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MLB playoffs 2021 – ALCS and NLCS expert predictions

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The 2021 MLB playoffs are down to four teams after the Los Angeles Dodgers advanced in a thrilling Game 5 on Thursday night.

Now that the Dodgers-Atlanta Braves and Boston Red SoxHouston Astros matchups are set, it’s time for some predictions. We asked our MLB experts to weigh in on who will move on to the World Series, which players will earn LCS MVP honors, the themes we’ll all be taking about in the next week and explain why their initial MLB postseason predictions are still in play — or went very wrong.

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ALCS | NLCS | Predictions we’re right about — so far | Picks gone wrong


American League Championship Series

Houston Astros (8 votes), Boston Red Sox (5)

Tristan Cockcroft: Red Sox in 6

MVP: Rafael Devers

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Lance McCullers Jr.’s absence, bringing the Astros’ pitching staff closer to the talent level of the Red Sox.

Bradford Doolittle: Astros in 6

MVP: Carlos Correa

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: The still-relevant art of hitting for contact.

Doug Glanville: Astros in 6

MVP: Carlos Correa

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Alex Cora and Dusty Baker getting ejected in Game 3 for using too many psychological tactics.

Alden Gonzalez: Astros in 6

MVP: Carlos Correa

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: The emergence of Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez, and what that means about the Astros’ sustainability.

Eric Karabell: Astros in 6

MVP: Jose Altuve

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Redemption for Altuve, not that he needed it. And how good this Astros offense is.

Tim Keown: Astros in 6

MVP: Yordan Alvarez

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Everyone will be talking about the obvious — Alex Cora facing the Astros — but in the end the story will be Dusty Baker navigating an iffy pitching staff (made iffier by the Lance McCullers’ injury) to the World Series.

Tim Kurkjian: Astros in 7

MVP: Carlos Correa

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Dusty Baker going back to the World Series, improving his solid chances of going to the Hall of Fame.

Joon Lee: Red Sox in 6

MVP: Kyle Schwarber

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Everything falling into place for the Red Sox while Houston deals with an injury of one of its most important pitchers of the moment, Lance McCullers.

Kiley McDaniel: Red Sox in 7

MVP: Xander Bogaerts

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Maybe former Rays execs should get hired more often than former Cleveland execs.

Buster Olney: Red Sox in 7

MVP: Rafael Devers

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: We’ll be talking about how we can’t figure out how and why the Red Sox found enough pitching to reach the World Series.

Jeff Passan: Astros in 7

MVP: Kyle Tucker

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Houston’s contact-oriented offense is a beast for even the most strikeout-happy pitching staff, and the Green Monster is going to be peppered consistently by an Astros team whose bats have already carried them this far.

Jesse Rogers: Red Sox in 6

MVP: Rafael Devers

The one thing we’ll be talking about: The Red Sox offense has become an unstoppable force and will hit its way to the World Series against a young starting staff of Houston with an ailing Lance McCullers Jr.

David Schoenfield: Astros in 7

MVP: Carlos Correa

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: It seems likely that Alex Cora will again use his starters in relief, as he did against the Rays and as he did in 2018. Will the strategy work to contain the high-powered Houston offense?


National League Championship Series

Los Angeles Dodgers (11 votes), Atlanta Braves (2)

Cockcroft: Dodgers in 4

MVP: Mookie Betts

The one thing we’ll all be talking about during this series: Boy, that was quick and anticlimactic, wasn’t it?

Doolittle: Dodgers in 6

MVP: Will Smith (Dodgers version)

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Starting pitching.

Glanville: Dodgers in 7

MVP: Trea Turner

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Freddie Freeman is a good dude so we feel bad he didn’t make it to the World Series.

Gonzalez: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Trea Turner

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Cody Bellinger finding his stroke, morphing back into the player he has been before.

Karabell: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Trea Turner

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Just how great the Turner-Gavin Lux double-play combo will be next season.

Keown: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Trea Turner

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: How the Dodgers ensured a return to the World Series on July 29, when they managed to fill a need on their pitching staff by adding Max Scherzer, and also acquired one of the game’s most dynamic talents in Trea Turner.

Tim Kurkjian: Dodgers in 7

MVP: Mookie Betts

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Star power from the Dodgers shows the way.

Joon Lee: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Mookie Betts

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: The addition of Max Scherzer changed the trajectory of the Dodgers’ season.

McDaniel: Dodgers in 6

MVP: Scherzer

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Winning 106 games and having to play two elimination games before the NLCS is a bad system.

Olney: Braves in 7

MVP: Freddie Freeman

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Max Fried‘s curveball and how it’s evolved from good to maybe the best curveball in baseball.

Passan: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Mookie Betts

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: After their epic division series against the Giants, the Dodgers find a far more tolerable opponent in Atlanta. And what will be most apparent is the difference between their bullpens. The Dodgers’ helped win them the division series. Atlanta’s remains conflagrant.

Rogers: Braves in 7

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: Atlanta’s pitching staff doesn’t boast Cy Young candidates this season but somehow it’s gotten them this far. Max Fried saved his best for the end of the season. He, Morton and their teammates will shut down the vaunted Dodgers offense. Atlanta pitching will once again be the talk of baseball.

Schoenfield: Dodgers in 5

MVP: Max Scherzer

The one thing we’ll all be talking about: The Atlanta rotation has a chance to be sneaky good. If Max Fried, who pitched six scoreless innings in his NLDS start, can throw a gem in Game 1, the Braves have a chance for the upset.


World Series predictions we’re right about — so far

Doolittle: Dodgers over Astros. Teams that have offenses best balanced between power and contact have done well.

Gonzalez: Dodgers over Astros. I had the Brewers and the Rays advancing into their respective Championship Series and I thought they were the two teams who might give the Dodgers or Giants the most trouble moving forward, solidifying the fact that the Dodgers are the best team remaining by a pretty wide margin.

Keown: Astros over Giants. I picked the Astros to win it all, despite their weak starting pitching, and that prediction hangs by a thread with McCullers presumably out. It took some weirdness for the Rays — my choice in the ALDS — to be sent home. The Dodgers-Giants was always a hunch pick, and my hunch was the Giants, knowing it was probably foolish to bet against the Dodgers. And, as it turns out, it was.

Kurkjian: Dodgers over Rays. I still have the Dodgers in play here. As for the Rays? Baseball is the best game. It is too good to be predicted.

McDaniel: Dodgers over Rays. I should’ve shifted some of my Rays confidence to the Red Sox, but otherwise things have gone about as I expected, including a classic between SFG and LAD.


World Series predictions gone wrong

Cockcroft: Rays over Brewers. Yeah, well, Rays-Brewers, that didn’t go so well. I know a lot of people will talk about the pitching, but I can’t really overlook how key members of the lineup like Brandon Lowe and Christian Yelich had really miserable series. That was a BIG hindrance for both teams.

Glanville: Rays over Giants. Thought the Rays would be around. Really good team. Red Sox are what went wrong. They have a lot of soul. Can’t predict soul.

Karabell: Rays over Giants. I thought the Rays would roll through but underestimated how risky it is when young pitching struggles.

Lee: I chose the Rays to win the World Series because of their depth as a team and my belief in their lockdown bullpen. While that depth played a role in the ALDS, the Red Sox ultimately bested them because their bullpen performed exceedingly well despite some excruciating circumstances — specifically Chris Sale‘s poor start in Game 2 — and the Boston offense ultimately overpowered Tampa Bay’s pitching staff.

Rogers: Yankees over Cardinals. When you pick two wild-card teams to make it to the World Series, you’re playing with fire but I simply picked the wrong one in the AL. Boston will do what the Yankees were supposed to do when 2021 began.

Schoenfield: Brewers over Astros. I had the Cardinals upsetting the Dodgers in the wild-card game, which I then thought would open the door for the pitching-rich Brewers to sneak through and into the World Series. Apparently you still have to score runs to keep advancing, however, so the Brewers remain in search of their first World Series title. The Astros were my AL pick, but let’s see if Lance McCullers Jr. is can pitch at all the rest of the way after leaving his last start with forearm tightness.

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MLB Players Association to make counteroffer to league in Monday meeting

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The Major League Baseball Players Association plans to make an in-person labor proposal to the league on Monday, sources told ESPN, countering MLB’s offer last week that did little to loosen the gridlock that has gripped the sport after the league locked out the players Dec. 2.

Should the players’ offer do little to advance the negotiations that thus far haven’t yielded any substantive progress, the scheduled start to spring training in mid-February will grow that much unlikelier. And the longer discussions on a new collective-bargaining agreement last, the more they jeopardize Opening Day on March 31.

The gap between the players and league remains significant, with the union seeking major financial gains in a number of areas and owners trying to hold firm with what they currently pay in salaries. Other issues players have said remain a priority include anti-tanking measures and fixing service-time manipulation.

Any concessions players make in their offer could provide a roadmap to the negotiations. Before implementing the lockout, the league asked the union to drop three areas of discussion: earlier free agency for players, salary arbitration after two years instead of three and changes to the revenue-sharing plan. The union did not agree to the condition when presented with it Dec. 1, and the league left the bargaining table, locking out the players hours later.

Forty-three days later, the league returned to the union with an offer that included paying players with two to three years of service based on a formula, slight modifications to the draft lottery it previously had proposed and a mechanism that would reward teams with draft picks when top prospects who started on opening day rosters win awards.

The proposal did little to entice players, who after losing financial ground during the previous labor agreement want to make gains this time around.

News of the MLBPA’s expected counterproposal was first reported by The Associated Press

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Robot umpires at home plate moving up to Triple-A for 2022, one step away from major league baseball

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NEW YORK — Robot umpires have been given a promotion and will be just one step from the major leagues this season. Major League Baseball is expanding its automated strike zone experiment to Triple-A, the highest level of the minor leagues.

MLB’s website posted a hiring notice seeking seasonal employees to operate the Automated Ball-Strike system. MLB said it is recruiting employees to operate the system for the Albuquerque Isotopes, Charlotte Knights, El Paso Chihuahuas, Las Vegas Aviators, Oklahoma City Dodgers, Reno Aces, Round Rock Express, Sacramento River Cats, Salt Lake Bees, Sugar Land Skeeters and Tacoma Rainiers.

The independent Atlantic League became the first American professional league to let a computer call balls and strikes at its All-Star Game in July 2019 and experimented with ABS during the second half of that season. The system also was used in the Arizona Fall League for top prospects in 2019, drawing complaints of its calls on breaking balls.

There were no minor leagues in 2020 because of the pandemic, and robot umps were used last season in eight of nine ballparks at the Low-A Southeast League.

The Major League Baseball Umpires Association agreed in its labor contract that started in 2020 to cooperate and assist if commissioner Rob Manfred decides to use the system at the major league level.

“It’s hard to handicap if, when or how it might be employed at the major league level, because it is a pretty substantial difference from the way the game is called today,” Chris Marinak, MLB’s chief operations and strategy officer, said last March.

MLB said the robot umpires will be used at some spring training ballparks in Florida, will remain at Low A Southeast and could be used at non-MLB venues.

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Tampa Bay Rays say split-season plan with Montreal rejected by MLB

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Rays‘ proposed plan to split the season between Florida and Montreal has been rejected by Major League Baseball.

Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg announced the news on Thursday.

“Today’s news is flat-out deflating,” Sternberg said.

The idea of playing in both the Tampa Bay area and Montreal has been discussed over the past several years after attempts to build a new full-time ballpark locally failed.

Montreal had a big league team from 1969, when the expansion Expos began play, through 2004. The Expos moved to Washington and became the Nationals for the 2005 season.

The Rays’ lease at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the team has played since its inaugural season in 1998, expires after the 2027 season.

Since Sternberg took control in October 2005, the once-struggling franchise has been a success on the field but not at the box office.

Despite reaching the World Series in 2008 and 2020, the Rays have annually ranked near the bottom in attendance. The Rays averaged about 9,500 for home games last season, 28th in the majors and ahead of only Miami and Oakland.

St. Petersburg mayor Ken Welch feels a new stadium in his city remains a possibility. Governmental officials have been working on a redevelopment plan for the Tropicana Field site.

“We are working with our county partners and city council to put together the best plan possible, which will work in conjunction with my planned evolution of the Tropicana Field master development proposals,” Welch said in a statement. “With this collaborative approach, I am confident we can partner with the Tampa Bay Rays to create a new and iconic full-time home for Major League Baseball in St. Petersburg while also achieving historic equitable economic growth.”

Sternberg said the team will definitely explore options in the Tampa Bay area.

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