B/R MLB Community: Bold Postseason Predictions as the Playoff Race Heats Up
Welcome to the Bleacher Report MLB community article!
This week's crowdsourcing thread asked readers for their best bold predictions for the postseason as playoff races start to heat up around the league.
With 15 teams still holding at least a 10 percent chance of reaching the 2021 postseason, according to FanGraphs, there's a lot that still needs to be decided over the season's final two months.
Sit back and enjoy my take on some bold reader predictions.
AL East Predictions
"Jameson Taillon will get the Wild Card Game start and the Yankees will advance to the ALDS." (@DekeGeek)
Taillon went 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and .182 opponents batting average in five July starts, two of which were against the Red Sox. I'd still think it would be Gerrit Cole taking the ball in a winner-take-all game, but there's always the possibility he's needed for Game 162 to get that far if the AL wild-card race remains tight.
"Yankees at Boston for the Wild Card Game. Chris Sale pitches a complete game shutout. Gerrit Cole goes eight shutout himself, but Aroldis Chapman gives up a walk-off bomb to Kyle Schwarber in the ninth." (@QRcode)
Chris Sale ramped up to 81 pitches in his most recent rehab start for Triple-A Worcester, but that's a low-stress environment. I still think he's going to be brought along slowly and given a short leash in what will be his first MLB action since Aug. 13, 2019, so I'd be shocked to see him throw a complete game or run up a pitch count north of 100 anytime soon.
"Boston gets swept in the ALDS." (@fridafelcher)
With Nathan Eovaldi scuffling a bit as of late and Sale still something of an unknown, it's fair to wonder how the Red Sox rotation is going to hold up in the postseason. With that said, their lineup is potent enough that it's hard to see them getting shut down at the plate to the point of being swept.
"Tampa Bay Rays make it to the World Series again after Nick Anderson, Colin McHugh, Ryan Thompson and Jeffrey Springs all return from the IL and make the already-dominant bullpen untouchable. Shane Baz joins the starting rotation and plays a pivotal role too." (@carsonkamm)
The Rays have 15 pitchers on the injured list right now, and 30 different pitchers have made at least one appearance this season, yet they still rank sixth in the majors with a 3.56 ERA as a team. With Tyler Glasnow sidelined, the postseason rotation is going to be a lot of mixing and matching behind Ryan Yarbrough and Shane McClanahan, so getting those guys back would go a long way.
Shane Baz climbed to No. 33 on my updated Top 100 prospect list following the 2021 draft, and I absolutely think he can be this year's Ian Anderson in terms of stretch-run impact.
"Vlad Jr. leads the Blue Jays to the wild card and then to the World Series on the strength of a Triple Crown winning season." (@cody5s)
With a .324 average, 34 home runs and 85 RBI, Guerrero is certainly a Triple Crown candidate. However, he's chasing Shohei Ohtani in home runs (37) and sits behind Michael Brantley (.330) and Yuli Gurriel (.324) in the AL batting race, with Cedric Mullins (.321) nipping at his heels. My money is on Brantley getting in the way of history.
As for the Blue Jays' postseason chances, it's going to be up to the pitching staff to pave the way. Jose Berrios was a huge addition and Hyun Jin Ryu is throwing the ball extremely well right now, so it isn't outside the realm of possibility.
AL Central Predictions
"The White Sox will allow the fewest runs in MLB playoff history while winning the World Series." (@Anjan)
Only one prediction for the AL Central?
It isn't all that surprising since the Chicago White Sox have a 9.5-game lead over a .500 Cleveland team and appear poised to be the first team to clinch a playoff spot this year.
The South Siders' pitching staff is formidable, especially with the addition of Craig Kimbrel to the bullpen, but the Houston Astros (5.45 runs per game, first in MLB), Tampa Bay Rays (4.95 runs per game, fifth in MLB) and Boston Red Sox (4.93 runs per game, sixth in MLB) are three of the most potent offensive teams in baseball.
The 1983 Baltimore Orioles allowed 12 runs in nine games on their way to a World Series win.
This White Sox pitching staff is deep enough to carry them in October, but Baltimore's next-level dominance will be tough to match in today's free-swinging game.
AL West Predictions
"Astros lose to the Dodgers in seven, but then news breaks that the Dodgers were using buzzers to steal the Astros signs." (@echozulu88)
This would literally break baseball.
"The Mariners...wait for it...miss the playoffs. But Jarred Kelenic hits .300 the rest of the way." (@JuicyJuice69)
The Mariners are a team on the rise thanks to a dynamic young core and a deep farm system, but few expected them to be relevant in 2021. With a 58-50 record, they are in the hunt, but they are still sitting fourth in the wild-card standings.
Rookie Jarred Kelenic is batting only .131 with a 30.9 percent strikeout rate in 162 plate appearances, but he is starting to show signs of hitting his stride. In his last seven games, he's hitting .259/.355/.481 with two home runs and nine RBI.
"Seattle will rally to pass New York and Oakland for the second wild-card spot." (@TruePNW)
The Mariners play the Athletics nine more times and the Yankees four more times, so they'll have ample opportunity to control their own fate. The Athletics (60-48) currently hold the second wild-card spot, with the Yankees (57-49), Mariners (58-50) and Blue Jays (55-49) all within striking distance.
"The Seattle Mariners beat the Red Sox in the Wild Card Game on a Jarred Kelenic go-ahead double." (@CHS_OsFan)
More Jarred Kelenic optimism!
Chris Flexen allowed four hits and one earned run in seven strong innings against the Red Sox back on April 24, outdueling All-Star Nathan Eovaldi in the process. Would he get the start over Yusei Kikuchi, who was knocked around for six hits and five earned runs in his lone start against Boston this year?
NL East Predictions
"Mets win World Series vs. White Sox in seven games with Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard playing pivotal roles...out of the bullpen." (@angt222)
I just don't see this Mets team getting to the World Series without Jacob deGrom anchoring the starting rotation.
I also think it's probably more detrimental to the health of his arm to pitch on inconsistent rest in a role he isn't accustomed to out of the bullpen than it would be to slot him back in the rotation and keep him on a shorter leash than usual.
"Mets fall apart and Braves win the NL East with a .500 record, never having a winning record all season." (@TakeA44)
That would mean the Braves go 28-27 the rest of the way while the Mets finish 25-31 or worse.
Considering the Mets are 8-12 in their last 20 games, it isn't outside the realm of possibility, especially with deGrom sidelined.
The two teams only play each other head-to-head one more time in the final series of the regular season, so the Braves won't be able to do much damage on their own.
"The Braves win the NL East with a below-.500 record." (@QRcode)
There has never been a division winner with a losing record, but it has almost happened before.
The 2005 San Diego Padres went 82-80 to win the NL West by five games, and they ultimately lost more games than they won when they were swept by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLDS.
The Texas Rangers sat atop the AL West standings in 1994 with an ugly 52-62 record before the player's strike cut the season short. Had it not, they might have been the first to claim a division title with a sub-.500 winning percentage.
NL Central Predictions
"Reds win the NL Central, beat the Mets in the NLDS, but once again lose to the eventual World Series champion Giants on a Buster Posey grand slam." (@gcastin)
The Reds are playing some terrific baseball right now with a 7-4 record and plus-17 run differential in their last 11 games. Unfortunately, the Milwaukee Brewers are 8-3 during that same stretch, so they've actually lost ground in the NL Central standings and entered play Wednesday facing a 7.5-game deficit.
I don't see the Brewers going away, but the Reds can still shake things up in the wild-card race.
"Cincinnati takes the second wild-card spot over Padres" (@brandomalave)
The Padres have a five-game lead over the Reds in the wild-card standings, and they have a cushy stretch of games coming up with two series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, one with the Colorado Rockies and one with the Miami Marlins.
However, over their final 39 games, they play the Giants (10), Dodgers (9), Astros (3) and Braves (3). If the Reds can just hang around over the next few weeks, they'll have a chance to make up some ground down the stretch.
"Reds beat the Dodgers in the NL Wild Card Game." (@Rcxyautographs)
After forgetting how to pitch for two months with a 7.22 ERA through his first 11 starts, Luis Castillo is back to being one of baseball's best starters.
The 28-year-old has a 1.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 73 strikeouts in 69.1 innings since the start of June, tallying nine quality starts in 11 outings. With him on the mound in a winner-take-all game, anything is possible for a Reds team with plenty of offensive firepower.
"The Brewers hit a cold streak, and the Chicago Cubs shock the world to make the postseason." (@ZonaballBearDown)
A literal grizzly bear cub has a better chance of making the postseason than the 2021 Chicago Cubs.
NL West Predictions
"Dodgers sweep the entire playoffs." (@B_Boss)
The last team to sweep the entire postseason was the 1976 Cincinnati Reds, who steamrolled the competition at the height of the Big Red Machine.
Since the playoff format was expanded to include the Division Series in 1995, the 1999 New York Yankees and 2005 Chicago White Sox are the only teams to come close, with both clubs going 11-1 on their way to World Series titles.
This Dodgers team is stacked, but it hasn't happened in more than 40 years for a reason.
"Giants win it all. Kris Bryant is World Series MVP." (@20penn06)
The Giants starting rotation has been so pivotal to the team's success this year that it's hard not to be a little worried about how Kevin Gausman (3 GS, 0-2, 8.49 ERA) and Anthony DeSclafani (4 GS, 0-2, 6.63 ERA) have pitched since the All-Star break.
With that said, they are entrenched in the No. 1 spot in our weekly MLB power rankings for a reason.
Kris Bryant hit .308/.400/.523 with five doubles and three home runs in 75 plate appearances during the Chicago Cubs' run to the World Series in 2016, so he's already proved himself capable of a big October.
"Giants win the NL West and Dodgers collapse in the Wild Card Game." (@isaiahortega89)
There's a reason teams want to avoid that Wild Card Game at all costs. Anything can happen in one game with the season hanging in the balance.