2019 MLB playoffs preview: Here’s who Detroiters should “Woo!” and “Boo!” this OctoberOctober 9, 2019
The Detroit Tigers’ ended a game early, with just 161 games in the books, and, honestly, we think everyone’s OK with that. But even though the Tigers are done, 10 teams still aren’t. That’s right, major league baseball’s postseason starts Tuesday, and since we’re fans of good baseball — not that we’ve seen a lot in Detroit this season — we’re pumped for this year’s playoffs.
You should be, too, and with that in mind, we went ahead and looked at all 10 playoff teams, and why Tigers fans should be yelling “Woo!” or “Boo!” as the contenders advance toward this year’s World Series.
[ 2019 MLB playoffs schedule: Scores, results through to World Series ]American League AL East: New York Yankees (103-59)
DJ LeMahieu is a long ways from Birmingham Brother Rice. (Photo: Chris O’Meara, AP)
They’ll face: Minnesota Twins, starting Friday.
Woo, Yanks: Do you like home runs? You remember home runs, right? Ball clears the fence on the fly, batter circles the bases slowly, runs get added to the board? (Sorry about the home run refresher, but, well, we haven’t seen a lot of them in Comerica Park this season, y’know?) Anyway, the Yankees have hit more home runs this season than all but one team in baseball history – said team is also is in the playoffs this season, but we’ll get to them in a bit. And it has been a team effort: No one Yankee has 40 homers, but a whopping 14 have at least 10, which is a record. Oh, and one of those Yanks with 10+ dingers is Birmingham Brother Rice product DJ LeMahieu, in case you need a local connection.
Boo, Yanks: We mean … c’mon, they’re the YANKEES. Nobody, outside of folks on their payroll or folks actually from New York, should root for the YANKEES. (And even then, they’ve got choices; why else would the Mets exist?) Besides, if you like homers that much, there’re several teams that aren’t the “Evil Empire” in this year’s postseason.
More: Detroit Tigers avoided making baseball history with these six epic victoriesAL Central: Minnesota Twins (101-60)
Wherever he plays, Nelson Cruz brings the “Boomstick.” (Photo: The Associated Press)
They’ll face: New York Yankees, starting Friday.
Woo, Twins: Do you like home runs, especially when they’re not hit by the Yankees? The Twins, er, “the Bomba Squad,” hit 307 of them, setting the record for MLB, and had five hitters — Nelson Cruz (41), Mitch Garver (31), Max Kepler (36), Eddie Rosario (32) and Miguel Sano (34) — with 30 or more.
Boo, Twins: Cruz, in particular, has spent his season bringing back Tigers fans’ memories of him dominating the 2011 ALCS with the Rangers. The 39-year-old had a career year this season with 41 home runs — he joined the 400-homer club in September —and a .311 batting average.AL West: Houston Astros (107-54)
Justin Verlander is just the 18th pitcher in MLB history with 3,000 strikeouts, and no, he didn’t get them all this season in Houston. (Photo: The Associated Press)
They’ll face: Winner of Wednesday’s AL Wild-Card game, starting Friday.
Woo, ’Stros: Do you like stud starting pitching? The Astros’ Big Three of Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke will be your jam. Verlander put up a 2.58 ERA and led the AL in WHIP at 0.803, Cole struck out an MLB-best 326 batters in 212 ⅓ innings and Greinke, acquired at the trade deadline, had a 3.22 ERA and 1.073 WHIP in 14 starts with Houston.
Boo, ’Stros: The Yanks may be the “Evil Empire,” but the Astros — remember, they already won the Series in 2017 — are poised for a dynasty extending well into the next decade. Their offense is led by 25-year-old MVP candidate Alex Bregman (Slash line: .295/421/.591), 29-year-old Jose Altuve (31 homers in 123 games) and 22-year-old Yordan Alvarez, who hit 27 homers and drove in 78 runs in just 86 games. Put it this way: You’ll have plenty of time to jump on their bandwagon next year, too.
More: How a Detroit Tigers trade for Alex Bregman may have changed rebuildAL Wild Card 1: Oakland Athletics (97-65)
We couldn’t make up that Mike Fiers facial hair if we tried. (Photo: Andrew Dieb, USA TODAY Sports)
They’ll face: Tampa Bay Rays, 8:09 p.m. Wednesday in Oakland, on ESPN.
Woo, A’s: Do you like a franchise that has made a habit of employing former Tigers? Right-hander Mike Fiers, who went 15-4 with a 3.90 ERA this season in Oakland, is the latest example, following the example of Ty Cobb, Willie Horton and Brandon Inge, who all spent time with the franchise after their days in Detroit ended.
Boo, A’s: This is a one-game matchup of the two lowest payrolls in the playoffs — the Rays entered the season with about $69 million in payroll, and the A’s came in with about $97 million — which means only one “do more with less” franchise can advance. Why not root for the Rays, who have given us the “opener” concept, “DJ Kitty,” and redefined the importance of catcher defense instead?AL Wild Card 2: Tampa Bay Rays (96-66)
Charlie Morton will get the start for the Rays on Tuesday in Oakland. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)
They’ll face: Oakland Athletics, 8:09 p.m. Wednesday in Oakland, on ESPN.
Woo, Rays: Have you been conditioned by watching this year’s Tigers to expect thousands of empty seats at games? Then the Rays are your team; they averaged just under 15,000 fans a game. Granted, their stadium holds just 25,000, but that’s still about 10,000 empty seats a game. Put it simply: There’s plenty of room on the Rays’ bandwagon.
Boo, Rays: We repeat, this is a one-game matchup of the two lowest payrolls in the playoffs: The Rays and A’s combined Opening Day payroll is less than the payrolls or of the Yankees, Nationals or Astros — which means only one “do more with less” franchise can advance. Why not root for the Athletics, who were doing the whole “playoffs on the cheap” thing all the way back in 2001, when the Rays franchise was in its fourth season?National League NL East: Atlanta Braves (97-65)
Ronald Acuna Jr. just missed out on joining the 40/40 club this season. (Photo: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
They’ll face: St. Louis Cardinals, starting Thursday.
Woo, Braves: Do you like evidence that a rebuild can happen suddenly? The Braves averaged nearly 93 losses from 2015-17, then surprised with a division title last season, led by a trio of stars born in 1997: Ronald Acuna Jr. (41 homers, 37 steals), Ozzie Albies (24 homers, 43 doubles) and Mike Sirotka (2.60 ERA in 169 ⅔ innings).
Boo, Braves: Acuna, Albies and Sirotka aren’t the only young things making an impact; the franchise in its third season at SunTrust Park, about 15 miles north of downtown Atlanta, after spending just 20 seasons at Turner Field. Cobb Country funded $400 million of the park’s $672 million cost and spends about $8.6 million a year for interest, maintenance and security, causing a budget crunch for many county departments. Just keep that in mind the 300th time you hear that tomahawk chop chant on Thursday.NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals (91-71)
Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty allowed just 10 earned runs after the All-Star break. (Photo: Jeff Curry, USA TODAY Sports)
They’ll face: Atlanta Braves, starting Thursday.
Woo, Cards: Do you like the hottest pitcher in baseball? Jack Flaherty has had a ridiculous second half of the season, with a 0.91 ERA, 124 strikeouts and just 23 walks in 99 ⅓ innings since the All-Star break. How dominant is that? In 15 post-break starts, the 23-year-old has hit five batters — and allowed 10 earned runs.
Boo, Cards: If the Tigers are a textbook case for the difficulty of long-term success in baseball without a $200 million payroll, the Cards are the counterpoint. Yes, this is the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2015, but the team also hasn’t had a losing record since 2007 (and that was the year after a World Series win). Even more impressive: The Cardinals haven’t lost 90 games in a season since 1990.
[Another reason to dislike the Cards …]NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers (106-56)
Did you know Clayton Kershaw played baseball as a kid with Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford? Only if you haven’t watched a Lions or Dodgers telecast on Fox in the past decade. (Photo: The Associated Press)
They’ll face: Winner of Tuesday’s NL Wild-Card game, starting Thursday.
Woo, Blue: Is the third time the charm? The Dodgers have won the NL pennant the past two seasons before falling to the Astros, in seven games in 2017, and the Red Sox, in five games in 2018. That success, not entirely coincidentally, has overlapped with 2019 NL MVP favorite Cody Bellinger’s time with L.A. Bellinger hit 47 homers for the Dodgers this season, one of 11 L.A. players with double-digit homers. (Also not a surprise: The Dodgers finished just 29 homers behind the Twins despite not getting to use the DH for most of their games.)
Boo, Blue: Two straight pennants? Seven straight NL West titles? Sheesh, give someone else a shot, you glory-hogs. We’re looking at you, specifically, Clayton Kershaw, with your 22 playoff starts since the Dodgers’ run in the West began in 2013. He’s put up a 4.33 ERA in those starts, nearly two runs higher than his career ERA of 2.44.
More: Is Matthew Stafford jealous of Clayton Kershaw’s playoff experience?NL Wild Card 1: Washington Nationals (93-69)
We keep getting older, but the Fernando Rodney Experience just keeps stayin’ the same. All right, all right, all right. (Photo: Hunter Martin, Getty Images)
They’ll face: Milwaukee Brewers, 8:08 p.m. Tuesday in Washington, TBS
Woo, Nats: Do you pine for the days of Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and — gulp —Fernando Rodney in Detroit? All three are still stalking the mound in D.C.! Scherzer struck out 243 in just 172 1/3 innings, Sanchez posted a 3.85 ERA in 30 starts and Rodney has been surprisingly serviceable by his terms (1.330 WHIP in 37 innings) since joining the Nats midseason.
Boo, Nats: Misery loves company, and if you’re a Lions fan … well, just remember that the Nats are just one of three franchises — the Lions and Bengals are the others — wiithout a playoff series victory since the Lions last won in the postseason in 1992. Then again, maybe that’s a reason to root for them, too.NL Wild Card 2: Milwaukee Brewers (89-73)
You could pronounce Mike Moustakas’ last name as “Moose Tacos,” and now that we’ve pointed that out, you’ll never be able not to again. (Photo: The Associated Press)
They’ll face: Washington Nationals, 8:08 p.m. Tuesday in Washington, TBS
Woo, Brew Crew: Do you like teams that actually spend money in free agency during the offseason? Three of the Brewers’ top four hitters by WAR — Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and Yasman Grandal — were signed over the past two offseasons. They haven’t spent big — Cain’s five-year, $80 million deal is hardly a backbreaker —but they’ve stepped up, especially last winter. They shelled out about $25 million combined for Grandal and Moustakas and got 62 homers, 56 doubles and 162 RBIs.
Boo, Brew Crew: It’s tough to root against a team that went 19-6 after Labor Day to claim a surprise repeat playoff appearance. But, man, even the notably capricious Baseball Gods wouldn’t be so cruel as to give the Brewers a World Series when their best player, Christian Yelich (44 homers, 30 steals, .329 average), has to miss the rest of the year with a fractured right kneecap, suffered on Sept. 10. Or would they?