National League Wild Card Round Preview
After the American League kicked off the fun in the 2020 MLB Playoffs, now it's time for the National League to get in on the action.
The action is going to be fast and furious around baseball. After trying to get a handle on the four series around the American League yesterday, now we take a stab at predicting the four series in the National League.
It's a shame we couldn't get a longer series between the Reds and Braves. Cincinnati has one of the best pitching rotations in baseball, while Atlanta has one of the strongest lineups. The Reds will look to Trevor Bauer, Luis Castillo, and Sonny Gray to lead them to an upset of the NL East champion Atlanta Braves.
The best pitcher in the National League this year has been Trevor Bauer, who struck out 100 batters this year and posted a microscopic 1.73 ERA. Castillo struggled early in the season, but turned things around in September, as he was nearly unhittable in the final month of the regular season. If Sonny Gray is healthy after missing his last couple starts of the season, the Reds could be a sleeper in the National League.
On short rest, @BauerOutage made his case for NL Cy Young. 🔥 (MLB x @NikeDiamond) https://t.co/EDtt7OzZMo— MLB (@MLB) 1600911938.0
Of course Cincinnati will need a little offense to help out their pitching staff. Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, and Eugenio Suarez can all provide power at the plate. The question is can they do it consistently? More heroics are going to needed from new second baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit six home runs in September.
There might not be a lineup in the National League that is feared more than that of the Atlanta Braves. Marcell Ozuna and Freddie Freeman combined to hit 31 homers and drive in 109 runs this year. Dansby Swanson started to live up to the hype that came with being the first overall pick in the 2015 MLB Draft. All that and we still haven't even mentioned Ronald Acuna Jr., who struggled this year but still hit 14 homers.
The biggest concern for the Braves is going to be pitching. Max Fried emerged as the ace of the staff this year, posting a 7-0 record. The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Ian Anderson only has six career starts, while Kyle Wright was just 2-4 with a 5.21 ERA. The Braves lost Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels for the year because of injuries, or else the rotation wouldn't be a cause for concern for Atlanta.
I wonder how much energy the Reds used just trying to make the playoffs. Now Cincinnati has to hit the road and take on one of the best teams in baseball. The Reds have the pitching to win this series, I'm just not sure they can outhit the Braves in Atlanta. Bauer wins the first game for Cincinnati before Atlanta rallies to win the next two games to move on to the next round of the playoffs. Atlanta in 3 games.
Imagine how insane you would have thought someone was if they told you before the season that the Miami Marlins would make the playoffs this year. Even with expanded playoffs, the Marlins were coming off a 2019 season in which they lost 105 games. Miami now joins the 2017 Minnesota Twins as the only teams in baseball history to make the playoffs a year after losing at least 100 games. Don Mattingly deserves consideration for NL Manager of the year after what he has done with this Marlins team.
The key to Miami's offense is Brian Anderson. The third baseman led the team with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs this year. Jesus Aguilar adds a bit of pop to the lineup to compliment Anderson, while shortstop Miguel Rojas hit .304 this season.
Pitching is what helped earn Miami a playoff spot this year. Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, and Sixto Sanchez did a lot of the heavy lifting at the top of the rotation, while Brad Boxberger and Brandon Kintzler were on the money in relief when they were handed the game. Boxberger finished the season with six holds, while Kintzler secured 12 saves.
Miami Marlins clinch first playoff berth since 2003 on anniversary of Jose Fernandez's death https://t.co/AhLaAlv2G2— CBS Sports MLB (@CBS Sports MLB) 1601091894.0
A team a little more familiar with the playoffs of late has been the Chicago Cubs, who won the World Series in 2016. The Cubs won the NL Central despite some struggles from Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Kyle Schwarber. Baez and Bryant both barely hit over .200 this season, while Schwarber finished the regular season with a .188 batting average. Even with their struggles, the Cubs lineup is still dangerous, especially when you add in Anthony Rizzo, Ian Happ, and Willson Contreras.
Pitching is where the Cubs created a lot of their success this year. Yu Darvish had a bounce-back year, going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and 93 strikeouts. Kyle Hendricks will take the ball in the first game of the series against the Marlins. Alec Mills threw a no-hitter a few ago against the Milwaukee Brewers. Jon Lester doesn't have the same stuff as he used to, but he gives the rotation some veteran grit.
Miami is perfect when they make the playoffs. The Marlins have won the World Series in each of their two previous playoff appearances. The streak ends this year, as the Cubs get some revenge for Steve Bartman. Chicago in 2 games.
What a contrast in styles between St. Louis and San Diego. Smallball taking on the power game of the Padres. The Cardinals finished last in baseball this year with just 51 home runs, while the Padres mashed 95 taters. Paul Goldschmidt did his best to jumpstart the offense of the Cardinals this year with a .304 batting average. Brad Miller hit a team-high seven homers.
The Cardinals will have to hope their pitching can hold up to give them a shot at knocking off the Padres. Kwang-Hyun Kim gets the ball in Game 1 after going 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA in his MLB season after spending the last 12 years with SK Wyverns in the KBO. The ageless Adam Wainwright will follow Kim, and if the series goes to a deciding third game, Jack Flaherty will hope to redeem himself after a season that saw his ERA balloon to 4.91.
FERNANDO TATIS JR. WITH A 600 FOOT MOON BOMB https://t.co/6OV5RGNcOu— Jared Carrabis (@Jared Carrabis) 1601089665.0
San Diego knew they were building for the future, I just don't think they were prepared for the future to be now. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado have formed one of the most feared duos in baseball, combining for 33 homers and driving in 92 runs this year. Along with Tatis and Machado, Trent Grisham hit 10 homers and swiped 10 bases. Wil Myers had a resurgence, hitting over .253 for the first time since 2013, when he was the AL Rookie of the year. All that and we haven't even mentioned Eric Hosmer.
The Padres might have better odds in the playoffs if the status of pitchers Dinelson Lamet and Mike Clevinger was known. Clevinger and Lamet are both dealing with arm injuries and they might not be able to pitch against the Cardinals. Clevinger was acquired from the Cleveland Indians prior to the trade deadline, while Lamet struck out 93 batters and posted a 2.09 ERA. Zach Davies will get the nod in the series opener, and we could see Chris Paddack and Garrett Richards if Lamet and Clevinger can't pitch.
The Cardinals have the experience but I don't see how they are going to keep up with the Padres here. Tatis, Machado, and the rest of the offense of the Padres will be too much for St. Louis to handle. San Diego in 2 games.
This series has the possibility of getting very ugly, very fast. The Brewers snuck into the playoffs on the last day of the regular season with a 29-31 record. Their prize? They get to take on a Dodgers team whose 43-17 record was the best in baseball this year. Just two years removed from winning the NL MVP, Christian Yelich looked like anything but that this year, hitting just .205 and driving in 22 runs in 58 games this year. Aside from Yelich and Keston Hiura, and an aging Ryan Braun, there isn't much to the Milwaukee offense.
The pitching for the Brewers isn't much better. Brandon Woodruff pitched like an ace this year, striking out 91 in 73.2 innings. Milwaukee suffered a big blow when Corbin Burnes suffered an oblique injury and won't be available for this series. The Brewers have a good bullpen with Devin Williams and Josh Hader, but Milwaukee not have a chance to put them in position to try and close out a game against the Dodgers.
We’ve got more work to do but tonight, we celebrate. https://t.co/YQoL1pDgYy— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Los Angeles Dodgers) 1600839971.0
If the Dodgers can't win it all this year, it's hard to see them winning a World Series anytime soon. Los Angeles has a perfect mix of hitting and pitching. The Dodgers have been so close to winning a title before, it feels like this is the year they exercise those demons. The pitching staff hasn't been overworked this year, which should allow guys like Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler to pitch deeper into games, if needed. Even if the starters can't go more than five or six innings, Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Jake McGee, and others can pick up the slack from the bullpen.
The acquisition of Mookie Betts could be what pushes the Dodgers over the top and finally gets them a title. Betts has led the offense, which is seeing Cody Bellinger improve at the plate as the year moves along. Justin Turner missed some time due to injury this season, but his return makes a dangerous offense even better. Don't forget about Corey Seager, who is putting together his best season since 2016.
Anything can happen in a three-game playoff series, but if Milwaukee eliminates the Dodgers, it will be one of the biggest upsets in baseball history. Los Angeles is better at pretty much every position. I'd be shocked if this even goes to a third game. Los Angeles in 2 games.