Following weeks of anticipation, the 2019 playoffs are finally underway that has seen some of the highest-profile ballclubs such as the New York Yankees in contention for the World Series. It has put forth several intriguing storylines intertwined with the postseason action. Here are a few of the biggest headlines as the divisional series round begins.
Are the Astros destined to be World Series bound?
The taste of last year’s shortcomings in the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox was a clear driving point for the Houston Astros to get back to this stage.
The Astros pushed their way to the top mark in the majors behind what is arguably their deepest team over the last few seasons. Ace Justin Verlander has proven to be an ageless wonder, putting forth what will be an AL Cy Young award-winning campaign while their core group powered through nagging injuries.
Houston possesses tremendous balance that has them in a strong position to make a deep playoff run. Star shortstop Carlos Correa is expected to be back in the mix for the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Meanwhile, rookie phenom Yordan Alvarez has a chance to make a name for himself in his first trip to the playoffs.
The pieces are in place for the Astros to avenge last year’s disappointment by getting back on the mountaintop in the majors.
Will the Yankees’ regular-season success translate to the postseason?
Throughout the regular season, the Yankees navigated towards one of the top marks in the league. New York was able to work past significant injuries in the early goings behind their young talent, stepping up to guide them to an easy path to their first AL East title since 2012.
Their offense remained one of the most productive in the majors that was powered by the long ball, finishing second behind the Minnesota Twins. The Yankees have their big bats back in the lineup with Giancarlo Stanton in the mix after being limited to only 18 games played in the regular season.
The question becomes whether their bats can continue that production in the playoffs. In the 3-1 series loss last year in the ALDS to the Red Sox, New York batted .214 with 31 strikeouts and a .321 slugging percentage. That may ultimately prove to be the difference for them in their hopes to contend for the World Series.
Dodgers hoping the third time is the charm
For the seventh straight year, the Dodgers captured the NL West division title, which this time came in comfortable fashion with it being wrapped up in early September.
It has given Los Angeles plenty of time to hone in on the more significant task at hand: getting back to the World Series. The last two trips have been nothing short of a disappointment, with the latter seeing the Red Sox grab two out of three games at Dodger Stadium in a gentleman’s sweep.
Despite lingering questions regarding the backend of the bullpen, Los Angeles looks to be a more well-rounded team than in years past. Their young core continued its improvement headlined by Cody Bellinger putting forth an MVP-worthy campaign while a healthy Corey Seager will be in the fold this time around.
It’s also another opportunity for Clayton Kershaw to finally get past his postseason demons, while Hyun-Jin Ryu can prove that his breakout Cy Young-worthy 2019 season isn’t a mirage. There is no question that the Dodgers have the necessary talent, it’s just a matter of them finally getting over the hump when it matters most in the postseason.