Milwaukee Brewers (1) vs. Colorado Rockies (4)
The first game of the National League Divisional Series features two red-hot teams facing off when the top-seeded Milwaukee Brewers take on the fourth-seeded Colorado Rockies. Each team played a Game 163 to try for the win in each of their respective divisions. The Rockies will be trying to fight off jet lag as this is their third game in as many time zones. Colorado lost Game 163 to Los Angeles, but bounced back the next day to take the NL Wildcard game from the Chicago Cubs. Milwaukee, on the other hand beat the Cubs in Game 163 to claim the NL Central Division title and the No. 1 seed in the NL playoffs.
This series will be fun to watch. Game 1 at Miller Park will be hopping. The Brewers will be giving their bullpen the start against the Rockies’ No. 3 starter Antonio Senzatela. The Milwaukee bullpen (3.47 ERA) is really deep and should outpace Senzatela (4.38 ERA). However, in September Senzatela boasted a 2.94 ERA, but as all baseball fans know, October baseball is a whole different animal. Colorado’s Tyler Anderson (4.25 ERA, 3.25 ERA in September) will face Milwaukee’s Jhoulys Chacin (3.50 ERA) at Miller Park for Game 2. Game 3 will be at Coors Field and will see the Rockies’ ace Kyle Freeland (2.85 ERA) take on an unknown member of the Brewers’ pitching staff.
The Brewers, on paper, are the superior team in this series in almost every facet of the game. The Rockies have better starting pitching, but because of the extra games they could find themselves digging their way out of a 2-0 hole come Game 3, when they can finally start their ace. Milwaukee’s batting order is lead off by their outfield (CF Lorenzo Cain, RF and near triple-crown winner Christian Yelich, and LF Ryan Braun) while SS Orlando Arcia and 2B Travis Shaw round out the Brewers loaded lineup. The Rockies lineup features CF Charlie Blackmon, RF Carlos Gonzalez, SS Trevor Story, and slick-fielding 3B Nolan Arenado.
Expect the Brewers to take Games 1 and 2 at home behind the bat of Christian Yelich. Colorado will come out flat after a busy start to their post-season. The Rockies will take at least Game 3 at home because they have a significant home-field advantage, and they will be getting their top of the rotation back. Expect the Brewers to pop the champagne bottles after either Game 4 or 5.
Los Angeles Dodgers (2) vs. Atlanta Braves (3)
The Dodgers (92-71) were able to beat the Rockies in a one game tiebreaker to take the NL West for the 5th year in a row. Quite possibly more important to the Dodgers, however, is that they were able stay away from the Brewers in the NLDS. Obviously, that is not to say that the Atlanta Braves have a weak team, but playing in Milwaukee is no easy task, and by winning the tiebreaker the Dodgers were able to avoid a Division Series against the red hot Brew Crew and face the Braves instead. The Dodgers are looking to win the NL Pennant for a second year in a row and ultimately redeem themselves after losing in 7 games to the Astros in the 2017 World Series.
The Braves (90-72) took the NL East for the first time since 2013. They had a tough task taking down a crowded NL East division with the talented Phillies and Nationals, but they were able to pull away in August and September (33-25 in those months). This young and exciting team turned many heads early in the season, and to the surprise of many they were legitimate by the end of the season. They will look to reach the World Series for the first time since 1999.
The Dodgers undoubtedly have the advantage at the dish. They lead the NL (and the entire MLB if it wasn’t for the Red Sox and Yankees) in home runs, SLG, OPS, and several other categories. Their mid-season move to acquire Manny Machado from the Orioles could prove to be pivotal in the postseason. He went yard 37 times and had an unbelievable OPS of .905. They also have some other notable sluggers in Max Muncy (35 home runs), Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, and Justin Turner. These guys proved that they can rake in the postseason as well, leading their team to the 2017 World Series.
For the Braves, they do not hit for power as much as the Dodgers do . They are 19th in the league in home runs, but they are a respectable 11th in slugging. Leading the Braves in several categories at the plate is 1st baseman Freddie Freeman. He batted .309 on the year and batted in 98 runs. Hitting in front of Freeman is rookie sensation Ronald Acuna Jr. who posted an incredible .917 and went yard 27 times. He truly took the NL by storm, and he’s looking to dominate in the postseason. This team does not have as much experience in the postseason at the plate with several rookies and many veterans experiencing their first trip to the playoffs, but don’t be surprised if this young team challenges the Dodgers.
Without a doubt, the Dodgers have the advantage here. They posted a league best 3.38 ERA with possibly their best two pitchers, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu, out for a significant amount of time. They also lead the NL in strikeouts and quality starts. Behind their two stars, Walker Buehler and Alex Wood were extremely good in the 2018 season and look to continue that into the postseason. Their bullpen is anchored by Kenley Jansen who had an injury scare late in the season but is back and healthy to face the Braves.
The Braves posted a team average ERA of 3.75 which puts them at 5th in NL. They didn’t have a dominant ace all season, but the closest thing they had to it was Mike Folty who went 13-10 with 2.85 ERA. Sean Newcomb and Julio Teheran weren’t far behind and will start games in the NLDS. The Braves also added Kevin Gausman who finished the season red hot. In terms of depth though, the Dodgers undoubtedly have the advantage in starting pitching.
The Dodgers seem to have the clear advantage in batting and pitching. Moreover, they have more experience in the postseason than this young Braves team and I see the Dodgers taking it in 4 games.
Boston Red Sox (1) vs. New York Yankees/Oakland Athletics (4)
ALDS: New York Yankees (100-62) vs. Boston Red Sox (108-54)
Since 2004, fans have not seen the best rivalry in sports compete in a playoff series. This all changes Friday night as the Boston Red Sox host the New York Yankees at Fenway Park for Game 1 of their American League Division Series matchup.
Both teams had quite amazing seasons and it’s truly a shame that one will have to end at the conclusion at the series. The Yankees won the most amount of games for a wild card team ever and also broke the team home runs record of the 1997 Seattle Mariners of 264, smashing 267 with six players hitting more than 20 homers each. On the other hand, the Red Sox won the most games in their entire franchise history and were anchored by MVP candidates Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez, one of whom will certainly take home the honor.
Each club’s biggest strength is a high-powered offense with lots of depth that can score at any time off of any pitcher. The Red Sox ranked first overall with 876 runs, while the Yankees were right behind them with 851. Interestingly enough, arguably the only hole in both lineups is at catcher as the Red Sox have the putrid combo of Christian Vazquez and Sandy Leon, while the Yankees have fallen star Gary Sanchez.
Similarly, each rotation can be described as questionable. The Red Sox will most likely trot out Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello as their top three starters with Nathan Eovaldi potentially on tap for a Game 4 because of his dominance and familiarity with his former team. Believe it or not, Sale is actually the only one of that top trio without a Cy Young Award. Meanwhile, the Yankees have J.A. Happ scheduled for Game 1 with Masahiro Tanaka and Luis Severino following behind him. The determining x-factor will be the health of Sale as he can single-handedly take over a series when he is right.
The biggest discrepancy between the two squads is the effectiveness of their bullpens. While the Yankees added a former closer who actually has received Cy Young Award votes in Zach Britton, the Red Sox stood pat despite their lack of a reliable set-up man and only added Eovaldi. Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel is one of, if not the best, at his job in the whole league and facing off against him in the ninth inning while losing will be quite the uphill climb for the Bronx Bombers. However, the game actually needs to get there, and that will rely on the shaky other arms on the staff.
That being said, the biggest matchup of the series will be Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and the other sluggers in the Yankees’ meat of the order. The outcome could determine the series itself.
All statistics were taken from Baseball Reference.
Houston Astros (2) vs. Cleveland Indians (3)
ALDS: Astros (103-59) vs. Indians (91-71)
The last two AL champions (and the reigning World champs) square off in a division series matchup that features high-octane offenses and solid pitching rotations.
The Indians won the AL Central for the third consecutive year, benefitting from a weak division field, riding Corey Kluber (20-7, 2.89 ERA) and Jose Ramirez’s MVP-caliber season (.270, 39 HR, 105 RBI, 34 SB) to a 91-71 record. While Kluber was predictably dominant, Mike Clevinger enjoyed an incredibly solid campaign, posting a 13-8 record against a 3.08 ERA. Carlos Carrasco went 17-10 with a 3.38 ERA, and former starter Trevor Bauer will join an already stacked bullpen featuring Cody Allen and Andrew Miller to form one of the AL’s toughest relief corps.
On the offensive side of the plate, Ramirez paces a deadly offense that features superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor (.277, 38 HR, 92 RBI, 25 SB), Michael Brantley (.309, 17 HR, 76 RBI), and Edwin Encarnacion (.246, 37 HR, 108 RBI). This lineup has power potential at every spot in the batting order, and most of its best hitters (with the exception of Encarnacion) are patient and can work the count to get their opponents’ bullpen. This offense is likely a top five unit in the MLB. Unfortunately, they’re the fourth best offense remaining in the AL field, and they will face arguably the AL’s most consistent unit in the Astros.
Winners of last year’s World Series, the Astros have one of the league’s best starting rotations, and I’m sure that many would agree that their staff is the best in this year’s playoff field. Justin Verlander had a stellar season (16-9 with a sparkling 2.52 ERA) and will start Game 1 against Kluber, while Gerritt Cole (15-5, 2.88 ERA) will take the bump against Carrasco in Game 2. No starter has been announced for the Indians in Game 3, but we know that Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.88 ERA) will go for the Astros.
As good as the Astros’ pitching is, their offense may be even better. Last season’s AL MVP Jose Altuve enjoyed another solid year, hitting .316 and launching 13 homers to go along with 61 RBI and 17 stolen bases. While he was the MVP last year, however, this year the offense has been driven by Alex Bregman. In his third season in the Majors, Bregman hit .286, drilled 31 home runs, and drove in 103 runs to garner a significant amount of MVP consideration. Meanwhile, last year’s World Series MVP George Springer hit .265 and drilled 22 homers and 71 RBI. and Yulli Gurriel hit 18 long balls along with 65 RBI. While the Astros may not have the power that the Indians possess, their rotation is more tested and their offense is more consistent and patient. For that reason, I’m picking the defending champs to dispatch Chief Wahoo and, Co. in four games.
Written by: Jack Molino, David Martin, T.J. Wing, and Ethan Gainsboro