By Griffin Hill
Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox have the offensive power to go the distance this year; no question about it. Sadly for the loyal fans in Boston, the consistent problems in the bullpen may prevent them from any post season accomplishments. While the Sox have over 100 wins on the season with 5 games to play, the only team this season to reach that mark thus far, the bullpen struggles have become even more severe in the 2nd half of the season. The Sox own an MLB worst 12 bullpen blown saves since the All Star break. Time is running out in Boston to fix this issue; the Yankees, Astros, and Indians will surely capitalize on this weakness if it isn’t turned around.
The Astros are my pick to represent the AL in the World Series, and the team I believe has the least amount of flaws. Thanks to last years run, the experience is there. The pitching is there. The hitting is there. So what can the Astros do wrong?
The greatest part of sports is things happening by chance. No matter how talented you are or how dominant you are as a franchise; there are always moments in the game that can’t be labeled as anything but lucky. Last season the Astros had several playoff games turn into shootouts. They scored runs in the 8th and 9th innings of all of these high scoring games and looked unbeatable, and truly destined to win. This routine can’t last forever, and I think there are teams this year that can out hit them and “out heart” them. This may seem like a minimal worry, but they can prevent these shootouts with their pitching in innings five through seven. Whether this means their starters are pitching deeper into the game or that their bullpen stays sharp before the closers come in, it will lead to another World Series appearance.
The streakiest team in all of baseball: the Cleveland Indians. I have seen the Indians have several week to month long stretches this season where they seem to be the best team in the AL. I have also seen them play like a team that would, without a doubt, get swept by the Red Sox, Astros, or Yankees.
The pitching in Cleveland leaves me with no doubts. Which Indians team comes ready for the playoffs is in the hands of Francisco Lindor, Michael Brantley, and Jose Ramirez. Last year we saw several Houston Astro hitters make playoff history, and truly a name for themselves, by their hitting in the AL championship and World Series. Lindor, Brantley, and Ramirez have the same golden opportunity.
New York Yankees
I am very critical of the 2018 Yankees. All season I have preached how they are extremely overrated and that won’t be able to compete with the big dogs in the AL. I still possess this belief. A series against the Astros, Red Sox, or Indians will be a tall task for the Yankees. They need to hit more singles and doubles if they want a chance to compete for a pennant. Relying on home runs to win series against elite teams won’t do the job!
The Athletics can score a lot of runs in a short amount of time, so I am in no way worried about their hitting. Their pitching scares me. They have no ace and have struggled to sweep teams because of the lack of good starters.
Tomorrow night they play the Yankees to stay alive. Today they announced they will not use any of their starting pitchers, but rather play relievers throughout the whole game! I think this is a great idea but obviously they cannot use this tactic throughout the whole playoffs. If the Athletics find a way to get past New York and head to Boston to face the Sox, the starters must step it up in the pitching department.
The Cubs tied for the best record in the NL, and due to their loss against the Brewers in the 1st place tiebreaker game last night, will still have to play in the Wild Card matchup. They take on the Rockies tonight at 8pm on ESPN. With just one game deciding who moves on, obviously anything can happen, and this is a pretty unfortunate situation for the Cubs; but they SHOULD beat Colorado.
The Cubs problems arise in the consistency of their bullpen. The relievers for the Cubs have had streaks this month in which they have been lights out. The spurts of terrible pitching since the All Star break is what should scare the Chicagoans.
Hopefully the Cubs get the hot side of the bullpen tonight!
The Braves surprised everyone this season, including me. Few players on this team have any playoff experience, but thats obviously something that can’t be fixed. Something they can fix? Big players putting up small numbers.
Several times in the second half of the season the Braves won games with late game hitting from the bottom half of the order. In these games the big name players struck out 2-4 times each, and weren’t the guys getting the job done.
In some instances other players outside of your stars setting up to win games is great! In the playoffs you NEED your stars to perform!
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are once again a contender in the NL to reach the Word Series. After winning the tiebreaker game against Colorado, they now have avoided playing in the Wild Card round!
The problem in LA is their history! They haven’t been able to finish a playoff run in so many recent seasons. Last year was close, and it will be tough to even get the chance to play for a world championship again. The Dodgers main focus needs to be playing like they have all season, and avoiding another playoff choke.
Christian Yelich has led this improbable Brewers squad all the way to the number one overall seed in the NL. The issue with the Brewers is everyone else.
Hitters surrounding Yelich have to perform like its October and pave the way to the pennant. If they can’t step up to the plate and rake in the RBI’s the Brewers could potentially be upset in the divisional round.
The Rockies can score. They can’t pitch.
These simple two sentences define the Rockies season and their troubles headed into the post season. Their starters need to consistently go 5+ innings if Colorado wants any chance of competing in a series against Milwaukee. We will see if they even get the chance at Milwaukee tonight!