2019 National League Pennant Future Predictions and Expert Best Bets
The National League playoffs get underway on Thursday when the Los Angeles Dodgers will begin their bid for a third consecutive trip to the World Series. This is shaping up a lot like the previous two seasons, during which Los Angeles was by far the most talented team in the NL but did not have enough in the tank to match the cream of the crop from the American League. Before the Dodgers possibly get to deal with either Houston, the Yankees, or some other AL representative in the Fall Classic, they will begin their postseason campaign against the Washington Nationals before potentially running into the Atlanta Braves or St. Louis Cardinals.
Washington and Atlanta have no recent history of playoff success. The Nationals have not won a postseason series since moving from Montreal to the U.S. capital in 2005, while the Braves have not won a postseason series since 2001. Neither NL East beast can be discounted, however, as Washington has the kind of pitching that can take over in the playoffs and Atlanta is loaded with young talent. As for the Cardinals, they have triumphed in the National League four times in the last 15 years and have won it all twice during this stretch. Whereas the Dodgers and Braves coasted to their respective division titles in 2019, St. Louis held off Milwaukee on the final day of the regular season.
Los Angeles Dodgers -115
As usual, what’s not to like about the Dodgers? Their starting rotation is headlined by Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Walker Buehler. A strong bullpen includes Julio Urias, Pedro Baez, and Kenley Jansen—who settled down with a 3.18 ERA in September. Cody Bellinger is an MVP candidate, while Joc Pederson and Max Muncy hit 36 and 35 home runs, respectively.
Atlanta Braves +350
The young Braves are ahead of their time, as they were picked to finish behind Philadelphia and Washington in the NL East. Instead, Atlanta won it with relative ease behind a powerful lineup led by Ronald Acuna, Ozzie Albies, and veterans Freddie Freeman and Josh Donaldson. Mike Soroka has emerged as a top-of-the-line starter and the bullpen was shored up at the trade deadline.
Washington Nationals +500
In a way, the Nationals are playing with house money after surviving Milwaukee in the wild-card game on Tuesday. They trailed 3-1 in the eighth before treating the home crowd to a dramatic 4-3 comeback victory. Juan Soto, who was the hero of that one, has made people at least somewhat forget Bryce Harper. Right-handers Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg pace the pitching staff.
St. Louis Cardinals +600
The Cardinals finished miles behind L.A. and Atlanta, but that was due to a poor first half that left them .500 (44-44) at the all-star break. From July 13 through Sept. 23 they went an awesome 46-22 to sprint past Chicago and Milwaukee in the NL Central. Right-hander Jack Flaherty has been the best pitcher in baseball since the break and newcomer Paul Goldschmidt has predictably led the offense.
Los Angeles Dodgers -115
L.A. completely dominated the National League in 2017, when they won 104 games and then lost a total of just once to Arizona and Chicago en route to the World Series. Last year was tougher, as the Dodgers went a less dominant 92-71 and needed seven games to outlast Milwaukee in the NLCS.
This season’s squad is looking a lot like the one that was on display in 2017. A 106-56 record allowed Los Angeles to win the NL West by a ridiculous 21 games while finishing nine games clear of Atlanta for the best record in the National League and home-field advantage until the Fall Classic.
Pitching may be what leads Los Angeles to the promised land once again. Kershaw, Ryu, and Buehler all won at least 14 games during the regular season while losing no more than five times. Kershaw (3.03 ERA) is showing no signs of a back issue that has plagued him on various occasions in the past. Ryu (2.32 ERA) is a Cy Young candidate. Buehler (3.26 ERA) also has playoff experience under his belt after excelling in last year’s October festivities as a rookie. The bullpen, as discussed above, is perhaps as good as it’s ever been. On the offensive front, Bellinger, Pederson, and Muncy are a powerful trio and they have help in the form of Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Always seeming to be the king of clutch, Turner is a .313 lifetime hitter in the postseason has seven playoff homers–all in the last three seasons. There just is no apparent weakness in this club, which will once again be especially tough to beat in situations as a short as a best-of-five or best-of-seven series with such an impressive starting rotation. The Dodgers may not be the Astros, but they are clearly the best of the bunch–on paper–in the National League.
It may be worth taking a shot on the Cardinals at +600, as well. They have been on fire and this is a franchise that quite simply knows how to get the job done in the postseason.