MLB Wild Card and Divisional Series Preview

Oh, the sights and sounds of October are in the air. The leaves are falling, the NFL and college football seasons are both well underway, the NBA and NHL regular seasons are about to start and, of course, the MLB Postseason is about to begin. 

With the AL Wild Card airing on TBS Tuesday night, the NL Wild Card airing on the same station Wednesday night and the set divisional matchups starting on Thursday, the MLB Postseason is about to take off. Here are the matchups and predictions for the postseason matchups already set.

AL WILD CARD: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Oakland Athletics

Location: RingCentral Coliseum (Oakland)

Regular Season Head-to-Head Record: 4-3 Athletics

Analysis: This looks to be a classic matchup between two gritty teams that have to rely on good drafting, developing and trading to offset the bottom-ten payroll both teams possess. Offensively the Athletics are superior to the Rays in walks (578 to 542), runs (845 to 769), home runs (257 to 217) and OPS (.776 to .757). However, with Charlie Morton going for the Rays and Sean Manaea being probable for the Athletics, this will more than likely be a low-scoring affair. While Charlie Morton leads the majors in HR/9 (.69), the Athletics and their gauntlet of Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Marcus Semien and Mark Canha scores enough early for Manaea (who in September had a 1.21 ERA) and the bullpen to hold on and not let the lead fade. 

Score Prediction: 4-2 Oakland

NL WILD CARD: Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals

Location: Nationals Park (Washington)

Regular Season Head-to-Head Record: 4-2 Brewers

Analysis: Milwaukee had a turnaround of the ages in September, finishing with a record of 20-7 and transforming from a team on the fringe to a team in the postseason for the second straight season, the first time since 1981 and 1982. While the magic has been in the air for Milwaukee, going into the postseason in a winner-take-all one-game playoff without their star in Christian Yelich adds a significant blow, especially with Yelich having a career 1.139 OPS versus the opponent starting pitcher in the game: Max Scherzer. Even if Scherzer falters Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin are available to pitch behind him if need be. While Milwaukee starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff has a live arm and when healthy has produced solid results, expect the veteran experience and overall depth of the Nationals to overtake Milwaukee, led by premier bats in Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto. 

Score Prediction: 6-1 Washington

ALDS: Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

Series Start: Yankee Stadium (At New York for first two games)

Regular Season Head-to-Head Record: 4-2 Yankees 

Analysis: While the postseason is not known for slugfests, this series will have it. Both teams were the only teams in baseball to hit over 300 homeruns, with Minnesota hitting 307 and New York hitting 306. Both teams are also top three in all of baseball in OPS and runs scored. While young starters Jose Berrios for the Twins and Luis Severino spearhead both rotations, and both bullpens being among the best, hitting will just be too much. Unfortunately for Minnesota, history against the Yankees in the postseason is not great, and the first two games are on the road. While they will score enough to make this a true best-of-five series, the Yankees offense with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Luke Voit and Gleyber Torres, among others will capitalize on the series starting and ending in the Bronx. 

Series Prediction: 3-2 New York

NLDS: St. Louis Cardinals vs Atlanta Braves

Series Start: SunTrust Park (At Atlanta for first two games)

Regular Season Head-to-Head Record: 4-2 Braves

Analysis: While the ALDS series mentioned above will feature a throwdown offensively, this series will be the opposite and will have a more traditional pitching-duel feel to it. The Atlanta Braves, led by starters Mike Soroka, Dallas Keuchel and Julio Teheran will be pitted against Jack Flaherty, Daniel Hudson and Miles Mikolas of St. Louis. Flaherty might be the most dynamic pitcher in the postseason, pitching to a 0.91 ERA in the second-half, tops in all of baseball during that time. However, experience on Atlanta’s roster, varying from Freddie Freeman to Dallas Keuchel will prove to be a difference-maker, along with Atlanta having more depth from the bullpen and on offense. Atlanta’s unique blend of youthful stars and veteran leaders will prove to be too much for St. Louis, who will be at a disadvantage from the start. While the Cardinals possess the better team ERA since the second half of the season, Atlanta’s veterans on the starting staff, the additions in the bullpen from the trade deadline and the more dynamic offense will send St. Louis packing.  

Series Prediction: 3-1 Atlanta

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