For the first time in MLB history, there are eight playoff baseball games Wednesday; the National League is set to begin all of their Wild Card series.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs Milwaukee Brewers
De Block: In the one vs eight matchup, we get a rematch of the 2018 NLCS between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Milwaukee Brewers. The question still remains if the best team in the NL West can finally get over the hump in 2020. The Brewers never spent a day above .500% this season, but were still able to sneak into the playoffs with the expanded format.
For Milwaukee, most of the responsibility will fall on former MVP Christian Yelich. The outfielder struggled for most of the year, only hitting .205 with 12 home runs and 22 runs batted in. Second baseman Keston Hirua also had a down year, which led to their offense being lifeless for big portions of the season. If they want any chance of pushing the Dodgers, they will need those two guys to produce at the plate, along with solid pitching from Josh Hader and Devin Williams in the bullpen.
With all the being said, the Dodgers have one of the best constructed rosters in the last couple of seasons. Acquiring Mookie Betts in the offseason(who later signed a long-term extension) was the biggest move in the winter. Cody Belligner, Max Muncy, and Corey Seager are just a few names in a very potent offense. Walker Buheler, Clayton Kershaw, and Dustin May headline a very good rotation that has the ability to limit some of the best offenses in the National League. Overall, the Milwaukee Brewers will have little to no chance of stopping one of the favourites to win it all this year. Series Prediction: Dodgers in 2.
Seitz: The Los Angeles Dodgers once again hold the National League’s best record. Is this finally their year to win it all? New addition Mookie Betts certainly thinks it is as he hit .292 with 16 home runs and 39 RBI’s in 55 games. The Dodgers were still able to get amazing offensive production even with the reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger having a down year. Los Angeles was also able to get a quietly fantastic year out of Clayton Kershaw as well as four other starters. Bottom line is that the Dodgers are just as dangerous as ever.
The Milwaukee Brewers made the playoff despite not being over .500 for one day in 2020. The Brewers have struggled all season long as their two best players, Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura, hit .205 and .212 respectively. Milwaukee’s pitching staff is not the greatest thing either as closer Josh Hader is their only consistently good arm. While I can see the Brewers stealing a game, it probably will not happen. Series Prediction: Dodgers in 2
Seipp: There isn’t much to say about this series – it’s the least exciting of all eight. The Milwaukee Brewers never saw a day over .500 and their entire lineup has been silent all year. Without Corbin Burns, the Brewers essentially have no pitching. The Dodgers, who always choke and will eventually this year, get lucky by playing team No. 16 in the playoffs in the first round. Series Prediction: Dodgers in two.
Atlanta Braves vs Cincinnati Reds:
De Block: This is definitely one of my favorite matchups going into the Wild Card round. The Braves have been one of the better teams in the National League for the last couple of the seasons. On the other hand, the Reds are improving and looking to make some noise in the postseason as an underdog.
Coming into 2020, the Braves had the potential to have one of the best offenses in the league. Ronald Acuna Jr. along with superstar first baseman Freedie Freeman have created a dynamic duo in the heart of the Atlanta offense. Even though the team had more than a few really good hitters, they needed to add something else to the lineup, and that is exactly they did. Marcell Ozuna and Travis d’Arnaud were signed in the offseason, giving the top of their order some much needed protection.
The Cincinnati Reds had a very good offseason of their own, adding Nick Castellanos, Mike Moustakas, and Shogo Akiyama to a very good lineup. The offense has struggled at times throughout the season, but starting pitching is arguably the main reason why they made the playoffs. Trevor Bauer is one of the favorites to win the NL CY Young, going 5-4 with 1.73 ERA in 73 innings. They also have Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo who had subpar seasons to their standards, but are still capable of having quality starts in this series.
One important thing to note is the Braves rotation has a lack of depth going into the postseason. Mike Soroka and Cole Hamels are already done for the season, which will put more responsibility on Max Fried and Ian Anderson giving them length against the Reds. Although the Braves have a very good lineup, I believe Cinicinati will get more out of their starters and pull off the upset. Series Prediction: Reds in 3.
Seitz: The Atlanta Braves have won their division for the third straight season and look to make it out of the NLDS for the first time since 2001. The Braves are led by a dynamic offensive attack that features two MVP candidates in Freddie Freeman who hit .341 with 13 homers and 53 RBI’s and Marcel Ozuna who hit .338 with an NL best 18 homers and 58 RBI’s. Atlanta also has a guy named Ronald Acuna Jr. who can take over a game at any time.
Cincinnati is back in the Postseason for the first time since 2013. They are also looking for their first playoff series win since 1995. The key to taking this series for the Reds is their starting pitching. NL Cy Young candidate Trevor Bauer along with Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo have the ability to carry the Reds deep into the playoffs. If the Reds bats have success, as they have over their hot end to the season, then the upstart Reds could surprise some people. Series Prediction: Reds in 3.
Seipp: I’m picking this series to be the tightest one in the Wild Card round. If you know me, you know the Cincinnati Reds have been at the top of my list for teams in the NL all year long. If this team had 162 games, they would’ve won their division. Trevor Bauer has been the best pitcher in the National League this year while the Reds lineup has been consistent all year long. The Braves pitching scares me too much, as I see both No. 7 seeds winning their Wild Card series. Series Prediction: Reds in three.
Chicago Cubs vs Miami Marlins:
De Block: Very few predicted this to happen, but the Miami Marlins are back in the postseason for the first time since 2003. This team was not expected to come out of what looked like a very deep NL East, but they prevailed in the end. The Chicago Cubs were predicted by many to regress with much of the same roster from last season, but they continued to show why they are still a top team in the National League. Led by first-year manager David Ross, the team was able to win the division with a record of 34-26.
Looking at this series, it will be very intriguing to see what the Marlins offense can do against the Cubs pitching. Miami acquired outfielder Starling Marte at the deadline, as they looked to make a push towards the postseason. He immediately added to a lineup that included solid production from Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, and Brian Anderson among others.
For the Cubs, Yu Darvish looked like the guy we saw in a Texas Rangers uniform, consistently dominating hitters. His potential CY Young season gave the team an elite guy at the top of the rotation, allowing guys like Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester to have less pressure on themselves. While production wasn’t great from Kris Bryant, Jason Heyward, and Javier Baez, the offense was still able to do enough to win games. Ian Happ led the team in a few major offensive categories, hitting 12 home runs with an on-base percentage of .361.
Many would love to see the Miami Marlins make a deep run in these playoffs, but I think they are still a year or two away from that. The Cubs are a veteran team with plenty of experience, and I believe that will prevail in the end. Series Prediction: Cubs in 3.
Seitz: The Miami Marlins have never lost a Postseason series in their franchise’s history. Let that sink in. Miami has been a surprise team in 2020 as they played their way to a 31-29 record. The Marlins were able to get a semi-breakout campaign from Brian Anderson who led the team in home runs and RBIs, but it was first baseman Jesus Aguilar who led the fish in average, on base percentage, and hits. Throw in the addition of outfielder Starling Marte at the deadline and quietly consistent starting pitching and you have a playoff team in 2020.
The Chicago Cubs certainly had me fooled at the start of this season. I thought Chicago was going to miss the Postseason entirely, but they rallied around first year manager David Ross and played for each other. As a result they won the NL Central with a record of 34-26. Ian Happ led the Cubs in almost every statistical hitting category this season and picked up the workload for players like Javy Baez who had a down year and Kris Bryant who missed time. Chicago also offers a killer one-two punch on the mound with Kyle Hendricks and NL Cy Young candidate Yu Darvish. Series Prediction: Cubs win in 3
Seipp: Call me crazy, but I love the Marlins in this matchup. Miami’s bullpen has been fantastic in the back end all year long while their offense has gotten big hit after big hit. The Marlins are 27-0 this season if they have a lead going into the 6th inning. Expect them to get going early and take advantage of mistakes as they did all year long which helped them win games. While David Ross has done a good job in Chicago, he’s not ready to manage in the postseason yet. The Marlins magical run will continue into the Divisional Series. Series Prediction: Marlins in three.
San Diego Padres vs St. Louis Cardinals:
De Block: Looking at this series, I am very interested to see how the San Diego Padres perform in the postseason for the first time in 14 years. The roster is made up of a lot of young guys, so it will be fascinating to see how they do against a veteran St. Louis Cardinals team.
The Padres had a lot of promise going into this season, but that changed to expectations at the trade deadline. The organization made a blockbuster trade, acquiring starting pitcher Mike Clevinger in a deal with the Cleveland Indians. The pitching staff already included Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack, creating one of the best rotations in the league. Offensively, Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and Fernando Tatis Jr. headline a team capable of putting up a ton of runs.
For the Cardinals, it was a very up and down regular season that saw them miss a few weeks due to issues with COVID-19. With all those problems going on, the team was able to overcome all of that and finish second in the NL Central. After a disappointing end to last season in the NLCS, the Cardinals will be looking to make another deep run in these playoffs. Paul Goldschmidt and Tommy Edman headline a very inconsistent offense, which could come back to hurt them in this series. If they want to make things difficult for San Diego, Jack Flaherty, Adam Wainwright, and Kwang-Hyun Kim will need to have good outings in each of their starts.
The Cardinals still have some good pieces on their roster, but this team needs to build around Jack Flaherty and reconstruct their lineup with some younger talent. Reports came out that Clevinger and Lamet will both miss the Wild Card round, which could have a major affect on this series. Even with that, the Padres are a very good baseball team, and I believe we will see that in this series. Series Prediction: Padres in 3.
Seitz: The St. Louis Cardinals played 11 doubleheaders this season because of a lengthy outbreak of COVID-19 within their clubhouse. The Cardinals were able to overcome this adversity and finish with a 30-28 record and the #5 seed in the National League. St. Louis appears to be a heavy underdog against a solid San Diego side and will need to play two complete games to take the series. It is up to Paul Goldschmit and Jack Flaherty to propel the redbirds back to the NLDS.
The Padres are not only ahead of schedule, but are the most exciting team in all of baseball. The Padres are stacked both offensively and defensively, On the mound, Dinelson Lamet, Chris Paddack and Mike Clevinger headline the starting rotation. Offensively, San Diego offers Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Will Myers, Trent Grisham, Jake Cronenworth, and a few other high-profile bats. It is going to be hard to stop this Padres team in the Postseason. Series Prediction: Padres in 2.
Seipp: With the injuries to Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet, the Padres are making this decision a lot harder than it should be. They’ll need Chris Paddack to step up big-time in game one. This offense is too good for the Cardinals pitching staff, but these games might be closer than you expect due to pitching injuries for the Padres. Series Prediction: Padres in three.