I’ve posted before that I have misgivings about the new playoff format. However, it’s here, and we’re going to have it for at least 5 years. The new format does affect how I think this is all going to go, which I’ll explain below.
Wild Card Round. This is now a best of three series at the home field of the higher seed rather than a one and done/winner take all single game. I like that, but it does mitigate against the likelihood of upsets a little. Still, a lesser team taking 2 of 3 as visitors is hardly unheard of.
Guardians vs Rays. The hot team in the AL in September vs the hot team in August. Take the hot team in September. I’m just happy my guys even made it to the playoffs after “comfortably” leading the majors in injuries. Guardians in 3.
Blue Jays vs Mariners. The Mariners have to cross 3 time zones and deal with that batting order. It’s been 21 years since the Mariners played a playoff game. It’ll be 22 before they do it at home. Blue Jays in 3.
Cardinals vs Phillies. The Cardinals are the better team. The Cardinals will have standing room only fans going crazy. The media will play up the swan song angle for Pujols, Molina, and Wainwright to the nth degree. The Cardinals have Arenado and Goldschmidt. Cardinals in 2.
Mets vs Padres. The Mets are a little disappointed at not winning their division despite winning 100 games. The Mets have deGrom and Scherzer. The Padres have to fly across the continent, were expecting to be better than the 5th seed, and are without the suspended Tatis. Mets in 2.
Astros vs Blue Jays. I expect a great series, but in each division series matchup, the team coming in from the wild card will have to lead off with the third or fourth pitchers in their rotation unless they send guys to the hill on short rest. The top two seeds of course will have their rotations lined up just as they want them. That will be too much for the Blue Jay bats to overcome. Astros in 4.
Yankees vs Guardians. If not for the Yankees getting the top of their rotation vs the Guardians having to use their best pitchers against the Rays, I’d pick the Guardians. Yankees in 5.
Dodgers vs Mets. Mets pray for rain postponed game 1 in order to get deGrom on the hill. Not happening. Dodgers in 4.
Braves vs Cardinals. Here’s another one where I’d seriously consider going with the underdog if not for how the rotations line up. Braves in 5.
Here’s where we return to playoffs as usual, with both sides having played the previous round. The advantage is based on who is healthier and better rested, in addition to talent disparities where they exist.
Astros vs Yankees. The Yankees have had bullpen injuries late in the season. That might prove the tipping point. Astros in 7.
Dodgers vs Braves. The Dodgers are, slightly, better. If they get through the NLDS in less than 5, they take the pennant. Dodgers in 7.
Dodgers vs Astros. Here’s where the one weakness in the Dodgers lineup, the bullpen, bites them in the butt. Somehow the media will blame it on Clayton Kershaw. Don Baylor gets his first ring as a manager. (He has one as a player with the 1981 Dodgers.) Astros in 6.
There you have it, a mostly chalk prediction. Upsets won’t be a surprise, but expect them to be less frequent in the new playoff format.