As fun as this year’s Redboys were to watch, it felt pretty well inevitable that they would win 83 games and miss the postseason by a noticeable margin. I’d sure like it if they got better this winter and did better next year.
But for now, we can watch other teams. If, like me, you spent the summer watching the Reds and so only have a passing familiarity with the rest of the league, I’m happy to catch you up. I probably don’t know any better than you, but that’s never stopped either of us.
Atlanta vs Milwaukee Brewers
If you remember back to the beginning of the season, all them projections and such had the Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, and Cubs all kinda bunched up around 85 wins. As it all played out, the Brewers ran away with the division pretty handily. They won 95 and played dramaless baseball for nearly a month to end the season. How’d they do it? They have one of the best and deepest pitching staffs of this century. Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Freddy Peralta are every bit as terrifying a rotation Cerberus as any Halloween screamathon could conjure. Burnes is among a handful of fellas in the league this year with a claim at the Cy Young, as he led the circuit in ERA, FIP, and strikeouts per 9. His 1.63 FIP is the 16th-best such mark in baseball history. In fact, only him and Pedro! have done that since the war.
And Woodruff and Peralta weren’t far behind him! Woodruff threw a 2.56 ERA and a WHIP under 1.0. Peralta’s ERA+ of 152 and a WHIP also under 1.0 would be the ace of most every other staff in baseball. And the bullpen boasts a boatload of bone hammers and battles axes. Brad Boxberger is there, and Brent Suter and Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser and Hunter Strickland and honestly even without Devin Williams (who lost a drunken fistfight with a concrete wall) they can lock down the back three or four innings with cold efficiency and brutality. They strike out everyone and they do not allow home runs. These guys are not fucking around.
The lineup is far more pedestrian. Willy Adames was the early-season shortstop acquisition the fucking Reds should have made, but instead he anchored the infield and had the second-most extra-base hits for the team despite not putting on a Brewers shirt until near the end of May.
Atlanta shut out the Reds last year in that weird covid wild card series and I’ve always hated them anyway. They aren’t any more likable this year, what with Ronald Acuña Jr. out for the year. They rebuilt their entire outfield on the fly at the trade deadline, adding Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler, Eddie Rosario, and Joc Pederson in separate trades. The reward for their basic competence is a postseason engagement with the pitching equivalent of the Mongolian hordes.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs San Francisco Giants
The Dodgers did us all a favor last night beating the Cardinals in the wild card game. All the same, they are the Dodgers. They did what everybody expected them to do this season and won 106 games by stomping mudholes in the asses of any and all comers. They boast the kind of quality depth that can only be achieved by out-scouting, out-developing, and out-spending the rest of the league. They’ve lost Clayton Kershaw to injury, Cody Bellinger to whatever the hell his deal is, and also the ordeal with that grisly rape orc.
But no big deal because they went out at the trade deadline and got Max Scherzer and Trea Turner. All it cost was money and prospects, which they have plenty of.
This team has some bad vibes, but they keep winning because it sure seems like they want it more. Or maybe they are one of the few organizations who understand that winning generates more revenue that anything else they can do, so they invest in winning.
The Giants, in a delightful irony, are the David to the Dodgers’ Goliath. They are a bunch of old and broken ballplayers who got together for one last ride and they all had career seasons. Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Darin Ruf, and Evan Longoria played like versions of themselves eight years younger (Belt is the baby here at 33). Crawford in particular is one of those Disney Channel baseball stories you can’t resist. He has always been an elite glove at shortstop (he won the Gold Glove 2015-17) who could hit enough, but this season at 34 he posted a career-best 141 OPS+ with career-best numbers in every slash column. He’s an MVP candidate. I want a shirsey.
Oh yeah and their pitching staff is 64% guys who pitched for the Reds when the Reds were historically bad at pitching. Kevin Gausman, Tony Disco, Alex Wood, and Johnny Cueto are slated to make starts for them against the Dodgers. And the Dodgers have every reason to be worried.
The Gs also have Grant Brisbee on their side, which counts for something. I gave it it’s own whole paragraph!
So who ya got?
Atlanta and Los Angeles can both go climb a tree for all I care. And the Brewers and Giants are both genuinely likeable! I’d be perfectly happy with either of those two. But ultimately I think the Brewers are the only team with the pitching necessary to tame the Dodgers Fury Road diesel lineup.
Tomorrow I’ll go over the less sexually attractive American League.