The 2023 MLB postseason starts Tuesday. The regular season wrapped up Sunday. This season marked the Miguel Cabrera's Hall of Fame career (and also the great Adam Wainwright's) but not the end of the Angels' postseason drought. They once again failed to qualify for the postseason despite rostering Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, two of the best players we've ever seen.of
This is Year 2 of the new postseason formatwith the best-of-three Wild Card Series. Here is this year's postseason bracket:
The Orioles and Rangers are both back in the postseason for the first time since 2016, and the Diamondbacks have returned for the first time since 2017. The O's and D-backs both lost 110 games as recently as 2021. Impressively quick turnarounds by them. We also have three teams (Brewers, Rangers, Rays) searching for their first ever World Series championship.
, though I did nail a few, and my motto is if you get a lot of bold predictions correct, you weren't bold enough. Or at least that's what I tell myself to feel better. Anyway, let's do some postseason bold predictions, shall we? Let's get to it.
1. The Twins will end the losing streak
I apologize, Twins fans, but it is inescapable this time of year. Minnesota, the AL Central champs,They have not won a postseason game since Game 1 of the 2004 ALDS at the old Yankee Stadium. Johan Santana outdueled Mike Mussina, Jacque Jones hit a home run, and Joe Nathan got the save.
The 18-game postseason losing streak is not just the active longest postseason losing streak in baseball. It's the longest in the history of the four major North American pro sports leagues. Here's the list:
- Minnesota Twins: 18 games and counting (2004 to present)
- Chicago Blackhawks: 16 games (1975-79)
- Detroit Pistons: 14 games and counting (2008 to present)
- Los Angeles Kings: 14 games (1993-2001)
- Several teams tied at 13 games
My first bold prediction is low-hanging fruit: Minnesota will snap the 18-game postseason losing streak. Specifically, I'll say they do it in Game 1 of the Wild Card Series against the Blue Jays. The streak won't get to 19 games. It'll stop at 18.
In all sincerity, I will say this year's Twins appear better built for the postseason than previous iterations. Sonny Gray and Pablo López are a strong 1-2 punch atop the rotation and they can drop the hammer with Jhoan Duran in the ninth inning. They need Byron Buxton and Carlos Correa to be healthy and productive and that's a big if right now, but I don't think these Twins will be a pushover in October.
2. Acuña will set a stolen base record
Braves wunderkind Ronald Acuña Jr. just wrapped up the greatest power-speed season in baseball history. -- he was also the charter member of the 40/50 and 40/60 clubs -- and is likely to win NL MVP honors. No disrespect is meant to the great Mookie Betts. It's just that 40/70 will be hard for voters to ignore.
Anyway, for this next bold prediction, I will say Acuña's stolen base prowess will carry over into the postseason and he will set the record for most stolen bases in a single series. Only five times in history has a player stolen at least seven bases in a single postseason series. The list:
Rickey Henderson, Athletics
Lou Brock, Cardinals
1968 World Series
Lou Brock, Cardinals
1967 World Series
Ron Gant, Braves
1991 World Series
Willie Wilson, Athletics
Those are the guys you'd expect, right? No player has stolen even five bases in a single postseason series since Cleveland's Omar Vizquel went 5 for 5 stealing bases against the Marlins in the 1997 World Series. The last player with four stolen bases in a single postseason series was Jason Heyward. He stole four bags in four tries with the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.
This bold prediction says Acuña will break Henderson's record and steal nine bases in a single series this postseason. That is a lot of stolen bases. For what it's worth, Acuña has stolen as many as seven bases in a five-game span in his career, and as many as eight bases in a seven-game span. Also, look at the bottom of the regular season caught-stealing rate leaderboard:
Four of those seven teams are in the postseason. If the Braves run into one of them at some point, and Acuña is feeling aggressive, nine steals could be in the cards. On the other end of the spectrum, the Orioles (27%), Rangers (25%), and Twins (25%) are among the best teams at preventing steals. They're in the other league though. Less chance of Acuña seeing them in October.
3. Kerkering will be this year's K-Rod
Two decades ago Francisco Rodríguez burst onto the scene as a September call up with the 2002 Angels, and he performed so well that not only did he make the postseason roster, he was a trusted high-leverage option throughout October. K-Rod had a 1.93 ERA in 18 2/3 postseason innings that year, and he threw a scoreless eighth inning in the World Series clincher.
This postseason, Phillies righty Orion Kerkering will become a household name and this year's K-Rod. The 2022 fifth-round pick had a 1.51 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 53 2/3 innings at four minor-league levels this season, and Philadelphia called him up on Sept. 22. The 22-year-old struck out six in three scoreless big-league innings down the stretch.
Kerkering's slider is already in the conversation for the best slider in baseball. It has "sweeper" characteristics -- huge spin and a ton of horizontal break -- but he also throws it in the upper-80s. Most sweepers are in the low-80s. His upper-90s sinker is a pretty great second pitch too. Kerkering has the kind of electric bat-missing stuff that plays in the postseason.
This latest bold prediction calls for Kerkering to go from late September call up to impact reliever in the postseason. Craig Kimbrel has been shaky of late and Seranthony Domínguez has yet to rediscover his 2022 form following an oblique injury earlier this year. There's an opening for Kerkering to become a trusted right-handed option.
4. The Astros will not make the ALCS
Only four teams making the Championship Series each year, so predicting a specific team won't make it is not especially bold. The odds always favor the field. The Astros are not most teams though. They have gone to the ALCS in each of the last six seasons. That's the longest streak of Championship Series appearances in the wild-card era (since 1995).
Here are Houston's last six postseasons:
- 2017: Won World Series vs. Dodgers
- 2018: Lost ALCS vs. Red Sox
- 2019: Lost World Series vs. Nationals
- 2020: Lost ALCS vs. Rays
- 2021: Lost World Series vs. Braves
- 2022: Won World Series vs. Phillies
Six straight seasons of being one of the last four teams standings is awfully impressive. Especially in this current era of relative parity -- there has not been a back-to-back World Series winner since the 1998-2000 Yankees -- and increasingly large postseason fields. There's something to be said for knowing how to win. Doubt the Astros at your own risk.
That all said, I predict the Houston's ALCS streak ends this year. Specifically, I'll say they get bounced by the Twins in the ALDS. So there's really three bold predictions: 1) the Twins will end their postseason losing streak, 2) the Twins will advance to the ALDS, and 3) the Twins will also advance to the ALCS. They haven't done that since 2002.
5. A starting pitcher will throw the final pitch of 2023
I am leaving this final bold prediction intentionally vague. I predict a starting pitcher will throw the final pitch of the World Series and thus the 2023 MLB season, though I'm going to pass on providing further the details. Does he throw a complete game? Does he come out of the bullpen? Does he even seal a win? He could also serve up a walk-off. The possibilities are endless!
And, honestly, a starting pitcher throwing the final pitch of the World Series isn't that bold. It's happened three times in the last six years. Here are the final outs of the last six World Series:
Astros over Phillies
Nick Castellanos pop out in foul territory
Braves over Astros
Yuli Gurriel ground out to short
Dodgers over Rays
Willy Adames strikes out looking
Nationals over Astros
Michael Brantley strikes out swinging
Red Sox over Dodgers
Manny Machado strikes out swinging
Astros over Dodgers
Corey Seager ground out to second
Morton, Sale, and Urías are all starting pitchers who made starts earlier in that year's World Series. And when push came to shove in the potential clincher, their managers trusted them to get the final outs over the relievers in the bullpen.
This last bold prediction sees that happening again this season. In the World Series clincher, someone who has worked primarily as a starting pitcher both during the regular season and postseason will be on the mound for the final pitch. I hope it's a complete game. That would be so cool. There has not been a complete game in a World Series clincher since Josh Beckett's Game 6 shutout at Yankee Stadium in 2003.