MLB

Down The Stretch: Updated MLB Postseason And Award Predictions

August 30, 2023

As we barrel toward September, there’s roughly one month left in the MLB regular season. Some teams have all but locked up playoff spots, others are basically eliminated, and still others are battling. Individual accolades are similar, though recent injuries have threatened to shake things up significantly. Let’s survey the league as we prepare for the stretch run.

American League

Playoff Picture

  • The Locks: Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays
  • Likely In: Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, Houston Astros
  • Hopes Are Still Alive: Toronto Blue Jays, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Guardians

The field in the AL has become clear within the last week, though there are still plenty of details to work out. In the East, the Orioles and Rays are the only likely representatives, though the battle for the division crown looks set to go down to the final days of the regular season.

Momentum has shifted between the two clubs all season, but with 2.5 games in hand, the smart bet is on the Orioles to be on the better end of things.

Meanwhile, the Jays and Red Sox have been the victim of the Mariners getting hot at the right time and have seen their odds of reaching the postseason dip significantly.

We can say with confidence that only one team will punch their postseason ticket from the Central. The Twins are in full control and could arguably be shifted to “the locks.” However, they’re not particularly impressive, and there’s no guarantee they won’t go on a significant slide across the next 30 days.

The West has become the dominant division in the AL. Through Tuesday, the Mariners, Rangers and Astros were in a three-way tie for first place in the division and held a 3.5 game advantage over the Jays for final Wild Card spot.

The Mariners are one of the hottest teams in the league and have momentum on their side, while the Astros are steady and reliable. The Rangers have picked the wrong time to play their worst ball of the campaign, but they remain in the playoff field despite going 3-7 across their last 10 contests.

Awards

  • MVP: Shohei Ohtani
  • Cy Young: Kevin Gausman
  • Rookie of the Year: Gunnar Henderson

Ohtani looked to be a lock for the MVP, though things got a bit more complicated after he was diagnosed with a torn UCL in his right elbow that ended his season as a pitcher. He’s still regularly in the lineup however, and he’s had no problem continuing to post great numbers. Despite the injury setback, he’s built up such a cushion for the award that he should still be the favorite.

The best bet for the Cy Young could very well be Gerrit Cole, but Gausman has measured out as the better pitcher and is more deserving. Neither team is likely to make the postseason, so there shouldn’t be any argument about team success to tilt the competition.

Henderson is the runaway favorite for ROY and is the lock of this group.

National League

Playoff Picture

  • The Locks: Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • Likely In: Milwaukee Brewers, Philadelphia Phillies
  • Hopes Are Still Alive: Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Miami Marlins

Things are more open in the National League as compared to the AL. We know the Dodgers and Braves will represent the NL West and East as division champs, respectively.

The Brewers have started to pull away in the Central and are nearing lock status after posting a 24-16 record in post-All-Star break action.

The Phillies have no shot at catching Atlanta, but they have a five-game lead in the Wild Card chase. Also likely in are the Brewers, one of the hotter teams in the NL which would have to see something catastrophic happen to miss the postseason.

The final two spots are up for grabs. The Cubs have momentum and a strong lineup on their side. Their pitching leaves a lot to be desired, but they should still be penciled in as a Wild Card team thanks to their second-half surge.

Speaking of poor pitching, the Reds have been doomed by their lack of starters and depth in the bullpen. That’s not the roster construction we want to see in a postseason race, and they should be projected to continue to slip down the standings.

Instead, the final playoff spot will go to Arizona. Miami will rely on its rotation to make a late push, but the Diamondbacks have 2.5 games in hand and will be able to maintain that thanks to their superior lineup.

With Cincinnati and San Francisco also in the mix, the race for the final postseason spot in the NL projects to be most compelling storyline across the final month of the regular season.

Awards

  • MVP: Ronald Acuna
  • Cy Young: Spencer Strider
  • Rookie of the Year: Corbin Carroll

Carroll is the rookie of the year and there isn’t need for much discussion beyond that.

The other two races are far more interesting. Ronald Acuna looked to be the runaway favorite for MVP honors, and the race hasn’t tightened due to any fault of his own. Since the All-Star break, he’s maintained a .343 average with eight home runs, 40 runs scored and 24 RBI across 42 games.

However, Mookie Betts nearly hit .400 in the same span with equal counting stats. Acuna has the more consistent production when looking at the entire campaign, so he should take home the hardware – but it’s definitely a race now.

The highest honor for pitchers is wide open between the trio of Blake Snell, Zac Gallen and Spencer Strider. Determining the award isn’t as simple as looking at WAR, but Snell doesn’t come close to measuring up to the rest of that group by the metric.

That leaves Gallen and Strider as the contenders, with the latter standing out as the top option. He leads all qualified pitchers – not just pitchers in the NL – in metrics such as SIERA, K% and K-BB%, all of which are accurate reflections of a pitcher’s dominance.

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