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MLB Division Series 2019 preview and predictions

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Washington Nationals celebrate their victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the 2019 National League Wildcard Game

 

With a pair of wildcard playoff games in the books, the 2019 Major League Baseball postseason is now fully underway.

The host Washington Nationals rallied in dramatic fashion, scoring three times in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wildcard Game on Tuesday night.

Then last night, the visiting Tampa Bay Rays scored four times over the first three innings and coasted to a 5-1 victory over the host Oakland Athletics.

With those opening salvos in the books, the drama will only ratchet up a notch as the weather turns cooler across the nation over the coming weeks of October baseball.

The match-ups are now set for a pair of Division Series in both the National and American Leagues. Those best-of-five series will get underway in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, and Atlanta over the next two days.

Having predicted victories by Washington and Oakland in the Wildcard games, I am 1-1 thus far in this postseason.

The following are my picks for each of the four Division Series. I have also listed the scheduled dates, times, location, and TV network for each game in the series as well as the likely pitching match-ups for the first three contests. TBA means that no time has been set as yet.

The numbers in parentheses are where each team finished in my final 2019 MLB Power Rankings of all 30 big-league ball clubs.

ALDS: New York Yankees  (10 ) vs. Minnesota Twins (5)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 7:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on MLBN: James Paxton (NYY) vs Jose Berrios (Min)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 5:07 PM EDT at Yankee Stadium on FS1: Masahiro Tanaka (NYY) vs Jake Odorizzi (Min)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Target Field on FS1: Luis Severino (NYY) vs Kyle Gibson/as primary with possible “opener” used (Min)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Target Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Yankee Stadium on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Yankees in three

ALDS: Houston Astros (2) vs. Tampa Bay Rays (4)

  1. Friday, 10/04, 2:05 PM EDT at Minute Maid Park on FS1, TBS: Justin Verlander (Hou) vs Tyler Glasnow (TB)
  2. Saturday, 10/05, 9:07 PM EDT at Minute Main Park on FS1: Gerrit Cole (Hou) vs Blake Snell (TB)
  3. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Tropicana Field on MLBN: Zack Greinke (Hou) vs Charlie Morton (TB)
  4. Tuesday, 10/08, TBA at Tropicana Field on FS1: if necessary
  5. Thursday, 10/10, TBA at Minute Maid Park on FS1: if necessary

PREDICTION: Astros in five

 

NLDS: Atlanta Braves (11) vs. Saint Louis Cardinals (6)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 5:02 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Dallas Keuchel (Atl) vs Miles Mikolas (StL)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 4:37 PM EDT at SunTrust Park on TBS: Mike Foltynewicz (Atl) vs Jack Flaherty (StL)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 4:10 PM EDT at Busch Stadium on TBS: Mike Soroka (Atl) vs Adam Wainwright (StL)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Busch Stadium on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at SunTrust Park on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Cardinals in four

 

NLDS: Los Angeles Dodgers (3) vs. Washington Nationals (9)

  1. Thursday, 10/03, 8:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Walker Buehler (LAD) vs Patrick Corbin (Was)
  2. Friday, 10/04, 9:37 PM EDT at Dodger Stadium on TBS: Clayton Kershaw (LAD) vs Stephen Strasburg (Was)
  3. Sunday, 10/06, 7:45 PM EDT at Nationals Park on TBS: Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) vs Max Scherzer (Was)
  4. Monday, 10/07, TBA at Nationals Park on TBS: if necessary
  5. Wednesday, 10/09, TBA at Dodger Stadium on TBS: if necessary

PREDICTION: Dodgers in five

 

Once these series have fully ended and the match-ups have been set for each League Championship Series, I will come back with a preview and prediction for each of those.

MLB 2019 Power Ranking: Mid-September

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The Oakland Athletics ascend to the top of the MLB Power Rankings as we head down the stretch

 

For the fourth straight period, my hometown Philadelphia Phillies find themselves at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the stretch run in the middle of September.

The club also remains ranked in the 7th position among teams from the National League. Sitting at four games behind the 9th-ranked Chicago Cubs in the actual race for the final NL Wildcard playoff berth, the Phillies 2019 season is now officially on life support. They still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies embark on a three-city, 11-game road trip taking them to Atlanta (3), Cleveland (3) and Washington (5) leading up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins. The Fish have the worst record in the National League, but sport a winning 9-7 mark against the Phillies this season.

As stated each period, my own  feelings have no input into these MLB Power Rankings. Instead, each team’s position is all about actual performance: their results in the standings, as well as key statistical categories.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

My formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

Currently, that formula is made up of the following categories: winning percentage, runs-per-gameOPS against, and “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs.

However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped. So, here in September, overall winning percentage has been replaced by each team’s win percentage over their most recent 30 games.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component reflects each team’s ability to actually win ball games. ‘OPS against’ reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

The runs-per-game component acknowledges that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Each club’s place in the four component categories gets them assigned a 1-30 numerical value. Those are added up to determine a final ranking points total.

Where there are any ties, those are broken using each team’s winning percentage over the last 30, and then by their current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 16 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Oakland Athletics have made a dramatic surge up the Power Rankings over the course of the summer. At 8th place in the first rankings back on June 1, Oakland fell to 12th on June 15.

But then by July 1, the A’s had risen to become the 5th-ranked ball club. They have remained in the top five ever since, finishing as runners-up to the Houston Astros on Labor Day.

Houston ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, then returned to the top on Labor Day, and now flip places with Oakland.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the National League’s top team for most of the summer. But on Labor Day they were passed by the Atlanta Braves. Now, both Atlanta and the red-hot Saint Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Dodgers among the NL ball clubs.

The Dodgers, however, have clinched their seventh consecutive NL West Division crown. The following are the “Magic Number” for each team to clinch their respective division title:

AL East: New York – 3, AL Central: Minnesota – 9, AL West: Houston – 5, NL East: Atlanta – 4, NL Central: Saint Louis – 12. Teams have between 11 and 13 games remaining on their 2019 regular season schedules.

In addition, each league’s Wildcard race features three teams within three games of one another in the loss column in the battle for two available spots. In the AL those are Oakland (60), Tampa Bay (62) and Cleveland (63), while in the NL the teams are Washington (66), Chicago (68) and Milwaukee (69).

In parentheses below are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on Labor Day.

  1. Oakland Athletics (15-2)
  2. Houston Astros (23-1)
  3. Atlanta Braves (28-3)
  4. Saint Louis Cardinals (33-6)
  5. Minnesota Twins (33-5)
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers (35-4)
  7. Washington Nationals (37-7)
  8. Tampa Bay Rays (37-11)
  9. Chicago Cubs (37-12)
  10. New York Yankees (39-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (42-13)
  12. Cleveland Indians (42-10)
  13. Arizona Diamondbacks (42-8)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (52-14)
  15. Milwaukee Brewers (65-19)
  16. New York Mets (65-15)
  17. San Diego Padres (68-16)
  18. Los Angeles Angels (70-17)
  19. Cincinnati Reds (71-18)
  20. Texas Rangers (74-20)
  21. San Francisco Giants (74-21)
  22. Kansas City Royals (80-23)
  23. Colorado Rockies (81-24)
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates (89-22)
  25. Seattle Mariners (90-28)
  26. Toronto Blue Jays (95-25)
  27. Miami Marlins (95-26)
  28. Chicago White Sox (99-27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (107-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (113-30)

The next MLB Power Rankings will be the final for the 2019 regular season. They will be released here following the final game of the regular season.

However, if there are any play-in games for a Wildcard berth, the final rankings will include and be released following any such game(s) played.

MLB 2019 Power Ranking – Labor Day

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we push past the Labor Day weekend and move into the final month of September.

In this early September version of the Power Rankings, the Phillies remain right where they were on both August 1 and August 15 among all teams in Major League Baseball. They also remain as the 7th ranked team in the National League.

On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. They slipped a notch by mid-August, to seventh in the NL, and the standings continue to reflect that slippage.

The club remains two games in back of the second National League Wildcard playoff berth. That is exactly where they stood on August 15, showing just how difficult it is to make up ground without going on an extended winning streak. The Phillies still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies are now in the midst of a September stretch that has them playing 18 of 23 games on the road. That will lead up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins, who have played the Phillies tough all year.

The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. That is where the attention of Phillies fans who are still holding out hope of a 2019 postseason berth now needs to focus. The Phillies trail Chicago by two games in the loss column as of this moment.

My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.

I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field.

There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved. The MLB Power Rankings will again be updated here at my website on the 15th of September, with a final ranking to come at the end of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped.

So, for this month of September that “winning percentage” is being replaced. Instead, to get the ‘Win-Loss’ component, each team’s record over their most recent 30 games is being used.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

Also for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Earlier this summer, the defensive component was changed as well. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.

I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there were any ties, I broke those using each team’s current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 4 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Houston Astros, who were ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, return to the top of the Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were at the top in my last rankings back on August 15 and have been the National League’s top team all year, have slipped.

The Atlanta Braves are now the new top team in the National League. The Braves and Washington Nationals, who have moved into the overall top ten for the first time this season, are tied for baseball’s best record over the last 30 games.

In parentheses are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on August 15.

  1. Houston Astros (24 – 2)
  2. Oakland Athletics (25 – 4)
  3. Atlanta Braves (27 – 9)
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (31 – 1)
  5. Minnesota Twins (31 – 3)
  6. Saint Louis Cardinals (32 – 12)
  7. Washington Nationals (33 – 13)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (35 – 8)
  9. New York Yankees (37 – 7)
  10. Cleveland Indians (38 – 5)
  11. Tampa Bay Rays (39 – 6)
  12. Chicago Cubs (40 – 10)
  13. Boston Red Sox (43 – 11)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (53 – 14)
  15. New York Mets (65 – 19)
  16. San Diego Padres (65 – 18)
  17. Los Angeles Angels (68 – 15)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (71 – 17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (72 – 16)
  20. Texas Rangers (78 – 21)
  21. San Francisco Giants (79 – 20)
  22. Pittsburgh Pirates (83 – 28)
  23. Kansas City Royals (84 – 22)
  24. Colorado Rockies (88 – 23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (89 – 25)
  26. Miami Marlins (92 – 24)
  27. Chicago White Sox (93 – 26)
  28. Seattle Mariners (93 – 27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (109 – 29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (112 – 30)

As 2019 countdown reaches eight, Phillies remain in postseason hunt

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Phillies need Bryce Harper to play like a superstar to reach playoffs

Our weekly countdown towards the end of the 2019 Major League Baseball regular season now reaches ‘8’ – just eight more weeks left for the Philadelphia Phillies as they attempt to return to the postseason for the first time in eight years.

The Phillies are coming off another disheartening weekend, one in which the club dropped two of three to the lowly Chicago White Sox, owners of the seventh-worst record in MLB even after winning the series.
Still, the Fightin’ Phils remain tied with the division-rival Washington Nationals for the second National League Wildcard playoff berth at the moment. Those two have just one more loss than the Saint Louis Cardinals, who currently control the top Wildcard spot. Two are available.
Three more teams are right behind the Phillies and Nationals, all in the race still. But the real threat may be coming from a team that was way back just a few weeks ago.
Another NL East rival, the New York Mets, have won 15 of their last 20 games to move within a game of the .500 mark and within three games in the Wildcard race. Having obtained Marcus Stroman at the MLB trade deadline, the Mets may have the best starting pitching among all the teams still in the hunt.
This current winning streak from New York makes them one of three teams from the division to get hot over a lengthy stretch. The Braves won 28 of 38 between June 1 and July 15 to take over the division lead. After a horrendous start, the Nats went 36-15 pver two full months from May 24 to July 24.
The Phillies are the only team to have no such streak this season. The club has won as many as four in a row on four different occasions, the last more than a month ago in late June. The saving grace for the Phillies is that they have largely avoided fully tanking. From May 30 to June 24, the club lost 16 of 22. Outside of that, they have just two streaks of as many as three losses in a row all season long.
Can the Phillies take their turn, and go on a true winning spurt? If so, they not only would likely open up some distance in the Wildcard race, but they would get back into the hunt for a division crown. Do they have another big losing downturn in them? If so, they drop out of things, much as what happened with the 2018 ball club. Or maybe they simply tread water all year long. That might be the outcome which causes more angina and hair loss among the fan base than any other.
The following are the division and Wildcard standings with this week’s schedules in parentheses:

NL EAST STANDINGS

  1. Atlanta Braves 66-47 (at MIN – 3, at MIA – 4)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals 58-53 (Phillies: at ARZ – 3, at SF – 4)

NL WILDCARD STANDINGS

  1. Saint Lous Cardinals 58-52 (at LAD – 3, PIT – 3)
  2. Philadelphia Phillies and Washington Nationals 58-53 (Nats: at SF – 3, at NYM – 3)
  3. Milwaukee Brewers 57-56 (at PIT – 3, TEX – 3)
  4. Arizona Diamondbacks and San Francisco Giants 56-56 (Dbacks: PHI – 3, at LAD – 3) / (SF: WAS – 3, PHI – 4)
  5. New York Mets 55-56 (MIA – 4, WAS – 3)

Phillies crush Braves by 9-4 to salvage series finale at Citizens Bank Park

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J.T. Realmuto blasted a grand slam as one of four Phillies homers

The host Philadelphia Phillies (55-50) used the long ball, blasting four home runs to power past the Atlanta Braves (62-43) and salvage the series finale with a 9-4 victory on Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

Atlanta took the first two in this weekend set between the NL East Division rivals despite being out-hit by the Phillies by a 36-31 margin over the three games.
Still, this was a big victory for the Phillies. It came on a day when starting pitcher Aaron Nola looked to be totally in control, was given a big lead, and then suddenly hit a wall on a hot afternoon in South Philly, nearly blowing that lead before being bailed out by his offense.
The Phillies broke out on top with a pair of solo home runs. Bryce Harper started the scoring by slamming his 18th deep to center field off a first-pitch fastball from Braves starter Kevin Gausman in the bottom of the 1st inning. Then in the home 3rd, Adam Haseley lofted his third home run of the season just over the center field fence to give the Phillies a 2-0 lead.
Adam Haseley’s solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the 3rd has made it a 2-0 Phillies lead.

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While Nola was keeping Atlanta off the scoreboard through the first half of the ball game, the Phillies offense was having a typically difficult time opening up their lead. That is, until the home 5th inning.  Nola led off with his second hit of the day. That was followed by singles from Scott Kingery and Jean Segura to load the bases with nobody out and the Phillies 3-4-5 hitters due up to bat.
For a few minutes, it appeared that this would be yet another disheartening wasted opportunity. Harper struck out, and then Rhys Hoskins popped to shallow center. With two outs now, J.T. Realmuto stepped in and battled the count full. Then pumped a 96 MPH four-seam fastball right down the pike, and the Phillies catcher turned it around, crushing the ball way out over the left field wall for a grand slam to push the lead out to 6-0.
JT Realmuto blows it open with a grand slam in the bottom of the 5th inning, pushing Phillies lead out to 6-0.

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This one seemed well in hand, with Nola mowing through the Braves. And then suddenly he ran out of gas in the top of the 7th inning. It started as he walked Josh Donaldson after battling to a full count. After Brian McCann singled, Nola struck out Adam Duvall and got ahead 1-2 on Ender Inciarte.

Nola battled in this one, shutting out the Braves for most of the day before running out of steam in the top of the 7th inning. (Photo by Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)
Nola then made his first truly big mistake. He left a meaty 90 MPH two-seam fastball right out over the middle of the plate. Inciarte didn’t miss it, putting a nice and easy swing on the ball and driving it out over the right field wall to cut the Phillies lead down to 6-3. On the very next pitch, Johan Camargo crushed a changeup from Nola out to right as well, and that suddenly the Phillies cushion was just 6-4.
Nola got Matt Joyce to fly out, but then Ronald Acuna Jr. singled to bring Ozzie Albies to the plate as the tying run. Acuna took off, stealing second base. On that play, Segura took the throw from Realmuto, but seemed to get his foot jammed on the second base bag. Segura came up limping and had to leave the ball game, helped off the field.
That outcome caused manager Gabe Kapler to bring Kingery, who had started in center field, in to take over at shortstop, putting Roman Quinn out in center. Meanwhile, Acuna also had trouble after sliding in head-first to the bag. He would also end up leaving the game.
Albies worked a walk, and that would be all for Nola. Calling to his bullpen for Adam Morgan, Kapler went for the lefty-on-lefty match-up as the dangerous Freddie Freeman came up with a chance to give the Braves the lead. Morgan won the battle, getting Atlanta’s three-hole hitter to fly out to center, and the Phillies kept ahold of the lead at 6-4.
Often times in this frustrating season, the Phillies offense would run dry and the bullpen would squander the lead, and the club would suffer a disheartening defeat. That would not be the case on this afternoon.
In their half of the 7th, the Phillies offense responded. Harper drew a one-out walk, and Rhys Hoskins followed by blasting a two-run home run to left, pushing the lead out to 8-4. Then with two outs and two runners on, Haseley delivered again, ripping a ground RBI single to right field, give the Phillies their final cushion of 9-4.
Nick Pivetta would come on to shut down the Braves over the final two frames, allowing just one hit while striking out two batters, including Charlie Culberson to end the game. The win went to Nola, who moved to 9-4 on the season. The Phillies will now enjoy another off-day on Monday before welcoming the hot San Francisco Giants to town for a three-game series beginning on Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.

SHIBE VINTAGE SPORTS STARTING PITCHING PERFORMANCE

Phillies – Aaron Nola: 6.2 IP, 7 hits (2 HR), 4 earned, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts. 102 pitches, 72 for strikes
Braves – Kevin Gausman: 6 IP, 9 hits (3 HR), 6 earned, 1 walk, 8 strikeouts. 100 pitches, 70 for strikes

PHILLIES NUGGETS PLAYER OF THE GAME: J.T. REALMUTO

The Phillies catcher stepped to the plate in a game that was still up in the air. With a 2-0 lead, the Phillies had loaded the bases with nobody out in the 5th inning. But after Harper struck out and Hoskins popped out easily, it appeared as though Gausman would wriggle off the hook. Realmuto made sure that didn’t happen, with the All-Star catcher crushing a grand slam to make it 6-0.

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