2019 MLB Postseason Preview and Predictions: Who Will Win the World Series?

John Healy
September 30, 2019 - 2:43 pm
Categories: 

The MLB playoffs have arrived and the matchups are set as 10 teams will get the chance to become World Series champions.

A new champion will be crowned this year, too, as the Boston Red Sox will not get the chance to defend their title.
There are still plenty of familiar faces, and some new ones, as October baseball is set to begin.

Here are the matchups and predictions for the 2019 MLB postseason:

AL Wild Card

Oakland A’s (97-65)

Strength: It is actually quite difficult to pinpoint one specific strength for the Oakland A’s, but it may just be their balance. They ranked eighth in runs scored and fifth in home runs, as well as fifth wRC+ (adjusted runs created). On the pitching side, they ranked sixth in overall ERA at 3.97. They also play their best, against the best. The A’s won six of their last eight games against the Astros and took four of six from the Yankees over the regular season.

Weakness: Without question it is the Oakland bullpen. They led the league with 30 blown saves this season, despite an overall bullpen ERA of 3.90. Closer Liam Hendriks had a 1.90 ERA, but he blew seven of 32 save opportunities. With lots of late, close games that come in October, Oakland may have difficulty overcoming its leaky pen.

X-Factor: LHP Sean Manaea.
The 27-year-old has been lights out since returning from shoulder surgery in September, which also kept him out of the postseason last year. The southpaw has allowed just four earned runs in 29.2 innings pitched since his return, giving the A’s a bonafide ace that can shut down any lineup and go deep into games.

Oakland A's left-hander Sean Manaea pitches against the Texas Rangers.
Photo credit Getty Images

Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)

Strength: Pitching. Doesn’t matter if it is starting or relief, Tampa Bay boasts one of the best rotations and bullpens in the league. They ranked second in overall ERA behind the Dodgers at 3.65, and sport the best bullpen ERA at 3.66. Playoff-tested Charlie Morton will get the start in the AL Wild Card game, and they recently returned Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow back from injuries, although Snell may be used out of the pen.

Weakness: Hitting. With the exception of Austin Meadows, the Rays lack any intimidating bats in their lineup. Not a single player drove in 100 runs, nor scored 100 runs this season. They had a team on-base percentage of .325 — ranking 13th in the majors.

X-Factor: LHP Blake Snell. Last year’s Cy Young Award winner is still being stretched out since having mid-season arthroscopic surgery on his elbow, tossing 62 pitches in his most recent outing. Whether or not he is used in the bullpen or will try to give the Rays four or five innings, if Snell can pitch like his Cy Young self the Rays become suddenly dangerous in a short series.

Rays left-hander Blake Snell pitches at Tropicana Field.
Photo credit Getty Images

NL Wild Card

Washington Nationals (93-69)

Strength: Starting pitching. The Nationals enter the postseason with a rotation as good as any other team. Max Scherzer, Patrick Corbin and Stephen Strasburg finished in the top 20 in MLB ERA leaders, while the staff averaged a 3.53 ERA — second-best in the majors.

Weakness: For as good as the starting pitching is, the bullpen is the opposite. The Nationals tied for the second-most blown saves in the league at 29, and sported an overall 5.68 bullpen ERA. All hands will be on deck following Scherzer for the NL Wild Card game, but in a long series they will need more from the regulars out of the pen.

Nationals ace Max Scherzer pitches against the Atlanta Braves.
Photo credit Getty Images

X-Factor: RHP Sean Doolittle. If the Nationals manage to get to the ninth inning with a lead, they will need Doolittle to be able to lock it down. He blew six saves this season, and had a 4.05 ERA — not something any team wants to see out of its closer. If the Nationals want to get over their October woes, they will need Doolittle to be reliable in the ninth.

vs. Milwaukee Brewers (89-73)

Strength: The Brewers’ greatest strength may just be their manager, Craig Counsell. He went with an outside-the-box strategy last year by going to his bullpen early and often, and appears poised to do it again in the NL Wild Card game with Brandon Woodruff, who is still building up strength from an oblique injury, getting the start. The strategy got them to the seventh game of the NLCS last year, but the pen may not be as strong as it was in 2018, creating a bigger challenge for Counsell.

Weakness: Not having Christian Yelich. The Brewers outfielder was on his way to another MVP season when he fouled a ball of his kneecap and fractured it. Milwaukee weathered the storm to clinch the second wild-card berth, but make no mistake he is what makes this team go. His 7.8 WAR was third-best in the league, and he had the second-highest wRC+ (174). That is a lot of production to make up for with his absence.

Brewers slugger Christian Yelich grimaces after fouling a ball off his kneecap.
Photo credit Getty Images

X-Factor: 2B Keston Hiura. The Brewers rookie is by no means a household name, but he has put together an impressive season as a 23-year-old, hitting a slash line of .303/.368/.570. Hiura figures to be a pain for pitchers and could be a table-setter to help ignite the Brewers’ offense with Yelich out for the playoffs.

ALDS

New York Yankees (103-59)

Strength: Lineup and depth.
The Yankees slugged a franchise-record 306 home runs this season, and they did it with nearly every player on their Opening Day lineup spending a significant amount of time on the IL. Players like Gio Urshela and DJ LeMahieu had breakout seasons, while a veteran like Brett Gardner also had a career-year. Now they enter October getting a healthy Edwin Encarnacion, Gary Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton back in the lineup.

Weakness: Starting pitching. The Yankees’ rotation may make them perhaps the most vulnerable team of the division winners in the playoffs. James Paxton pitched better down the stretch, but is not playoff-tested and left his final start with a tight left glute. Masahiro Tanaka was inconsistent all season, although he has a strong playoff record, while Luis Severino is still working his way back. Perhaps the biggest blow was losing Domingo German, who provided depth but is not on the team for the playoffs due to a domestic violence incident.

X-Factor: Severino. The Yankees’ ace the last two seasons, Severino missed most of 2019 due to various injuries. He made three appearances in September, and if he could provide length and pitch the way he did in 2017 and first half of 2018, the Yankees will be in great shape.

Yankees' Luis Severino pitches in his first game of the 2019 season.
Photo credit Getty Images

vs. Minnesota Twins (101-61)

Strength: Just like the Yankees, the Twins boast one of the best lineups in baseball. They led the majors with 307 home runs and had eight players with at least 20 home runs this season. If anyone can go toe-to-toe with the Bronx Bombers in a slugfest, it’s the Twins.

Weakness: Starting pitching. The Twins are a near carbon-copy of the Yankees. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi have been solid, but Minnesota lacks a true ace in its starting rotation. They have some strong arms in the pen, but the Twins may find themselves relying on their lineup.

X-Factor: Max Kepler.
Kepler has been a force for the Twins this season, slugging 36 home runs and driving in 90 runs, but he is battling shoulder soreness and his status on Monday was unknown for the ALDS. If Kepler is out, or is not 100 percent, that is a huge blow to a dangerous Twins lineup.

Max Kepler connects for a hit against the Texas Rangers.
Photo credit Getty Images

Houston Astros (107-95) vs. winner of AL Wild Card

Strength: Starting pitching. It is going to be difficult for any team to match up with the Astros’ starters. They have three Cy Young Award winners in Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke, as well as a solid fourth starter in lefty Wade Miley.
Having to face an ace up to six times in a seven-game series will be a near-impossible task for opponents.

Weakness: It is hard to find any crack in the Astros’ armor, but the bullpen certainly has its question marks. Closer Roberto Osuna blew six saves this season while All-Star Ryan Pressly has a 4.91 ERA in the second half of the season.

X-Factor: Greinke. The Astros’ trade deadline acquisition is meant to put them over the top this October, but his postseason record has been rather pedestrian. Greinke has a 4.03 ERA in 11 career playoff starts, which all came in the National League. The right-hander has fared well in the more offensive AL, though, pitching to a 3.02 ERA since being acquired by Houston.

Astros' Zack Greinke reacts after losing his no-hit bid.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

NLDS

Atlanta Braves (97-65)

Strength: Lineup. The Braves may not have as powerful lineup as the Yankees, Twins or Dodgers, but they have plenty of dangerous bats. Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson all hit at least 35 home runs this season.

Weakness: Bullpen. The Braves improved their bullpen with the trade deadline addition of Mark Melancon as their closer, but they still are lacking true power arms that other teams in the league have. Their 4.21 bullpen ERA is only better than the Brewers and Nationals among playoff teams.

X-Factor: LHP Max Fried. The left-hander had a breakout season this year at age 25, pitching to a 17-6 record and 4.02 ERA. He struggled in some starts down the stretch, though, which could be because it’s his first full season in the majors. If he can settle back into how he pitched for much of the first half of the year, he adds some depth to the Braves’ starting rotation.

Braves' Max Fried pitches against the Phillies.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

vs. St. Louis Cardinals (91-71)

Strength: Pitching. The Cardinals have a good balance between its starting rotation and bullpen, averaging a 3.82 team ERA this season — fifth-best in the majors. Jack Flaherty has emerged as an ace in the rotation and Carlos Martinez has transitioned nicely into the closer role, saving 24 games in 27 chances.

Weakness: Power. In a year in which MLB set all sorts of offensive records, the Cardinals ranked 24th in the league with 210 home runs and 19th with 764 runs scored. .

X-Factor: INF Tommy Edman. The 24-year-old rookie has been nothing but impressive since coming up June 8, hitting a slash line of .304/.350/.500. He hit .364 in the month of September with 13 multi-hit games. He could be the offensive spark they need in a lineup that does not rely on its power.

Tommy Edman celebrates scoring a run with Cardinals teammate Marcell Ozuna.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56) vs. NL Wild Card winner

Strength: The Dodgers had the best pitching in all of baseball this year, sporting a 3.39 ERA. The rotation is led by Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler — all of whom had ERAs under 3.30.

Weakness: Postseason history.
The Dodgers have been the best team in the National League the past two years, but they have yet to win the World Series. Both Kershaw and Ryu have postseason ERAs over 4.00, and MVP candidate Cody Bellinger has an October slash line of .172/.226/.336.

X-Factor: Kershaw. It seems to be the Dodgers’ southpaw ever year for this team. But the bottom line is if he can consistently dominate in the playoffs then there should be nothing to stop the Dodgers unless they are outpitched.

Clayton Kershaw pitches against the San Diego Padres in September.
Photo credit USA Today Sports

Predictions

AL Wild Card: A’s over Rays

NL Wild Card: Nationals over Brewers

ALDS: Yankees over Twins (4 games); Astros over A’s (5 games)

NLDS: Braves over Cardinals (4 games); Nationals over Dodgers (4 games)

ALCS: Astros over Yankees (7 games)

NLCS: Braves over Nationals (6 games)

World Series: Astros over Braves (5 games)

MVP: Alex Bregman

LISTEN NOW on the RADIO.COM App
Follow RADIO.COM Sports
Twitter