Though the Los Angles Dodgers played as the second-best team most of the year to the San Francisco Giants, they are the betting favorite to win a second straight World Series. Let's look at each of the four teams in the National League Playoffs.
A matchup worthy of being a World Series showdown will instead knock one of the favorites to win the Commissioner’s Cup out of the MLB playoffs without even getting a chance to play for the right to reach the championship series. The two best teams during the 2021 MLB season will square off in one National League Division Series with the other matchup mostly an afterthought. NL West rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants combined for 213 victories during the regular season and the division title wasn’t decided until the final day. Though the Dodgers played as the second-best team most of the year they are the betting favorite to win a second straight World Series.
There are so many storylines in the Dodgers-Giants series that it overshadows just about everything else going on. The other NLDS features a pair of teams with plenty of recent postseason experience and neither club should be overlooked. The Atlanta Braves won their fourth straight NL East title playing their best baseball of the season over the second half to pull away from a mediocre group of division foes. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers avoided the Wild Card round by winning the NL Central. They built a big lead and cruised to their second division title in four years.
San Francisco Giants
Every so often a team that wasn’t expected to do much has a season like the Giants had. Entering the campaign with a preseason win total of 75.5 the Giants exceeded that with more than a month remaining in the season. They got career years from just about everybody on the roster, which is something that needs to happen in order to post a franchise record win total. The Giants cleaned up against their division rivals posting a winning record against every team, including a 10-9 mark against the Dodgers. The damage came against the bottom of the division with a 32-6 combined mark against Arizona and Colorado. The starting rotation isn’t going to wow anyone, but the group was solid. Kevin Gausman won 14 games with a 2.81 ERA. However, his numbers were higher in the second half. Thanks to a bullpen that led MLB in ERA and WHIP the Giants were phenomenal when scoring first. And they were able to win the close ones, too, going 31-17 in one-run games.
Los Angeles Dodgers
There doesn’t appear to be a World Series hangover with this group. Maybe that’s because the Dodgers were pushed all season by their neighbors to the north. Whatever the reason the Dodgers had another marvelous campaign, though their string of consecutive NL West titles ended at eight. Despite losing prized free agent Trevor Bauer to suspension and Clayton Kershaw to injury, the Dodgers boast a strong rotation that has them as the World Series favorite. The deadline deal for Max Scherzer and Trae Turner was helpful. The Dodgers won their final six regular season games and eliminated St. Louis with a 3-1 victory in the Wild Card contest. The Dodgers boasted the best pitching staff with a 3.01 ERA and ranked among the top-5 in runs, home runs and OBP.
Let’s not forget there are two other teams competing in the NL postseason. The Brewers matched the second-highest win total in franchise history and cruised to the NL Central title. They got a minor scare toward the end of the season from the Cardinals, who went on a lengthy winning streak to secure the second wild card. That may have been enough to get the Brewers ready for postseason baseball. They also boast three of the top hurlers in the game giving them an edge in any series. Though they already had the division title secured, the end of the season was a drag. They dropped four straight and five of six to end the campaign. Corbin Burnes led the majors with a 2.43 ERA and Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta each had a sub-3.00 ERA. The loss of reliever Devin Williams is huge, though. The righty won eight games with a 2.50 ERA in high-leverage situations. And the bullpen as a whole faltered down the stretch.
Overcoming injuries and an uninspired first half, the Braves excelled over the final few months of the season to win another division title. Granted, the NL East wasn’t the best, but the Braves got improved pitching to go along with an explosive offense to reach the postseason for a fourth consecutive season. After losing in the division series the first two years, the Braves made it to the NLCS last season only to blow a 3-1 series lead to the Dodgers. With their four infielders each hitting at least 25 home runs, the Braves hit 239 dingers during the season and averaged nearly five runs. They have a big game hunter in Charlie Morton and the bullpen was vastly improved over the second half leading Braves faithful feeling good about their chances this time around.
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