Blue Jays first trip back to the postseason in a while. What is their fate? Predictions: Who has the edge in the Wild Card matchups? Which underdogs will prevail? Everything you need to know about the upcoming MLB playoffs in one article.
Ahh finally, the MLB postseason is here, and it’s here in a fashion that no person could have ever imagined, nor predicted. It has truly been a season like no other in the entirety of Major League Baseball. With the season being postponed a couple weeks into Spring Training due to the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic, baseball fans were left scratching their heads, putting away their jerseys, and wondering if there was even going to be a season in 2020. However, after lots of planning, negotiating, and preparation, the MLB managed to put together a 60-game, abbreviated season. This season saw no fans in ballparks, and a great deal of shocking results to conclude an entertaining season of baseball that had minimal COVID cases (though it was a rocky start at the beginning). Now at last, rest assured, there will be postseason baseball that is being brought to you via an exciting new playoff format that was released by the MLB a couple of weeks ago. This new format includes sixteen playoff teams (eight in each of the two leagues), and eight action-packed, best-of-three Wild Card series’ (as opposed to the two, sudden death, Wild Card games). If these eight series’ are even close to as good as the Wild Card games in years past, there is no doubt in my mind that this could be a postseason to remember. Now, without further ado, let’s move onto how I believe the Toronto Blue Jays will do in their first trip back to the postseason since 2016.
Part One: Toronto Blue Jays vs. Tampa Bay Rays
Who wins this best-of-3?
Where do I even start with this team. The young Toronto Blue Jays shocked the baseball world this season by going 32-28 and making the playoffs as the eighth seed. The year was full of ups and downs, good moments and bad moments, so at the end of the day, I believe that the Jays are as ready for this series as they possibly could be for a team of their age. With Hyun-Jin Ryu as their ace, along with Vladimir Guerrero and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. coming alive to end the regular season, the Jays are a team to be reckoned with. They were resilient while their top players such as Bo Bichette were injured for big chunks of the season and beat some very good baseball teams. However, the Blue Jays roster is so young that they are the first team in over a century to qualify for the postseason without a player that has 10+ years of MLB experience. This gives them nothing to lose, as they will have to use that as motivation if they’re gonna have any chance at beating the number one seeded Tampa Bay Rays. On the bright side, this best-of-three playoff series will benefit the Jays as it will give the Jays’ youngsters early postseason experience. If the Jays are going to have any success, they’re going to have to get good innings from their starting pitchers, and good at-bats from their offence to wear down the starting pitching of the Tampa Bay Rays.
On the other hand, though they don’t have the best offence, the pesky Tampa Bay Rays are the American League World Series pick for many professional baseball analysts. Even though they have many key injuries (such as their best hitter Austin Meadows), they have great depth, especially in their bullpen, and can steal bases seemingly effortlessly. After going 6-8 to start the season, the Rays went 34-12 the rest of the way, and are red hot coming into this Wild Card series. Last year, the Rays beat the Oakland Athletics in the A.L. wild card game and went on to take the power-house Houston Astros to a fifth and deciding game 5 in the ALDS, but ultimately fell short. This year, the Rays are back and better than ever with a developed starting rotation that includes three aces in Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow that now have postseason experience. The Blue Jays will put up a fight like they have all season and I really hate to say that the Jays will lose, but the Rays gritty offence led by Brandon Lowe and their superior starting pitching should unfortunately be enough to knock off the Jays in two, even with the Rays’ injuries.
Prediction: Rays win in 2.
Part Two: Predictions for the 7 Other Best-of-3 Wild Card Series’
AL Series 1: #4. Cleveland Indians vs. #5. New York Yankees
This should be a fun series. Cleveland’s phenomenal pitching versus New York’s power-house hitting. Future Cy Young winner Shane Bieber, and Carlos Carrasco start on the mound for the Indians against the one-two punch of Gerrit Cole and Masahiro Tanaka for the New York Yankees. The Indians offence has had dry spells, but has come alive recently thanks to José Ramirez, which helped the Indians to win nine of their last eleven regular season games. On the other hand, the Yankees have had a disappointing season filled with inconsistent pitching, and underwhelming hitting from an offence that was thought to be the best in all of baseball. However, the Yankees have had great performances from DJ LeMahieu who won the A.L. Batting Title with a .364 batting average and Luke Voit who led the MLB in homers with 22. I believe it will be a tight series, but I have the Yankees in three as I believe that their offence will prevail against the Indian’s pitching.
Prediction: Yankees win in 3 games.
AL Series 2: #3. Minnesota Twins vs. #6. Houston Astros
The twins are a really fun team to watch. They put up great at-bats and have a loaded offence. Now that they have gotten good starting pitching from José Berríos, Kenta Maeda, and Micheal Pineda, there is no doubt in my mind that they will end their MLB-record 16 game postseason losing streak, even without Josh Donaldson. Meanwhile, its been nothing but a struggle for the Houston Astros who limped into the postseason with a 29-31 record, after making the World Series last year. With no Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and an offence that has underachieved dramatically, it is hard to see Houston going far this year. For these reasons, I have the Minnesota Twins beating the Astros in two games.
Prediction: Twins win in 2 games.
AL Series 3: #2. Oakland Athletics vs. #7. Chicago White Sox
UNDERDOG ALERT: This is a no-brainer for me. Even though Chicago lost eight of their last ten to end the season, they will most likely win in 2 games. The White Sox were the busiest at the trade deadline, have a stacked offence, and were built for the postseason. Chicago’s right handed sluggers such as Tim Anderson, José Abreu, Edwin Encarnación, Yoan Moncada, and Luis Robert have had great seasons, and have been dominant against lefties this year. As a team, the White Sox were undefeated (14-0) against lefty starters in the regular season. This gives them a massive advantage against Oakland because two of the Athletics starters will most likely be lefties (Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea). On top of that, the Sox will have two aces in Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel taking the mound. Oakland will also be missing their best hitter in Matt Chapman due to injury. This being said, the White Sox will dominate in this series.
Prediction: White Sox win in 2 games.
NL Series 1: #1. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. #8. Milwaukee Brewers
Everything tells us that Los Angeles will win this series, therefore I believe the Dodgers will win, but not in convincing fashion, and definitely not without a fight from Milwaukee. The Dodgers finished the regular season with an MLB-best 43-17 record, meanwhile, the Brewers squeaked in with a 29-31 losing record. The Dodgers had a potent offence that was lead by Mookie Betts’ and A.J. Pollock’s 16 homers, and Corey Seager’s 41 Runs Batted In (RBI’s). They also got great seasons from their pitchers which included a classic Clayton Kershaw 2.16 Earned Run Average (ERA) for the season. However, despite the fact Milwaukee’s starting pitching is in need of a true ace, they have a dangerous, power-filled offence that includes Justin Smoak, Jedd Gyorko, Daniel Vogelbach, and Keston Huira. Throw in the reigning National League MVP Christian Yelich, who is due for some hits after hitting .205 for the season, and we should have an interesting series. Ultimately, I think the Dodgers will win in three but watch out for Milwaukee to make some noise.
Prediction: Dodgers win in 3 games.
NL Series 2: #4. San Diego Padres vs. #5. St. Louis Cardinals
Although the Padres’ top two starting pitchers in Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet are questionable for the start of the series, this is the Padres’ year to do something special. After a 2020 season where everything went seemingly perfectly for the Padres, I believe this is their season to win it all. San Diego had top-tier offence during the regular season that included breakout seasons from young stars such as Fernando Tatís Jr., Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham, and Jake Cronenworth. On top of fantastic seasons from their young-guns, San Diego’s big-name players also stepped up this year, most notably Manny Machado, who lead the team in RBI’s and batting average after underperforming dramatically last season. Not to mention, they also traded for one of the league’s most prominent pitchers at the deadline (Mike Clevinger). With the depth of San Diego’s starting pitching and offence, I can’t see them losing to a mediocre Cardinals team.
Prediction: San Diego wins in 2 games.
NL Series 3: #3. Chicago Cubs vs. #6. Miami Marlins
The young, high-flying Miami Marlins are easily the biggest shock and biggest story of this 2020 abbreviated season. Without any big-names, everyone thought they were just going to tank out the season. Instead, they played great baseball, defied the odds, and now find themselves as the sixth seed in the National League, after having a huge COVID outbreak to start the season. As much as I want this entertaining underdog story to continue, the Chicago Cubs have an experienced postseason team who are lead by their all-star trio of Javier Báez, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant. They also have National League Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish as their ace. The Cubs should win the series.
Prediction: Cubs win in 2 games.
NL Series 4: #2. Atlanta Braves vs. #7. Cincinnati Reds
UNDERDOG ALERT #2: This is undoubtedly going to be an amazing series. With the way the Atlanta Braves were swinging the bats this season, and the way that the Reds’ starting pitching was performing, this series could go either way. The Reds have a three-headed monster on the mound with Trevour Bauer (who is Cy Young bound), Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray. At the same time, the Braves are loaded at the plate with Marcell Ozuna and Freddie Freeman who were second and third in the league in RBI’s. Not to mention they also have young studs in Ronald Acuna Jr., Dansby Swanson, and Ozzie Albies. Although the Reds’ offence hasn’t lived up to expectations this season, the x-factor is going to be the Braves’ lack of starting pitching as two of their top pitchers (Cole Hamels and Mike Soroka) are on the injured list and will not be able to play. With this in mind, I think that the Reds will win a tight, three game series.
Prediction: Reds win in 3 games.