The playoff subject is ready! Here is why this might be the best MLB postseason since … properly, perhaps ever

The common season is formally within the books (OK, perhaps there may be nonetheless a sport or two trickling slowly to its end as you learn this) and the 2022 MLB playoffs are set to start out Friday — and this 12 months’s postseason might be epic.

Along with a brand new format that options 12 groups and a three-game wild-card spherical that’s assured to carry drama to October from the very begin, there are such a lot of storylines to comply with all through that it has an opportunity to be an all-time nice month of baseball.

Beneath, we spotlight the 12 themes that can dominate all the sport as the brand new 12-team format begins.

See playoff schedule & bracket

1. That is the perfect playoff format … ever

I feel baseball lastly nailed it. Sure, there are those that will all the time favor the outdated setups of two pennants or 4 division winners, however the 12-team association is an enchancment over 10 groups (which had been the norm for the previous decade). The do-or-die wild-card sport, which had been round since 2012, by no means felt proper and, frankly, by no means actually became the must-see drama that the sports activities world stopped all the pieces to observe anyway.

As we noticed with the non permanent 16-team bracket in 2020, these fast, three-game collection are enjoyable. They’re nonetheless a lot pressure-packed, however they really feel extra like baseball than a winner-take-all matchup.

Crucially, this format nonetheless rewards the perfect groups with a first-round bye and the chance to relaxation a pitching workers and line up a rotation. My solely nit with the place baseball landed this 12 months is {that a} seven-game division collection could be higher than 5 — perhaps subsequent 12 months, when the beginning of the season will not be delayed by a lockout.

2. There is a 111-win superteam and no one is bound what to make of its World Sequence probabilities

The Los Angeles Dodgers received 111 video games — probably the most ever for a Nationwide League staff in a 162-game season and a complete topped solely by the 2001 Seattle Mariners and 1998 New York Yankees. In the event that they win all of it, they go down alongside that Yankees staff as one of many biggest of all time; if they do not win all of it, they’re relegated to the again pages of historical past alongside these Mariners.

Since 2017, the Dodgers have had 4 104-win seasons, a remarkably lengthy interval of domination … however only one World Sequence title. Their sole championship got here within the shortened 2020 season, with playoff video games performed in entrance of empty stadiums or at impartial websites. It counts — or as a pal of mine who’s a longtime die-hard Dodgers fan advised me, it counts as one-third of a title. And remember that groups had been allowed to play with 28-man rosters that postseason, which allowed the Dodgers to make use of starters as relievers and relievers as starters and do issues they won’t have been capable of do with a 26-man roster.

Alden Gonzalez had an excellent breakdown of the stress the Dodgers face this October. In a way, they’re enjoying for two championships: 2022 and a validation of 2020. Whereas supervisor Dave Roberts advised ESPN he “completely” considers the Dodgers a dynasty — and 4 104-win seasons actually again that declare up — two titles would undoubtedly safe their place in historical past as one of many biggest groups of all time.

3. We have an actual likelihood of a repeat

After profitable the World Sequence in 2021, the Atlanta Braves misplaced Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers — and received youthful and higher, profitable 101 video games and their fifth straight division title. No staff has repeated as World Sequence champs for the reason that Yankees received three in a row from 1998 to 2000; the Braves have the ability, the pitching and the momentum — after stealing the NL East within the remaining week with a three-game sweep of the New York Mets — to do it.

And it isn’t only a repeat, the Braves may be on their option to a dynasty right here. Their turnaround from a 10½-game deficit to the division title started after they known as up Michael Harris II to play heart subject in late Might and moved Spencer Strider to the rotation. From June 1 — the primary win in a 14-game profitable streak — to the tip of the common season, they went 78-34. Strider’s injured indirect may maintain him out of the playoffs, however they nonetheless have Max Fried, 20-game winner Kyle Wright and October hero of the previous Charlie Morton, plus a lineup that led the NL in house runs.

4. Talking of dynasties … what can we make of the Houston Astros?

You might need seen by now, however there are quite a lot of good groups on the prime of this 12 months’s playoff bracket. We have now 4 100-win golf equipment within the Dodgers, Astros, Braves and Mets, with the Yankees ending at 99 wins. The you-can’t-predict-baseball nature of the postseason does not assure we’ll see two of those groups within the World Sequence, but when we do, there is a good likelihood we’ll see a traditional collection. The final matchup of 100-win groups within the World Sequence was 2017, when the Astros beat the Dodgers in seven thrilling video games. Earlier than that, you need to go all the best way again to 1970 to have two 100-win groups within the World Sequence.

The Astros even have 4 100-win seasons since 2017, together with 107 in 2019 and 106 this season. Signal-stealing scandal or not, in the event that they win the World Sequence, maybe they go down because the dominant franchise of this period. And an added bonus? After 25 years of managing within the huge leagues and making his twelfth journey to the postseason, supervisor Dusty Baker is hoping to lastly win that remaining sport of the season.

To make issues extra fascinating, the Astros seem on a collision course to fulfill the Yankees within the American League Championship Sequence for the third time since 2017. Keep in mind the disagreement within the spring between Astros proprietor Jim Crane and Yankees normal supervisor Brian Cashman after Cashman cried that the one factor that had stopped the Yankees in earlier seasons from reaching the World Sequence was “one thing that was so unlawful and horrific.” A Yankees-Astros ALCS could be an epic battle — even whether it is one Evil Empire versus one other.

5. New York baseball is B-A-C-Ok

That is now the Yankees’ thirteenth season since final showing in a World Sequence in 2009 — an unacceptable size of time for baseball’s richest and most traditionally profitable franchise with 27 titles in a sport the place the wealthiest groups have a determined benefit. Longtime followers will be aware the Yankees are closing in on the notorious World Sequence drought from 1982 to 1995, the reign of terror period below George Steinbrenner when he cycled via 13 managers and 7 normal managers.

On the opposite aspect of city: The Mets received 100 video games for simply the fourth time in franchise historical past and first time since 1988, however they enter the postseason with the bitter style of defeat after dropping that remaining collection to the Braves. Everybody is aware of that Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer can carry a staff via a postseason — however deGrom allowed 14 runs and 6 house runs in 21 innings over his remaining 4 begins, so the Mets will want him to search out that groove the place he posted a 1.66 ERA over his first seven begins after returning in August. Nonetheless, that is hardly a two-man staff: Pete Alonso led the NL in RBIs, Francisco Lindor may end within the prime 10 of the MVP voting, Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker are stable 3-4 starters and Edwin Diaz has been a lockdown nearer. The Mets have had their moments since that run of success within the Nineteen Eighties, together with two World Sequence appearances, however it’s been 36 years since their iconic 1986 staff received all of it.

6. Did you actually assume we forgot about Aaron Choose?

Sure, each groups have made New York baseball fascinating all season, however no one has been extra on the heart of that than the person who simply completed up a 62-home run marketing campaign — and has followers of each New York groups envisioning his free company will finish with him signing with their membership.

Now, we have now Choose attempting to cap off what may be arguably the best season of any participant in historical past — by that, I imply a historic common season, a fantastic postseason and a World Sequence title. Ted Williams in 1941? Did not even win the pennant. Carl Yastrzemski in 1967? The very best single-season WAR for a place participant aside from Babe Ruth, however the Purple Sox misplaced the World Sequence. Bob Gibson in 1968? A 1.12 ERA and a file 17 strikeouts in a single World Sequence sport, however he misplaced Recreation 7. Dwight Gooden in 1985? The Mets missed the playoffs. Pedro Martinez in 1999? The Purple Sox misplaced within the ALCS. Barry Bonds in 2001? The Giants did not make the playoffs. Bonds in 2002? He had a fantastic postseason, however the Giants misplaced Recreation 7 of the Fall Basic. Mookie Betts in 2018? A ten.7-WAR season that matches Choose and the Purple Sox received the World Sequence, however Betts had a lackluster postseason (.210/.300/.323).

7. Can the GOAT exit on prime?

Let’s not neglect the opposite slugger who made house run historical past this season — Albert Pujols. Each participant would like to exit on prime, both nonetheless enjoying properly or with a dogpile on the sphere. Nearly none of them do. Pujols and Yadier Molina have an opportunity to do this — and perhaps Adam Wainwright joins them in retirement as properly (he is but to formally announce his standing for 2023).

The three St. Louis Cardinals legends reunited this season when Pujols returned after a 10-year exile, and all three will play a key position in what occurs to the membership in October. As will Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, two of the best gamers of their technology who will seemingly end 1-2 within the MVP voting within the NL — and who each search their first journey to the World Sequence.

8. The playoff drought-busters

Whereas the Cardinals come into this postseason with a great deal of October expertise, there are two franchises about to get their first style of the playoffs in a protracted, very long time. The Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies ended the game’s two longest playoff droughts in securing wild-card spots, though each groups shall be on the street for the primary spherical — Seattle at Toronto, Philadelphia at St. Louis.

When Cal Raleigh hit his pinch-hit walk-off house run to clinch a wild-card spot, the Mariners celebrated like that they had received the World Sequence. Are you able to blame them? Twenty-one years is a very long time between playoff appearances. Positive, that they had loads of horrible groups alongside the best way, but additionally a number of close to misses: 93 wins in 2002 and 2003, 88 wins in 2007, one win quick in 2014, three quick in 2016, alive till the ultimate day final season. They are not even assured a house playoff sport if they do not beat the Blue Jays, though you possibly can guess the watch celebration at T-Cellular Park may have a playoff-like ambiance.

The excellent news is Julio Rodriguez returned from his again drawback to play a few video games on the finish of the common season (and homered within the season finale). The dangerous information is second-half spark plug Sam Haggerty and outfielder/DH Jesse Winker each simply landed on the injured listing. The rotation and bullpen are wholesome, nonetheless — Luis Castillo seems like a professional ace when he is on, whereas Logan Gilbert had a 2.00 ERA in September, permitting one run or much less in 5 of his six begins. Should you like an excellent underdog story, imagine within the Mariners.

In the meantime, the Phillies had the majors’ second-longest playoff drought, making it for the primary time since 2011. They’ve Bryce Harper, again within the postseason for the primary time since 2017, and power-hitting Kyle Schwarber, who led the NL in house runs. Aaron Nola, Zack Wheeler and Ranger Suarez (2.95 ERA since July 16) are a robust rotation trio. I would not guess on them within the robust NL, however there are similarities right here in roster building to the 2019 Nationals, who went from the wild card to World Sequence champs.

9. The World Sequence curses we do not discuss sufficient

The Cleveland Guardians try to win their first World Sequence since 1948. The San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays try to win their first one, whereas the aforementioned Mariners stay the one franchise by no means to play in a World Sequence.

The Guardians’ World Sequence drought has by no means acquired as a lot consideration as those for the Purple Sox and Cubs did, however it’s now been 74 years for the reason that Cleveland franchise received all of it — longer than the 1986 Purple Sox had gone (68 years) after they misplaced to the Mets. How about profitable all of it within the first season with the brand new nickname? They could make a film out of that given this listing of Cleveland’s postseason heartbreaks:

  • 1995: The most effective staff in baseball that 12 months, however they misplaced the World Sequence to the Braves.

  • 1997: Blew a ninth-inning lead in Recreation 7 of the World Sequence to the Marlins and misplaced in further innings.

  • 2007: Misplaced the ALCS to the Purple Sox after being up 3-1.

  • 2016: Had been up 3-1 on the Cubs within the World Sequence and misplaced Recreation 7, once more, in further innings.

  • 2017: Misplaced the division collection to the Yankees after being up 2-0.

After which there’s the staff that is been round since 1969 — and by no means received all of it. The Padres made World Sequence appearances in 1984 and 1998, however that is simply the seventh postseason journey in franchise historical past.

However these aren’t your older brother’s Padres. This can be a staff that has spent the previous three seasons buying an All-Star squad of expertise whereas enjoying with a brash fashion that would make it extremely popular this postseason — if the Padres can stick round lengthy sufficient for nationwide followers to get conversant in their stars. They’ve gone all-in to dethrone the Dodgers in latest seasons — solely to fall properly quick. However they squeaked in, and something can occur within the playoffs, proper? Particularly with Manny Machado and Juan Soto and Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish and a out of the blue rejuvenated Blake Snell (1.76 ERA over his remaining seven begins). The Mets-Padres wild-card collection is the one to observe — with the winner going through the Dodgers in a colossal division collection showdown.

10. The redemption tales

Let’s have a look at right here. We have Justin Verlander, who after lacking 2021 with Tommy John surgical procedure, got here again and went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA whereas main the American League in wins, ERA, WHIP and lowest batting common allowed. His standing as future Corridor of Famer is safe, however with an enormous October and one other World Sequence championship for the Astros, his legacy turns into that of an inner-circle Corridor of Famer. DeGrom and Scherzer missed a while, and deGrom sputtered on the finish of the season, however that dynamic pair might carry the Mets to their first title since 1986. After which in fact, there may be Clayton Kershaw. Sure, he received his ring a few years in the past, however he was injured final October, and he hasn’t received a hoop in a full season with a traditional postseason. How will he carry out?

11. The October introduction of some legit younger stars

As my colleague Kiley McDaniel identified just lately, that is the perfect rookie class since Pujols and Ichiro Suzuki debuted in 2001 — and many of the largest names shall be enjoying within the postseason (sorry, Adley Rutschman). We have Rodriguez main the Mariners and Harris and Strider on the Braves.

However it’s not simply the rookies who will remind us how vivid the way forward for baseball is that this postseason …

Whereas we frequently consider the Rays as a parade of bullpen arms, additionally they have two budding younger superstars in Wander Franco and Shane McClanahan who might energy one other small-market success story this postseason. And throughout the AL East, Alek Manoah, Alejandro Kirk, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. type a younger core that makes the Blue Jays a staff no one needs to face this postseason. In fact, the query we’ll all be ready to see answered is how these younger stars will deal with the brilliant lights of October … or ought to we are saying November.

12. It is an October so nice — it might take a part of November to complete it

That is proper, because of the mixture of the brand new format and the MLB lockout pushing again the beginning of the season, Recreation 7 of the 2022 World Sequence would happen on Nov. 5, the most recent date of a playoff sport in MLB historical past.

If each collection goes the space, we’ll get 53 postseason video games with all of those unbelievable storylines fueling the likelihood that any given evening can grow to be a must-see second for baseball followers. In fact, in the long run we want nice video games to have a fantastic postseason.

That is what nonetheless makes 1986 the gold normal for all postseasons. There have been simply 20 playoff video games that October — the seven-game ALCS between the Purple Sox and Angels, the six-game NLCS between the Mets and Astros, then the seven-game World Sequence when the Mets beat the Purple Sox. 5 of the 20 video games went further innings. Eight had been determined by one run. A number of are all-time classics, together with Recreation 5 of the ALCS; Video games 3, 5 and 6 of the NLCS; and Video games 6 and seven of the World Sequence.

The stage is ready. I am going with the Dodgers over the Astros. I am going to take Kershaw versus Verlander in Recreation 7 of the World Sequence, thanks very a lot.

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