With just 10 days left until the MLB Postseason begins it’s time to put together a playoff preview, make some predictions and explore the close races across the league.
As the 2019 MLB regular season comes to a close we still have a lot of big stories to cover, including cusp teams looking to unseat those team currently holding onto their spot.
There are a number close division races at this moment, all of which will be sorted out this upcoming week. As of today, the Central division is still up for grabs in both the NL & AL with the West and East races done.
The Dodgers & Braves are division winners in the NL while the Yankees and Astros take top spot on the AL.
The St Louis Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot out of the NL Central but has yet to clinch the division while the Twins lead the AL Central but have yet to even clinch a playoff berth.
With some really tight races we have a lot of possible outcomes to explore, so let’s just right in.
If the 2019 MLB Season Ended Today
In the National League the Wild-Card game would take place at Nationals Park Between the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals on Tuesday the first of October. The Winner of that Wild-Card game has the misfortune of playing the Dodgers in the NLDS series while the Cardinals and Braves will play in Atlanta. Both of those series will kick off on Thursday, October 3rd.
On the American League side of things, a tiebreaker game would first have to take place on the 30th between the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays. The winner of that game would then need to beat the Oakland Athletics at home on October 2nd in the AL Wild-Card Game.
Whoever comes out on top of that game would then have to play the Houston Astros in the ALDS with the other series being the Twins & Yankees.
Both of those American League Division Series go live on Friday October 4th. Since the season does not end today we can go over all the things that might happen between now and the final day of the regular season.
American League 2019 Playoff Picture
New York Yankees 2019
The Yankees may be enjoying their best season in recent memory along with celebrating their most recent Division title. Their only focus for the remainder of the regular season will be to achieve the best record in the American League, which will essentially give them the best record in baseball.
The Astros hold a slight lead on the Yankees with .654 winning percentage compared to the Bombers’ .650. The issue for the Yankees moving forward is a myriad of injuries or other roster issues that have plagued them over the last couple of weeks.
Dillon Betances was lost for the season in his debut last week after a lengthy stint on the injured reserve list. Outfielders Mike Tachman (oblique) and Aaron Hicks (elbow) are most likely out for the season.
Luckily they just saw the return of Giancarlo Stanton and Luis Severing, but it will he hard to assess their contributions while making such late season debuts. They are hoping to see the return of Gary Sanchez (groin) and Edwin Encarnacion (oblique) sooner than later with the ALDS looming.
The most shocking loss to the roster was new superstar Domingo German (18-4, 4.03 ERA) being suspended for alleged domestic violence. The Yankees have already stated that German will not play again in 2019 so it’s safe to expect the Yankees to be without him for the postseason run.
The Yankees will most likely employ a four man rotation of Luis Severino, James Paxton, J.A. Happ & Masahiro Tanaka. So long as Sevrino, Stanton and Encarnacion return to pre-injury form in a timely manner, the Yankees should make quick work of the ALDS opponent and expect a war against the Astros in the ALCS.
Houston Astros 2019
Co-best team in the league with New York, the Astros might be even more dangerous in the playoffs than the Bronx Bombers.
Four names really come to mind when predicting the Astros success come the postseason. Those names are Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Wade Miley.
These four make up the likely pitching rotation which the Astros will look to roll out. With an average ERA of 3.02 as a group, are by far the most dangerous quartet of starters entering the postseason.
With Carlos Correa back from the IR, the Astros infield is back in full form behind Jose Altuve.
Rookie talent Kyle Tucker has made a strong push to be included on the postseason roster after hitting .325 since being called up and showing some pop as well. It’s no wonder they are current favorites to win the World Series with the Yankees their only real roadblock should it come to that.
Minnesota Twins 2019
The Twins took a pair of huge hits to their roster recently which explains their World Series odds plummeting to +1800 over the last two weeks.
Proven cheater Michael Pineda was hit with a 60-game suspension for PEDs while Byron Buxton had season-ending shoulder surgery.
Sam Dyson is likely to not be seen again in 2019 suiting up for the twins with a shoulder injury.
The best team in baseball at the All-Star break is not not even a lock to win their division after a rough second half. Despite this, the Twins’ road to the ALDS is pretty clear with the Indians 4.5 games back of the Twins and the Twins have the luxury of playing the Tigers this weekend.
According to Fangraps, their chance of winning the AL Central is 99.7% with just a week’s worth of game’s left to play. With such recent hits to their roster, the Twins are a good bet-against team in the ALDS no matter who they are matched up against.
Tampa Bay Rays 2019
The Rays success relies so heavily on Blake Snell’s progression over the next ten days that his performance can make or break this team’s season.
With Yandy Diaz and Brandwon Lowe out with injuries they Rays will need all they help they can get with keeping runs off the board as their scoring potential is diminished.
Coming off left elbow surgery Snell needs to get stretched out in a hurry if his effectiveness in the playoffs is to be a factor. If he does, the rotation of Charlie Morton, Ryan Yarbrough and Tyler Glassnow could be one of the better postseason pitching staffs.
Yonny Chirinos would be a welcome addition to the bullpen but Brendan McKay is a serviceable option who can also spot start should the need arise.
Oakland Athletics 2019
The Oakland Athletics currently trail the Twins by just two games in the race to win the American League Central and hold a two-game lead over both the Indians and the Rays for the first Wild-Card spot.
They need to keep winning but lucky for them, four of their last six games come against the lowly Mariners and the other two against an Angels team without Mike Trout in the lineup and nothing to play for.
As for who they are would play against in the AL Wild-Card game, likely taking place in Oakland, that remains to be seen. Both the Rays and the Indians present tough matchups, but I like the A’s chances in a series against the Astros. It’s a strong possibility that the Rays and Indians will need to play a tiebreaker game which gives the A’s a read advantage come WIld-Card time with each team’s best starter out of the way.
Cleveland Indians 2019
The Indians biggest issue right now, and moving into the playoffs, is rotation.
With Corey Kluber still on the shelf it is unlikely he makes an impact prior to the start of the ALDS at all. Even if he comes back in the next two weeks, what can the Indians really hope to get out of him? He will be rushed back and not totally stretched out. If he can’t go the Indians will have another dillema in who to start after Shane Bierber and Mike Clevinger.
As we’ve learned from years past, you need some great arms to make it to the World Series.
Quite frankly, the Indians might not even have enough to make it into the playoffs at all. They are currently locked in a dead heat with the Tampa Bay Rays with six games left to play.
It’s a good news-bad news situation in their last week. They start off with a cupcake matchup against the White Sox, who if you haven’t heard are just awful this year as per usual. Then things take a bit of a turn when the head to Washington on Friday to close out the season with a three game series against the Washington Nationals. Washington currently holds the first Wild-Card spot in the American League and will be damned if they will let the Indians take it away from them. On their home turf no less.
The Rays suffered a tough loss on Sunday which would have given them a full game on the Indians, but I think the Tribe stumbles down the stretch and missed out on the postseason this year.
National League 2019 Playoff Picture
Los Angeles Dodgers 2019
The Dodgers, one of only three teams to win 100 games this year, are the team to beat in the National League. They will have home field advantage up at least through the NLCS, and there is a slim shot for them to usurp the Astros and Yankees for best record in the league.
As it stands now, the Dodgers will likely play either the Brewers of the Nationals in the NLDS series. These are both plus matchups for the Dodgers despite some strong arms in Washington and big bats in Milwaukee. The Dodgers are just better, and in a multiple game series, the better team usually wins. It’s designed to give the better team a chance to show consistency and not just oopsie lose a single game and be out of the playoffs.
The Dodgers have their top 3 aces set in Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. There is talk of a bullpen game instead of utilizing a fourth started, a trend which has seen legs so far this year in the MLB.
Using an opener instead of a starter and using you bullpen has worked for many teams this year who employ a four-man rotation. But I am skeptical how that would work in the playoffs. Purposefully depleting your bullpen can come back to haunt you if you really need them in a long game or to pitch on light rest. In the regular season you can just make some scrub on your bench throw a few innings of who-cares baseball, but not in the Playoffs. I’m sure the Dodgers staff has this all figured out and they should scoot into the World Series, but just something to keep an eye on.
Atlanta Braves 2019
The Braves have locked in a playoff berth after clinching the American League East crown with a 7-0 win Friday night against the Giants. Their second AL East title in so many years. This marks the 19th division win for the Braves, tied with the Yankees since the start of the divisional era prior to the 1970 season.
It has been 15 long years since the Dodgers, Braves and Yankees all won their division. The Braves are hoping that the recent resurgence of Mike Foltynewicz can help their rotation while Nick Markakis returned to action last week and figures to be a huge factor moving forward.
The Braves can mathematically catch the Dodgers ad the National Leagues’ No.1 seed, and four of their last six games are against the Mets at home. They close the season out with a breezy two games against the Royals, long dead in the water. I don’t see them beating the Dodgers for best record but hey, weird stuff happens in the closing weeks of baseball.
St. Louis Cardinals 2019
The St. Louis Cardinals moved just that much closer to winning the National League Central title on Sunday with a big win over the Cubs, capping off a four-game sweep of the struggling Cubbies. They won each of those games in what must be heartbreaking fashion for the Chicago Cubs, who were in desperate need of some wins this week.
The Cardinals come away with their first clinch a playoff spot since 2015 with their magic number to clinch the NL Central now just four games. They lead the Brewers by three games with just six left on the schedule.
With the Brewers playing so well it’s hard to see the Cardinal’s catch them, but I would have said the same about the Cubs last week so anything can happen.
Washington Nationals 2019
It’s no surprise that the Braves ran away with this division, but there are a number of surprises league wide. One of the more shocking one was the Nationals’ bullpen being a complete dumpster fire.
The Nats were expected to have one of the best pitchers in the league. Their starters have played up to the hype, but their bullpen severely let them down.
They put up historically low numbers as a group with their 5.48 ERA was easily the worst in the majors this season. Add to that their relievers putting up the worst win probability in the last decade.
In the end, things got so bad they had 42-year-old Fernando Rodney to help them close out the season.
Max Scherzer, Thephen Strastburg and Patrick Corbin give the Nats a trio of great starters but unless they are each pitching complete games, the lead is never safe in Washington.
Chicago Cubs 2019
After the Cubs took back sole possession of the second NL wild-card berth last week, things were looking up in Chicago. Boy oh boy what a difference a weekend makes.
There was a point in the last week where the Cubs and Brewers were tied up for the spot and things that were expected to end tight. While the race isn’t over yet mathematically, the writing is on the wall for Chicago.
They have looked rather awful for most of the month and their poor play had finally caught up with them. My playoff predictions for the Cubs? They’ll be enjoying cold ones on the golf course two weeks from now and not vying for any MLB World Series trophies this year.
Milwaukee Brewers 2019
After superstar Christian Yelich went down for the season many people immediately dismissed the Brewers of maintaining status as a legitimate contender. The Milwaukee Brewers did not get that memo.
This Sunday saw the Brewers sneak past the Pirates with a tight 4-3 win. That now has the Brewers 15-2 over their previous 17 games played and added to their four-game win streak. This combined with the Cubs recent collapse has Milwaukee now sitting pretty with a four-game lead in the Wild-Card race.
Everything is going the Brewers way lately and this momentum figures to extend into the postseason. At +4500 to win it all they make for the most attractive dark horse play at the moment.