HERE WE ARE! The 60 game sprint that was the Regular season is in the rear view mirror and we are down to the Final 16. In a new and exciting playoff format strictly for the COVID-19 Shortened season, so don’t get to excited to see your favorite teams make the playoffs with an under .500 record again any time soon (Yes, I am looking at your Astros and Brewers).
But in a year like this, even those teams have a reason to think they can make a magical run in the weird and strange season. Any team is truly capable of making a run more then ever before. Especially with every team forced into a 3 game series, 1 tough outing in Game 1 by your Ace and your in a BIG hole needing to win 2 straight to avoid the end of your season. Exciting baseball ahead. And a whole lot of it with this format in place. Lets get right into it.
AMERICAN WILD CARD SERIES
(Best of 3)
#1 Tampa Bay Rays vs #8 Toronto Blue Jays
PICK: Rays 2-0
#2 Oakland Athletics vs #7 Chicago White Sox
PICK: Athletics 2-1
#3 Minnesota Twins vs #6 Houston Astros
PICK: Twins 2-0
#4 Cleveland Indians vs #5 New York Yankees
PICK: Indians 2-1
AMERICAN LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
(Best of 5)
#1 Tampa Bay Rays vs #4 Cleveland Indians
PICK: Indians in 5
#2 Oakland Athletics vs #3 Minnesota Twins
PICK: Twins in 4
AMERICAN LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
(Best of 7)
#3 Minnesota Twins vs # 4 Cleveland Indians
PICK: Indians in 6
An AL Central Matchup here in the ALCS. No knock against the Twins, great team and deserve to be here…. but I do wish the bracket allowed us to see an Indians vs Rays 7 Game series with those pitching staffs instead of a 5 gamer in the ALDS, where I have the Indians taking it in 5. Soon to be named AL Cy Young winner, Shane Bieber who also won the Pitching Triple Crown in 2020. Has looked as dominate as we have seen a pitcher in recent memory. Yes, a 60 game season but as good as a 2019 season Gerrit Cole had, Bieber has been better in 2020. Cole broke the K/9 record in 2019 with 13.8, Bieber broke that this year with a 14.2 K/9. His new added Knuckle Curveball has been lethal to go with his ungodly command to make him truly one of the best pitchers in baseball.
Still with an abundance of arms behind Bieber from Carrasco, Plesac, and Civale. As well as the 2nd best back of the pen in the playoffs (Sorry no one tops the Brewers 1-2 punch) But Karinchak + Hand is lethal in its own right and with that Staff + Pen games get extremely short and tight on opposing teams with the talented arms that miss as many bats as they do.
And something that I love about the Indians, and many will overlook. Their Top 4 hitters in their lineup. Cesar Hernandez, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Carlos Santana all being switch hitters makes navigating through them for a manage a living nightmare, Especially with the new 3 batter limit rule put in place this season. Not many Pen arms are capable of getting both L/R out consistently, and they will have to against the Indians.
I feel the arms for the Indians will prove to much for the Twins and their high powered offense. It is worth noting Kenta Maeda mostly dominated the Indians this season in 3 starts (2 ER in 18 IP) and could luck out if he lines up early in the series and is able to steal a game against Bieber which could flip the script in the series, but im sticking to the guns and rolling with the Tribe here to represent the AL in the World Series.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WILD CARD ROUND
(Best of 3)
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs #8 Milwaukee Brewers
PICK: Dodgers in 3
#2 Atlanta Braves vs #7 Cincinnati Reds
PICK: Reds in 2
#3 Chicago Cubs vs #6 Miami Marlins
PICK: Cubs in 3
#4 San Diego Padres vs #5 St Louis Cardinals
PICK: Padres in 3
NATIONAL LEAGUE DIVISION SERIES
(Best of 5)
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs #4 San Diego Padres
PICK: Dodgers in 4
#6 Chicago Cubs vs #7 Cincinnati Reds
PICK: Reds in 4
NATIONAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES
(Best of 7)
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers vs #7 Cincinnati Reds
PICK: Dodgers in 7
Im buying into the Reds. I bought into them in the offseason with their additions and moving into the playoffs their team is built for postseason success led by the 3 headed monster in the rotation of Possible NL Cy Young Winner Trevor Bauer, Sonny Gray, and Luis Castillo. With a lineup capable of providing runs and with a staff like that in the postseason, sometimes 1 or 2 runs might be enough. The Power they have throughout the lineup that can put up runs with the longball as well as work counts and draw walks (4th most in the MLB in 2020 behind only the Yankees, Rays and Indians) at a healthy clip to get into the bullpens. Playoff baseball comes down to great starting pitching, timely hitting, ability to get into bullpens and play matchups (even more this year with the new rule of 3 batter limit), and shrinking the game with elite back of the pen arms.
Tyler Mahle could possibly see a Game 4 start, but assuming the rotations align, I expect Trevor Bauer to do everything in his power to force himself into this series on short rest in Game 4 and a potential Game 7. Which very likely is what is going to be needed out of Bauer for the Reds to get through the Dodgers. Bauer will no doubt take on the challenge if presented with the opportunity. Can he answer the challenge? Hate him or love him (I love him) the man is a fantastic pitcher and as good as any at the moment and riding a high to prove everyone wrong and passion not many can match.
Everything I just said about the Reds can be said about the Dodgers and then some. Without a doubt the best team all season long with an elite offense led by MVP Candidate Mookie Betts and 2019 NL MVP Cody Bellinger, alongside a fury of stars in their own right. A rotation that while can’t say it is as good as the Reds, but still one of the best the league has to offer and more post season experience to back it up. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Julio Urias can go to to toe with the Reds Rotation while backing that up with a more consistent and deep bullpen and offense then the Reds can say they are able to throw at the Dodgers in a 7 game series.
The Reds have that similar feel to them as the 2019 Washington Nationals, sneak in and now with your elite Starting Pitching can make a big run in the postseason. However, their timely hitting likely wont be as good as the Nationals proved to be, and ultimately fall just short of upsetting the Dodgers in the NLCS.
WORLD SERIES 2020
(Best of 7)
Los Angeles Dodgers vs Cleveland Indians
PICK: Dodgers in 6
Just 3 and a half weeks away from Game 1 of the World Series in Arlington where we could see some lower scoring games in that new ballpark they have there, as well as what could be with some of these pitching staffs capable of finding their way to the series. In this particular matchup, we have just that. Elite Starting pitching, strong bullpens, defense and overall strong teams that have had Championship asperations all season.
I don’t need to explain the same things I did above for each team during the Championship Series matchups. But in terms of who is the best team here, It is without a doubt the Dodgers. Easily the best team in baseball all year on a 117 win pace (in a 162 game season) and with the best roster on paper to match it.
It’s hard to see how a team can beat them right? I have heard that story before. But this team is different right? I really think they might be. I reeeaaaaly do. But something feels off with it, again. They have all the talent you need, and could dream of. A more dominate bullpen, yes. But I would take the Indians rotation over the Dodgers right now.
Buehler is looking like he is ready for a dominate postseason run after his final tune up of the season, Kershaw looks rejuvenated and hes not even the concern for me, I have trust in Kershaw and honestly hasn’t been as bad in the playoffs as the world wants to make it seem. I have worries with Dustin May holding up in the postseason. He has had a fantastic rookie year, but the last month has not gone through 6 innings in any start, although he has not allowed more then 2 runs in any of those starts. But inability to work deep puts more pressure on that bullpen and the other starters around him. Which brings in Tony Gonsolin needing to pitch as he did in the regular season and give them valuable middle relief innings. As well as Julio Urias giving them strong innings whether that be in a starting or relief role (I want it to be a starter role this postseason). You are asking multiple pitchers to be at their best every night with that formula as your 3/4 starters and could prove costly.
With all that said, I don’t think the Indians have enough offensively to keep up with the Dodgers when Bieber isn’t on the mound. Carrasco, Plesac and Civale are great, but lack postseason experience and are ultimately a bit harder to trust in a 7 Game series with a lineup like the Dodgers getting 2 looks at them. I wont put it past them to shut down any team, the Indians are in this position for a reason.
The Dodgers need to lock this series down before Game 7, to much pressure, and a bullpen on the other side to shrink the game that can end your hopes real quick. And if Bieber isn’t a Game 6 starter, you can imagine him figuring into Game 7, in some capacity. The Indians have been there before falling short to the Cubs in 2016 and their stars are no doubt itching for another shot at a clinching game. As are the Dodgers who have fallen short continuously year after year.
I do think this if this series goes to Game 7 the Indians have the clear advantage with all the pressure mounting on the Dodgers shoulders and points I mentioned above with Cleveland’s ability to shrink the game and also throw out the leagues best pitcher.
A series that features the AL CY Young winner Shane Bieber. As well as Jose Ramirez and Mookie Betts who are both in consideration for their respective leagues MVPs (As is Bieber whether you want to believe it or not, he is just as worthy as any) this has the makings of an incredible series. This has the makings of a truly great World Series.
I can’t wait for all these games to get rolling and me to be horribly wrong on just about every series, but that is the fun in this, not a single one of us know how this will play out, not even the players. Who shows up and wants it the most will ultimately come out on top in a season like this.
TONS of baseball on the way this next month, this is what we all live for. Enjoy it.
Find all our 2020 MLB Playoff Coverage Here!
As we cover each series as the Playoffs unfold with an Analyst assigned to each series!