MLB Playoff Predictions 2021: Early Projections for World Series Bracket

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistOctober 4, 2021

MLB Playoff Predictions 2021: Early Projections for World Series Bracket

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    The San Francisco Giants entered the 2021 MLB season with zero expectations and exited it with a league-leading—and franchise-record—107 victories.

    Where does that put them in the playoff pecking order?

    Well, it grants them home-field advantage throughout the postseason, but it guarantees nothing beyond that. Teams don't always need a high seed to secure a World Series title. The Giants won't need to reminded of that, since their most recent World Series win came as a wild-card club (2014).

    After laying out the postseason bracket, we'll circle our favorites to escape each league and meet in the Fall Classic.

2021 MLB Playoff Bracket

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    Wild Card Round

    American League

    No. 5 New York Yankees at No. 4 Boston Red Sox


    National League

    No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals at No. 4 Los Angeles Dodgers


    Division Series

    American League

    Wild-card winner at No. 1 Tampa Bay Rays

    No. 3 Chicago White Sox at No. 2 Houston Astros


    National League

    Wild-card winner at No. 1 San Francisco Giants

    No. 3 Atlanta Braves at No. 2 Milwaukee Brewers

AL Prediction

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    This feels like it's always the case in baseball, but you can talk yourself into any of these five teams as legitimate championship threats.

    The Rays were two wins shy of a title last season and look like a more complete club now. The Astros have two World Series trips in the last four seasons (with a championship in 2017) and plated an MLB-best 863 runs. The White Sox ranked fifth in both ERA and batting average. The Red Sox were second in slugging percentage and fifth in punchouts. The Yankees might have baseball's best starter (Gerrit Cole) and two of its best power bats (Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton).

    Since you're expecting a prediction, though, let's slice this field down to one.

    While the best team on paper doesn't always win in baseball, our crystal ball sees chalk in the ALDS. The Rays and Astros were a cut above the league this season, joining the Giants and Dodgers as the only team with run differentials north of plus-200.

    Moving forward to the ALCS, both clubs have questions in their rotations, but Houston will find a way around them.

    Maybe the lineup mashes enough to overcome some short, rocky starts. Maybe Lance McCullers Jr., Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez erase those question marks. Maybe the bullpen perks up and does a better job of getting to Ryan Pressly. Either way, the Astros will be World Series-bound for the third time in five years.

NL Prediction

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    Just like in the AL, there are five different, compelling options here.

    The Giants and Dodgers are the obvious picks for obvious reasons. The Cardinals are the hot pick after closing the campaign on a 21-4 tear. The Braves are the explosive pick with power hitters throughout their lineup and all over their infield.

    But maybe the Brewers are simply the right pick.

    Great pitching often wins in October, and Milwaukee's top of the rotation is ridiculous. Freddy Peralta had a 2.81 ERA, 0.970 WHIP and 195 strikeouts in 144.1 innings, and he was only the Brewers' third-most impressive starter. Brandon Woodruff paired a 2.56 ERA with 211 strikeouts in 179.1 innings. Corbin Burnes paced the trio in ERA (2.43), WHIP (0.940) and strikeouts (234 in 167).

    Is that a better trio than L.A.'s combination of Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias?

    That might be up for debate. What isn't, though, is that the Brewers have an easier path to the World Series. If the Dodgers escape the wild-card game (which is not at all guaranteed), they'll immediately lock horns with the top-seeded Giants.

    As long as Milwaukee gets timely hits and doesn't see its bullpen exposed without Devin Williams (broken hand), the Brewers can finally have their playoff breakthrough and book their first World Series trip since 1982.