Preparing for disappointment in Minnesota
With the Major League Baseball season entering the final month of the regular season, the hunt for October is on. Here are some storylines to follow as the postseason comes even closer.
The hopeless optimism of Minnesota fans
The Minnesota Twins have been one of the revelations of the current season.
A mix of a young core and seasoned veterans have propelled the Twinkies to within five games of the top of the American League and, more importantly, a six-and-a-half game lead in the AL Central.
Given that the AL Central is one of the weakest divisions in all of baseball over the last decade, that’s quite the feat.
The team broke the MLB single-season record for home runs, a tally that stands at 272 at time of writing. It all has brought hope to Twins Territory, which is sad.
Twins fans (including this one) should know how this ends, just like every Minnesota team that has a successful regular season, with a disappointing playoff exit.
So, when the Twins lose in four games to the Yankees or the Astros, don’t be surprised.
One stat to throw naive optimism into the fray, the Twins have more wins away from Target Field than at home, 48-39.
Yankees or Astros in the AL?
Assuming that everything goes to plan, the ALCS will be contested by the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros. If that is the case, the series will be a barn burner.
The 1-2 duo of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole at the top of the Houston rotation will have their hands full with the explosive bats of the Yankees. Verlander leads the AL in ERA, Cole meanwhile leads the AL in strikeouts and joins Verlander as the only pitchers in the AL with a sub-3.00 ERA.
The Yankees meanwhile hold three of the top-10 home run hitters in the AL in the form of Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion.
The common saying is that defense wins championships. The Astros give up the second-fewest runs in the Majors, and this matchup will put this saying to the test.
Is there anyone in the NL that would give the Dodgers trouble?
Over in the National League, it seems to be the Los Angeles Dodgers, and then everyone else.
The Dodgers’ lead is so massive in the NL that there is only one team within 10 games, and that is the Atlanta Braves.
And Los Angeles has done this with a healthy mix of the long ball and solid defense. The Dodgers lead the NL with 250 home runs and a team ERA of 3.40, a major league best.
Having solid duos on both the mound and the plate make for a World Series contender, and Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw and Cody Bellinger and Justin Turner make the Dodgers just that. With all of that talent, it is hard to imagine that the Dodgers can’t make a run to the World Series.
Big contracts fail to live up to their billing
Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Mike Trout all received monster contracts back in the offseason. None of those three will be playing ball in October.
Over in the NL, Machado and Harper rank 32nd and 40th in batting average, Trout meanwhile is leading his team in all offensive categories and is once again the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) king, the Angels are long off the playoff hunt.
The proof is in the pudding, you can’t make the MLB playoff on a single star alone. And once those stars have been paid extravagant amounts, whether earned or not (and Trout earned his), it is hard to build a time around them.