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Road to the 2019 World Series

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Another long MLB season has come to an end. All 162 regular season games (and a couple of 163s) have been played. And as of this writing, just 10 remain with a chance to take home a World Series championship. Two-thirds of the league’s teams have packed it in and headed home for a long winter of wondering what might have been and awaiting the arrival of next spring and the ever-present hope that that season brings.

But now, it’s time to look ahead to what this postseason might have in store for us.

Rather than trying to put together a series-by-series breakdown, let us take a general look at the respective championship chances of all 10 remaining teams, ranking their World Series likelihoods in ascending order.

It’s all guesswork, obviously – heck, if I knew anything, I’d have gotten more than six out of the 10 playoff teams right in our MLB season preview back in March. I feel reasonably good about these new rankings, so this list will almost certainly turn out to be laughably inaccurate.

But hey – fortune favors the bold.

(Note: As of press time, the two wild card games had yet to be played. Thus, all four Wild Card teams are included on this list.)

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10. Milwaukee Brewers

It’s a real bummer that we’re not going to see Christian Yelich do his thing in the postseason after the monster year he had. Yet that broken kneecap didn’t slow the Brewers, who have been on a torrid pace since the injury. But now Lorenzo Cain is banged up too. Still, they have plenty of bats, some unexpectedly effective starting pitching and maybe the best closer in the playoff field in Josh Hader. Losing two of your best is tough, but don’t count Milwaukee out.

9. Washington Nationals

I almost put the Nationals last. Not necessarily because of their talent – they’ve got studs like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in the rotation and Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto in the lineup. But the truth is that the Nats have a tendency to struggle in these sorts of circumstances; they might be able to shake off their shaky history … but I have doubts.

8. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays have actually put a pretty solid team on the field despite the obstacles presented by their situation. And they’ve won in some interesting ways, embracing the opener as a pitching strategy and finding some real offensive talent to go with their low-key excellent collection of arms. Did you know this team led the AL in ERA? Still, I don’t know that they’re built for a longer series. Great pitching, but I’m not sure they hit enough.

7. Oakland A’s

Another team that I quite like in a low slot. If the A’s were a division winner, I might have them higher; they’re a team of depth with little in the way of superstars, so a single game playoff doesn’t suit their strengths. That said, they’ve got some dudes having quietly excellent years – Marcus Semien has been one of the most productive players in the league. If the pitching can hold up through the WC game, they could be interesting.

6. St. Louis Cardinals

Now we enter into the realm of teams guaranteed a spot in the Division Series. I have the Cardinals last among that group, largely because they … don’t seem that good? It would seem that the Brewers or even the Cubs should be here, but here’s St. Louis doing what they do. They have far and away the lowest OPS of the playoff teams, over 20 points lower than the Rays. Their rotation is solid but uninspiring, though they do have a strong bullpen. All signs point to this being the right call, but you never know when the Cardinals are going to Cardinal.

5. Minnesota Twins

This is definitely a rating by my head rather than my heart, because I would LOVE for the Twins to make some noise this postseason. They are an embodiment of the juiced-ball world in which we live, the first-ever team to hit over 300 homers in a season. But they are the Twins, meaning that they set the record, but the Yankees ALSO hit over 300, so no one really cares. I love that old Nelson Cruz is still hitting bombs. I love Max Kepler and Miguel Sano. The rotation is basically Jose Berrios and some guys, but they’ve got some live bullpen arms. I hope I’m wrong on this one.

4. Atlanta Braves

I definitely did not give the Braves their due coming into the season. I knew they had some talented players – I’m a Freddie Freeman guy from way back and Ronald Acuna Jr. is electrifying – but I figured they’d take a back seat to some of the division’s other movers and shakers. But Josh Donaldson and Ozzie Albies ALSO had exceptional offensive years, leading a lineup without many easy outs. The pitching was a surprise as well – Mike Soroka would win Rookie of the Year in any year without a Pete Alonso, while Julio Teheran and midseason pickup Dallas Keuchel have been very good. The bullpen is decent, but nothing spectacular.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Don’t be shocked to see the Dodgers take part in the Fall Classic again after winning yet another NL pennant. This team is the class of the National League until further notice. They’ve got the likely league MVP in Cody Bellinger, who leads an offense that is the best in the NL by pretty much every notable measure thanks to guys like Justin Turner and Max Muncy. The rotation is maybe the best 1-2-3 in the league as well, led by Cy Young contender Hyun-Jin Ryu and followed by young stud Walker Buehler and the resurgent Clayton Kershaw. The bullpen’s considerably shakier, but with those big bats and big arms, the Dodgers should cruise to the World Series.

2. New York Yankees

Do I feel good about putting the Yankees here? Reader, I do not. This is another head-over-heart pick, because I know this squad is excellent. I hate that I know it, but I know it. They’re going to set the all-time MLB record for team home runs, with seven players hitting at least 21 dingers. Even with horrible injury luck, the Yankees have fielded an excellent team, thanks in large part to unexpected contributions from the likes of D.J. LeMahieu, Gio Urshela and Brett Gardner. The rotation has been basically OK – James Paxton has had moments, while Masahiro Tanaka and J.A. Happ have been meh. Losing Domingo German to a domestic violence policy violation hurts. The bullpen is great, though maybe not quite as dominant as expected.

1. Houston Astros

And here we have it, my pick to win the World Series. Not that it takes any great genius to make this pick – the Astros are the best team in the majors by most of the usual standards. They lead the majors in all three slash categories, putting up a .274/.354/.494 line. Alex Bregman has been an absolute stud, an MVP candidate with over 40 homers, over 110 RBI and over 120 runs scored. George Springer, Jose Altuve, the presumptive AL ROY Yordan Alvarez – it’s an embarrassment of offensive riches. And the rotation’s even better – Justin Verlander or Gerrit Cole will be one-two in Cy Young voting, in whichever order, while the third starter is freaking Zack Greinke. Their staff leads the league in strikeouts and the bullpen is stacked with great arms. They’re the team to beat.

Last modified on Tuesday, 01 October 2019 12:27

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