Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Joey's Soapbox: My 2019 Not-At-All Biased Division Series Picks

Minnesota hit the target (the outfield seats) a major-league record 307 times.  (Ed Leyro/Studious Metsimus)

Hey, everyone!  This is Joey Beartran, and it's time to share my picks for the American and National League Division Series.  As usual, none of these picks will be biased because I'd lose all my credibility if they were.  You know, kinda like when the Wilpons lose their credibility as big-market owners every year during free agent signing season.

All my picks will be based as endless data that I've pored over for days.  I've considered pitching matchups, weather factors, if a stadium favors one team over another, and who's playing that team from the Bronx.  All of that information has led me to pick four winners who will compete in the League Championship Series.

Who will advance?  Will Minnesota do what no Twins team has done before in October against the Yankees?  Will the Nationals finally win a playoff series?  (Don't you dare say they just did.  They won the Wild Card Game, not the Wild Card Series.)  Will Houston have a problem against Tampa Bay?  And will I watch any games in the series featuring the last two teams to eliminate the Mets in the NLCS (Braves in 1999, Cardinals in 2006)?

The time has come for me to share my Division Series picks.

National League Division Series

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Atlanta Braves

I'm only picking the winner of this series because I have to, not because I want to.  Both teams have been a thorn in the Mets' side over the years, so I'm not particularly thrilled that one of them is going to play for the right to represent the National League in the World Series.  But I'm a professional, so I'll actually pick a team to win for a reason other than a meteor striking the other team's dugout, frying every player on the roster to a crisp and causing a forfeit.

The Cardinals made the playoffs as a division champion despite having the tenth-best record in the majors.  Their team batting average was only .245 and they had the fourth-fewest homers in the National League.  Their starting rotation is Jack Flaherty and the Mediocre Men.  If you want to argue that Dakota Hudson had a 16-7 record, I'll respond by pointing at his 1.41 WHIP.  Bring up Adam Wainwright and his Death-To-Beltran curveball and I'll show you his 4.19 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and .782 OPS against him.  Plus, Yadier Molina is playing in his 20th postseason series.  I've had enough of seeing him in October.

Meanwhile, Atlanta earned their trip to the playoff party, winning 97 games and graciously allowing the Mets to sweep them at the end of the season so that New York could finish ten games above .500.  Now that's southern hospitality right there.

Up, up and away. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) 
The Braves have Freddie Freeman, Ronald Acuña Jr, Ozzie Albies and Josh Donaldson leading the offense, while the rotation of Mike Soroka, Dallas Keuchel, Max Fried and Julio Teheran is among the best in the league.  But those players aren't why I'm leaning towards picking Atlanta.

#VoteMarkakis.  It was cool in 2013.  It's still cool now.  And Nick Markakis - who's advanced to the League Championship Series just once in his 14-year career - is going to make the Cardinals buckle before him.  You know, kinda like what Adam Wainwright did to that future Hall of Famer in 2006.

I'm voting Braves in this series.

Prediction: Braves in 4.

Washington Nationals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Let me begin by bringing up something I mentioned before.  The Nationals have never won a postseason series.  Ever.  They won the Wild Card GAME, not the Wild Card SERIES.  Plus, Wikipedia told me they haven't won a playoff series, and as we all know, if Wikipedia says so, then it must be true.

That being said, the Dodgers have too many weapons for Washington to handle.

Whatever.  (David Crane/LA Daily News)
Cody Bellinger led the Dodgers in hits, walks, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases and probably put on a vendor uniform and sold some Dodger Dogs between innings when no one was looking.  He's that talented.  And even when Bellinger had a rare bad night (like going 1-for-4 with a walk), his teammates were there to pick him up.  Joc Pederson and Max Muncy combined for 71 homers.  Corey Seager ripped 44 doubles and drove in 87 runs despite missing 28 games.  And Justin Turner was magically delicious as always, batting .290 and tying a career high with 27 homers.

The Nationals may have the three-headed pitching monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, but it was the Dodgers who led the league in ERA and WHIP.  Los Angeles also allowed just 185 home runs, which was the fewest given up by any National League staff.

If that's not enough for you to figure out who I'm picking in this series, consider this.  In using Scherzer for five innings in the Wild Card Game (still not a series) and Strasburg for three frames, neither pitcher will be available to pitch in the first two games of the Division Series, with Scherzer due to start Game Three and Strasburg toiling in Game Four.

In 2012, the Nationals famously shut down Strasburg before he got a chance to pitch in the Division Series.  He's not pitching in this series either, but this time it'll be because the Dodgers are shutting down Strasburg's team.

Prediction: Dodgers in 3.

American League Division Series

Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros

The Rays are a great story.  On a budget that would make the Wilpons proud, they've managed to lead the American League in ERA and allowed the fewest long balls in the majors in a year when baseball went homer happy.  They've continued to use an "opener" instead of a starting pitcher to great success, which allowed Tampa to limit its starters' innings to keep their arms fresh.  (Only Charlie Morton worked more than 150 innings this season.)

On the offensive side, the Rays got an incredible year from Austin Meadows, who launched 33 homers in 138 games after hitting just six in 59 games prior to the 2019 campaign.  They also got Travis d'Arnaud to come out of his shell, as he finally reached his potential with the bat just months after he played his final game with the Mets.

As I said, the Rays have been a fantastic story in 2019.  But dude, they're playing the Houston Astros.  And no one is beating a team that has Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke putting up zeroes and Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel blasting balls all over the field.  Oh, and let's not forget shortstop Carlos Correa, who's been injured for most of the season, but still managed to hit 21 homers and put up a .926 OPS in 75 games.  Correa is expected to be ready for Game One of the Division Series.

It was fun while it lasted, Tampa.  But the Astros are a team of destiny.

Prediction: Astros in 4.

Is Jose Altuve trying to give Cody Bellinger a run for his money as part-time All-Star, part-time hot dog vendor?

Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees

I'll make this one quick and painless.  The Yankees are 13-2 all-time against the Twins in the postseason.  But they've never faced a Minnesota team that can beat them at their own game.

The Yankees hit 306 home runs to shatter their major league home record, which was 267.  Except that the Twins hit 307 to erase the Yankees from the record book.

New York's starting pitchers don't miss bats, as evidenced by James Paxton's team-leading 186 strikeouts.  With Domingo German out for the postseason, no other Yankee on the postseason roster reached 150 Ks.  Pitching to contact against a team that makes powerful contact isn't a recipe for success for any team, no matter how many ringzzzzz they have.

By the time this series is over, the Yankees will have lost five postseason games to the Twins all-time.  Which will give them plenty of time to treat their necks for whiplash from watching all of Minnesota's home runs.

Prediction: Twins in 5.

Smile!  The Twins are finally going to (boom) stick it to the Yankees.  (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

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