Looking Towards The MLB Playoffs

MLB+Playoffs

Jake Gonzales, Staff Writer

s the 2021 MLB regular season comes to a close, it is a good time to look at what the playoffs have in store. Playoffs are an exciting time for baseball, as viewership nearly triples from the regular season. The playoffs consist of 10 teams. Those 10 are split evenly between the two leagues in baseball, the American League and the National League. In those leagues, there are 6 divisions. Those six division winners are given an automatic bid into the playoffs. The remaining teams are placed into what is called the wild card. This consists of the top two remaining teams that didn’t win their division. The wild card teams from each league play just one game and the winner moves on to play the top seed. Once the first round starts those series last a maximum of five games, the two remaining series after that are best of 7. The final bracket looks something like this. Here is an example from the 2019 season

This year’s playoffs will probably look something like this.

In the American League, the Division winners will most likely be the Tampa Bay Rays, Houston Astros, and Chicago White Sox, with the Rays getting the one seed, Houston getting the two, and Chicago getting the number three seed. Meaning that the Rays will most likely play the wild card winner and the Astros and Sox will play each in the first round. As for the American League wild card, it’s very unclear as to who the two teams will be as there are 5 teams vying for two spots. The Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Seattle Mariners, and Oakland Athletics all have very similar records and are all within 2 games of each. These last couple of weeks will be very crucial to find out who gets those last two spots. My best guess would be that the Blue Jays and Mariners are the two teams that make it. 

In the National League, it is more cut and dry in terms of teams making it. While the American League or AL is very jumbled, the NL is more straightforward. The division winners are somewhat finalized already, as the San Francisco Giants have already clinched their division and the Milwaukee Brewers will clinch theirs in the coming days. As for the third team, it is a close race but most likely the Atlanta Braves. The wild card race for the NL is interesting because the Dodgers have the second-best record in all of baseball but they happen to be in the same division as the Giants so they will be the first wild card team. As for the second spot it is a very close race between 3 teams as the Cincinnati Reds, San Diego Padres, and St. Louis Cardinals are all very close in the standings and are competing for the second spot. It’s also worth mentioning the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets. Who are long shots to make it at the moment, but still have a chance. I think the Dodgers and Padres will be the top two teams. This would have the Giants playing the wild card game-winner and the Brewers and Braves matching up. 

In terms of who can win it all, I think there are 3 main favorites.

San Francisco Giants: The Giants have really come out of nowhere during the 2021 season. Being one of the oldest teams in the league they didn’t have very high expectations. But… They have been the best team in the league this year as they currently have a 94-50 record. This is due to a lot of players having career years. Veterans like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Mike Yastrzemski, and Buster Posey are all having spectacular seasons. Lamont Wade Jr has been a nice addition to the team with a career-high 17 home runs. Their pitching lead by Kevin Gausman and Logan Webb has been huge for them this season and their bullpen is third in ERA. They will most likely hold home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and look to get their fourth championship in the past 12 years.

LA Dodgers: The Dodgers are loaded. They have the second-best record in baseball and will try to repeat as champions. It’s hard to find a weakness on this team. Their lineup is stacked with names such as Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Max Muncy, and Corey Seager. Their starters are probably the best in the league. Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias, as well as future hall of famer Max Scherzer. Their trade deadline acquisitions of the aforementioned Scherzer and star infielder Trea Turner were huge for them as they fixed two big issues with the team. Their only question mark going into the playoffs is the bullpen. Inconsistent at times throughout the season, they’ll need to have things cleaned up for the postseason. However, this team is legit and should be considered a top World Series contender. 

Houston Astros: The Astros have proven they can win without cheating, as they have put together back-to-back really good seasons. They have an incredible lineup with names such as Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, as well as Yordan Alvarez, and Kyle Tucker. Pitching-wise, Zach Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr, Framber Valdez, and a strong bullpen give the Stros a good chance to go really far into October.  Although this team has a troubled past with cheating scandals, there’s no denying that this 2021 squad poses a formidable challenge for opposing teams. 

A few sleepers to watch out for are the Blue Jays who have one of, if not the best lineup in the league but have major bullpen concerns. The Rays just find ways to win games despite having one of the lowest payrolls in the league. They boost the fourth-best record in the league and hitter for power and have very solid pitching. Finally, you can’t forget about the Brewers who have some of the best starting pitching in baseball. The challenge for them will be if their lineup can get enough timely hits to keep them in games.