MLB Divisional Round Preview and Predictions
We are down to the Elite Eight in the MLB 2022 Playoffs. The wildcard round only ended up with one three-game series, the Padres at the Mets. In addition, three of the four winners were road teams as Seattle, Philadelphia and San Diego all got it down away from home. The Cleveland Guardians were the only home team to escape the wildcard round. Most importantly, my wildcard success rate was a perfect four-for-four. Let’s try and stay hot and break down the Divisional round matchups in both leagues.
Heading to the Betting Window…
#5 Seattle (+500) vs. #1 Houston (+145): The Astros have the home-field advantage in a series that kicks off on Tuesday afternoon. In the first round, the Mariners showed they could win in a variety of ways; they won game one thanks to a lights-out starting performance from Luis Castillo and then came from behind in game two to win a shoot-out, 10-9. The Mariners now run into a team that has those same strengths. The Astros can out-pitch you, starting with two Cy Young contenders in Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez. They can also out-hit you with playoff-experienced veterans like Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez. The Astros have also won six out of the last seven games played against the Mariners and are 12-7 against them overall. In the ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ category, I’ll take the Astros in four games.
#3 Cleveland (+600) vs. #2 New York Yankees (+180): On the season, the Yankees took five of six games over the Guardians. However, an important distinction is that all six games took place before the middle of July. Since that time, Cleveland has been one of the best teams in baseball and has now won 24 of their last 30 games. The Guardians will not wow you with their power, unlike the Yankees, but they have a big edge in starting pitching and have the best closer, Emmanuel Clase, left in the playoffs. The Guardians are not afraid of tight games, going 30-17 this year and won a team-record 12 games this season when trailing after seven innings. The Yankees, despite the rest heading into the series, come in banged up with DJ LeMahieu’s status still in doubt and closer Clay Holmes likely to miss at least the opener. Cleveland manager Terry Francona certainly has the edge in playoff experience and that will come in handy in a tight series. I’ll take the Guardians in five games.
#6 Philadelphia (+500) vs. #2 Atlanta (+205): I’ll call this one the Braves' revenge for 1993. Yes, nearly 30 years after the Phillies upset the Braves in the NLCS, the Braves will have their redemption. Ok, granted, more than half the players weren’t born then, but we need something to hang our hats on. In truth, this feels like a very tight series that will swing the Braves' way due to more starting pitching depth. The Phillies top two pitchers in Zach Wheeler and Aaron Nola can compete with anyone but things get dicey after that. In game one, lefty Max Fried will get the call for the Braves against fellow lefty Ranger Suarez. While the Phillies have played well against lefties, the Braves have been dominant at 37-17 this season. Philadelphia will be under pressure to win both games started by Wheeler and Nola but I like the Braves to split those games. The Braves can out-hit the powerful Phillies, have a stronger rotation and a better bullpen. Depth? Yep, the Braves have the advantage in that category as well. I like the Braves in four games.
#5 Padres (+475) vs. #1 LA Dodgers (+145): The Dodgers dominated the National League this season and finished a whopping 60 games over .500. The Dodgers went 14-5 against the Padres this season including six out of the last eight with the Padres’ new-look lineup. The Dodgers lineup is loaded with MVPs and playoff experience. Yet, why do I find myself leaning towards the Padres? San Diego has five legitimate starters and have three pitchers in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell and Joe Musgrove who all have ace-level stuff. The backend of the Padres bullpen looks dominant with the right/left combination of Robert Suarez and Jake Hader throwing triple digits from both sides of the rubber. Juan Soto has added true swagger to the Padres’ playoff lineup and Trent Grisham and Jurickson Profar have both stepped up thus far in the playoffs. The Dodgers' lack of a true ace and the recent demotion of Craig Kimbrel out of the closer’s role would make me uneasy as a Dodgers fan. Kimbrel is deservedly out of the role but new closer Chris Martin doesn’t have playoff experience in the closer’s spot. This one will go the distance but I’m going with the Padres in five games.