MLB postseason preview: many N.L. teams in the mix
Welcome back to the second and final part of The Tartan’s MLB regular season wrap-up, this time on the National League.
The National League has not had nearly the disparity of the American League. Nine of the fifteen teams in the N.L. are currently playing better than .500 baseball, but there aren’t any standout powerhouses like in the A.L. The Dodgers, for example, responded to a franchise record setting season in 2017 by ending up, as it stands right now, a game and a half back from the Colorado Rockies. The entire N.L. East is topsy turvy, except for the Marlins occupying last place, which might just happen every year for the rest of time. Who knows? If the season ended today, The Braves, Cubs, Rockies, Brewers, and Cardinals would move into the postseason, but both of those wildcard spots are still up for grabs. Only three teams, the Reds, Marlins, and Padres, have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, although most others aren’t far behind. Look for some intense playoff race baseball from the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Phillies as they all try to knock out the two N.L. Central wildcard teams.
The Atlanta Braves are a little ahead of schedule this year. After a rocky 72–90 finish last year, they’ve burst into the playoff picture ahead of projections. This has been courtesy of rookie Ronald Acuna Jr. and veterans Nick Markakis and Freddie Freeman slugging their way into contention. The pitching staff has done their duty, with Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, and trade acquisition Kevin Gausman all putting up excellent numbers. The Braves look like a team that’s going to be in contention for a long time, and what better way to start off the whole thing than with a World Series win?
The Chicago Cubs are pure evil. I have heard that manager Joe Maddon likes to spit on puppies and Anthony Rizzo steals candy from babies with Kris Bryant. Okay, that’s not true at all, and Anthony Rizzo is actually a pretty good guy, but that will never stop me hating the Cubs with everything I’ve got. That 2015 Wildcard game will never stop hurting. Anyway, the Cubs have a great lineup and you probably know their names already. Rizzo, Bryant, a now-skinny Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez, the list goes on. This team won it all in 2016 for a reason. They’re a good club, top to bottom. Their pitching isn’t anything to shake a fist at, either. Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and the trade deadline acquisition Cole Hamels all throw mean heat. If this team is rolling in sync, you better watch out. I hope they get knocked out in the first round, though. Go Pirates.
The N.L. West is a little more unpredictable this year. There are three great teams in the Rockies, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks, who are all vying for that top spot in the West. All three of the teams have great pitchers and solid hitters, like Nolan Arenado and Kyle Freeland of the Rockies, Manny Machado and Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers, and Paul Goldschmidt and Zach Greinke of the Diamondbacks. The West is anybody’s game, but I think that this might be the year that Rocktober returns. Look for those Rockies, but don’t sleep on the Diamondbacks or Dodgers sneaking into a Wildcard spot.
The Milwaukee Brewers are a good team, through and through. They’ve got depth in their lineup, and made some big moves at the trade deadline to add to it. Sluggers like Mike Moustakas, Travis Shaw, and Jesus Aguilar make for a dangerous hitting lineup, but the pitching staff isn’t as good as one would want for a postseason contender. Chase Anderson, Jhoulys Chacin, and Gio Gonzalez help make a pretty strong rotation, but if the Brewers have a weak point, their rotation is certainly it.
The St. Louis Cardinals have used some magic to rocket themselves back into postseason contention after an off year in 2017. They stuck with Matt Carpenter through his hitting struggles, and now he’s on a blistering hot streak and one of the most dangerous leadoff guys in the game again. Marcell Ozuna and Jedd Gyorko also provide a big power boost in their lineup. Miles Mikolas, pulled in from Japan, wasn’t expected to be as dominant as he has been, and Jack Flaherty and John Gant have been just as dangerous on the mound. I could see the Cardinals riding their momentum all the way to the World Series, but they’ve got a long way to go if they end up retaining that second wildcard spot.
In looking at the whole league, my ideal World Series scenario is that the American League’s Oakland Athletics and Braves face one another in the World Series, and the A’s win in seven. Realistically, I think we’re going to be looking at a Red Sox vs. Cubs matchup that will see the Sox sweep the Cubs. I don’t know that any of the teams in the N.L. have the strength or depth to go up against the Red Sox, but it’s baseball, so anything can happen!