By: Ryan Croke
The MLB playoffs are officially underway. October baseball is back in full swing, as stadiums are packed with fans eager to see their team succeed and eventually hoist the pennant when all is said and done. But a lot of baseball has to be played before we get there, and plenty of strong teams are going head to head for the honor of becoming World Series champions. In this article, I will reveal my bracket for the 2021 MLB postseason, and make my prediction on which team will win the prestigious pennant.
ALDS matchups (best of 5 games)
Boston Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays
Coming off a dominant win against their dreaded rivals, the New York Yankees, in the wild card game, the Red Sox are looking to take down another AL East rival, the Tampa Bay Rays. Tampa emerged as a top franchise in last year’s playoffs, surprising everyone as they made it all the way to the World Series, and took the Los Angeles Dodgers, a vastly superior team talent-wise, to six games before losing. Tampa Bay has grown successful off of ahead of the curve analytics that allows them to find and acquire undervalued players and maximize their talent for a low cost, creating a powerhouse on a low payroll, every sports team owner’s goal. They emerged as the top team in the AL this year, and have only grown stronger since last year’s defeat with additions such as Wander Franco, the 20-year-old Dominican sensation, who has been lights-out in his short tenure with the Rays. They look to take care of business against a division opponent who has also exceeded expectations, as the Red Sox proved to be one of the best teams in baseball this year. Boston is an offensive juggernaut, boasting stars like Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers, and JD Martinez, along with newly acquired Kyle Schwarber, who has been on a tear in 2021. Their bullpen leaves much to be desired, but their starting rotation of pitchers is strong, especially with a returning Chris Sale reminding everyone just how talented he is. This series is sure to be a fun one, but I don’t see any way the Sox pull this one out. It would be a shock to everyone, and Tampa Bay has yet to slow down since they gained the lead in the AL East a few months ago. Tampa is just a more complete team, and the Sox will realize they overperformed this year when all is said and done.
Predicted outcome: Tampa Bay Rays defeat Boston Red Sox 3-1 to advance to the ALCS
Chicago White Sox vs Houston Astros
The White Sox cruised to an AL Central title this year, likely due to the fact that the rest of the division is extremely weak. That will not bode well for them when this young, inexperienced team faces a Houston Astros squad determined to put the sign-stealing scandal behind them. The only way Houston can make fans forget about the 2017 World Series title that was all but invalidated when the reports of their cheating were made public is by winning a legitimate title. Led by a core of José Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Álvarez, and Yuli Gurriel, this team is hungry to silence the doubters and prove themselves as one of the best teams in the world. Their starting pitching may not be on par with the 2017 championship-winning roster, but they can certainly hold their own and will look to do so against a very talented White Sox team that has had little postseason success for a while now. Chicago has a strong roster of starting pitchers, and their bullpen is also impressive. However, I don’t particularly like their chances against the Astros, and I think they are running into a buzzsaw here.
Predicted outcome: Houston Astros defeat Chicago White Sox 3-1 to advance to the ALCS
ALCS Matchup (best of 7 games)
Predicted matchup: Tampa Bay Rays vs Houston Astros
Tampa Bay should be the favorite to come out of the AL, and for good reason: they are one the most talented teams in baseball. However, this Astros group has something to prove, is looking for redemption, and what better way to do that than walking away from the season with a championship trophy? I think Houston’s desire for glory will barely overpower that of the Rays, and this close series win will be the push they need to return to the World Series for the third time in the last six years.
Predicted outcome: Houston Astros defeat Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 to advance to the World Series
NLDS Matchups (best of 5 games)
San Francisco Giants vs Los Angeles Dodgers
The top two teams in baseball, record-wise, emerging from the same division is unheard of. When both those teams rack up more than 100 wins, it is something to behold. That is what the matchup between these two franchises brings to the table, as the Los Angeles Dodgers continue to spend boatloads of money each year to build one of the most talented rosters in MLB history, while their division rival Giants have substantially exceeded expectations, as they hold the best record in baseball under former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler’s command. This veteran team has shown they still got it, and have been dominant the entire year. Their pitching is top-notch, they lead the NL in home runs hit, and are dead last in home runs against, it’s safe to say this team is a force to be reckoned with. The Dodgers, however, can certainly hang with San Francisco, as LA boasts one of the best teams on paper to ever be assembled. Names like Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner lead an extremely strong hitting core, while aces like Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, and David Price make up the pitching staff. With relievers like Kenley Jansen and Joe Kelly available as well, it’s a wonder this team took so long to get on a roll. Trade deadline acquisitions of the Nationals’ Trea Turner and Max Scherzer further strengthen an already incredible hitting lineup and pitching rotation, and this unit has the ability to make a statement in October. San Francisco, however, has been at the top of their game, and while they may be worse on paper, I think they will pull this out in a back and forth series that could honestly go either way.
Predicted outcome: San Francisco Giants defeat Los Angeles Dodgers 4-3 to advance to the NLCS
Milwaukee Brewers vs Atlanta Braves
The least intriguing matchup in the postseason is between a very strong Brewers team that boasts possibly the best pitching staff in baseball, and a Braves team that barely eked its way out of the putrid NL East without their young star Ronald Acuña, which deserves some credit, but it’s likely that Milwaukee will win this series. Whether it is handily in a sweep or Atlanta puts up a fight and makes it a series is yet to be seen, but I think the Brewers shouldn’t have too much trouble with this series.
Predicted outcome: Milwaukee Brewers defeat Atlanta Braves 3-1 to advance to the NLCS
NLCS Matchup (best of 7 games)
Predicted matchup: Milwaukee Brewers vs San Francisco Giants
This series should be a treat to watch, as the Brewers’ elite pitching core will be in a duel against the elite hitting of San Francisco, but a win for the Giants seems inevitable here. The Brewers’ hitters will have trouble going toe to toe with the Giants’ own outstanding pitching, And even a starting rotation like Milwaukee’s won’t be able to calm the bats of San Francisco for long. The Giants should cruise to a World Series appearance, their first since 2014, a series which they won.
Predicted outcome: San Francisco Giants defeat Milwaukee Brewers 4-1 to advance to the World Series
Predicted matchup: San Francisco Giants vs Houston Astros
This will surely be an interesting series. The Astros will be looking to make up for their prior sins with a World Series title not surrounded by controversy, while San Francisco is hoping to bring the pennant home for the 4th time in the last 11 years, which would be an incredible feat. I personally think the latter will happen, as the Astros just don’t possess the pitchers to keep the Giants’ bats down, and the San Francisco offense will be the story of this series. The Astros will put up a good fight, but San Francisco will complete this outstanding season they have had by capping it off with a championship.
Predicted outcome: San Francisco Giants defeat Houston Astros 4-2 to win the World Series