by RHP Charlie Morton.
Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56, NL West Champs)
After two straight World Series losses the Dodgers are back in the postseason, looking for redemption. It’s no secret that the Dodgers have dominated this season, including the breakout season by NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger. Bellinger has raked in 47 home runs and 115 RBIs this year and he finished the regular season with a .305 BA, a 1.035 OPS, and a league-leading WAR of 9.0. The consistency by Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu has also been crucial to the Dodgers’ success. Ryu finished with a league-leading 2.32 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP (2nd to Flaherty and DeGrom’s 0.97), and Kershaw finished with a 3.03 ERA and a 1.04 WHIP. The rest of the Dodgers’ rotation is solid and is arguably the second-best in the league (behind the Astros), but their Achilles heel all season has been their bullpen’s stability, including the downward spiral taken by closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen has steadily improved throughout the season, but he’s nowhere near where he used to be, and his performance in the postseason could make or break the Dodgers’ Title hopes. While Bellinger has taken the baseball world by storm, he also has an incredibly talented supporting cast to lean on, including LF Joc Pederson and 1B Max Muncy. The Dodgers’ are the team to beat in the NL and are fit for another World Series appearance.
Atlanta Braves (97-65, NL East Champs)
After making the postseason last year and having an early exit, the Braves are looking for a stronger run this year, and they’re in the shape to get one. Ronald Acuña Jr shined again this year, coming up just short of a record-breaking 40-40 season after being benched with a groin strain with 4 games to go. Acuña has been the core of this Braves offense, finishing the regular season with a .280 batting average, a .883 OPS, 41 home runs, 37 stolen bases, and 101 RBIs. Thanks to the help of Freddie Freeman’s continued greatness (38 HR, 121 RBIs, .293 BA, and .938 OPS), and an incredible season by Josh Donaldson (37 HR 94 RBIs, .259 BA, and .900 OPS), the Braves may have found their Big 3. A Cy Young worthy season by young pitcher Mike Soroka, who posted a 2.68 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 142 strikeouts helped solidify a starting rotation consisting of Julio Teheran, Max Fried and late-season acquisition Dallas Keuchel, the Braves have made themselves a dangerous team and they aren’t going anywhere. With their record, they have home-field advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals which should make an extremely entertaining series as both teams look to prove themselves worthy of being titleholders.
St. Louis Cardinals (97-71, NL Central Champs)
The Cardinals had to fight tooth-and-nail all season long with the Brewers and the Cubs for the division title, but the Cubs downward spiral towards the end of the season helped their cause. The Cardinals were forced to wait until game 162 to claim their title, as the late surging Brewers closed in, but with a blowout win against the Cubs in the last game of the season, the Cardinals won the NL Central for the first time since 2015. Jack Flaherty had an incredible season with his strong numbers putting him in the top 5 of overall pitching this season. Flaherty had a 2.75 ERA, 231 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP in 196 IP this season. In comparison to the record-breaking offensive numbers throughout the league, the Cardinals don’t have any standout stars. But, with the way their offense is spread out with 7 of their 8 offensive players having 20+ home runs (led by Goldschmidt’s 34) and a team combined 500+ RBIs, the Cardinals have made themselves dangerous in nearly every part of their lineup. If Flaherty can continue his dominance and the offense can continue to attack from all angles, the Cardinals will definitely be a threat.
Washington Nationals (93-69 1st Wildcard)
After the departure of Bryce Harper in the offseason, the Nationals were looking more like a 3rd place team. But with the continued dominance of young star Juan Soto and MVP worthy season by Anthony Rendon put the Nationals back into contention. The Nationals are looking to win their first-ever playoff series and franchise history, but to get there they have to get past the Brewers in Tuesday’s Wildcard matchup. The biggest key for the Nationals a strong start by Max Scherzer. Scherzer’s dominance over his career has yet to show any signs of slowing down. However, the past few starts for the Nats’ ace haven’t been his strongest, and that narrative will definitely have to change if they want to advance. Scherzer put together another strong season, posting a 2.92 ERA, 243 strikeouts and a 1.03 WHIP. Anthony Rendon’s second-half performance has launched him into the MVP conversation, and his ability to get the Nats on the board against the Brewers may be what prevents or allows them to advance.
Milwaukee Brewers (89-73, 2nd Wildcard)
After reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich’s season-ending injury, the Brewers’ playoff hopes looked to be dead in the water. But a season-ending surge put the Brewers not only in playoff contention but in a battle for the division lead. A lights-out performance by the Brewers bullpen and a late surge from their offense put the Brewers back into the postseason as they look to prove themselves worthy of a title, even without Yelich. The Brewers will turn to star pitcher Brian Woodruff in their matchup against the Nationals on Tuesday. To keep their offense rolling, they’ll need players like catcher Yasmani Grandal and SS Orlando Arcia to drive runs off of Scherzer, and some impressive catches at the wall by Gold Glove candidate by CF Lorenzo Cain sure wouldn’t hurt either. The Brewers are not at full health heading into this matchup, but are definitely powerful and should not be overlooked by anyone, including the Nationals.
Author’s Postseason Predictions:
AL Wildcard: Athletics win and advance
NL Wildcard: Brewers win and advance
NLDS: Atlanta wins series against Cardinals 3-1
NLDS: Dodgers win series against Brewers 3-1
ALDS: Astros win series over A’s 3-1
ALDS: Yankees win series over Twins 3-2
NLCS: Dodgers win series against Braves 4-2
ALCS: Houston wins series against Yankees 4-3
World Series: Houstin wins series against Dodgers 4-2
World Series MVP: Alex Bregman