Predictions were as of October 3rd.
No regular season has been comparable to 2019 in recent American League history. The Minnesota Twins and New York Yankees each broke the previous record for most home runs by a team in a single season. The vast amount of rebuilding teams like the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, and Kansas City Royals, finished with over 100 losses and three others teams suffered over 90 losses. In contrast, the Twins, Yankees, and Houston Astros took advantage of the talent gap and finished with over 100 wins. The Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays, and Cleveland Indians finished with over 90 wins. Never before has there been such a huge divide between the top teams and the bottom teams in the AL. The season was also filled with historic performances, walk-off victories, and remarkable plays.
Considering how entertaining and unpredictable the regular season was, there is no doubt that the postseason will be just as good, or even better.
Here is my breakdown of each postseason team in the American League:
After a tough loss in the 2018 ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, the 2017 World Series champs returned to dominant form this season with the best record in the majors. The Astros are led by their outstanding starting rotation -possibly one of the best ever. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are the two favorites for the Cy Young award this year and their rotation got even better with the mid-season acquisition of Zack Greinke. The Astros’ offense is not lagging far behind its elite-level pitching rotation. George Springer was a mid-season injury away from being in the MVP talks and Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, and Michael Brantley are still near the top at their positions. The emergence of Yordan Alvarez makes their lineup even more dangerous. The only part of their team that is not as elite as the New York bullpen, but they are still near the top of the league. They rank third in saves, third in K/9, and second in ERA. The staff is anchored by all star closer Roberto Osuna. This team is devoid of weakness and its why so many experts are picking them to win the World Series.
New York Yankees
The Yankees reclaimed the AL East crown this season by holding off the surprising Tampa Bay Rays and the struggling Boston Red Sox. They also struggled with injuries the entire season, making this division championship even more impressive. This team boasts an elite offense as they led the league in runs scored and were top five in hits, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, batting average, and slugging percentage. MVP candidate D.J. LeMahieu led the team offensively with 26 homers, 102 RBIs, and a .327 batting average. Gleyber Torres and Gary Sanchez also had spectacular season. Despite not having the best regular seasons, I still expect Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Didi Gregorious to have an impact in the playoffs. This Yankees lineup is arguably the best in all of baseball. The New York bullpen is also near the top of the league with three shutdown relievers in Aroldis Chapman, Zack Britton, and Adam Ottavino. The one weak spot for the Yankees is their starting rotation. Luis Severino’s return from injury helps them, but there are still some serious questions regarding the consistency of James Paxton and Masahiro Tanaka. Paxton finished the season on a tear and lowered his ERA by nearly a full run from 4.40 to 3.82. Prior to the end of the season, however, he had struggled to stay consistent. Tanaka had an ERA above four and less than 150 strikeouts in 2019, but has a career postseason ERA of 1.54 and has been elite for the Yankees in the playoffs the past two seasons. If the starters can be relied on for at least four innings of quality work and get the ball to their bullpen, the Yankees could make a run at their 28th championship. However, if the starters struggle or their injury demons return, it could be another disappointing fall in New York.
The Minnesota Twins were one of the biggest surprises of 2019. Many new stars, like Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario emerged and the Twins were able to upset the favored Cleveland Indians for the AL Central Division title. As good as the Astros and Yankees’ offenses have been, Minnesota’s may be better. They led the league in home runs and RBIs and were top five in every other major offensive category. Along with Polanco and Rosario, Nelson Cruz, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, and Mitch Garver all had career years at the plate. Pitching is a point of concern for the team, however. The bullpen is solid, but not spectacular with Taylor Rodgers, Trevor May, and Sergio Romo leading the way. They rank tenth in ERA, but second in saves and fourth in K/9. The main point of concern for the Twins is their starters. After the rotation started the year strong, they had a tough second half of the season. Their ERA increased from 3.77 to 4.74 and their BB/9 increased from 2.44 to 3.04. Also, they recorded 27 wins, which was 13 less than they had in the first half. Jose Berrios is an ace, but Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi will have to be more consistent if Minnesota has any hopes to advance deep into the postseason. Another obstacle the Twins must overcome is the fact that they are facing the Yankees in the ALDS. Minnesota has lost 13 consecutive playoff games and 10 of those defeats came at the hands of the mighty Yankees. I believe that the Twins are a good team, but they just do not have enough to compete with the Yankees and Astros and have too much going against them.
Tampa Bay Rays
Forever an underdog, mostly due to their low payroll, the Tampa Bay Rays once again defied expectations to become one of the best teams in baseball all season long. They dominated the Oakland Athletics 5-1 in the AL Wild Card game, leading them to matchup with the Houston Astros in the ALDS. The team is solid both offensively and defensively. Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, and Charlie Morton lead the rotation, while Emilio Pagan emerged as a solid contributor out of the bullpen for the team. The Rays’ lineup is without any true weakness. Tommy Pham and Austin Meadows have had career years, while Ji-Man Choi, Yandy Diaz, and Brandon Lowe also played well. Although they may not have the elite pitching of the Astros or the elite offense of the Yankees or Twins, Tampa Bay may be one of the deepest teams and the most complete. I believe they will put up a fight in the ALDS and would not be surprised if they shocked the world and knock off the Astros for a serious run to the World Series.
2019 American League Postseason predictions:
Yankees over Twins – 3-0
Astros over Rays – 3-2
In the ALDS, I think New York will be able to continue their domination of the Twins and easily win the series in a sweep. The Astros will have a much tougher time getting past the Rays, who I think is the fourth best team in the entire postseason. The Rays will push them to the brink, but Houston’s dominant pitching will advance them to the next round.
Yankees over Astros – 4-3
If the Yankees take care of business, they will have extra rest to prepare for the Astros. Although I have doubts about their pitching, New York is hungry to make the World Series and I believe this is the year they finally break through. The ALCS between the Astros and Yankees may be the most competitive series we see this year, which is why I hope it goes to seven games.