Birds Watcher: Who we’re rooting for during the MLB Playoffs
By Tim Smart
The Baltimore Orioles season may be over, but the MLB Playoffs are just beginning. Who we’re rooting for as we head into October
Just because our beloved Baltimore Orioles suffered through the worst season in franchise history doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the MLB Playoffs this year.
In fact, I’m even more excited about it because it means I’ll finally be able to watch good baseball on a daily basis for a couple weeks before we head into the true off-season.
While the American League bracket is ready to go, including the Wild Card game on Wednesday, we have what should be two exciting tiebreaker-games this afternoon to determine playoff seeding in the National League.
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The winner of the Chicago-Milwaukee game (1pm eastern) will earn first place in the NL and home-field advantage throughout the NL bracket, while the loser will host the NL Wild Card game on Tuesday.
The winner of the Los Angeles-Colorado game (4pm eastern) will host Atlanta in the NLDS, while the loser will head to either Chicago or Milwaukee for the play-in game.
So with the MLB Playoffs upon us, and our beloved Baltimore Orioles sitting on the sidelines, who should we be pulling for to take the World Series a month from now? Let’s break it down by league to get a better idea.
Spoiler: My Orioles bias will likely keep me from cheering on any of the AL teams, especially considering two of our AL East rivals will be contending for the title.
Boston Red Sox (last title-2013)- They do have some old friends in Steve Pearce and Eduardo Rodriguez, and the Mookie Betts/JD Martinez combo is one of the best in baseball, but it’s near impossible to see myself pulling for the Red Sox this postseason. The Orioles went 3-16 against the Sox this year with a -61 run differential. I’d rather see them win than the Yankees, but I’d prefer neither.
New York Yankees (2009) – Speaking of the Yankees, this is the easiest team for me to write off. The Orioles fared better against the Yankees this year than the Red Sox, going 7-12 with a -34 run differential, but there’s no scenario where I root for the Yankees, even with Zach Britton on the mound. Here’s to hoping they lose 15-0 to the A’s in the Wild Card game.
Oakland Athletics (1989)- Matt Chapman is one of the most exciting young players in baseball and I’m hoping we get to watch him for another few weeks. They also have Blake Treinen, who has had one of the best run-prevention seasons in recent history; he has an 0.78 ERA and his 19 ERA- leads the majors.
Cleveland Indians (1948)- Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are up there with the most entertaining players to watch in MLB, and Corey Kluber will receive down-ballot AL Cy Young votes this year. There’s no denying they’re fun to watch, and their ALDS match-up against the Astros should be one of the best in the Divisional Round. They also have the longest World Series drought in the majors, at 60 years.
Houston Astros (2017)- When you think of the reigning World Series champs, you probably think Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer, but their best hitter this year has been Alex Bregman, who has a 156 OPS+ with 31 homers. With Justin Verlander (likely a top-2 AL Cy Young candidate), Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, this is the most talented team in the majors.
Atlanta Braves (1995)- Slight bias here because Freddie Freeman is my favorite non-Orioles player, but they also have some old friends in Kevin Gausman and Nick Markakis. Markakis has had an excellent career and finally got an All-Star appearance this season. The Braves are young and very exciting, but I’m not sure how far they get into the postseason.
Chicago Cubs (2016)- It’s funny how the Cubs have gone from lovable losers to evil empire in waiting over the past five years; the Cubs are the Yankees of the NL. Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez are all fun to watch, but do we really want to see the Cubs push deep into October again?
Milwaukee Brewers (never)- The Brewers have shown MLB that you don’t have to take the Astros/Cubs tanking route to have a successful run. Christian Yelich is making a late MVP run, and Josh Hader has been one of the most overpowering relievers in MLB this year, but the Brewers have limited starting pitching depth. Could 2018 hold the Brewers first World Series title in franchise history?
Colorado Rockies (never)- The Rockies have the 6th worst wRC+ in the majors; they’ve succeeded in spite of their offense and it’s somewhat of a miracle they’ve made it this far. However, anything can happen in a short series, and their one-game tiebreaker with the Dodgers will be huge for them. Win and they host the Braves in a 5-game series; lose and they have a do-or-die away game against one of the best two teams in the NL.
Los Angeles Dodgers (1988)- The Dodgers are in a tough spot – their team has been devastated by injuries and that they’ve made it this far is an accomplishment in itself. However, their rabid fan-base won’t accept anything but a World Series title. Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher since Pedro Martinez, and they do have Manny Machado. But I’m not sure I can hop on that bandwagon knowing the state of the fan-base.
And the winner is…
It’s hard to not pull for the Brewers here, but I’ll be rooting for the Atlanta Braves. They’re fun to watch, they’re miles ahead of their rebuild-pace and they have two of the most exciting young players in baseball in Ronald Acuna Jr. and Ozzie Albies.
Combine that with the special interest in pulling for Nick Markakis to succeed in every situation and Freddie Freeman being an outstanding talent, and I’m certain that I’ll be pulling for the Braves in October.