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2021 MLB playoffs preview – The whole lot it’s good to know concerning the groups battling for World Collection glory

The MLB playoffs are upon us. How prepared are you for all of the postseason motion?

After a dash to the end that noticed the ultimate American League wild-card spot selected the ultimate day of the common season, the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday. That leaves 9 groups nonetheless chasing World Collection glory this October, led by the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays, who’re all coming off 100-plus win campaigns.

Are these the three groups to beat or will another person get sizzling and rule the postseason?

MLB specialists Bradford Doolittle, Jeff Passan and David Schoenfield go deep on every little thing from the matchups and names it’s good to know to keys and really daring predictions for each group. Doolittle additionally has calculated the chances for each group’s shot at profitable all of it, in addition to each potential matchup in every spherical in opposition to any attainable opponent.

2021 MLB playoffs: Bracket, full schedule

Play: ESPN Playoff Baseball Classic

Bounce to every postseason group:

NL: SF | MIL | ATL | LAD | STL

AL: TB | HOU | CHW | BOS

Nationwide League

San Francisco Giants

107-55 | NL West champs | 20.4% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

NLDS: 48.5% vs. LAD | 65.6% vs. STL

NLCS: 62.4% vs. MIL | 65.8% vs. ATL

WS: 56.5% vs. TB | 58.1% vs. HOU | 60.7% vs. CHW | 70.1% vs. BOS | 70.3% vs. NYY

Why they may go far: Each group in baseball had a dropping report this season in video games wherein their opponents scored the primary run. The Giants have been no exception and their report in these video games was typical among the many playoff groups. Then again, San Francisco lapped the sector when it got here to profitable the video games wherein it drew first blood. How? Nicely, it did not harm that the Giants’ bullpen led the majors in ERA and WHIP. And that is actually the crux of it: If the Giants can set up an early lead, Gabe Kapler’s bullpen might be going to get the job finished. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: No matter what we thought going into the season, there’s nothing on the Giants’ file that marks them as a fluke. They’ve a wonderful report in one-run video games, however even when that they had gained these at a decrease fee, San Francisco would nonetheless have approached 100 wins. No, the issue for the Giants is repeating what they completed in the course of the season: overcoming the Dodgers. In each class wherein the Giants stand out, the Dodgers do it as effectively or just a little higher. The attainable exception to that’s the bullpen, wherein case we refer you to the previous merchandise. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: It is as prone to be the 26th man on the roster as Brandon Crawford or Kris Bryant, as a result of that is how the Giants roll. Ace Kevin Gausman hasn’t been as efficient within the second half (4.42 ERA, .276 common allowed) as the primary (1.73 ERA, .159 common allowed), however he is the starter almost definitely to get on a roll and pitch deep into video games with a splitter that has remained a wipeout providing (.136 common in opposition to it on the season). — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Giants: Brandon Belt led the group with “simply” 29 house runs — and he is out with a damaged thumb — however the Giants nonetheless led the NL in house runs. So the thrilling factor is that energy can come from anyplace or anybody within the lineup. Even with out Belt, they’ve a prepared answer at first base with a platoon of LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf (or Wilmer Flores). September was the Giants’ finest offensive month, so that they’ve proven no indicators of slowing down. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: If the Giants can get previous the division collection, rookie Camilo Doval will get the ultimate out within the NLCS and ship them to the World Collection. — Passan


95-67 | NL Central champs | 8.7% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

NLDS: 54.6% vs. ATL

NLCS: 36.5% vs. LAD | 37.6% vs. SF

WS: 42.7% vs. TB | 46.8% vs. HOU | 49.5% vs. CHW | 59.6% vs. BOS | 59.9% vs. NYY

Why they may go far: Collectively and collectively, Milwaukee’s large three rotation of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta has been amongst baseball’s finest all season. To place that in perspective: In line with the wins above common desk at baseball-reference.com, the Brewers rank seventh at 9.Eight WAA. The beginning pitching by itself is at 10.Four WAA, whereas the remainder of the roster drags Milwaukee towards the center. With the bullpen brief a key arm, and having proven leaks currently anyway, is it attainable that efficiency-obsessed Craig Counsell would possibly ask extra of his rotation than in postseasons previous? He may need no selection. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: Via the top of August, Milwaukee ranked seventh in bullpen ERA and first in strikeout fee amongst relievers. Since then, the strikeout fee has remained elite, however the bullpen ERA has spiked to over 5.00. Fortunately, a few of that determine is because of poor pitching from gamers who will not be on the playoff roster. Unluckily, a kind of non-rostered gamers shall be star high-leverage righty Devin Williams, who broke his hand punching a wall and apparently by no means noticed “Bull Durham” to soak up its lesson about not hitting issues along with your pitching hand. Josh Hader stays dominant, however he wants assist. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: Corbin Burnes led the NL in ERA, Okay’s per 9, fewest walks per 9 and fewest house runs per 9 (simply seven in 167 innings). No pitcher had even led his league in simply SO/9 and BB/9 since Walter Johnson in 1913. The Brewers gained his remaining 12 begins. He made solely two begins all season on 4 days of relaxation, so he may need to regulate to beginning on shorter relaxation, however no pitcher dominated throughout the board in 2021 like Burnes. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Brewers: It is not simply Burnes. Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta have additionally been wonderful with sub-3.00 ERAs. Peralta will not pitch sufficient innings to formally qualify, however he held batters to a .165 common. After which they’ve Josh Hader to shut issues out. No marvel the Brewers led the majors in shutouts. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: Milwaukee will miss Devin Williams, who’s out with a damaged hand after the wall gained, however not as a lot as some assume: Atlanta hits changeups, which Williams throws greater than 63% of the time, higher than any group in baseball. Left-handed rookie Aaron Ashby will more-than-capably fill in as a pillar on the Josh Hader Bridge. — Passan


88-73 | NL East champs | 7.4% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

NLDS: 45.4% vs. MIL

NLCS: 33.2% vs. LAD | 34.2% vs. SF

WS: 39.2% vs. TB | 40.7% vs. HOU | 43.4% vs. CHW | 53.5% vs. BOS | 53.9% vs. NYY

Why they may go far: The historic output of the Braves’ infield has gotten a lot consideration, however after chasing .500 for many of the season, Atlanta’s burst to a repeat division title was extra as a result of improved pitching. Sustaining that’s the key to any hope the Braves have of taking part in deep into October. The starters have been stable all through, however after the commerce deadline, have posted the third-best rotation ERA in baseball. In the meantime, the bullpen was 18th in ERA earlier than the deadline. It’s fifth since then. Given an explosive however inconsistent offense, the Braves must preserve pitching at a excessive stage. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: Because the commerce deadline, when the Braves acquired quite a lot of alternative choices for his or her depleted outfield, Atlanta has been a potent first-pitch-hitting group able to hitting house runs in bunches. However what occurs in opposition to elite, postseason pitching? The Braves’ total swing fee is topped solely by Kansas Metropolis within the majors and towers over all people else on the NL bracket. No group has swung extra regularly at first pitches. This has contributed to some offensive inconsistency, however this is also what the Atlanta toolkit appears to be like like within the wake of Ronald Acuna Jr.’s harm and Marcell Ozuna’s off-field issues. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: Charlie Morton has been down this street earlier than, profitable each Recreation 7 of the ALCS and Recreation 7 of the World Collection for the Astros in 2017 (the one pitcher ever to try this). He gained three of his 4 playoff begins for the Rays final postseason and in his playoff profession he is 7-Three with a 3.38 ERA. He has pitched his finest baseball of 2021 the previous two months so he enters October on a constructive pattern. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Braves: The Braves grew to become simply the second group to have all 4 infielders hit 25-plus house runs — Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson. Freeman is the person to look at. Are these his remaining video games with the Braves? He is a free agent, and whereas many count on him to return to Atlanta, the very fact is he’s nonetheless unsigned and meaning there’s an opportunity he is some other place in 2022. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: Will Smith will pattern on Twitter at the very least 3 times. — Passan


Los Angeles Dodgers

106-56 | NL wild card | 15.3% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

WC: 63.1% vs. STL

NLDS: 51.6% vs. SF

NLCS: 63.5% vs. MIL | 66.8% vs. ATL

WS: 60.1% vs. TB | 61.6% vs. HOU | 64.2% vs. CHW | 73.1% vs. BOS | 73.4% vs. NYY

Why they may go far: Just about each forward-looking marker you wish to throw on the market paints the Dodgers as baseball’s finest group. Nicely, besides for 2: The Giants gained extra video games, and beat the Dodgers within the season collection. Nonetheless, the Dodgers’ anticipated report, primarily based on run differential, was for about 108 wins, by far baseball’s finest complete. A few of that was due to L.A.’s vaunted depth: The Dodgers outscored opponents by greater than 100 runs in low-leverage conditions, most in baseball. However lest you assume that inflated L.A.’s report, the Dodgers additionally led baseball in differential for high-leverage and medium-leverage conditions. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: Adam Wainwright. We prefer to say that the wild-card sport is a coin toss. That is principally true, however provided that the coin might by some means be weighted by the luster of the opposing sides. Taking part in at house in opposition to a group they towered above within the NL standings, the Dodgers are a robust favourite. Nevertheless it’s one sport, and even when St. Louis’ odds are 4-in-10, that is nail-biting time. As for Wainwright: Over 109 postseason innings, his ERA is almost a half-run higher than his regular-season mark, regardless of the heightened competitors. Additionally, you may need seen that St. Louis is absolutely rolling. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: Walker Buehler had a few hiccups in September that took him out of the Cy Younger working — together with one unhealthy begin in opposition to the Giants — however he has been clutch earlier than within the postseason and he is coming off his finest common season. In 11 profession postseason begins, he has a 2.35 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 61⅔ innings, elevating his strikeout fee from 9.Eight per 9 innings within the common season to 12.2. His six-pitch arsenal makes it tough to organize for him, even when seeing him the second time in a collection. And Buehler’s efficiency shall be much more vital for the Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw‘s postseason standing doubtful after an harm in his remaining begin of the common season. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Dodgers: Mookie Betts and Trea Turner are two of probably the most thrilling all-around gamers within the sport. Final October, we noticed the influence Betts could make simply along with his glove and legs and Turner is even quicker. Dave Roberts has settled right into a batting order with Betts main off and Turner hitting third, with Corey Seager sandwiched between them. The one hitch: Neither has hit as effectively within the postseason in his profession, Betts at .258/.343/.409 in 31 video games and Turner at .233/.286/.302 in 27 video games. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: Corey Seager wins his second consecutive World Collection MVP trophy — and this time does it with extra walks than strikeouts. — Passan


90-72 | NL wild card | 1.4% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

WC: 36.9% vs., LAD

NLDS: 34.4% vs. SF

NLCS: 43.2% vs. MIL | 46.8% vs. ATL

WS: 37.3% vs. TB | 38.8% vs. HOU | 41.4% vs. CHW | 44.4% vs. BOS | 46.9% vs. NYY

Why they may go far: The Cardinals do it their method and even when that leaves them swimming in opposition to pervading developments, they end above .500 each season and, right here they’re, again within the playoffs. St. Louis’ closing kick, which included a franchise-record 17-game hitting streak, sends them into Dodger Stadium on a crest wave. Nonetheless, St. Louis did not simply get sizzling at a key time when its playoff hopes have been flagging, the group modified issues. Hurlers who walked too many batters have been axed. Edmundo Sosa performed extra at shortstop. The bullpen was shuffled. Because the center of August, St. Louis owns baseball’s fifth-best run differential. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: The Cardinals rank within the backside 5 in walks issued and strikeouts on the season. They play nice protection and have finished a great job of limiting homers. Because the commerce deadline, the Cardinals have been significantly better at limiting walks, however the strikeout fee is the sport’s lowest and the homers have been barely up. All of this factors to hassle in opposition to disciplined, highly effective groups just like the Dodgers and Giants, the 100-win behemoths the Cardinals must beat with a purpose to get into the late rounds. You clearly cannot rule out this yr’s Redbirds, however it’s a tricky street. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: Cardinals followers would possibly bounce at Yadier Molina, who definitely has his share of clutch hits within the postseason. Total, nevertheless, he hasn’t been that particular within the playoffs with 4 house runs, 36 RBIs and a .699 OPS in 101 profession playoff video games. Let’s go along with Paul Goldschmidt, who has been on hearth with a second-half OPS over 1.00Zero whereas hitting .391 with seven house runs in the course of the group’s 17-game profitable streak in September. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Cardinals: There are few issues in baseball as thrilling as watching Harrison Bader run the bases or chase down balls in heart discipline, his lengthy blond hair flowing out from beneath his helmet or cap as if he is some Greek warrior heading off to Thermopylae. Except it is Tyler O’Neill, who’s constructed like a Greek god and runs like Cool Papa Bell. Bader’s high dash pace is within the 97th percentile of all gamers and O’Neill is a hair quicker, rating within the 98th percentile. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: They won’t win one in a row, not to mention 17. — Passan


American League

Tampa Bay Rays

100-62 | AL East champs | 17.0% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

ALDS: 63.6% vs. BOS | 63.9% vs. NYY

ALCS: 52.8% vs. HOU | 55.5% vs. CHW

WS: 39.9% vs. LAD | 43.5% vs. SF | 57.3% vs. MIL | 60.8% vs. ATL | 62.7% vs. STL

Why they may go far: Postseason video games so typically come right down to which group wins the late innings, and this yr’s Rays look significantly well-positioned to win these tight contests. Of the groups within the playoffs, Tampa Bay — by far — obtained the bottom mileage out of beginning pitching this season. When the center innings hit, the Rays are prepared to start out matching up. It is how they’re constructed. Their depth of relievers does not simply shield leads, however even when the Rays fall behind, it retains them in video games. It is why the Rays ranked on the high of the charts in comeback wins all season. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: The Rays scored runs at an elite clip in the course of the common season, however it was not a well-balanced assault. Of the groups headed for the playoffs, the Rays are the third-most depending on homers to get runs, and no group’s plate appearances have been dominated by the next share of the three true outcomes. After all, this strategy can work within the playoffs, when stringing collectively rallies is difficult. Nevertheless, for it to work, the Rays must preserve hitting the ball out of the park. If they do not, the regular-season model of the offense did not have numerous contingencies. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: This is your enjoyable stat of the yr: The Rays scored extra runs than the Blue Jays. They do not have a Triple Crown candidate. They do not have a record-setting second baseman. They do not have 4 gamers with 100 RBIs. They led the league in strikeouts. They hit house runs with guys on base and ship clutch hits. So this might be anyone. Nelson Cruz has the postseason pedigree, though he hasn’t torn it up since coming over from the Twins, and he would possibly even sit in opposition to some righties. Sleeper choose: Drew Rasmussen made eight begins for the reason that center of August and posted a 1.46 ERA with one house run allowed in 37 innings, though he hasn’t gone greater than 5 innings in any outing. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Rays: Rookies! The Rays try to win with a 20-year-old rookie shortstop in Wander Franco. Just one different 20-year-old shortstop has performed within the World Collection, Travis Jackson with the Giants in 1924 (he is within the Corridor of Fame). After all, Franco is not any bizarre 20-year-old and lit up the ultimate two months. Randy Arozarena, final yr’s postseason hero, continues to be a rookie. Shane McClanahan has been the group’s finest starter. Shane Baz, with fewer than 20 profession innings, is perhaps within the rotation. Luis Patino is a rookie and will begin. J.P. Feyereisen is a key reliever. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: Franco will set an American League report for many complete bases in a single sport by a participant youthful than 21 years previous. The present mark is 5, by Mickey Mantle and Rafael Devers. The foremost league report? 9, by 19-year-old Andruw Jones in 1996. — Passan


95-67 | AL West champs | 13.9% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

ALDS: 53.8% vs. CHW

ALCS: 47.2% vs. TB | 62.Four vs. BOS | 62.6% vs. NYY

WS: 38.Four vs. LAD | 41.9 vs. SF | 53.2% vs. MIL | 59.3% vs. ATL | 61.2% vs. STL

Why they may go far: If the Astros’ offense is at full throttle, Houston will characteristic probably the most well-balanced assault of the postseason. The Astros hit for common, do not strike out, hit lefties and righties, hit at house, on the street and in scoring conditions. Houston has energy hitters, however is not reliant on house runs to attain. It is an offense that properly balances persistence and aggression. Clearly the pitching will get harder in October, and the Rays — a attainable ALCS opponent ought to the Astros advance — throttled Houston’s hitters in the course of the season. However Houston has a extra different offensive toolkit than any group on the bracket. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: The composition of Houston’s playoff pitching workers can have one thing to do with this, however the Astros might get into hassle if their hurlers fall behind too regularly. The Astros ranked within the backside third throughout baseball permitting walks in the course of the common season, and that was true of each the starters and relievers. Maybe much more worrisome is that solely the Royals threw a decrease share of first-pitch strikes, which might be a specific drawback in opposition to playoff-caliber offenses. After leaping forward on the primary pitch, the Astros allowed only a .563 OPS; once they did not that quantity leaped to .923. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: When Lance McCullers Jr. has that curveball working good and he is finding his fastball he could be as unhittable as any pitcher within the sport. Batters are hitting .144 in opposition to the curve (which he throws to lefties) and .148 in opposition to the slider (which he throws barely more durable and to right-handed batters). He does not hand over many house runs and has loads of postseason expertise, if that issues. He is the Houston pitcher almost definitely to run a string of 4 or 5 nice begins in a row. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Astros: Do not we have now to contemplate Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve one of many biggest double-play combos of all time? Correa got here up in 2015, so that is their seventh season collectively. In that span, Correa ranks sixth in Baseball-Reference WAR amongst place gamers and Altuve seventh. With Correa heading into free company, these might be their remaining video games manning the center for Houston. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: Tens of 1000’s of individuals will develop pissed off when the postseason efficiency of outfielder Jose Siri prompts them — or a equally voiced announcer — to inadvertently interact their iPhone’s voice assistant. — Passan


93-69 | AL Central champs | 9.6% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

ALDS: 46.2% vs. HOU

ALCS: 44.5% vs. TB | 61.3% vs. BOS | 61.6% vs. NYY

WS: 35.8% vs. LAD | 39.3% vs. SF | 50.5% vs. MIL | 56.6% vs. ATL | 58.6% vs. STL

Why they may go far: The White Sox’s pitching workers posted the very best common pitch velocity amongst postseason golf equipment, and solely the Brewers had the next strikeout fee. In different phrases: Chicago misses bats. The speed is partly as a result of the Sox have numerous arduous throwers, however it’s additionally as a result of they lean closely on excessive, arduous stuff. The bullpen is stuffed with flamethrowers, so if Chicago’s starters can get into the center innings in fine condition, Tony La Russa can then parade Michael Kopech, Aaron Bummer, Garrett Crochet, Craig Kimbrel and Liam Hendricks in to guard a lead. This group was constructed for October. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: Chicago’s largest drawback would possibly merely be the way in which the bracket units up. The White Sox have one of many postseason’s most various offenses, however their first opponent — Houston — has that very same high quality and to the next diploma. Chicago’s power on the pitching facet is velocity and strikeouts. No group strikes out much less regularly than Houston. That stated, Houston did not submit nice numbers in opposition to elite velocity (at the very least 96 mph). Nonetheless, it is a tough matchup for Chicago, which would seem to line up higher in opposition to whomever it’d face within the ALCS — if the White Sox can simply get there. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: Luis Robert missed greater than half the season, so his partial-season numbers have not gained consideration, however he was hitting .347.385/.574 heading into the ultimate weekend of the common season, together with .365 since returning on Aug. 9 with 24 extra-base hits in 40 video games. Observe the speedy enchancment in his swing-and-miss fee from 2020: 41.5% right down to 28%. If the White Sox make a run it is possible as a result of Robert retains terrorizing opposing pitchers. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the White Sox: Tim Anderson is the self-proclaimed most fun participant in baseball, however the nod right here goes to Robert. He is sturdy, he is quick, he hits rockets and he is a gifted heart fielder (he gained the Gold Glove as a rookie final season). However you are enjoyable to look at too, Tim! — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: The White Sox’s bullpen will throw the very best share of fastballs and register the very best common fastball velocity of the 10 playoff groups. — Passan


92-70 | AL wild card | 6.3% World Collection odds

Odds by spherical

ALDS: 36.4% vs. TB

ALCS: 36.1% vs. HOU | 38.7% vs. CHW

WS: 26.9% vs. LAD | 29.9% vs. SF | 40.4% vs. MIL | 46.5% vs. ATL | 55.6% vs. STL

Why they may go far: The AL bracket will characteristic round 50 gamers who gathered at the very least 250 plate appearances in the course of the season. Seven of the highest 25 by OPS are on the Pink Sox, which speaks to the depth and stability of one among baseball’s most prolific offenses. Everybody is aware of about J.D. Martinez, Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers, however over the second half of the season, Kyle Schwarber and Bobby Dalbec have been two of the most popular hitters within the large leagues. The offense has been higher at Fenway Park than away from it, however it is a veteran group that places up runs. — Doolittle

What might ship them house early: Pitching. The Pink Sox can have the worst runs in opposition to common and highest OPS allowed of any postseason membership. Briefly, Boston’s success in the course of the common season has been due to the offense. Solely 25% of outings for the Boston rotation resulted in high quality begins, and the developments have not gotten significantly better because the season has progressed, regardless of the return to motion by Chris Sale. This places undue strain on the Boston bullpen, which itself has seen its again finish in flux. The problem for Alex Cora shall be to seek out the precise arm for the precise high-leverage scenario. — Doolittle

Almost certainly October hero: The almost definitely situation has the Boston offense stepping up and bashing its method to a title, however you are going to want some pitching alongside the way in which and Nathan Eovaldi is the very best guess to go off. Chris Sale has been advantageous since coming back from Tommy John surgical procedure however has topped out at 95 pitches, so he won’t get deep into video games. Eovaldi can carry a heavier workload, maybe pitch on brief relaxation or in reduction (as he did in 2018) and he has changed into a strike-throwing machine who has been stingy with the house runs. — Schoenfield

Most enjoyable factor concerning the Pink Sox: They hit the ball arduous. The Yankees, Pink Sox and Blue Jays ranked 1-2-Three in hard-hit fee (primarily tied at 42% on balls of 95-plus mph), however the Pink Sox led the majors in wOBA on contact. All these hits off the Inexperienced Monster helped that determine — the Pink Sox simply led the majors in doubles — however the lineup is loaded with large, sturdy dudes, together with Kyle Schwarber, who has been the group’s finest hitter down the stretch. — Schoenfield

One daring October prediction: The Pink Sox batter who most constantly hits the ball arduous (95-plus mph) will not be Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, J.D. Martinez or Kyle Schwarber. It will likely be rookie Bobby Dalbec. — Passan

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