MLB League Division Series Preview

Cam Cobey, Maroon-News Staff

After a wild week of Wild Card games that for the first time in MLB history included 16 teams, the league has boiled down to two divisional series competing in the American League (AL) and two divisional series competing in the National League (NL). Let’s take a look at these matchups:

Rays vs Yankees:

An AL East rivalry that has been heavily dominated by the Yankees in the past has taken a turn in 2020, as the Tampa Bay Rays in their 23rd season as a franchise are the number one seed in the American League. The Yankees, meanwhile, have more World Series rings than the Rays have years as a franchise. It is just the Rays’ fourth appearance in the postseason in those 23 years, but they are looking like a formidable opponent to the Bronx Bombers. The Rays went a very impressive 8-2 against the Yankees this season, and this was the first time that they won the head-to-head battle in the regular season since 2014. This series is going to come down to the Rays’ pitching and the Yankees’ hitting. The Rays’ pitching, in my opinion, is the best in the league. They were third in the league last season with a staff ERA of 3.56. Their first three starters will be 2018 Cy Young winner Blake Snell, right-hander Tyler Glasnow, who has an overpowering fastball and nasty curveball and the experienced Charlie Morton. These guys will face the potent Yankees lineup which consists of DJ LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton and Gio Urshela. This lineup mashes. They are top 10 in the MLB in slugging, on-base percentage and home runs. This will be a great series, and I see the Rays prevailing because of the Yankees’ lack of pitching depth.

A’s vs Astros:

Boy, is this series going to be fun. There are a lot of intriguing storylines in this series. To fill you in, A’s outfielder Ramon Laureano charged the Astros dugout in early August after getting hit by a pitch, so the A’s and the Astros do not like each other. Look out for some fireworks in this series. Another storyline here is the Astros’ cheating scandal from their World Series title in 2017. Teams and fans are still unhappy about that whole situation, and their underwhelming performance this season was a happy sight for all baseball fans. The A’s dominated the Astros this year, going 7-3 against them. Statistically, the A’s were a middle of the pack hitting team, but their pitching staff was impressive with the fifth-best staff ERA in the MLB. The Astros are just not the team they were the past few seasons, getting very little production out of supposed star players Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and George Springer, who all batted below .265. They also lost their ace Justin Verlander to injury earlier in the season. The A’s are clearly the superior team this year, and will finally put the cheating Astros away.

Marlins vs Braves:

The Marlins? Yes the Marlins, the team that had the third-worst record in the MLB in 2019 has made the NLDS. Written off by just about everyone, the Marlins surprised the baseball world in the odd 2020 season with a 31-29 record, their first winning season since 2009. The Miami Marlins are 7-0 all-time in playoff series. That’s right. They have never lost a playoff series. They’ve only made the postseason two other times — in 1997 and 2003 — winning the World Series in both of those years, which is a crazy statistic. This year’s Marlins team is led by late-season callup Sixto Sanchez, the 22-year-old who pitched well for the Marlins down the stretch, as well as some sneaky good bats in Starling Marte and Miguel Rojas. Looking at the Braves, they have a powerhouse lineup, who were top two in the regular season in average on-base percentage and slugging percentage. They are led by the young stud Ronald Acuna Jr, Marcell Ozuna who had a fantastic season and Freddie Freeman, who put up an MVP type season in the shortened 2020 campaign. The Braves are the better team in this series, and will more likely than not hand the Marlins their first-ever postseason series loss. 

Padres vs Dodgers: 

Another division matchup, this time in the NL West, will see the battle of California. The Padres have been one of the most fun teams to watch in Major League Baseball in 2020, mostly because of 21-year-old phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis has been a joy to watch, making dazzling plays at shortstop and crushing home runs accompanied by his passionate bat flips. The Padres have been a bandwagon for many baseball fans to root for, to say the least. This is their first playoff appearance since 2006, and this is a legit team with bats up and down the order, including the addition of Mitch Moreland at the deadline. Their pitching has taken a hit in the postseason, with trade deadline acquisition Mike Clevinger being unavailable, but they still managed to beat the Cardinals in the Wild Card round. The Dodgers are the clear favorite here, and my favorite to win the World Series. It’s about time the Dodgers get a World Series victory, they haven’t won one since 1988! You would think they’d have one by now, playing in the Fall Classic in both 2017 and 2018, but they’ve come up short both times. This time around, they’ve added Mookie Betts along with an already potent lineup and a pitching staff that features Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Walker Buehler. This team is well rounded: in the regular season they had the best slugging percentage and the best staff ERA, and this year, they finally have what it takes to win it all come late October.