As the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season comes to a close, we turn our eyes toward October. The postseason is nearly upon us; it is a time of tension, victory, and loss. Ten teams will go into the playoffs, each vying for the title, but only one will emerge as the world champion.
The Pitcher List staff have placed their bets on how they expect things to shake out. Ten of us have written out what we believe each team will need to do in order to win the World Series. Without further ado, the Pitcher List staff predictions:
|PL Staff||NL WC||AL WC||NLDS||NLDS||ALDS||ALDS||NLCS||ALCS||World Series||WS MVP|
|Michael Ajeto||Brewers||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Gerrit Cole|
|Ryan Amore||Brewers||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Braves||Yankees||Yankees in 6||Aaron Judge|
|Mary Ankenbruck||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Twins||Twins in 7||Mitch Garver|
|Austin Bristow II||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Braves||Astros||Astros in 5||Gerrit Cole|
|Colin Charles||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Twins||Dodgers in 5||Will Smith|
|Jim Chatterton||Nationals||Athletics||Nationals||Braves||Astros||Twins||Nationals||Astros||Nationals in 7||Juan Soto|
|Dave Cherman||Brewers||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 5||Yordan Alvarez|
|Scott Chu||Brewers||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Rays||Twins||Dodgers||Rays||Rays in 7||Charlie Morton|
|Jai Correa||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 7||Justin Verlander|
|Ryan Fickes||Brewers||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Braves||Twins||Twins in 7||Nelson Cruz|
|Max Freeze||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 5||Gerrit Cole|
|Nicklaus Gaut||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Gerrit Cole|
|Rick Graham||Brewers||Athletics||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Cardinals||Astros||Astros in 6||Jose Altuve|
|Michael Guzman||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Cardinals||Astros||Astros in 5||Alex Bregman|
|Trevor Hooth||Brewers||Athletics||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Cardinals||Astros||Astros in 4||Yordan Alvarez|
|Kyle Horton||Nationals||Rays||Nationals||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Nationals||Astros||Astros in 4||Carlos Correa|
|Alex Isherwood||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Dodgers in 6||Walker Buehler|
|Tim Jackson||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Athletics||Yankees||Braves||Yankees||Yankees in 6||Luis Severino|
|James Kohout||Nationals||Athletics||Nationals||Braves||Astros||Twins||Nationals||Astros||Nationals in 5||Max Scherzer|
|Adam Lawler||Nationals||Rays||Nationals||Braves||Astros||Twins||Nationals||Astros||Astros in 6||Justin Verlander|
|Mark McElroy||Nationals||Rays||Nationals||Braves||Rays||Twins||Nationals||Rays||Nationals in 6||Anthony Rendon|
|Jonathan Metzelaar||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Justin Verlander|
|Nathan Mills||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Alex Bregman|
|Myles Nelson||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Yankees||Dodgers in 6||Justin Turner|
|Ben Palmer||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Braves||Astros||Astros in 6||Alex Bregman|
|Justin Paradis||Brewers||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Jose Altuve|
|Nick Pollack||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Yankees||Yankees in 6||DJ LeMahieu|
|Nick Randall||Nationals||Rays||Nationals||Braves||Astros||Twins||Nationals||Astros||Astros in 6||Michael Brantley|
|Travis Sherer||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Astros||Dodgers in 7||Walker Buehler|
|Shelly Verougstraete||Brewers||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Alex Bregman|
|Matt Wallach||Brewers||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Athletics||Yankees||Dodgers||Athletics||Dodgers in 7||Max Muncy|
|Colin Ward||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Yankees||Yankees in 7||Giancarlo Stanton|
|Colin Weatherwax||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Braves||Astros||Astros in 6||George Springer|
|John Wallace||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Yankees||Yankees in 7||Aaron Judge|
|Jessica Orozco||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Yankees||Dodgers||Astros||Dodgers in 6||Corey Seager|
|Nick Bucher||Nationals||Athletics||Dodgers||Braves||Astros||Twins||Nationals||Astros||Astros in 6||Yordan Alvarez|
|Kyle Bishop||Brewers||Athletics||Brewers||Cardinals||Astros||Twins||Brewers||Astros||Astros in 5||Yuli Gurriel|
|Andrew Gould||Nationals||Rays||Dodgers||Cardinals||Astros||Twins||Dodgers||Astros||Astros in 6||Gerrit Cole|
Houston Astros—Shelly Verougstraete
Other than maybe the Nationals, I am not sure who has a better starting rotation than the Astros. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole lead the AL Cy Young race, and the deadline addition of Zack Greinke pretty much sealed the championship in my eyes. Losing Carlos Correa with a back injury will hurt, but the Astros lineup will not disappoint. Alex Bregman leads the charge, but Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Michael Brantley, and Yuli Gurriel will keep the pressure on the opposition. I’m pretty sure we will see some George Springer postseason heroics. The only weakness in Houston is the bullpen. Roberto Osuna, Ryan Pressly, and Will Harris have been great, but who comes next? I’m not sure it will matter, especially with the starters they are throwing out there.
New York Yankees—Ryan Amore
Despite an absolute cavalcade of injuries, this Yankee offense still managed to finish second in MLB with 306 total home runs (the Twins were first with 307). Their lineup features an absurd amount of power from top to bottom. Perhaps the best acquisition of any team this past offseason has been DJ LeMahieu. He provides the lineup with some much-needed balance as the middle of the order features several bats that strike out north of 25% of the time in Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, and Giancarlo Stanton. The key for this team when they face ace pitching: Can they control the strike zone, extend at-bats, and manage to get into the bullpen earlier than usual? If they do, then this offense can easily flip the script and blow the doors wide open. As far as pitching goes, the Yankees have available at their discretion four relievers with strikeout rates north of 30% in Adam Ottavino, Chad Green, Tommy Kahnle, and Aroldis Chapman. Given the soft playoff scheduling, they should be able to make liberal use of their strong bullpen. That said, the loss of Domingo German is huge. It makes Luis Severino’s effectiveness even more critical to their success, as both he and James Paxton would provide a powerful duo at the top of the rotation.
Minnesota Twins—Jonathan Metzelaar
To literally everyone’s surprise, the Minnesota Twins had one of the most potent offenses in baseball this year. They hit the most home runs in the majors thanks in part to the fact that five of their hitters eclipsed the 30-homer mark. And they also had the second-most runs scored. The problem? Well, the only team that bettered them in the runs scored and home run departments just happens to be who they’re facing in the ALDS: the New York Yankees. Given that neither team has what you could call an imposing starting rotation and that both their bullpens performed similarly this year, this series should be a straight up slugfest. Anything can happen in a best-of-five series though, and if the Twins prevail, they’ll likely head to Houston, where once again they’re going to have to rely heavily on their bats and some good fortune to overcome what might be the most fearsome trio of pitchers in the game at the moment: Verlander, Cole, and Greinke. When you rely as heavily on the long ball as the Twins do, it’s often feast or famine. But if their pitching can keep them in games, they could be a handful of punished mistakes away from shocking a lot of people this October.
Oakland Athletics—Tim Jackson
The A’s are perennially interesting. They know how to coax more out of guys pushing 30 who appear to be finished, boring products. They have a pair of Matts (Chapman and Olson) at the hot corners who can each provide a statement at any moment in the game. They have 2019’s best reliever in Liam Hendriks and just got back their best starter in Frankie Montas, though he won’t be postseason eligible. Winning 97 games this year is no accident. But is it enough? Billy Beane is infamously quoted in Moneyball as saying “[Our] s— doesn’t work in the playoffs.” If the A’s are going to buck history in this year’s postseason, it won’t be about continuing their great play. It’ll be about elevating it even further.
Tampa Bay Rays—Mark McElroy
The Rays’ greatest strength is innovation. From defensive shifting, to openers, to closer by committee, the Rays organization is the leader in getting more from less. For the Rays to win, they will need run prevention from Charlie Morton, Blake Snell, and Tyler Glasnow. Their biggest team strength is their bullpen with deadline acquisitions Nick Anderson, Trevor Richards, and Peter Fairbanks buttressing impressive arms such as Diego Castillo, Chaz Roe, and Oliver Drake. With multiple arms who can fit any role, the bullpen is built for big postseason moments. Their offense hinges around the power-speed of Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows at the heart of the order, with complementary pieces such as Brandon Lowe, Avisail Garcia, Ji-Man Choi, and Nate Lowe. No one name is going to knock the casual fan’s socks off, but using platoon advantages and situational hitting could push runs across the plate while the pitching staff prevents them. Count on manager Kevin Cash and the front office to squeeze out every edge they can, whether it is from creative use of starters who not at 100% health, defensive positioning, or astute platooning and situational hitting.
Los Angeles Dodgers—Myles Nelson
For the Dodgers to win the World Series, they’ll need to continue to have one of the best offenses in baseball. They posted the fourth-highest OPS+ in the majors and first in the NL by a wide margin. NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger will need to exorcise his playoff demons, as his postseason OPS of .532 just won’t cut it. Opposing pitchers have mercilessly attacked his weak spots in the playoffs, and he’ll need to keep the improved plate discipline he’s shown this year. The pitching has some questions to answer as well. Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw are guaranteed rotation spots, but can Hyun-Jin Ryu bounce back from a rough second half? Is Rich Hill healthy and ready to go at least five innings? These are two ace-level pitchers if they bring their A-games. But obviously the biggest question is in the bullpen. Who can manager Dave Roberts rely on? Who will he overuse this time around? If the pitchers can be reliable for three series, the Dodgers have a legitimate chance at winning the World Series.
Atlanta Braves—Austin Bristow II
When the Atalanta Braves won the NL East last season, everyone was a bit surprised that they were already postseason bound. The team was a year or two ahead of schedule in its rebuilding plan, but nonetheless, they were there to compete. However, a weak pitching staff was not able to keep up with the juggernaut Dodgers, and the Braves were quickly dispatched. The 2019 Braves are a different team; their starting staff is much improved, featuring the revitalized Dallas Keuchel as well as the emergent Mike Soroka and Max Fried. The trade deadline acquisitions of Mark Melancon, Shane Greene, and Chris Martin made for a potent boost to the bullpen. However, the real strength of the Braves is their offense. Led by Freddie Freeman and Ronald Acuña Jr., the Atlanta offense is one of the most dynamic in baseball and is prepared to go toe-to-toe with any team. Watch out for late-innings comeback from the Braves, as they’ve led the majors in runs scored and OPS in the seventh inning and later.
St. Louis Cardinals—Trevor Hooth
The Cardinals always seem to have some magic when it comes to the postseason. A big burst comes from their veterans who have been there before, and on this team, that will be the rapidly aging Adam Wainwright and the seemingly ageless Yadier Molina. At different times during the year, people have had to step up at the plate, whether that be Paul Goldschmidt, Paul DeJong, or somebody else, which should make for a fun postseason offense. Pitching, on the other hand, will be the true test. After young Jack Flaherty, the rotation dries up. Miles Mikolas seems hit or miss, and Dakota Hudson is young. That’s not to mention a bullpen that is prone to falling apart. I think the hitting will show up, but the pitching will need to show its meddle for the Cardinals.
Washington Nationals—Jim Chatterton
The Nationals are one of the hottest teams coming into the playoffs with eight straight wins and an NLhigh 35 wins since the start of August. Should they win the World Series, it will be on the back of their starting pitching. They have three legit Cy Young candidates in Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin, with Anibal Sanchez filling in the fourth spot. Awards are also in the discussion for their offense with Anthony Rendon and the 20-year-old Juan Soto. The top of their lineup is one of the deadliest in the league, with Adam Eaton and Trea Turner in front of Rendon and Soto. They brought on Asdrubal Cabrera for their playoff push, and he’s been one of their best hitters down the stretch. The key to their deep playoff and ultimate World Series success will be the bullpen that owns the NL’s worst ERA. As long as they hold together the leads the rest of their team can give them, they’ll pull off their first playoff series win and championship.
Milwaukee Brewers—Dave Cherman
The Brewers will not win the World Series. Let’s just start with that. Let’s look at the things that championship teams typically have: at least one starting pitcher who can reliably eat innings, depth up and down the lineup, and power hitting. They don’t have a starting pitcher they can rely on to eat innings, they’re down perhaps their two best hitters (Christian Yelich and Ryan Braun) which reduces their depth, and their power ceiling is limited with Yelich out. All of that said, they have enough talent to beat out the Nationals in a single game because they’re arguably the hottest team in baseball. From there, they would have the momentum to upset a Dodgers World Series run. I don’t have a statistical argument for them to win because statistics say they won’t. But wouldn’t it be great if they did?
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@FreshMeatComm on Twitter)