Welcome to the MLB Playoffs! After one of the craziest seasons in memory due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this season was shortened to 60 games and the playoffs were expanded to 16 teams (8 in both the National and American Leagues). The St. Louis Cardinals along with the Miami Marlins both had players test positive for COVID-19 meaning that both teams had to engage in large amounts of doubleheaders to reach 60 games. Both teams made the playoffs. Three teams that have not made the playoffs in over a decade, the Marlins (2003), Padres (2006), and White Sox (2008) ended long playoff droughts to qualify for the expanded post-season. The Marlins will be putting their undefeated playoff record, 6-0, on the line during this postseason (They won the World Series during their only two franchise appearances in 1997 and 2003). Despite this, the expanded playoff format reveals that the MLB should not expand their playoff system past ten teams during a normal season. Too many mediocre teams have qualified for the playoffs. Milwaukee, Houston, and St. Louis were unimpressive teams that stumbled their way into the playoffs over the last few days. Other teams like the Cincinnati Reds got hot at the end of the year and slid into the playoffs with a realistic chance of advancing.
Since the first round of the playoffs is a Best of 3 series, upsets will likely happen. But as the playoffs expand to Best of 5 and Best of 7 for the later rounds, the chances of a ‘surprise’ occurring becomes less probable. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the overwhelming favorites to win the NL pennant. If they survive the Wild Card Round and NLDS, it is going to be increasingly difficult to oust them in the later rounds. Atlanta, Chicago, and San Diego have a puncher’s chance to knock Los Angeles out. But it is going to require everything falling into place like it did for the Washington Nationals last year.
In the American League, the top 8 teams (Minus the Astros) are more competitive. Every team has a realistic chance to advance through the Wild Card round into the ALDS. It will not surprise me if Tampa Bay, the Yankees, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins or Oakland Athletics represent the American League in the World Series. It feels this wide open.
Before I lay down my incredibly pointless predictions (Don’t go to Las Vegas and lay money down on this analysis), I want to congratulate my San Diego Padres for ending 14 years of misery. Since they lost their 163rd game tiebreaker to the eventual NL champion Colorado Rockies in 2007 and their manager Bruce Bochy left to lead the San Francisco Giants to three World Series titles, the Padres have been mostly mediocre at best and terrible at worst. Other than a surprising 90-win season in 2010, the Padres have not won more than 76 games in any season since 2007. During this recent buildup of the farm systems with youth and the addition of veterans like Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado, the Padres look like a team that could contend for the NL pennant for the next few years if they can manage to keep the team together. Even with a spate of injuries to their starting pitching, a NLDS matchup with the Los Angeles Dodgers looks inevitable. Here are my predictions.
NL Wild Card
L.A. Dodgers sweep Milwaukee 2-0
San Diego Padres defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1
Chicago Cubs defeat the Miami Marlins 2-1
UPSET: Cincinnati Reds defeat the Atlanta Braves 2-0
AL Wild Card
Tampa Bay Rays defeat the Toronto Blue Jays 2-0
UPSET: Cleveland Indians defeat the New York Yankees 2-1
Minnesota Twins sweep Houston 2-0
Oakland Athletics advance on a walk off hit against the Chicago White Sox 2-1 (If the White Sox win this series, I will not be surprised.)
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the San Diego Padres 3-1
Chicago Cubs defeat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2
UPSET: Cleveland Indians defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2
Oakland Athletics defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-2
Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Chicago Cubs 4-1
Cleveland defeats Oakland 4-2
Los Angeles Dodgers win their 7th championship and first since 1988 in 6 games over the Cleveland Indians.
Enjoy the playoffs everyone!
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