Why Each Top MLB World Series Contender Could Lose in 2022 Playoffs

Brandon ScottSeptember 24, 2022

Why Each Top MLB World Series Contender Could Lose in 2022 Playoffs

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    LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 23: Tony Gonsolin #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates the catch of Mookie Betts #50, for an out of Luis Urias #2 of the Milwaukee Brewers to end the second inning at Dodger Stadium on August 23, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
    Harry How/Getty Images

    Don't worry about trying to slug through the final couple of weeks of the MLB regular season.

    Playoffs are around the corner, and we should have a good feel for who the top contenders will be in October.

    The NL East race is still compelling, with the New York Mets clinging to a narrow lead over Atlanta.

    The wild-card races are not quite as interesting, but we can't rule out the Milwaukee Brewers, as tempting as it may be.

    For this exercise, we're going to look at each top World Series contender and find reasons why they could lose in the 2022 playoffs.

New York Mets

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    MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 19: Max Scherzer #21 of the New York Mets throws a pitch \amb at American Family Field on September 19, 2022 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
    John Fisher/Getty Images

    While this has been a dream season for the Mets, any of the other National League contenders could take them down in the Division Series.

    They are likely to end up as the No. 2 seed behind the Los Angeles Dodgers, in which case they would face the winner of the Wild Card Series between the No. 3 seed and the No. 6 seed.

    The Mets have winning records against all of the potential candidates except the San Diego Padres. But the St. Louis Cardinals would present a difficult matchup for the Mets, who last faced them in mid-May when St. Louis looked like a different team (trade acquisitions José Quintana and Jordan Montgomery have since been added to the rotation).

    There is also the challenge of keeping Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom healthy. Scherzer recently returned from missing 15 games with an oblique injury, and deGrom missed the first four months of the season with a shoulder injury.

    As a tandem, Scherzer and deGrom are the strength of the Mets and the main reason to like their chances of making a postseason run.

    Without them, capitalizing on this year's success is hard to imagine.

Atlanta Braves

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 22: Matt Olson #28 of the Atlanta Braves bats against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on September 22, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves 1-0. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    The defending World Series champions might be even better now than a year ago when they surprised the baseball world with their postseason run.

    Atlanta probably won't win the NL East, but it is still in play entering Friday's action, just 1.5 games back with 12 games to go.

    The big concern for Atlanta has to be its marquee trade acquisition and massive extension signee Matt Olson turning in one of the worst months of his career. He is slashing .118/.221/.177 in September.

    How long does that last?

    Atlanta is also hobbled. Rookie strikeout machine Spencer Strider is dealing with an oblique injury, and second baseman Ozzie Albies suffered a fractured pinky finger just one day after being activated from the 60-day injured list. Ronald Acuña Jr. has also missed two straight games with back tightness.

    Health will be a question for every team, but you have to question if Atlanta is having its lowest moments at the worst time.

New York Yankees

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    NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 22: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees looks on in the dugout before the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on September 22, 2022 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
    Sarah Stier/Getty Images

    All of us are old enough to remember when this Yankees squad was on pace to be the best regular-season team ever.

    Yet that seems so long ago. Since the start of July, the Yankees have looked mortal, and the most compelling part about them has been Aaron Judge's pursuit of Roger Maris' single-season American League home run record.

    They went 13-13 in July and then a pitiful 10-18 in August. The Yankees now look closer to the contender they were thought to be, with the second-highest OPS and fourth-most runs scored this month entering Friday.

    But now it's understood that another swoon could come at any time.

    The Yankees were also dominated by the Houston Astros this season (2-5, with both wins coming on walk-off hits by Judge after they trailed most of the game).

Houston Astros

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    BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - SEPTEMBER 22: Trey Mancini #26 of the Houston Astros reacts after being forced out at first base against the Baltimore Orioles during the fifth inning at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 22, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    While the Astros have to be the favorites to win the American League pennant for the fourth time in six seasons, there are holes to consider.

    Their pitching, both starting and relief, has been phenomenal. The offense caught up after a rough start.

    The missing pieces from Houston's previous runs are still worth monitoring, though. Obviously, Carlos Correa is gone, but he has been replaced by a talented rookie in Jeremy Peña.

    The Astros are also without Michael Brantley, giving them one fewer dynamic left-handed hitter to go with All-Stars Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Yuli Gurriel, last year's AL batting champion, has experienced a considerable drop-off.

    Trey Mancini, who in theory was supposed to pick up the slack for Brantley, is slashing .188/.276/.399 through 138 at-bats with Houston.

    The Astros will need more from Mancini and might consider playing Christian Vázquez more. He is another trade deadline acquisition and is a considerably better hitter than Martín Maldonado, Houston's defensive preference at catcher.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 05: Tony Gonsolin #26 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches in the first inning during the game between the San Diego Padres and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodgers Stadium on Friday, August 5, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
    Rob Leiter/MLB Photos via Getty Images

    There is no way around the Dodgers' dominance this season.

    They have been so good that it's hard to imagine another National League team can beat them without being close to perfect. The Dodgers are simply more talented than the field.

    But there's still an open question of who can log important postseason innings considering the health issues with the pitching staff.

    Tony Gonsolin (strained forearm) could fill a "piggyback" role in the postseason. Manager Dave Roberts is not yet ready to commit to Dustin May as a starter with his recent return from Tommy John surgery. Clayton Kershaw had back issues again, missing most of August, and was out for a month earlier in the season with sacroiliac joint inflammation.

    Also, who will pitch the ninth inning? Craig Kimbrel has been unreliable for a year and just lost the closer's role. The Dodgers have to answer these questions, even if they've been talented enough to breeze through the regular season.