With the thrills of the regular season behind us, October has ushered in the exhilarating phase of the MLB year – the playoffs. Sports fans love this time of the year, and this article delves into the teams poised to make a significant impact, analyzing their strengths, potential weaknesses, and star players.
How far can the Braves go? Which team will emerge from the American League? Can the Astros repeat as World Series winners? Will the Rangers surprise? Brace yourself for an exciting month of baseball!
For the Braves, the journey towards postseason glory comes with its challenges, particularly in the pitching department. Their performance has been exceptional but there are mounting worries.
The regular season’s end saw Max Fried sidelined due to a blister problem, and Charlie Morton has been declared out of the division series with a finger ailment. Bryce Elder, though an All-Star in the first half, witnessed his ERA skyrocket to over 5.00 later in the year.
Spencer Strider hasn’t been at his best, and the MLB-leading strikeout rate he boasted dwindled in the season’s last two months. The bullpen’s struggles in September, exacerbated by injuries, put immense pressure on the already faltering rotation.
Coming off a torn ACL from 2021, Ronald Acuña Jr. showed signs of struggle in the 2022 postseason. However, 2023 has witnessed a transformed Acuña. Now the NL MVP front-runner and the inaugural member of the 40-70 club, Acuña has evolved into an even more disciplined hitter. His unparalleled skill from the leadoff position is a cornerstone for the Braves’ historic offensive performance.
Last season’s World Series triumph for the Astros came on the back of remarkable pitching. This year, they’ll need their offense to step up.
The Astros managed a modest .232/.302/.389 in the previous postseason. The batting duo of Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman will be under the spotlight. Altuve did not registering a single RBI in the 2022 postseason and Bregman battled injuries in 2021 and struggled. The Astros need both to produce this year.
Michael Brantley’s return to the Astros’ lineup in August, after recovering from a torn labrum that kept him away for 14 months, is significant. His exceptional hitting prowess will be essential in the playoffs.
They Astros only performed like defending World Series champions in spurts this season. They'll really need Brantley to be at his best as one of the top pure hitters in baseball to go far.
Despite their prowess, the Astros have glaring issues to address, especially in their bullpen, to clinch another World Series title.
The Astros have given up nearly as many home runs as they’ve hit this season. Their 201 home runs allowed was the most among playoff-bound team. The Astros bullpen is going to have to step up if the Astros plan on winning another World Series.
Kentucky native Phil Maton has been one of the Astros’ more reliable relievers all season, and his performance has been impressive as of late. In his last 13 appearances he has an 0.77 ERA and a 1-0 record in 11 2/3 innings. He has 13 strikeouts and three walks in that span. Kentucky has just legalized online sports betting just in time for the MLB playoffs and Kentucky sportsbook promos are going to useful as most sportsbooks have the Astros (+480) behind the Braves (+260) and Dodgers (+410) to win the World Series.
The Rangers face an uphill battle, especially with their recent placement against Tampa Bay. However, their core strength and pedigree could see them emerge as dark horses.
Matching up against Tampa Bay at the Trop is daunting, considering Tampa’s impressive 53–28 record there. The likes of Justin Verlander, José Abreu, and Jose Altuve provide Houston with a championship-caliber core, reminiscent of the Yankees from the late 1990s.
The bullpen is a significant concern for the Rangers. With the worst bullpen ERA among playoff teams, there’s pressure on relievers like Will Smith, Aroldis Chapman, and Jose Leclerc. Andrew Heaney’s role and Jonathan Hernandez’s recent mishap have added to the concerns.
As the Rangers aim to offset their bullpen issues with offensive prowess, one player stands out – Adolis Garcia.
Acquired from the Cardinals for cash considerations in December 2019, Garcia’s growth has been phenomenal. His OPS has steadily risen, culminating in .836 this year. As the Rangers’ most powerful hitter, he will be instrumental in their October campaign.
The Braves have showcased their offensive firepower throughout the season. This strength gives them an edge, despite concerns surrounding their pitching lineup.
The Braves’ offensive statistics are impressive across the board. Initially, there were concerns about their heavy reliance on homers. However, as the season progressed, their scoring methods diversified, making them a potent threat in the playoffs.
In conclusion, the 2023 MLB Playoffs promise to be a riveting spectacle. The Braves, with their potent offense led by Ronald Acuña Jr., the Astros with their seasoned squad, and the Rangers with their blend of experience and emerging talent, are all set for a rollercoaster ride. Only time will tell who reigns supreme in this baseball bonanza.