The regular season of Major League Baseball has just come to a close, and the playoffs start with the wild card games tomorrow. Our ace sports correspondent Vincent Thomas has the roundup of what you need to know about the MLB playoffs this year. And the big headlines and surprises from the MLB regular season.
what you need to know about the MLB playoffs this year
Major League Baseball (MLB) had earliest Opening Day ever this year: Thursday, March 28, 2019. It feels like the last six months went by as quickly as an Aroldis Chapman fastball, and we’ve just wrapped up the final weekend of the MLB regular season.
The 2019 MLB playoffs start tomorrow, Tuesday, October 1. It’s time to look ahead to the post-season, and reflect on the regular season that’s just ended. Here’s some information on both topics that will help Dandelion Chandelier readers enjoy October Major League Baseball.
the Post Season Preview
First things first: who’s playing whom?
For the third straight season, the Houston Astros are at the top of the AL West. The New York Yankees won the AL East, and the Minnesota Twins have clinched the AL Central. The two wild cards are the Tampa Bay Rays and the Oakland A’s. The Astros will play the winner of the wild card game, and the Yanks will meet the Twins.
In the National League, the LA Dodgers are at the top with a 105-56 record. They’ll play the winner of the wild card game. The Atlanta Braves have clinched the NL East and they’ll play the St. Louis Cardinals, who clinched the NL Central on the last day of the regular season. The Milwaukee Brewers and the Washington Nationals have secured the wild card slots.
1. The Three teams to watch
If you know only three names this post-season, make them these three: the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, and New York Yankees. Every team that qualifies for the playoffs is good. These three teams are the best of the best.
2. The Three teams who could exceed expectations
If you’re more the type to root for the underdog, you should probably also know these three name: the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland Athletics, and the Milwaukee Brewers.
3. Don’t leave the room or your seat at the ballpark if one of these players is batting . . .
Cody Bellinger, LA Dodgers; Ronald Acuna, Jr, Atlanta Braves; George Springer, Alex Bregman, and Jose Altuve, Houston Astros; Anthony Rendon, Washington Nationals; and Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins.
4. . . . Especially if they’re facing one of these great pitchers in their at-bat
Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros; Walker Buehler, LA Dodgers; Mike Soroka, Atlanta Braves; Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals; and Josh Hader, Milwaukee Brewers.
5. Six really good players on playoff teams you’ve probably never heard of:
Matt Chapman, Oakland Athletics; Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays; Keston Hiera, Milwaukee Brewers; Jack Flaherty, St. Louis Cardinals; and Yordan Alvarez, Houston Astros. Bonus: Luis Arraez, Minnesota Twins, and Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays.
6. Trivia to know to keep the conversation flowing:
2019 is the 50th Anniversary of the first MLB post-season playoffs. Up until 1969, there were no divisions in either league. The team that finished the regular season with the best record in its league was the League Champion. The National League Champion and the American League Champion advanced directly to the World Series.
In 1969, both leagues divided their teams into two divisions: East and West. The teams with the best records in each division met in a five game League Championship Series, with the winners advancing to the World Series.
The four teams in these first playoff series were the New York Mets (National League East,) Atlanta Braves (National League West,) Baltimore Orioles (American League East,) and Minnesota Twins (American League West.) The Mets swept the Braves, and the Orioles swept the Twins.
The Mets then defeated the Orioles in the World Series, an outcome so improbable that the 1969 Mets team earned the nickname “The Miracle Mets.” (They’re also commonly referred to as “the Amazin’ Mets” or just “the Amazins”). Over the last 50 years, MLB gradually expanded its playoff format from its original four teams to its current ten.
7. Four story lines to follow:
Can the Twins beat the Yankees in the post-season?
The Twins have lost five straight playoff series against the Yankees. When these two teams meet in the playoffs, can the Twins finally prevail?
Can the Brewers and Nationals perform in the clutch?
The Brewers and Nationals have disappointed their fans many times in the playoffs. Nationals fans can be forgiven for approaching a Nationals playoff series with same feeling we all have when we watch Charlie Brown attempting to kick a football being held by Lucy Van Pelt in a rerun of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
can the Dodgers win a World Series again?
The LA Dodgers have won the National League West Division for the last seven consecutive seasons, and the National League Championship for the last two consecutive seasons. They have won no World Series Championships during that time, and none since 1988.
When Halloween 2019 rolls around, will one of these four teams and its fans finally have something to celebrate?
8. And One prediction:
If the pre-1969 format were still in place, the Dodgers (National League) and the Astros (American League) would play each other in the World Series. In the 2019 format, there will be ten teams and six playoff series before the National and American League Championships are won and the World Series starts.
All of that will be fun and exciting, but the result will be the same as if we were still cutting right to the chase: the Dodgers and the Astros will play against each other in the World Series for the second time in the last three seasons. And the Astros will win.
You heard it here first.
the Regular Season Review
While we’re here, let’s tally up the results from the regular season that has just ended.
Dandelion Chandelier readers may remember that my son, Michael, and I wrote our second annual MLB season preview post back in March, with ten conversation topics for the upcoming season. As with most attempts to predict future events, we produced mixed results:
Two Accurate Sleeper Team Predictions
One, we said the sleeper teams to watch out for this year were in the American League, the Minnesota Twins. And in the National League: the Washington Nationals.
Actual results? The Twins and Nationals qualified for the playoffs, with the Twins surprising everyone, including their own fans, by winning the American League Central Division and breaking the record for most home runs hit by a team during a single season.
Two, in the Questioning Conventional Wisdom Conversation Starter, we posed the question: Who do you think was smarter? The Phillies and the Padres, who decided to pay $300 million each to free agents Bryce Harper (Phillies) and Manny Machado (Padres) to join their teams, or the Yankees and the Cubs, who decided not to pursue Mr. Harper and Mr. Machado at all?
Actual Results? Neither Harper on Machado made the National League All-Star team. Neither the Phillies nor the Padres qualified for the playoffs. The Yankees won the American League East Division. The Cubs led the National League Central Division in August, but played horribly in the season’s final month and will finish in third place behind the Cardinals and Brewers.
One Incorrect Sleeper Team Prediction
We said among the sleeper teams to watch out for this year in the National League was the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Actual Results? The Pirates got off to a good start, but will finish in last place in the National League Central Division. This one is on me. I’m pretty sure I’m the one who put the Pirates on this list.
The Yankees v. Red Sox prediction
We posed the question: Did the Yankees improve enough in the off-season to beat the Red Sox for the American League East Division Championship this year, or will they have to risk playing in the Wild Card Playoff Game again in October?
Actual Results? At the start of the season’s final weekend, the Red Sox are in third place, 19 games behind the Yankees. The Yankees have won the regular season Division Championship, and will not have to play in the Wild Card Playoff Game.
The In Between
Everything else we wrote.
The 2019 MLB season will be remembered for things that practically everyone could have predicted six months ago, like Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels establishing himself once again as the front runner for the American League Most Valuable Player award and arguably the best player in the MLB.
It will also be remembered for things that neither we, nor anyone else, could have predicted six months ago. Like the Yankees winning more than 100 games despite suffering an astonishing number of injuries.
And Pete Alonso of the Mets winning the All-Star Game Home Run Derby and hitting 53 home runs in his rookie season, breaking the record set by the Yankees’ slugger Aaron Judge.
And both the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox failing to qualify for the playoffs as expected.
Those are the top headlines from the MLB regular season. As my wife likes to say: “That’s why they make them actually play the games.”
what you need to know about the MLB playoffs this year
That’s all behind us now, though. Tomorrow, the players start actually playing the games in the 2019 MLB playoffs. The only prediction I can make at this point? There are more memorable moments, expected and unexpected, to come.
Who are you rooting for this postseason? My sister has transferred her allegiance (temporarily) from the Red Sox to the Yanks. How about you?
Vincent Thomas is a community college academic dean and the brother of Dandelion Chandelier founder Pamela Thomas-Graham. Vincent earned his B.A. degree in English from the University of Michigan and his J.D. degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His favorite Major League Baseball team is the Detroit Tigers.