The MLB playoffs are upon us. How ready are you for the postseason action?
After a sprint to the finish that saw the final American League wild-card spot decided on the final day of the regular season, the 10 teams chasing World Series glory this October are set with the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers and Tampa Bay Rays all coming off 100-plus win campaigns.
Are they the teams to beat or will someone else get hot and rule the postseason?
MLB experts Bradford Doolittle, Jeff Passan and David Schoenfield go deep on everything from the matchups and names you need to know to keys and very bold predictions for every team. Doolittle also has calculated the odds for every team's shot at winning it all, as well as every potential matchup in each round against any possible opponent.
San Francisco Giants
107-55 | NL West champs | 20.4% World Series odds
Odds by round
NLDS: 48.5% vs. LAD | 65.6% vs. STL
NLCS: 62.4% vs. MIL | 65.8% vs. ATL
WS: 56.5% vs. TB | 58.1% vs. HOU | 60.7% vs. CHW | 70.1% vs. BOS | 70.3% vs. NYY
Why they could go far: Every team in baseball had a losing record this season in games in which their opponents scored the first run. The Giants were no exception and their record in those games was typical among the playoff teams. On the other hand, San Francisco lapped the field when it came to winning the games in which it drew first blood. How? Well, it didn't hurt that the Giants' bullpen led the majors in ERA and WHIP. And that's really the crux of it: If the Giants can establish an early lead, Gabe Kapler's bullpen is probably going to get the job done. -- Doolittle
What could send them home early: Regardless of what we thought going into the season, there's nothing on the Giants' dossier that marks them as a fluke. They have a fabulous record in one-run games, but even if they had won those at a lower rate, San Francisco would still have approached 100 wins. No, the problem for the Giants is repeating what they accomplished during the season: overcoming the Dodgers. In every category in which the Giants stand out, the Dodgers do it as well or a little better. The possible exception to that is the bullpen, in which case we refer you to the preceding item. -- Doolittle
Most likely October hero: It's as likely to be the 26th man on the roster as Brandon Crawford or Kris Bryant, because that's how the Giants roll. Ace Kevin Gausman hasn't been as effective in the second half (4.42 ERA, .276 average allowed) as the first (1.73 ERA, .159 average allowed), but he's the starter most likely to get on a roll and pitch deep into games with a splitter that has remained a wipeout offering (.136 average against it on the season). -- Schoenfield
Most exciting thing about the Giants: Brandon Belt led the team with "just" 29 home runs -- and he's out with a broken thumb -- but the Giants still led the NL in home runs. So the exciting thing is that power can come from anywhere or anyone in the lineup. Even without Belt, they have a ready solution at first base with a platoon of LaMonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf (or Wilmer Flores). September was the Giants' best offensive month, so they've shown no signs of slowing down. -- Schoenfield
One bold October prediction: If the Giants can get past the division series, rookie Camilo Doval will get the final out in the NLCS and send them to the World Series. -- Passan
95-67 | NL Central champs | 9.2% World Series odds
Odds by round
NLDS: 54.6% vs. ATL
NLCS: 36.5% vs. LAD | 37.6% vs. SF
WS: 42.7% vs. TB | 46.8% vs. HOU | 49.5% vs. CHW | 59.6% vs. BOS | 59.9% vs. NYY
Why they could go far: Together and collectively, Milwaukee's big three rotation of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta has been among baseball's best all season. To put that in perspective: According to the wins above average table at baseball-reference.com, the Brewers rank seventh at 9.8 WAA. The starting pitching by itself is at 10.4 WAA, while the rest of the roster drags Milwaukee toward the middle. With the bullpen short a key arm, and having shown leaks lately anyway, is it possible that efficiency-obsessed Craig Counsell might ask more of his rotation than in postseasons past? He might have no choice. -- Doolittle
What could send them home early: Through the end of August, Milwaukee ranked seventh in bullpen ERA and first in strikeout rate among relievers. Since then, the strikeout rate has remained elite, but the bullpen ERA has spiked to over 5.00. Luckily, some of that figure is due to poor pitching from players who won't be on the playoff roster. Unluckily, one of those non-rostered players will be star high-leverage righty Devin Williams, who broke his hand punching a wall and apparently never saw "Bull Durham" to absorb its lesson about not hitting things with your pitching hand. Josh Hader remains dominant, but he needs help. -- Doolittle
Most likely October hero: Corbin Burnes led the NL in ERA, K's per nine, fewest walks per nine and fewest home runs per nine (just seven in 167 innings). No pitcher had even led his league in just SO/9 and BB/9 since Walter Johnson in 1913. The Brewers won his final 12 starts. He made only two starts all season on four days of rest, so he might have to adjust to starting on shorter rest, but no pitcher dominated across the board in 2021 like Burnes. -- Schoenfield
Most exciting thing about the Brewers: It's not just Burnes. Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta have also been excellent with sub-3.00 ERAs. Peralta won't pitch enough innings to officially qualify, but he held batters to a .165 average. And then they have Josh Hader to close things out. No wonder the Brewers led the majors in shutouts. -- Schoenfield
One bold October prediction: Milwaukee will miss Devin Williams, who's out with a broken hand after the wall won, but not as much as some think: Atlanta hits changeups, which Williams throws more than 63% of the time, better than any team in baseball. Left-handed rookie Aaron Ashby will more-than-capably fill in as a pillar on the Josh Hader Bridge. -- Passan
88-73 | NL East champs | 7.3% World Series odds
Odds by round
NLDS: 45.4% vs. MIL
NLCS: 33.2% vs. LAD | 34.2% vs. SF
WS: 39.2% vs. TB | 40.7% vs. HOU | 43.4% vs. CHW | 53.5% vs. BOS | 53.9% vs. NYY
Why they could go far: The historic output of the Braves' infield has gotten much attention, but after chasing .500 for most of the season, Atlanta's burst to a repeat division title was more due to improved pitching. Maintaining that is the key to any hope the Braves have of playing deep into October. The starters have been solid throughout, but after the trade deadline, have posted the third-best rotation ERA in baseball. Meanwhile, the bullpen was 18th in ERA before the deadline. It is fifth since then. Given an explosive but inconsistent offense, the Braves have to keep pitching at a high level. -- Doolittle
What could send them home early: Since the trade deadline, when the Braves acquired a number of replacement options for their depleted outfield, Atlanta has been a potent first-pitch-hitting team capable of hitting home runs in bunches. But what happens against elite, postseason pitching? The Braves' overall swing rate is topped only by Kansas City in the majors and towers over everybody else on the NL bracket. No team has swung more frequently at first pitches. This has contributed to some offensive inconsistency, but this also is what the Atlanta toolkit looks like in the wake of Ronald Acuna Jr.'s injury and Marcell Ozuna's off-field problems. -- Doolittle
Most likely October hero: Charlie Morton has been down this road before, winning both Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series for the Astros in 2017 (the only pitcher ever to do that). He won three of his four playoff starts for the Rays last postseason and in his playoff career he's 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA. He has pitched his best baseball of 2021 the past two months so he enters October on a positive trend. -- Schoenfield
Most exciting thing about the Braves: The Braves became just the second team to have all four infielders hit 25-plus home runs -- Freddie Freeman, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley and Dansby Swanson. Freeman is the man to watch. Are these his final games with the Braves? He's a free agent, and while many expect him to return to Atlanta, the fact is he is still unsigned and that means there's a chance he's somewhere else in 2022. -- Schoenfield.