The 2022 MLB regular season is in the books. We were fortunate to witness several historic milestones this year -- we're talking Miguel Cabrera's 3,000th hit, Albert Pujols' 700th homer, plus more -- not to mention a thrilling NL East race.
The postseason begins Friday with the brand new Wild Card Series. MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a 12-team postseason format as part of the new collective bargaining agreement, giving each club as good a chance to play October baseball as ever. Here is the postseason bracket:
The Mariners (since 2001) and Phillies (since 2011) snapped the two longest postseason droughts in baseball., both absent from October baseball since 2014.
Juan Soto prediction), but my motto is if you get a lot of bold predictions correct, you weren't bold enough. Or at least that's what I tell myself to feel better. Anyway, let's do some postseason bold predictions, shall we? Let's get to it.(if anything I wasn't bold enough with my
There will be a Wild Card Series walk-off
Last year Chris Taylor slugged a Wild Card Game walk-off home run. The Wild Card Game is no more, but it did give us three walk-offs in 10 years: Salvador Perez's double in 2014, Edwin Encarnacion's homer in 2016, and Taylor's homer in 2022. The Wild Card Game is dead. Long live the Wild Card Game.
What better way to usher in the Wild Card Series era than with a walk-off? I'm talking a walk-off to win the series. A Game 3 walk-off that sends the winner to the LDS and the loser home. It hasn't been that long since a postseason series ended on a walk-off (vs. the Rays) but they're still cool and I boldly predict we'll see one this year.
To be specific, the Blue Jays vs. Mariners matchup seems ripe for walk-off shenanigans. The series will be played in Toronto, so sorry Mariners fans, your team is going to be on the wrong end of our predicted walk-off. I'm going to say Teoscar Hernández does the honors with a ninth inning homer against Paul Sewald this Sunday, complete with a José Bautista-caliber bat flip. It has been foretold.
Judge will set a postseason series record for walks
Yankees slugger and AL MVP favorite Aaron Judge had a historically great regular season, during which he flirted with a Triple Crown (but fell a few batting average points short) and set the AL single-season record with 62 homers. Roger Maris of course held the previous record -- he hit 61 homers 61 years ago with the 1961 Yankees.
Judge hit 62 home runs despite getting very little to hit down the stretch. He walked 17 times in his last 13 games and 62 times in his last 59 games, and that was while the Yankees played six of their last seven series against non-postseason teams. This is what it looks like when no pitcher wants to give up No. 61 or No. 62 and become a trivia answer:
That happened in meaningless games. What do you think will happen when the postseason begins and the games matter? Teams have shown they will not let Judge beat them, and will instead take their chances with the guys hitting directly behind him (mostly Anthony Rizzo and Gleyber Torres). I see no reason to think that will change in October. The stakes are too high.
So, for this bold prediction, I'm saying Judge will set a record for walks in a single postseason series. The current record is held by (who else?) Barry Bonds, and it's fitting Judge would break that record because 2022 Judge is the closest thing we've seen to peak Bonds since peak Bonds. Only five times in history has a player drawn 10 walks in a postseason series:
Barry Bonds, Giants
2002 World Series vs. Angels
Babe Ruth, Yankees
1926 World Series vs. Cardinals
Barry Bonds, Giants
2002 NLCS vs. Cardinals
Frank Thomas, White Sox
1993 ALCS vs. Blue Jays
Gene Tenace, Athletics
1973 World Series vs. Mets
The Yankees have a Wild Card Series bye and will advance directly to the ALDS. It will be very tough to break the record and draw 14 walks in a best-of-five series, so I guess the sub-bold prediction here is the Yankees make it to the ALCS and Judge draws a record number of walks in that series. It has been foretold.
Pujols has one of his best postseason series ever
I originally planned to go with "Albert Pujols has his best postseason series ever," but this is the guy who hit .500/.563/1.000 in the full seven games en route to being named NLCS MVP in 2004. Gonna be hard to top that. What a legend.
So, we'll scale it back just a bit -- I'm bold, but not that bold -- and say Pujols merely has one of his best postseason series ever this year. The ageless wonder leads baseball in home runs (!) since Aug. 14 and has clearly been rejuvenated by playing in St. Louis again. There's something to be said for knowing you're going to retire and just going out and having fun.
Here are Pujols' best ever postseason series by OPS (min. three games played):
- 2004 NLCS vs. Astros: 1.563 OPS
- 2005 NLDS vs. Padres: 1.470 OPS
- 2011 NLCS vs. Brewers: 1.469 OPS
- 2004 NLDS vs. Dodgers: 1.178 OPS
- 2011 World Series vs. Rangers: 1.064 OPS
Seventeen times Pujols has played at least three games in a postseason series and nine times he had at least a .900 OPS, and on two other occasions he had at least an .885 OPS. He's a career .321/.426/.581 hitter with 19 home runs and more walks (50) than strikeouts (45) in 86 postseason games. That's when the lights are brightest and the game's best are on the mound. Incredible.
Given how well he's swung the bat the last few weeks, predicting Pujols will manage 1.000 OPS in a postseason series doesn't feel all that bold, but it is. It doesn't happen often and certainly not with a 42-year-old hitter. What better way for an all-time great to go out than with one of his greatest October showings ever?
The Guardians end the AL Central's drought
It has been tough sledding for AL Central teams in the last few postseasons. The last postseason series win by an AL Central team was the 2016 ALCS, when Cleveland beat the Blue Jays. It has been all downhill since Cleveland took a 3-1 lead over the Cubs in the World Series that year.
Here is how AL Central teams have fared in the postseason since 2017:
|Series||AL Central team||Opponent||Outcome|
Astros win 3-1
2020 Wild Card Series
A's win 2-1
2020 Wild Card Series
Yankees win 2-0
2020 Wild Card Series
Yankees win 2-0
Yankees win 3-0
Astros win 3-0
Yankees win 3-2
2017 Wild Card Game
That is rough, and it doesn't help to note Cleveland had a 2-0 series lead in the 2017 ALDS, then blew it. AL Central teams are 4-19 in the postseason since 2017, and 4-22 since Cleveland took that 3-1 series lead in the 2016 World Series. In those 26 games, they have been outscored 165-90, or by an average of 2.88 runs per game. The division has been futile in October.
That changes this season. My next bold prediction calls for the Guardians, the lone AL Central team in the postseason, to win the Wild Card Series and get the division back into the series win column. Sorry Rays, but this is the way it needs to be. You can never be too sure with AL Central, but Cleveland's power pitching and high contact lineup seems specifically designed to drive the other team mad in October. It'll work this year, and the rest of the AL Central can live vicariously through the Guardians.
The NL World Series streak will continue
The National League has been on a heater the last few years. An NL team has won the last three World Series and eight of the last 12 World Series, and two of the four losses came against the 2017 Astros and 2018 Red Sox, two teams that were later punished for illegally stealing signs. The Senior Circuit has lived up to its name the last few years. They've bullied the AL.
This is only the fifth time in history the NL has won three straight World Series (the Yankees and their pre-free agency dominance hogged championships for a good long time) and only once before has the NL won four straight World Series: 1979-82, when the Pirates, Phillies, Dodgers, and Cardinals did the honors in that order. It's time to do it again.
, so that's out. Picking the juggernaut Dodgers is the safe route and meh, that's boring. The Braves as repeat champs would be cool. MLB hasn't had a repeat World Series winner since the 1998-2000 Yankees. The Mets completing the "offseason champ becomes World Series champ" cycle would be neat; I like to see teams that invest in the roster rewarded. Not enough teams try their hardest these days.
I sort of love the farewell narrative of the Cardinals winning the World Series with Pujols and Yadier Molina (and Adam Wainwright?) in their final seasons. Yeah, it's cheesy, but it's OK to be cheesy sometimes. I'm going to leave this bold prediction open-ended: an NL team will win the World Series, but I'm not saying which. The Cardinals winning would be pretty cool. But no matter who, an NL team takes home the title this year. Again.