With the start of the MLB Postseason, here are some predictions for end-of-season awards and the first round of the playoffs.
As the 60-game MLB regular season comes to an end this August, many didn’t think we would get to this point of the season.
After multiple COVID-19 outbreaks spread among a number of teams, the MLB season was in jeopardy multiple times throughout the season. Despite the shortened season, those shiny awards and trophies still hold meaning in the most unprecedented season ever.
Here are my predictions for the regular season awards.
NL Cy Young: Trevor Bauer (Cincinnati Reds)
For all of the attention Bauer draws to himself off of the diamond, the guy backed it up on the mound this season.
If you don’t know, Bauer has been outspoken about wanting to be the “face” of baseball. This season helped his case with his production on the hill. A National League-leading eight starts of more than six innings is a great place to start for Bauer. Especially in a season where teams off days come few and far between, making volume even more important.
Bauer also led the NL in ERA at 1.73 to go with an equally impressive 0.79 WHIP that led the entire MLB among starting pitchers. On top of that, I’ll give Bauer the nod over New York Mets Jacob deGrom due to the Reds being the only team in MLB history to never have had a player win the Cy Young. The Reds are overdue.
Runners-Up: Jacob deGrom (New York Mets), Corbin Burns (Milwaukee Brewers), Yu Darvish (Chicago Cubs)
AL Cy Young: Shane Bieber (Cleveland Indians)
Most will get distracted by the last name, but this guy is the best pitcher in baseball. Hands down. He proved himself last year when he won the 2019 All-Star Game MVP, but in 2020, he was on a mission.
Bieber finished with a 1.63 ERA which is the lowest by a qualified starter since 1969. The previous lowest came in 2000 by one of the most dominant pitchers ever, Pedro Martinez. He won the MLB pitching crown by leading the entire league in wins (8), ERA (1.63), and strikeouts (122) becoming the first to do that since Johan Santana in 2006.
The numbers go on and on. A 14.2 K/9 rate bested Gerrit Cole’s from a year ago (13.8). Not to mention, he pitched in a tough division that is sending three teams to the playoffs. Bieber was so dominant he held opponents to a .167 batting average, which is also the lowest since Martinez in 2000.
It’s too bad we were unable to see Bieber extended out to 162 games because we might’ve witnessed more history. And he might’ve won the AL MVP award, too.
Runners-Up: Kenta Maeda (Minnesota Twins)
NL MVP: Freddie Freeman (Atlanta Braves)
Freeman has done it all this year, including having his own run-in with the coronavirus. After testing positive for COVID-19 before the season, Freeman’s complications were reportedly a lot worse than expected. He was even hospitalized to ensure his health. Freeman, however, did make a full recovery just before the season, and he never looked back.
He played in all 60 this season, hitting .341 with 13 home runs and 53 runs batted in. He was second in the MLB in OPS with 1.102, helping his team secure the second-best record in the National League. Freeman wins in a toss-up between him and Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. Could go either way when the voting takes place.
Runners-Up: Mookie Betts (Los Angeles Dodgers), Fernando Tatis Jr. (San Diego Padres)
AL MVP: Jose Ramirez (Cleveland Indians)
A tough decision between two Jose’s in this award: Jose Ramirez and Jose Abreu. I give the nod to Ramirez due to recency bias.
Ramirez has been on an absolute tear to end the season. During the month of September, Ramirez hit .366 with 19 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs en route to winning the AL Player of the Month. His last 11 hits of the regular season were for extra-bases, including seven doubles and four home runs. His hot finish led Cleveland into an AL Central division race down the stretch, as the Indians finished the season winning nine of their last 11 games. Although Cleveland came up just one game short of the division crown, Ramirez and the Indians are the team nobody wants to play.
Runners-Up: Jose Abreu (Chicago White Sox), DJ LeMahieu (New York Yankees)
The new 2020 MLB playoff format sees a record-high 16 teams compete against each other. The first round will be a best-of-three game series in each league and will feature no days off in between. Here are some predictions.
1) Tampa Bay Rays (40-20) vs. 8) Toronto (Buffalo) Blue Jays (32-28)
An intriguing match-up on paper turns sour when looking at the starting pitching match-ups.
The Tampa Bay Rays have been the best team in the AL this year for a reason, and I expect to see Blake Snell and Tyler Glasnow keep the young and talented Blue Jays offensive core at bay.
The Blue Jays time is coming, just not quite yet. Don’t let the young guns get any confidence early in the series or it could be a different story. I’ll stick with my gut; Rays win the first two.
2) Oakland Athletics (36-24) vs. 7) Chicago White Sox (35-25)
Just one game separates these two teams from each other in terms of record. That should paint the picture of who had the tougher division.
This will be a popular upset pick, especially because the White Sox polarizing style has fans captivated. Not to mention the A’s have lost their last nine elimination games in the postseason.
I’m scratching my head here, as I want the A’s to break out of their postseason slump, but it’s tough against the young and exciting core of the White Sox. I’ll say Chicago is another year away and the A’s win in the third game against Dane Dunning or Dylan Cease who are too young and inexperienced for the moment. A’s in three.
3) Minnesota Twins (36-24) vs. 6) Houston Astros (29-31)
America wants the Twins to win this series, and I do too.
Tough to ignore the Astros postseason experience and the recent history of the Twins in the playoffs. But that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Twins win in three games as they look to continue their quest to get 40-year-old Nelson Cruz the ring he deserved way back in 2011 before David Freese happened. Twins in three.
4) Cleveland Indians (35-25) vs. 5) New York Yankees (33-27)
Easily the most intriguing and exciting first-round matchup.
Like I mentioned earlier, the Indians are maybe the hottest team in baseball right now behind their switch-hitting left-side of the infield in Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor. Since losing to the Cubs in extra innings of Game 7 in the 2016 World Series, the Indians haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since. The Yankees on the other hand have the championship pedigree and the pieces to make a deep run into the postseason.
Stars like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Aroldis Chapman are all healthy going into the playoffs. Pair those guys with Luke Voit, the MLB home run regular season champion (22) and AL batting title winner DJ LeMahieu, and the Yankees seem to have all the pieces. Their only question mark is their starting pitching besides Gerrit Cole.
This is the hardest series to pick in this first round without a doubt because it could go either way in the third game. But, when in doubt, ride it out. We’re sticking with the red-hot Indians to win in three games, avenging their 2017 ALDS defeat to the Yankees.
1) Los Angeles Dodgers (43-17) vs. 8) Milwaukee Brewers (29-31)
The Brewers lost three straight to end the season and still somehow managed to find their way into the playoffs. Not to mention they never had above a .500 record at any point during the season.
The Brewers have an uphill battle against the Dodgers, who have been to the World Series two of the last three seasons and have now won eight consecutive NL West division titles.
On top of that, LA added 2018 AL MVP Mookie Betts, who beat the Dodgers as a member of the Boston Red Sox to win his first ring back in 2018. He’s looking for number two, and he just might get it this year.
Dodgers outmatch the Brewers in every category, but it would be on-par with 2020 if the Dodgers exited early. Not counting on it, Dodgers win the first two.
2) Atlanta Braves (35-25) vs. 7) Cincinnati Reds (31-29)
This is possibly the best match-up on the NL side.
The Reds come into the postseason finishing the season 11-3 in their final 14 match-ups. They struggled for the majority of the season but seem to have figured it out just in time to sneak into the playoffs.
The bad news for the Braves is it’s only a three-game series and they will have to see the likes of NL Cy Young front-runner Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo and Sonny Gray. The three-headed monster paired with some timely home runs from a lineup full of pop could be a recipe for success in the playoffs for the Reds.
Similar to the A’s, the Braves have lost 10 consecutive postseason series which included being bounced from the 2018 and 2019 playoffs early despite winning the NL East each of those years.
Coming off of their third consecutive division crown, the Braves have the next star of the game in Ronald Acuña Jr. They will need to rely on him and NL MVP candidate Freddie Freeman to lift them past this tough matchup.
At the end of the day, the starting pitching matchups are too lopsided and that’s to the demise of Atlanta. Reds win in 3.
3) Chicago Cubs (34-26) vs. 6) Miami Marlins (31-29)
This matchup might appear to be one-sided, but it’s actually not.
The Marlins are years ahead of schedule and have a shot at winning this series. Miami has three quality starters that are set to pitch in each of the three, and with some young talent in the lineup, this team could be a big-time sleeper.
The Cubs have also been the definition of inconsistency. Look no farther than Kris Bryant, a star who has fluttered in his last two seasons of the big leagues. Going into the final weekend, Bryant had just two home runs on the season combined with a batting average that has been hovering over the Mendoza Line.
The Cubs’ depth at starting pitching falls off a cliff because of Yu Darvish and Kyle Hendricks, who have both produced good seasons in their own rights. The only thing the Cubs are holding onto is their postseason experience from a magical 2016 run that saw them end a historic 108-year championship drought.
My advice to the Cubs: try and not let this series go three. If they do, it could be all but over. Marlins in three.
4) San Diego Padres (37-23) vs. 5) St. Louis Cardinals (30-28)
The Padres have been an exciting team to watch this season, and I expect that to continue into the playoffs.
Fernando Tatis Jr. is an electrifying athlete that is the definition of a five-tool player. Despite cooling down in the final month of the season, Tatis became the most-talked-about player across the league.
San Diego has other pieces too, like veteran Eric Hosmer who has finally lived up to his big contract with a solid season in the middle of the Padres lineup. Unfortunately, their starting pitching depth could be tested early due to recently acquired Mike Clevinger’s season-ending injury.
The Cardinals on the other hand are the more experienced team. Veterans like Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina and Paul DeJong highlight a team and organization that prides itself on winning during this time. The Cardinals surprised some people last season by reaching the NLCS with similar pieces. Unfortunately, Jack Flaherty isn’t the hottest pitcher in the game anymore.
It’ll be a tough series, but the Padres’ talent and potential are hard to dismiss. San Diego wins because of their offense. Padres in three.