Why they can win it all: Dingers and more dingers
Los Angeles Dodgers
The reason I give the Braves a chance to make a run is because they are so young that they don’t fully realize what they are up against. Ignorance is bliss. In contrast, Minnesota is addressing the elephant in the room to the entire world. Twins president Dave St. Peter said this in an interview on SKOR North radio:
Why they can win it all: Fear nobody mentality
|47-34 (.580)||SO/BB||In what is being called, it would be most fitting for the team that set an all-time record for home runs to hoist the championship trophy. Saying the Twins live and die by the long ball would be an understatement. Minnesota scored 51.2 percent of its runs on homers this season, the third-highest mark in baseball.|
|BA||.761||The rest of the bullpen, on the other hand, is still a question mark. Sean Doolittle has given up 63 hits in just 60 innings. Tanner Rainey can reach triple-digits on his fastball, but surrendered 38 walks in 48 1/3 innings. The ‘pen as a whole has improved since the All-Star break, but it is still lacking in trust.|
|New York’s attempt at shortening games for its starters by bolstering the bullpen could come back to bite. In five- and seven-game playoff series, it is unrealistic to expect a bullpen to pitch five-to-six innings on a daily basis, and New York’s starters have rarely shown the ability to provide aid by pitching deep into games.||Opponent batting AVG||There are no holes in the Astros’ pitching staff nor their lineup. Not one. Their bullpen might be the only soft spot and even that is a major stretch considering they finished third in ERA (3.75) and their closer Roberto Osuna led the AL in saves. A major injury to one of their key contributors might be the only thing that stops Houston.|
|Why they can’t: Kenley Jansen||The 2018 playoffs were considered a disappointment, at least for the Astros’ standards, following a defeat in the ALCS. Much of that was largely due to Jose Altuve never being 100 percent with a right knee injury, Lance McCullers dealing with shoulder discomfort, and Carlos Correa nursing a back problem.||AB/HR|
Why they can’t: Health
Why they can win it all: Three power starters
We saw in the Wild Card Game how impactful the Nats’ staff can be in both starting and relief roles. The three-headed monster that is Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin combined for a 43-20 record with a 3.18 ERA and 732 strikeouts this year.
The Minnesota-New York series is likely to become an absolute slugfest.
Eight teams. One trophy. In the midst of it all: utter October chaos. The 2019 postseason has already been ignited by a hot start, highlighted by the Nationals‘ eighth-inning comeback and Yandy Diaz’s dual-homer performance in Oakland. Both wild card victors are fresh off popping bottles, and the other six clubs have had time to soak in their division titles.
The biggest weakness could also end up being their best asset. These kids are not scared of anything nor anybody. Atlanta is just young enough and just confident enough to believe it can take down the top dogs. Ronald Acuna Jr. (21), Ozzie Albies (22), Max Fried (25) and Mike Soroka (22) are all playing beyond their years.
Sprinkled between the young core is a handful of savvy veterans in Brian McCann and Nick Markakis. However, Atlanta is reliant upon its young guns. We saw Acuna get held to a single after dogging it out of the box earlier this season and yet again in Game 1 of the NLDS. These are mistakes this young Braves team cannot afford to make.
Why they can’t: Playoff inexperience
Yankees starters ranked 26th in innings pitched and 18th in quality starts. Ace Luis Severino has yet to throw past the fifth inning following his shoulder injury due to pitch restrictions. Record
Though their offensive production ranks among the league’s best, Rays hitters strike out at an alarming rate. Among playoff teams, Tampa Bay struck out the most (9.22 K/game). Only the Tigers, Mariners, Rangers, White Sox, and Blue Jays struck out more times in the AL this season.
St. Louis Cardinals
Why they can win it all: Pitching dominance at Chavez Ravine
Why they can’t: Too many strikeouts
The only thing worse than a curse is knowing it is a curse. New York has ended Minnesota’s season five times since 2003, including the team’s most recent playoff appearance in the 2017 AL Wild Card Game. There are other concerns with Minnesota, including starting rotation depth and health. But the Yankees seem to be swimming in the heads of the entire Twins organization.
It is a case of pick your poison when it comes to New York’s lineup. Don’t want to face Aaron Judge? Well, he is followed by a former MVP in Giancarlo Stanton. Then comes three-time All Star Gary Sanchez. Then the man who has hit more home runs than anybody since 2012, Edwin Encarnacion. And the list goes on.
Five different players hit 30-plus home runs for the Twins this season. That is downright ridiculous. We will have to wait and see if their regular-season success translates to the postseason. Hot hitting, starting pitching, and strong defense all factor into a championship run; nevertheless, defense does a team no good if it can’t score. The Red Birds were tops in the league in defense and solid on the mound, but many of their hitting numbers rank in the bottom half of the league: .737 OPS (21st), 210 HR (24th), and .415 SLG (23rd).
St. Louis ranked third in the league this year with defensive runs saved (95) and committed less errors than any team in baseball (66). Of course, the Cardinals’ two errors in Game 1 on Thursday does not help prove this point, but the speed of Harrison Bader in center and the middle-infield combination of Paul DeJong and Kolten Wong are among the best in the business.
Why they can’t: Defense alone doesn’t win championships
For now, there is plenty of optimism for each team.
|vs. LHP||vs. RHP|
|Why they can’t: Lack of bullpen depth||It is a lot of pressure to put on three players–players who have little-to-no ability to help the team offensively–but Washington has a chance to make a deep run if this trio can catch fire on the hill.||.255|
|After setting a career high in blown saves (8) and career low in ERA+ (112), there is cause for concern for the former three-time All Star. A lead in the ninth inning with Jansen on the bump once felt like a guaranteed win, but it is now an unknown.||Their production against both sides of the rubber takes away a major component of an opponent’s strategy.||26.86|
|Why they can win it all: Their splits don’t falter||Why they can win it all: Their lineup||59-22 (.728)|
|.325||Why they can win it all: Defensive dominance||Why they can win it all: Health|
All eight playoff teams can make legitimate cases for why they will be raising the Commissioner’s Trophy. Nonetheless, among their many positives come a handful of weaknesses. No team is perfect (not even you, Astros). With the division series in full swing, we have chosen one reason why each playoff team will bring a title back to its respective town and one reason why they won’t.
One of the more under-the-radar moves at the deadline was their acquisition of Daniel Hudson. He has been spectacular since taking over the closing duties, as evidenced by his 1.44 ERA.
In an age dominated by right-lefty splits and matchup combinations, the Rays are a matchup nightmare. Their numbers against righties are nearly identical to their numbers against lefties.
A franchise-record 106 regular-season wins should benefit L.A. in a huge way. The Dodgers’ home vs. away splits are night and day. To make a title run, it is all about the little things. This team is talented and athletic, but learning experiences could be in the works before teh Braves are able to raise the trophy in Atlanta.
Their upcoming opponent, Houston, has Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. The duo became just the second pair of teammates in baseball history to each eclipse 300 strikeouts in a season.
L.A. would have home-field advantage through the NLCS if they can move on and in the World Series unless the Dodgers face the Astros.
Why they can’t: Their ‘slay the dragon’ mentality
“Organizationally, I just say it’s time to slay the dragon, right. No time like the present to break that curse, so to speak,” said St. Peter.
Why they can’t: Inability to pitch deep into games