As the 2022 regular season drew to a close, all eyes were on Aaron Judge’s chase to break Roger Maris’ American League single-season home run record, as well as Albert Pujols’ race to 700 home runs. career wounds.
One of those milestones has been reached: Pujols hit two home runs against the Dodgers in Los Angeles to join the elusive 700 club while the Umpire sits at 60 homers, two short of the record.
While these have certainly been the two most exciting storylines of the past couple of months, there is still a lot to play in the final weeks of the season. Will the Atlanta Braves or the New York Mets rise to the top of the NL East and finish second in the National League? Are there any players that you should pay special attention to before the postseason?
The season ends on October 5, with the postseason due to start two days later. What should we watch? Sportzshala MLB experts Bradford Doolittle, Buster Olney, Jeff Passan and David Schonfield tell you everything you need to know. Let’s dive into this.
What playoff races do you watch the most in the last two weeks of the season?
Doolittle: The race with the biggest impact on the playoff bracket is the NL East title race between the Braves and the Mets. In terms of the overall season, these are the second and third best teams in the NL, in whatever order you want to rank them. The division winner gets a bye in the first round. The second-place team earns the opportunity to have a wild-card series by triggering a playoff fatigue counter on their pitching staff, and if they survive, they will face a rested and unusually strong Los Angeles Dodgers team. Get one point for the new format because it’s a race for first place with real bets.
Olney: There is some intrigue built around home field advantage in the American League, especially the Seattle Mariners and Toronto Blue Jays. A three-game streak in Seattle would be intense given the great history of Mariners fans supporting their laundry, and any streak in Toronto seems to carry a special passion. But let’s face it, we’ll end up tied to the NL East resolution because you can argue that these are two of the top four teams – and the loser will have an extra playoff round to overcome.
Pass: Well, given that there are only three actual races, and no one mentioned a third, I’ll give some love to sprinting – or jogging … or crawling – for the last two NL wildcard places. The San Diego Padres are in first place, and they have a feeling they could get hot in October and do a lot of damage. The Philadelphia Phillies got off to a rocky start and, like San Diego, are in the lead. And the Milwaukee Brewers, after losing to the St. Louis Cardinals, stayed in Central, doing what they are good at: hitting tanks and throwing the ball. It may not be the sexiest race, but for now it’s a race. And for that we should celebrate – or appreciate … or recognize.
Shenfield: I’ve just been to Seattle and seen more Sailor gear and heard more Sailor talk than I have in a very long time. The recent heavy strain and injuries to Julio Rodriguez and Eugenio Suarez have Mariners fans thinking a lot of bad thoughts, and as one of those fans, it’s admittedly hard for me to avoid those thoughts, given a 21-year playoff drought. So while the NL East race is certainly more important – as Brad hinted, the deferral of that fatigue meter for a round could be huge – I’m looking at this wildcard race.
Which remaining episodes have you circled on your calendar?
Doolittle: There isn’t much left on the roster of teams battling each other that have been competing for the same thing over the last couple of weeks. A notable exception to this is the following weekend, when the Mets visit the Braves in Cobb County. The division should be on the line in a playoff atmosphere and all that.
Olney: The Mets are at the Braves next weekend, mostly because we have Sunday Night Baseball on our last game, but also because there’s so much at stake. Depending on how the Mets handle their rotation over the past two weeks, it looks like we could have Jacob de Grom in this game and it will be a blast.
Pass: The only series in the last three days of the season between two teams with October dreams is Philadelphia in Houston. The Phillies are currently lining up to throw Aaron Nola in Game 1, Ranger Suarez in Game 2 and, unfortunately, the name of Bailey Fulter in Game 3. Philadelphia understandably wants the postseason spot closed by then because that the prospect of facing Christian Javier, Lance McCullers Jr. and Justin Verlander in games that need to be won is truly daunting.
Shenfield: Aside from the Mets-Braves and every series of Mariners, I’m looking at the season-ending series when the Blue Jays go to the Baltimore Orioles, which can determine if the Blue Jays take the wild-card series and/or hit the Orioles. But here’s one that has nothing to do with playoff racing but will have history on the line: the Colorado Rockies vs. the Dodgers in six games to end the season. The Dutch record for wins in a 162-game season is 108 wins for two legendary clubs, the Reds in 1975 and the Mets in 1986. The Dodgers won’t catch up with the 1906 Cubs, who won 116 games, but they have a shot at becoming the greatest regular season team in modern Dutch history.
Which teams that have already made the playoffs have the most games left to play in recent weeks?
Doolittle: Well, it really is a choice between the Braves and the Mets. And I think I’d say the Mets have something to play for. As for the Braves, they have a couple of things that lighten the load of pressure. First, they are the reigning champions. Their fan base is happier than ever. Secondly, most of the roster has a fresh memory of how they made it through the entire playoffs and won it despite not having a particularly strong playoff seed. Sure, it was a different format, but I don’t think the Braves would be bothered if they ended up being a wildcard team.
On the other hand, for most of the summer, it was like “one of those years” for the Mets, when everything seemed to fall into place on the way to a landmark season in the team’s history. While the Mets haven’t fallen apart yet, going all this way and eventually becoming a wild card team – and not having a division title to show for it – would just be a little weird. disappointment.
Olney: Braves and Mets – Atlanta looks set to become the first team in over 20 years to win back-to-back titles, but playing in that first round would be a burden on a club that has already achieved success. right now, with injuries to Ronald Akoun Jr., Spencer Strider, et al. And as for the Mets, at the time of the year they’d probably prefer capping Max Scherzer and deGrom’s innings, the need to use them in the wildcard round was would be tiring.
Pass: The correct answer is Braves and Mets for all the reasons above. But let’s not forget Seattle. If the Mariners take the top spot in the AL, they are guaranteed their first home playoff game in 21 years. If they finish in the second or third slot, they’ll be on their way to all three games and will need to move forward to bring playoff baseball back to T-Mobile Park, one of baseball’s most beloved and high-profile stadiums. .
Shenfield: I’ll be curious to see how Dodgers manager Dave Roberts works in his bullpen after he announced the other day that Craig Kimbrel will no longer be closer. He said it would be closer by the committee, but that last stretch would be an indicator of what exactly that means and who might be in line to get those last three outs. Evan Phillips was the team’s best pitcher, but he was also very valuable as a lineup and has little experience in the ninth inning, only three career saves. The Dodgers are the best team in the majors, but they have one distinct weakness that will remain in question in the postseason.
What individual non-Aaron Judge or Albert Pujols related stats do you come closest to finishing?
Doolittle: This question is not fair, because I only observe the judge and Pujols for the most part in the field of statistics. How can you not? And not for the obvious chasing home runs, but because there are other cool things in the game. First, the Pujols are getting very close to overtaking Babe Ruth on the RBI all-time list. I mean, it’s amazing. (Although, since the statistic was not recognized by baseball until 1920, many of the Ruths are not officially counted, leaving Pujols ranked No. 2 on the all-time list, even though he technically trails Ruth by six RBIs.)
Also, I have been following the news of Patrick Corbin’s injuries and his sore back with concern. It looks like he should be back in the Washington Nationals rotation soon to continue his 20-game losing quest. He’s been stuck on 18 for a long time. I know this is a perversion and I sincerely wish no harm to Corbin. I just have a weakness for such little historical oddities. Nobody has done this since Mike Marot in 2003.
Olney: I’m going to cheat a little in my answer because it’s actually about the judge – the AL title can be the difference between whether he wins the Triple Crown or not. If it is won by Xander Bogarts, it will be a good excuse for his foray into free will; if Luis Arráez manages, what a cool achievement in a race against other great players.
Pass: I want to see the final line of Shohei Otani’s stats – and if his 2022 results actually top those of 2021, when he was a runaway AL MVP. Simple answer: probably. He is almost the same striker and plays much better on the mound. The fact that Judge puts on a great season that could be capped off with a couple of historical moments, and that there’s actually a pretty good case for Otani, might seem like the only…