After a sprint through the regular season due to COVID, major league baseball began its playoffs this week. For the first time, 16 teams will be seeing playoff action. By the time you read this, half of them will likely be eliminated.
Due to the shortened season, baseball chose to add teams to the playoffs. This led to the first round series’ being the best two out of three affairs.
Every round will bring us storylines. That is a given. What is not a given is who will emerge as World Series winners. Will the Los Angeles Dodgers turn the game’s best record into a championship? Will the New York Yankees return to the winner’s circle after an extended absence from World Series success? They are the favorites heading into playoff action, but favorites have not fared well of late in baseball. And the shortened first round can lead to upsets.
I will go with chalk and pick the Dodgers to win it all. They finished the 60 game regular season sprint with a 43-17 record. The Dodgers lone weakness could be their middle relief pitching. They have an explosive lineup and a starting pitching staff that usually gets its team into the late innings with a lead. What could lead to trouble is if their opponent’s starting pitching matches them. It has not happened often thus far in 2020. But, hey, it has been a crazy year and Los Angeles has a recent history of failure in playoff action.
One team that could eventually give the Dodgers trouble is the Atlanta Braves. Atlanta finished 35-25 in 2020. The Braves’ offense and bullpen are so strong that if the starters can simply keep the other team from leaping to large early leads, Atlanta will be in good shape. If they eventually run into the Dodgers, we will see the highest scoring teams in the NL as both averaged 5.8 runs a game.
My surprise team from the NL is the San Diego Padres. The Padres are the most improved team in baseball and finished the campaign with a 37-23 record. They have the most exciting young player in baseball, Fernando Tatis Jr. to go along with a quality bullpen. If San Diego gets some starting pitching, they could give the Dodgers problems.
Though everyone is talking about the Yankees, it was actually Tampa Bay who posted the best record in the AL at 40-20. Though you could be hard-pressed to name more than a few players off the Rays’ roster, this team does everything well. Another thing this team is known for is winning close games, a necessity in the playoffs.
The Oakland Athletics are almost a mirror image of the Rays. The A’s finished 36-24 with a roster of names most have not heard of. But this year they have the starting pitching they have lacked in recent seasons. The trio of Chris Bassitt, Jesus Luzardo and Sean Manaea can hang with just about anyone.
My surprise team from the AL are the Chicago White Sox. They finished the regular season with a 35-25 mark and have a well-rounded team, though it is a young group. Chicago relies on the long ball to go along with the offensive exploits of Tim Anderson, one of the most underrated players in the game.
Now, back to the Yankees. The Bronx Bombers were the best team in baseball until a rash of injuries led to a losing skid during the middle of the abbreviated season. They are healthy again and will be a problem for whomever they are playing.
I see New York continuing its recovery and further see an old rivalry being renewed when they square off against the Dodgers in the World Series.