Alright, I know my baseball coverage has been lacking this year, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been paying attention. Some mixture of business and lethargy kind of hamstrung a lot of stuff I was planning to do during the summer, and baseball kind of got lost in the shuffle once football started. Nothing brings me back to the Pastime, though, than the postseason. The air gets a little crisper, the leaves turn, and buttholes clench tighter and tighter with every pitch, each one having the possibility to decide an entire season. I’ve discussed the baseball playoffs before, but there’s nothing quite like true unpleasantness of playoff baseball to remind everyone why baseball is great. It makes sense, trust me.
This year, there is a clear imbalance the leagues. The American League had three teams win 100 games and another that won its division by a thousand games. The National League had a bunch of good, not great teams. Christian Yelich, who will likely be named NL MVP, wouldn’t finish in the top five of American League voting. Even the A’s, surely the consensus pick for the weakest AL playoff team, would be favored against whomever wins the NL. I mean, no offense to the Braves, but they’re hosting a playoff series while the Yankees are in the Wild Card Game. That tells you all you need to know.
The biggest question, in my biased opinion, facing the league is who can beat the Red Sox? They put together one of the best seasons in franchise history and looked to be the best team in baseball for much of the year. The only problem is the bullpen is hot garbage outside Craig Kimbrel, and they had a troubling inability to beat the Indians, Astros, and Athletics. In case you forgot, those are three of the four playoff teams in the American League. Uh-oh. The Sox did comparatively well against the Yankees, but you’re asking for trouble if you want to face Judge and Stanton in a playoff series. The American League is an unforgiving gauntlet that will force teams to dig deeper than they’ve ever dug before and exhaust every possible option. Whoever wins the pennant will truly earn it. That’s kind of why I’m worried about the Sox. I love this team. It’s easily been my favorite iteration since at least 2013. But there’s just way more questions than there should be about a 108 win team. What happens if Chris Sale isn’t healthy and/or still isn’t great in the playoffs? What happens if the Yankees win the Wild Card and David Price has to pitch against them? Who pitches game 3? Who pitches in literally any inning besides the ninth if things get hairy? I know the offense will show up, and I know the defense will show up. But the pitching, AKA the most important thing in October, is very shaky. That, as they say, is bad. I’ve had a sinking feeling that all these wins would lead to an early exit with the wrong matchup. I’m confident the Sox will win their ALDS. But the Astros and Indians form a collective bugaboo that I’m not sure they can overcome. I’m just glad Alex Cora’s at the helm this time around.
The National League, despite (or, more likely, because of) the lack of juggernauts, is even murkier. The Braves are the only team I would be surprised to see in the Fall Classic, and even then they have enough elite talent to carry them through three weeks. The Cubs and Dodgers should probably be viewed as the two favorites, both because of the talent level and playoff pedigree, but the Cubs might not even survive tonight. The Brewers would be the logical successor to the Cubs position as NL Alpha, but their pitching is in even worse position than the Red Sox, and that’s saying something. The Braves are probably just happy to be there and have their eyes on the coming years. The Rockies, the proverbial Team Playing Well at the Right Time, are red hot and posses the rarest of commodities: pitchers that perform well in Coors Field. But they scored nearly 100 fewer runs on the road than they did at home, and they’re going on the road to play the Wild Card game. The Dodgers, meanwhile, are doing their darnedest to take baseball into the Super Team era, but all of their flashy acquisitions kind of didn’t do that great, and most of their superstars took a step back this season. Do you trust Max Muncy to carry the team? I don’t. Every single NL team has strengths and crippling weaknesses. Who do I think will win? Probably the Dodgers. It just feels like they have the deepest lineup and the deepest pitching. I’d love for the Rockies or Brewers to pull it out, but I just can’t see it.
So, yeah, playoff baseball is finally here. I’ve got a feeling this year’s gonna be something special, folks. Now it’s time to sit back and
enjoy grind out every second of the games.