2022 MLB Playoff Preview
And then there were three games left in the 2022 Major League Baseball season. Thus far, 11 of the 12 spots have been decided with just one up for, barely, grabs over the final three games. Up two games with three to play, the Phillies have nearly sewn up the final spot in the National League wildcard race. Let’s take a look at the potential first-round matchups and who looks to move on.
#1 Seed: Houston Astros 104-55 (+175) - The Astros have earned their bye in the first round and will await the winner of the #4 vs. #5 series.
#2 Seed: New York Yankees 97-61 (+205) - The Yankees are nearly through with the Aaron Judge Home Run Watch and will refocus on the ALDS in a week. They await the winner of the #3 v. #6 series.
#3 Seed: Cleveland Guardians 90-69 (+1200) - Despite their hot stretch, the odds have gone up for the Guardians to win the American League pennant. Things are looking more and more likely that the Guardians will battle the Rays in round 1.
#4 Seed: Toronto Blue Jays 90-69 (+550) - The Blue Jays have nearly locked up the #4 seed following a weekend sweep of Boston. They will host the first round of the playoffs starting on Friday.
#5. Seed: Seattle Mariners 87-71 (+1000) - The Mariners have a two-game lead in the loss column with four to play, all against a surprisingly hot Detroit team. Any combination that total two in Mariners wins or Rays losses will clinch the #5 seed for the Mariners.
#6. Seed: Tampa Bay Rays 86-73 (+1000) - The Rays will need to win out and hope for two losses from Seattle to finish tied with Seattle and move up to 5th seed thanks to their head-to-head 5-2 record vs. Seattle this year.
#1 Seed: LA Dodgers 110-49 (+170) - The Dodgers wait patiently for the ALDS in less than a week and can set their rotation waiting for the winner of the #4 vs. #5 wildcard series.
#2 Seed: Atlanta Braves 100-59 (+230) - The Braves swept away the Mets this weekend to nearly secure the #2 seed in the NL playoffs. The defending champs might be the most complete team left.
#3 Seed: St. Louis Cardinals 92-67 (+950) - The Cardinals will be happy to be at home in the wildcard round over the weekend with the 3rd most home wins in the National League this season.
#4 Seed: New York Mets 98-61 (+450) - It had to be disappointing for the Mets to get swept this weekend in Atlanta with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer started two of the games. They will be forced to go an extra round if they want their first World Series title since 1986.
#5. Seed: San Diego Padres 87-72 (+1200) - The Padres have clinched a playoff spot but have not sewn up this spot quite yet. They have just a one game lead over the Phillies but the Phillies own the tiebreaker. With the Mets looming, the Padres may not mind slipping into the sixth seed.
#6. Seed: Philadelphia Phillies 86-73 (+1300) - The Phils hold the tiebreaker with Milwaukee so one more win will do it. They can move ahead of the Padres if they finish tied, as they also hold the tiebreaker with San Diego.
*Current Odds to win the league are in parenthesis, courtesy of draftkings.com
Heading to the betting window…
Let’s look at the wildcard round as we predict it will finish and who holds the edge in the first round of the playoffs in the three-game series that get underway on Friday night.
American League Wildcard Round
#6 Tampa Bay at #3 Cleveland - It will be All-Star game starter Shane McClanahan vs. former Cy Young winner Shane Bieber in game one. McClanahan is just 1-3 in his last five starts and has only averaged five innings per start. Bieber is 4-0 in his last five starts with a 2.45 ERA. He has also gone 33 innings over that span. Bieber should get the Guardians off on the right foot and put the pressure on the Rays. The Rays are under .500 on the road this season so the series will shift in Cleveland’s favor with Tampa needing to win two straight road games. Cleveland is playing its best baseball of the season while the Rays limped into the playoffs. Look for the Guardians to advance in 2.
#5 Seattle at #4 Blue Jays - Seattle might have the best starting pitching depth in the American League heading into the playoffs. Former Blue Jay Robbie Ray will likely get the call against the Blue Jays in either game 1 or 2 and will be facing a team that is just 12-20 against lefties this season. Luis Castillo and Logan Gilbert will be the other two starters for the Mariners against a Blue Jays team that will feature Kevin Gausman, Alek Manoah and Jose Berrios. The Mariners finished 5-2 against the Blue Jays this season. They will sneak out of this series with a win, take the Mariners in three games.
#6 Phillies at #3 Cardinals - These two teams have not met since July and the Cardinals, in particular, are a different team since then with starters Jose Quintana and Jordan Montgomery now heading the Cardinals rotation. The Phillies are 28-17 against lefties this season. Miles Mikolas will likely get the nod in the opener with a 2.13 ERA against the Phillies this season. The Cards lineup, particularly the team’s two big sluggers: Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have both struggled down the stretch. The power bat of Tyler O’Neill may be crucial if he returns healthy from hamstring issues. For the Phillies, Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola will get the ball in games one and two and then likely Ranger Suarez, although the Cardinals have been dominant against lefties this season at 24-11. Wheeler has been lights out against the Cardinals this season at 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA. Unless the Cards bats wake up, I think we are looking at an early exit in St. Louis. Take the Phillies in three games.
#5 Padres at #4 Mets - It will be the Padres balanced pitching staff against arguably the best 1-2 pitching punch in all of baseball in Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer for the Mets. Blake Snell will likely get the ball in game one against deGrom followed by Joe Musgrove against Scherzer and Darvish against Chris Bassitt in a potential series-deciding game three. With their trade deadline deals, the Padres present a more formidable lineup than the Mets but the numbers don’t bear that out overall. The Mets are sixth in runs per game while the Padres are just 14th. The Mets have hit better on the road this season than at home while the reverse is true for the Padres. If this series gets to a third game, the odds shift in the Padres favor. Darvish is 4-1 in his last five games with a 2.25 ERA. Bassitt is 0-2 with a 7.84 ERA in two starts against the Padres this season. Snell, who has a 2.17 ERA in his last five starts, could very well decide this series in the opener. I’m taking the Padres in an upset in 3 games.
There you have it, the first round of the playoffs, the first-ever wildcard round of its kind, should have some upsets and some exciting matchups. It will lead to a divisional round that will look like this, if all goes according to my plan:
#1 Houston vs. #5 Seattle
#2 New York Yankees vs. #3 Cleveland
#1 LA Dodgers vs. #5 San Diego
#2 Atlanta vs. #6 Philadelphia
We will do a deeper dive into the Divisional round next week. Enjoy the Wildcard round this weekend.