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Division series features plenty of stellar pitching and offense

Keith Allison | Flickr

The end of the Major League Baseball season had incredible, pressure-cooker like playoff races that boiled down to the last day of the season.

The biggest surprise of the playoff picture was the red-hot St. Louis Cardinals, who captured the NL Central title on the final day of the season. 

As a result, St. Louis avoided a sudden death matchup. This may benefit the Cardinals, whose National League rankings are 10th in runs scored, 12th in home runs and 11th in batting average this year. Over a three-game divisional series, they will have a larger sample size to give their starting pitchers, including Jack Flaherty, the best pitcher in baseball during last two months. 

The Cardinals’ starting lineup features many achieved veterans such as Paul Goldschmidt with 34 home runs, 97 runs batted in and 78 walks, Marcell Ozuna with 29 home runs, 62 walks and 23 doubles, Kolten Wong with .285 batting average and Paul DeJong with 30 home runs.

On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves storm into the series, having easily taken the NL East crown in 2019. 

Unlike their opponents, the Braves are led by young, multi-faceted superstars and are backed by veteran talent. 

Outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. is a candidate for MVP after nearly producing a rarely seen 40-40 season, in which he slugged .518 percent and mashed 41 home runs. 

The Braves also feature rising star Ozzie Albies, who turned around an extended early season slump into league-leading numbers like sixth in stolen bases among MLB second basemen, fifth in average and fourth in on base percentage.

The new “youngster-epidemic” spreads into the Braves’ pitching as well, as the surprise ace of the pack is rookie Mike Soroka who has put up stellar numbers like 14 home runs allowed in 174.2 innings pitched, averaging 2.68 runs per nine innings pitched and walking 0.23 batters per nine innings pitched. 

He is a dark-horse contender for both NL Rookie of the Year and CY Young.

The Braves ensure their talent with elite veterans such as Freddie Freeman who has a .295 batting average and 121 runs batted in, Josh Donaldson with 37 home runs, .900 OPS and .521 SLG and Nick Markakis with a .285 batting average. 

They all produce above-average metrics in their respective positions. 

This means that the Braves’ roster is exceedingly deep. This series could easily go five games, as the two teams match up very well.

The other National League matchup will feature the best team in the NL this season record-wise, the Los Angeles Dodgers. 

The Dodgers are talented in hitting and pitching. Cody Bellinger will likely win NL MVP with 47 home runs, 115 runs batted in and a .306 batting average. 

Outfielder Joc Pederson added another 36 home runs and infielder Max Muncy contributed 35, which led the Dodgers to a total of 279 home runs, the best in the NL. The Dodgers also led the NL in RBIs, SLG and were the only NL team to have an OPS over .800.

In terms of pitching, The Dodgers allowed the fewest earned runs in the NL and 68 runs fewer than the next best team, the Cardinals. The Dodgers were also first in ERA, with superstars Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu being the best one-two-three combination in the entire MLB this season. 

They will play the Washington Nationals in the divional round. Their team gets additional rest because of NL and AL wild-card games.

In the American League, the Houston Astros were able to hold off the streaky New York Yankees to finish with 107 wins, compared to 103 Yankee wins. 

This means that the Astros have secured home-field advantage all the way until the World Series, if necessary. They will also face the winner of the AL wild-card game, as opposed to a division champion. 

The Astros, like the Dodgers allowed the fewest ER in their respective leagues. The Astros also struck out the most batters in the American League, while allowing the fewest hits.

With the bat, the Astros recorded the third most hits, RBIs, home runs and had the highest batting average in the American League. This shows that the Astros were one of the only teams in the MLB to be elite in both major pitching and hitting categories. 

They will play the Tampa Bay Rays in the divisonal round.  An extra day of rest will go a long way with the rotation which features three elite starters in Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander.

The other American League matchup features the Yankees against the Minnesota Twins. These teams are the only teams in MLB history that have hit more than 300 home runs during the regular season, Twins 307 and Yankees 306. 

The Twins’ dynamic offense was directly powered by Nelson Cruz, Max Kepler, Miguel Sano, Eddie Rosario and Mitch Garver. Each player listed hit at least 30 home runs, the first time this has ever happened. 

The Yankees, on the other hand, did not have a deep starting rotation as ace Luis Severino missed nearly all of the 2019 regular season. 

If the Yankees can keep the Twins off the scoreboard, they can win this division series easily. 

However, if the Twins can damage the Yankees pitching, then the Twins can take the series.

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