The cadence of quarterbacks can be heard across televisions and soon the skates and sneakers of hockey and basketball stars will be hitting the rinks and courts, but for the next month, baseball’s Fall Classic reigns supreme.
Familiar faces and juggernauts the likes of the Yankees and Astros highlight the playoffs, along with some new faces in the mix like the Twins and Cardinals. In what will be yet another exciting postseason in the MLB, here are my favorites and potential dark horses for this year’s playoffs.
Favorite: Houston Astros
The perennial super-team of the league will be rolling into the playoffs hot, entering October with a league best 107-55 record. The 2017 World Series champs will be rolling out the best one-two pitching combo in recent playoff history in Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who posted 21 and 20 wins this season respectively. Along with this deadly duo, the ‘Stros will likewise be a formidable foe on offense. Alex Bregman enters the playoffs with an out-of-this-world OPS of 1.015, and will be joined by Michael Brantley and Yordan Alverez, who are both hitting north of .300 this year. In a stacked American League, the Astros are still primed as the odds-on favorite to take home the World Series this year.
Dark Horse: Minnesota Twins
While the powerhouse sluggers of the Bronx are the clear favorites to take on Houston in the ALCS, the Twins’ record-breaking year can not be understated enough. On their way to breaking the home run record (307) the Twins put together a 100+ win season to clinch the AL Central for the first time in almost a decade. While their starting pitching is looking somewhat suspect heading into October, the Twins/Yankees series could easily come down to who gets hot hitting first, at which point the Twin Cities’ bats could easily be the ones to get rolling at the right time.
Favorite: Los Angeles Dodgers
This year’s World Series match-up has a very good potential to be a rematch of 2017, as the Dodgers came out of Spring Training toting one of baseball’s best rising stars in right fielder Cody Bellinger. The 24-year-old put together a jaw dropping third season in the league, good enough to earn him a league-best nine wins above replacement. To add to his incredible offensive output, the Dodgers will also be touting Max Muncy and Joc Pederson, who both hit more than 30 dingers this year for L.A. In a now Christian Yelich-less NL, it’s hard to see anyone getting in the way of a third straight World Series appearance from the Dodgers.
Dark Horse: St. Louis Cardinals
After missing the postseason last year, the Cardinals squeaked into the playoffs this year in large part due to the under performance of the Chicago Cubs and aforementioned injury to the Brewers’ Yelich. Now that they’ve stamped their ticket, however, the Cardinals could prove to be one of the more interesting teams to watch coming out of the NL. They’ve put together one of the better defenses in baseball under first-year manager Mike Shildt, and compared to the Nationals abysmal bullpen earned run average of (5.66, good for worst in the league) the Cardinals hoist a more than solid pitching staff. They finished the season with the fifth-best ERA in both their starting and relief staff. While their offense is middle of the pack amongst the MLB, the Cardinals have the best shot in the NL of dethroning the Dodgers as runner-up.