It took until the last day of the regular season to finalize the National League playoff bracket. The NL Central division was not decided until game 162 when the St. Louis Cardinals clinched after a 9-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs. That win made the result of the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Colorado Rockies game meaningless, as Milwaukee was relegated to a trip to Washington. They will face Max Scherzer and the Nationals in the Wild Card game on Tuesday night.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, who cruised to 106 victories in the regular season have had home-field advantage wrapped up for the last couple of weeks. They await the winner of the Nationals-Brewers matchup. The Atlanta Braves have home-field advantage over the St. Louis Cardinals, and both NLDS series will begin on Thursday.
Here are the odds to win the 2019 National League Pennant (odds courtesy of FanDuel):
|Los Angeles Dodgers||-115|
|St. Louis Cardinals||+650|
Best Bet: Los Angeles Dodgers (-115)
The Los Angeles Dodgers are the safest bet to win, as they look for their third-consecutive National League pennant. According to FiveThirtyEight’s projections, the Dodgers have a 45% chance to reach the World Series. No other National League team has better than an 18% chance to win the pennant.
Strangely, the team that the Dodgers should fear playing the most is a team they might not even get to face: the Washington Nationals. Though Washington’s bullpen is one of the worst ever historically, they have the starting pitching depth to go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers’ big three. If the Nationals get by the Brewers, the trio of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin have the talent to match up against Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Walker Buehler. That said, Nationals manager Dave Martinez would have to get creative in the later innings to hide a bullpen that finished the regular season with a league-worst 5.68 ERA. The Dodgers bullpen finished fourth in all of Major League Baseball with a 3.82 ERA.
Though the St. Louis Cardinals have to travel to Atlanta, I like the Cardinals in their series because of the arm of Jack Flaherty. He has been the best pitcher in baseball in the second half of the season, and St. Louis could use him twice on full rest if the series went to five games. Though the Cardinals finished just 11th in the NL in runs scored, they were third in the league in both rotation ERA and bullpen ERA.
Pitching wins in October, and this is clearly a strength of St. Louis. Also, the Cardinals played playoff-level baseball for the past week, as the Brewers pushed them until the last day for the division crown. While Atlanta had the benefit of resting players last week, the fact that St. Louis has played at a higher intensity down the stretch should bode well for them early in the playoffs.
In the end, the Dodgers are too complete of a team not to make it out of the National League bracket. Offensively, the Dodgers are first in the NL in runs scored, home runs, total bases, slugging percentage, and OPS. Their pitching staff is also first in the National League in ERA and BAA. They have by far the most playoff experience of all the NL teams, and they are hungry for their first World Series win since 1988. Playing the Brewers in the NLDS would make for an easier path, but either way, I expect Los Angeles to beat the St. Louis Cardinals for their third-straight pennant.