The 2022 Major League Baseball regular season provided a never-ending list of milestones moments.
Miguel Cabrera recorded his 3,000th career hit. Albert Pujols became the fourth member of the 700 home run club. Aaron Judge broke Roger Maris’ American League home run record with just one day remaining in the season. Baseball fans were spoiled throughout the 162 games, and if recent postseasons are any indication, the fun hasn’t stopped yet.
Whether it’s fun, chaos, history or a mix of all three, the MLB postseason always brings the fire and rarely disappoints. So, here are some bold predictions for playoff baseball in 2022.
1. AL home run king Aaron Judge gets blanked this postseason
That’s right, we’re getting really bold. I don’t see another home run in Aaron Judge’s 2022 future.
No one came close to outpacing Judge in his historic season, with the next closest slugger (Kyle Schwarber, 46) falling 16 dingers short of his historic mark. With an average of one home run per 11 plate appearances, Judge is almost guaranteed to run into a postseason home run, right? Wrong. It only took five months of domination, but teams eventually stopped pitching to Judge, who walked a total of 33 times in September. With the lineup surrounding Judge, teams shouldn’t feel the need to pitch to him.
Oh yeah, there’s also the next prediction.
2. The New York Yankees make an early exit
It becomes a lot harder for Judge to get on the board if he only plays in a handful of games. The Yankees will take on the winner of the Cleveland Guardians and Tampa Bay Rays wild card series. Though New York did finish 16-9 versus those two clubs in 2022, the matchup against Tampa Bay feels like a losing one. The Yankees lineup falls off a steep cliff around the midway point, while their bullpen looks like a hodge-podge of flamethrowers who can’t locate. Aroldis Chapman is cooked, Clay Holmes is looking less like Mariano Rivera and more like Clay Holmes and Zack Britton landed right back on the injured list after his short-lived return.
The Rays have a steady lineup and good pitching top to bottom — you know, the two things you need to win in the postseason as well as the things the Yankees don’t have. Now let’s just hope Cleveland doesn’t pull off a series win and make me look bad.
3. The San Diego Padres pull off a Wild Card upset
The Padres are the MLB’s biggest wild card underdog this year, with +145 odds to defeat the New York Mets, per DraftKings Sportsbook. Hammer Slam Diego.
There were points in the season where the Mets looked like the best team in baseball before the Atlanta Braves stormed in front of them to win the National League East. While New York has continued to look solid down the stretch, manager Buck Showalter is making a high-risk/high-reward decision that could prove disastrous. Showalter wants to hold on to Jacob DeGrom until a do-or-die Game 3, or Game 1 against the Los Angeles Dodgers should the Mets sweep San Diego. That means the Padres will face Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt in the first two games of the series, each of whom lost their final start of the season, combining for a 8.89 ERA.
San Diego’s offense may not be as strong as it could be with Fernando Tatis Jr. suspended, but the pitching staff is loaded with Joe Musgrove, Blake Snell, Yu Darvish and Sean Manaea, two of which would likely be available out of the bullpen in any Game 2 or 3 scenario. I like their chances.
4. Trea Turner breaks one of two postseason records
Is Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner the most underrated player in baseball? I’m probably not qualified to say, but yes. Yes he is.
Turner had 194 hits and scored 101 runs in the regular season, both of which ranked top ten in the entire MLB. His postseason success has never mirrored his regular season output, but 2022 has the chance to be the year Turner puts it all together. Probably a safe bet to be honest considering he’s in a contract year. Randy Arozarena owns the hits record with 29 in the 2020 playoffs, while Carlos Beltrán scored the most runs (21) in 2004. Batting second in the best lineup in baseball should help him contend for one of, if not both, of these records.
5. Houston Astros waltz to the World Series
This one is simple. Houston will have to dismantle either the Seattle Mariners or Toronto Blue Jays on its way to their sixth-consecutive appearance in the ALCS, where they will meet with either the Yankees, Rays or Guardians. Houston’s combined record against all five of those teams? 28-17. They have the pedigree. They have the lineup. They have the pitching. The AL is the Astros’ to lose.
6. Justin Verlander takes home an MVP award and rides off into the sunset
Justin Verlander has already supplanted himself as one of the greatest pitchers in MLB history. So, one more incredible run through the postseason just might be enough for him to hang them up.
The odds on favorite to win the AL Cy Young award (-10000 at BetMGM) is entering the postseason with a 1.75 ERA in his first season off Tommy John surgery. Oh yeah, he’s 39 years old. Houston is the favorite to represent the AL in the World Series (+380 at BetMGM) and another vintage Verlander performance or two should help add some hardware to his trophy collection. If the Astros win it all, something a certain “expert” believes will happen, Verlander could be inclined to call it quits on a Hall of Fame career.