MLB Postseason Teaching Us to Expect the Unexpected

There’s nothing like a postseason when all hell breaks loose. And this postseason has certainly seen its fair share of craziness. For seven months, teams compete every day to reach the end of the season and be one of the league’s best teams.

But as the Braves, Orioles, Rays, and Dodgers learned, when the postseason comes around, the regular season is over.

This year’s LCS will be represented by three Wild Card teams with the Phillies, D-backs and Rangers each punching their ticket. The Astros are the only team that received a bye that advanced to the LCS.

The NLCS is going to be a battle as the young, athletic D-backs take on the hungry, top-heavy Phillies. Arizona has shocked many baseball fans this postseason with their electric starting pitching and ability to play clean baseball. The trio of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Brandon Pfaadt have helped carry Arizona with a combined 2.55 ERA before turning things over to high-leverage arms Kevin Ginkel and Paul Sewald, who have been shut-down relievers in the back end.

The real area of surprise in Arizona’s October surge has been their ability to hit the ball out of the ballpark. The D-backs ranked 22nd in MLB in homers during the regular season, but they’re tied with the Phillies for the most this postseason. Philadelphia is a team built to play long ball, and the D-backs have shown they don’t have a problem playing that game.

The Phillies come to the NLCS looking like a well-oiled machine and after handling the Braves with ease, they’re looking to dismantle Arizona’s Cinderella story. It’s a similar story for the Phillies entering the NLCS this year as they also took down their division rival in the NLDS last season, but the Phillies have the look of a team with something to prove. Last postseason, they got almost nothing from Nick Castellanos offensively. This postseason he’s done a complete 180, and after a turnaround 2023 regular season, he’s hitting .391 in the playoffs with four homers in just his last two games.

Offense is the name of the game for a Philadelphia team that leads the postseason with an .892 OPS, but the key will be starting pitching. Manager Rob Thomson has gotten great starts out of Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. If he can get the best out of his star right-handers, it makes having that strong lineup an even bigger advantage.

On the other side of the postseason bracket, the ALCS is the battle of Texas as the Rangers, reaching the Championship Series for the first time since 2012, take on their in-state rival Astros. Unlike the National League side of the bracket, these two AL West teams know each other well. Houston won the season series 9-4, but as this postseason has shown, the regular season means very little in October.

The Rangers appeared to be out of gas at the end of the regular season but were somehow able to right the ship prior to the playoffs. Once the calendar flipped to October, the switch must have flipped. Not only has Texas defeated their opponents, they’ve eviscerated them, sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays and and the Baltimore Orioles. The offense, which leads the postseason with 32 runs scored, has been strong and given Bruce Bochy’s staff a chance to compete. Texas’ starters have also held up their end of the bargain and could be getting an added boost in the form of Max Scherzer in the next round.

And for the seventh consecutive time, the Astros will once again try to get back to the World Series. Unlike seasons prior, this was no ordinary trip back as Houston took awhile to find their rhythm in 2023. But there’s something about the postseason that brings the best out of the ‘Stros, and after getting past the Twins, they’ll attempt to continue their quest to repeat as World Series champions.

Houston’s offense has found its stride behind the mighty swing of Yordan Alvarez, while it’s rotation, led by Justin Verlander, has found its own rhythm. Like in years past, when the Astros start to roll, it usually means bad luck for their opponents.

This postseason has had a little bit of everything: twists, turns, sweeps and everything in between. But if there’s anything you should expect in the next round, it’s the unexpected.