Tabor’s Takes – MLB Wild Card Round, Day 1

I’m a big fan of all 3 major sports, but nothing, and I mean nothing, comes close to playoff baseball. The suspense riding on every pitch, the emotions, and the huge crowds, it just can’t be beat. We have a 4 game slate today as the wild card round kicks off and I’m here to bring us some winners.

I think recent play is huge in playoff baseball. Some teams that come to mind: 2016 Cleveland Indians, nobody expected them to be a contender but they closed the season 21-11 and carried that into a game 7 loss in the World Series. The 2020 Rays closed the Covid-19 shortened 60 game season going 9-2 and also carried that into a World Series appearance. Last year the Philadelphia Phillies got hot as soon as the playoffs began and they made a hell of a run in a very tough National League. My point is, I’m a believer that these things matter. Every team and player is playoff ready emotionally, but playing well leading into the right time is an edge.

 

Here’s all 8 wild card teams last 10 games:

Twins: 7-3

Phillies: 7-3

Rays: 6-4

Rangers: 6-4

Marlins: 6-4

Brewers: 6-4

Diamondbacks: 6-4

Blue Jays: 4-6

 

Here are bullpen ERAs 

Brewers: 3.40

Phillies: 3.56

Blue Jays: 3.68

Rays: 3.83

Twins: 3.95

Diamondbacks: 4.22

Marlins: 4.37

Texas: 4.77

 

Game by Game 

 

Rangers at Rays- Both of these teams are 6-4 in their last 10. The Rays path to the playoffs was pretty well secured, while the Rangers had to battle a bit to close the season. Tyler Glasnow takes the mound at home here and honestly Glasnow is always in play. Jordan Montgomery definitely sticks out as a someone to avoid pitching here. The ballpark plays as one of the best pitchers parks in all of baseball, but I still can’t consider Montgomery and his lack of strikeouts in this matchup. I’m avoiding Texas bats, but I’m always open to a one off or off the wall mini. You want to attack Glasnow with lefties if you’re forced to play someone. This makes Corey Seager a really intriguing one off with his power and position scarcity. The Rays are an offense that’s definitely in play for me today. Tampa ranked 6th in baseball this season with a team OPS of .784 vs LHP. Montgomery is a pitch to contact guy that can produce ground balls when he’s cooking. I’m looking for fly balls and power on the Rays side. The Texas bullpen is also pathetic and we love to see it. These price tags are really manageable for us today so if we want some savings you shouldn’t look past Tampa. They might be my favorite stack and I expect the Rays to win this game pretty easily.

 

Blue Jays at Twins- It’s pretty clear that the Blue Jays are struggling. This was the last team in for the American League and they should have been battling to get it done, yet they only won 4 of their last 10 games. The Twins are the opposite and they are at home. Historically the Twins love to choke in the playoffs, but this is a really young group and I expect that not to matter and for them to win this series. This will no doubt be a low scoring affair, Kevin Gausman and Pablo Lopez have both been some of the best in baseball this season. Both of these pitchers stick out to me as great plays on this slate and the splits for these guys really do as well. Both are far better against right handed hitters and these lineups should be chalked full of them. I’m really expecting the Blue Jays to have 6 or 7 righties and Lopez has over a 30% K rate against right handed bats with much less damage compared to the lefties. A reason for concern is the bullpen for Minnesota is pretty good and Rocco has not shown very much patience. I could see a panic pull out of someone that I think is a dog shit manager. On the other side, we have a Twins team that strikes out more than any team on this slate. It’s actually not even close when we compare them, the Twins give Gausman more upside than anybody on this slate by far with all of the swing and miss. The Twins also have a higher team ISO than anyone playing today. Scary power mixed with plenty of Ks. I can tell you that I’m avoiding bats here and it’s extremely likely I pitch one of these 2. I’m torn because I think the Twins win this series and the Jays have been playing terrible ball. At the end of the day, I think Gausman has an unlimited leash here and I think it’s smart to take all the strikeouts we are bound to see when there’s a possibility for 8+ innings. Gausman is my early lean, but I’m fine with both of these guys.

 

Diamondbacks at Brewers- This might be the toughest game to analyze. We have a Brewers team that I refuse to believe is any good, then you’ve got an Arizona team that’s young and talented, but lacking the pitching to advance in a playoff series. Corbin Burnes and Brandon Pfaadt take the mound here and I expect some offense in this one. Real quick though, if you’ve followed the season of Brandon Pfaadt, then you know he’s extremely hit or miss. He’s given up 22 homeruns in just 96 innings of work, he’s getting smacked around with hard hits on both sides of the dish, but he’s also struck out 94 batters and he’s had plenty games where he’s showcased his pedigree and upside. This was the number 1 pitching prospect in baseball. I mention all of this because $5,300 is a price tag with plenty of wiggle room to hunt for this upside. I doubt I do it in my single lineup, but I do think it’s viable. The power is a concern, and the likelihood that trouble would get him an early pull as well, but he’s still an option for us today.  I’m not interred in Corbin Burnes though. The D-Backs don’t strikeout, they have a lot of pop at the top of this lineup and they have speed. As underdogs I expect them to be aggressive on the bases and the lack of strikeout upside leaves me wanting these other options more. With that being said, the bats are my way to attack this game. All Brewers are in play with the inconsistency of Pfaadt and the hard hits from both side of the plate. I like some of the big dogs on Arizona like Corbin Carrol and Christian Walker as one offs or minis.

 

Marlins at Phillies- We conclude with a division matchup between Jesus Luzardo and the Marlins, and Zach Wheelers Phillies. The Marlins feel like the least scary of teams on this slate and I’m sure that leads to some Zach Wheeler popularity. I’m not opposed to it at all as Wheeler struck out 212 batters this season. This is another guy with a huge leash who could easily go deep into the game with effectiveness. The Marlins bats don’t strikeout as much as I’d like and divisional games are just different when you see a guy so many times every year, so I’m certainly open to fading here, but this is one of the safest plays on our slate. Jesus Luzardo is another option that I’m considering today. The Lizard has one of the highest K rates in all of baseball and a 3.89 ERA on the year really puts this guy in the Ace category. His price tag of $6,800 is close to egregious with the upside he brings. He also kind of owns the Phillies giving up just 7 hits in 57 at bats against the core 6 of this Phillies lineup. He does give up some power to the right side of the plate with 19 homers given up, but he is a really tough matchup for the lefties like Harper, Stott and Schwarber. I really think the price per dollar play on Luzardo stands out and makes him an excellent option. The Marlins also have the most taxed bullpen in these playoffs and they have been one of the worst in the entire league in the last month of the season. This could benefit Luzardo and lengthen his leash, this could also be a problem if he’s pulled with runners left on base or a lead getting blown. This also makes me like the idea of a mini Phillies stack with Luzardo at pitcher as one of my favorite ways to get different. This is the only game I’m open to both pitchers and both offenses. Bats on both sides of this game are appealing to me here, the Marlins have a pretty good history against Wheeler and the Phillies magical ride from last post season looms large in my head. Righties only for me for the Phills and lefties for me from Miami. I’ll definitely have some pieces in this game.

 

Pitching Core

Kevin Gausman

Jesus Luzardo

Tyler Glasnow

 

Other Options

Only other person I’d consider is Pablo Lopez, I think I’m fading Zach Wheeler.

 

Stack Em

I don’t think stacking is crucial in these games. The nature of playoff games makes it very difficult to see offensive explosions. Playoff baseball is a game of chess between managers. Rays and Brewers are my only true stacks today as they see one of the worst starters and both teams follow with shit bullpens. I think the Brewers are overrated so I’m favoring Miami players over them!

Rays

Marlins

Brewers 

Phillies 

 

Favorite Bats

Playoff Randy 

Junior Caminero

Jazz Chisholm Jr

Luis Arraez 

 

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