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Previewing the 2022 National League Playoffs

The National League has three teams with over 100 wins, whereas the American League only had one. Yet, the LA Dodgers still stand 10 wins above the 101 win Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. The NL feels as though it is the Dodgers' to lose. Only two teams in the American League, the Yankees and Astros (top two seeds in the American League) had a run differential of +200 or better. Only one team can make that claim in the National League and that's the Dodgers with an absolutely astounding +334 differential. Their 513 runs allowed is the fewest in the entire MLB. They also boast the most runs scored in MLB with 847, one of just two teams to score 800 or more runs.

Here is a look at the National League playoff bracket:

Even though the Mets and Braves both finished in their division with 101 wins the Braves won the tie-breaker by having the head-to-head record of 10-9. They recently had a three game series where the Mets only needed one win to have the tie-breaker but Atlanta swept NY and then won the division. Giving them the number two seed and dropping the Mets to the fourth seed as the team with the best record among non-division winners. The runs scored, runs allowed, and home/away win-loss records are very similar. That of course will make things harder since instead of rest the NY Mets now need to play a best-of-three against the San Diego Padres. The Mets boast what is likely the best pitching duo in baseball with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. Scherzer will start game one against Yu Darvish for the Padres. The hope is that Scherzer picks up the win game one and the Mets can squeeze out a win the next day and save deGrom to start the NLDS vs the LA Dodgers. If Scherzer and the Mets end up losing the first game to the Padres that could go out the window and deGrom would be forced to pitch game two to save the Mets' season and then NY would still have to pull out a win in game three without either of their dynamic duo. San Diego may be more reliant on their bullpen with only one pitcher officially announced in the series thus far. The NY Mets have superior pitching, overall defense and offense. So despite the collapse against the Braves I expect the Mets to sweep the Padres. If that happens then the Mets have a chance of winning game one versus the Dodgers. But it will still be tough. Even if NY can muster a game one win and get Scherzer in there for a game if the series goes long enough that is still relying heavily on your pitchers, hoping for the best, then you still need an upset win. I don't see it happening. If the Mets face the Dodgers I think the Dodgers take it 3-1 in the best-of-five Divisional round. If the Padres face the Dodgers I predict a sweep. I don't see either team taking LA to game five.

Philadelphia just squeaked past Milwaukee to claim the six seed in the NL. Being in the same division as the Atlanta Braves and NY Mets certainly didn't help give them an easy schedule. St. Louis great home record of 53-28 will be very difficult for the Phillies to overcome give their away record under .500 of 40-41. The Cardinals have lots of depth at pitching lots of experience at bat. A Phillies series win would be quite shocking, even in a three game series so expect St. Louis to come out the winner and face last year's World Series Champion Atlanta Braves. Atlanta has a very strong rotation of Spencer Strider, Max Fried (Cy Young Award Candidate), Kyle Wright (the only pitcher in MLB to hit 20 wins this year with 21) and Charlie Morton to round things out. The Braves won it all last year after finishing the season with 88 wins. This year they finished the regular season with 101 wins. There's a lot of reason to believe this team is even better than last year.

As I mentioned at the start of the article it's hard to picture any team beating the Dodgers. The LA Dodgers this season tied for the 4th most wins in the regular season in MLB history. Based on winning percentage they stand at 18th all time. Of the 17 teams that had better winning percentages only one team didn't make it to the World Series, they lost in the Conference round. The combined record in the World Series of those 16 teams is 12-4. The last World Series champion of those 17 teams was the LA Dodgers themselves who won in 2020 (although it was a shortened season due to Covid-19 and the Dodgers played in just 60 regular season games). The Dodgers have great batters in Freddie Freeman (who finished 2nd in batting average this year just one point behind Jeff McNeil with a very respectable .325), Trea Turner (.298) and Justin Turner (.278). Those three players are all among the top 10 in the National League for batting average this year. Then they also have Mookie Betts not far behind in average and finishing fifth in home runs in the NL. Extremely noteworthy as well is that both Freddie Freeman and Trea Turner had 100 RBI's this season. Other Dodgers players Mookie Betts and catcher Will Smith were among the top 20. Four guys in the top 20 of RBI's in the NL on one team is pretty terrifying. Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw form a very solid pair of pitchers as well. This team is well rounded and has tons of depth on offense. Nothing should stand in their way of being World Series champs. It'll be an uphill battle for anyone trying to challenge the Dodgers.

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