Playoff baseball has arrived, and with the Wild Card games in the books, it is the perfect time to unveil our 2021 MLB Postseason predictions for the American League and National League. Despite not winning the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers (+250) are the favorites to win the 2021 World Series, while the AL Central-winning Chicago White Sox (+800) are the public favorite to win the World Series, backed by 37% of the total World Series handle at BetRivers.com.
The AL Divisional Series begins on Thursday, October 7 with Game 1 of White Sox vs. Astros and Game 1 of Rays vs. Red Sox. The NL Divisional Series begins on Friday, October 8 with Game 1 of Giants vs. Dodgers and Game 1 of Brewers vs. Braves.
Longtime Poker broadcaster and sports bettor David Tuchman has been picking MLB games all season long and is here to run through his 2021 MLB Postseason predictions for the ALDS, ALCS, NLDS, NLCS and World Series. Until MLB matches begin, join the BetRivers sportsbook and bet on your favorite MLB baseball team after reviewing our online MLB betting odds.
Before we get to our 2021 MLB Postseason predictions, here’s a quick rundown of the current postseason odds.
American League Odds: Rays (+180), Astros (+210), White Sox (+300), Red Sox (+425)
National League Odds: Dodgers (+130), Giants (+225), Brewers (+330), Braves (+500)
World Series Odds: Dodgers (+250), Rays (+500), Astros (+525), Giants (+600), White Sox (+800), Brewers (+850), Red Sox (+1000), Braves (+1300)
2021 MLB POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS: ALDS
TAMPA BAY RAYS (100-62) vs. BOSTON RED SOX (92-70)
Game 1: Red Sox (+130 ML) at Rays (-1, -150 ML). O/U 7.5. Thursday, 10/7. 8:10 p.m. ET (FS1)
Game 2: Red Sox at Rays. Friday, 10/8. 7:00 p.m. ET (FS1)
Game 3: Rays at Red Sox. Sunday, 10/10. 4:10 p.m. ET (MLBN)
Game 4: Rays at Red Sox. Monday, 10/11. Time TBD. (TBD)
Game 5: Red Sox at Rays. Wednesday, 10/13. Time TBD (FS1)
The only 100-win team in the American League, the Tampa Bay Rays will face the winner of the Yankees-Red Sox game. If it’s the Yankees, they’ll be without ace Gerrit Cole for at least Games 1 and 2 of the best-of-five format. The Rays are built to win a playoff series. They should be the overwhelming favorites to beat either the Yankees or the Red Sox. In the season series, the Rays beat both, going 11-8 vs. both teams. They have particularly dominated the Yankees, outscoring them 98-50 over the 19 games.
The Rays do everything well. Hit, hit for power, run, field and pitch. Mike Zunino had 33 HR from the catcher’s spot. Brandon Lowe hit .247-39-99, .863 OPS; Wander Franco is this year’s uber-rookie, at 20 years of age, he went .288-7-39, .810 over the first 70 games of his career. Austin Meadows hit .234-27-106; while trade acquisition Nelson Cruz hit 13 HR with 36 RBI in 55 games. Randy Arozarena, last year’s hero, had a down year, but still hit .274-20-69-20 sb, .815 OPS.
The Rays have no “ace” and simply use an “all-hands-on-deck” approach to pitching every game. And it works. They do have a couple of intriguing kids however, in Shane McClanahan, 10 wins. 141 K in 123 IP, 115 ERA+, 3.31 FIP, 10.3 K/9; and Shane Baz, a 22-year-old flamethrower, who appeared in just 3 starts, but went 2-0, 2.03 ERA, 18 K in 13 IP with a microscopic 0.68 WHIP. I expect McClanahan and Baz to play key roles in the postseason. Also, the ‘pen features Andrew Kittredge (1.88 ERA), Collin McHugh (1.55 ERA), Drew Rasmussen (2.44 ERA) JP Feyereisen (2.45 ERA) who went a combined 23-6, with 12 saves.
The Rays have a proven model that works. They will be a tough out.
The Pick: Tampa Bay Rays advance to the ALCS in 5 games.
HOUSTON ASTROS (95-67) vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX (93-69)
Game 1: White Sox (+115 ML) at Astros (-1, -134 ML). O/U 7.5. Thursday, 10/7. 4:00 p.m. ET (FS1)
Game 2: White Sox at Astros. Friday, 10/8. 2:10 p.m. ET (MLBN)
Game 3: Astros at White Sox. Sunday, 10/10. 8:10 p.m. ET (FS1)
Game 4: Astros at White Sox. Monday, 10/11. Time TBD (TBD)
Game 5: White Sox at Astros. Wednesday, 10/13. Time TBD (FS1)
The 95-67 Astros face off against the 93-69 White Sox. These are two fantastic teams that will square off, and it’s anyone’s guess who will come out on top. The Astros are the slight favorites with the Books, likely due to having home field advantage. The White Sox took 2 out of three from the ‘Stros in Chicago, but got swept during the season in a 3-game set in Houston.
The White Sox can hit though. A ton. 2020 MVP Jose Abreu hit .261-30-117, .831 OPS, Tim Anderson hit .309-17-61-18 sb, .806 OPS; Luis Robert hit .338-13-43, .946 OPS in just 68 games; Eloy Jimenez hit .249-10-37 .740 OPS in 55 games (Robert and Jimenez were both hurt during the season, but are healthy now) and Gavin Sheets / Andrew Vaughn combined to hit around .245-26-82, .800 OPS out of the DH/LF platoon. However, as good as the White Sox can hit, the Astros do it better. Yuli Gurriel hit .319-15-81, .846; Jose Altuve hit .278-31-83, .839; Carlos Correa hit .279-26-92 .850; Michael Brantley hit .311; Kyle Tucker hit .294-30-92, .917 OPS and Yordan Alvarez hit .277-33-104, .877 OPS, not to mention Alex Bregman who hit .270-12-55 in just 90 games.
Pitching separates the two teams a bit, however, as the Astros will go with Lance McCullers, 13-5, 3.16, 185 K in 162 IP and Framber Valdez, 11-6, 3.14, as co-aces. Zack Greinke, who faltered this year to a 4.16 ERA and just 120 k in 171 IP will pitch out of the bullpen. The Astros boast all-star closer Ryan Pressly 26 saves, 2.25 ERA, and solid set up men, Cristian Javier 4-1, 130 K, 101 IP and Ryne Stanek, 3.42, 68 IP, 83 K. But overall, their bullpen depth is weak. The White Sox, meanwhile, have 4 warhorses in their rotation, Lucas Giolito (11-9, 3.53, 201 K in 178 IP); Dylan Cease (13-7, 226 K in 165) Lance Lynn (11-6, 2.69, 176k in 157 IP) and Carlos Rodon (13-5, 2.37, 185k in 132 IP) Rodon, however, is iffy with a sore shoulder. The Sox bullpen is also better than the Astros, with Liam Hendriks (8-3, 2.54, 38 saves, 113 K in 71 IP), Aaron Bummer (3.51, 75K in 56 IP), Garrett Crochet (2.82 ERA), and Craig Kimbrel, who was lights out with the Cubs, but has been pretty lousy with Chicago (5.09 ERA) The real wild card is young stud Michael Kopech, who has 103 K in 69 IP and can give the Sox 2-3 innings in the middle part of the game.
Look, this series is too close to call. It could easily go either way. My gut tells me the White Sox find a way to win this series, as the old axiom, “Good pitching beats good hitting, especially in the playoffs,” usually proves true.
The Pick: Chicago White Sox advance to ALCS in 5 games.
2021 MLB POSTSEASON PREDICTIONS: NLDS
SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (107-55) vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS (106-56)
Game 1: Dodgers (-1, -137 ML) at Giants (+115 ML). O/U 7. Friday, 10/8. 9:30 p.m. (TBS)
Game 2: Dodgers at Giants. Saturday, 10/9. 9:10 p.m. ET. (TBS)
Game 3: Giants at Dodgers. Monday, 10/11. Time TBD (TBS)
Game 4: Giants at Dodgers. Tuesday, 10/12. Time TBD (TBS)
Game 5: Dodgers at Giants. Thursday, 10/14. Time TBD (TBS)
The Dodgers and Giants have been at each other’s throats since the 1940’s…maybe even longer. In 1951, everyone remembers Bobby Thomson’s shot heard round the world that sent the Giants to the World Series and sent the Dodgers home. That’s really when this storied rivalry took off.
Now, in 2021, you have an entirely new story. The Dodgers went 40-11 down the stretch to finish 106-56 – and still finished a game behind the 107-55 Giants. San Francisco is a hard team to quantify. The entire pitching staff – relief and starters – are having career years at the same time. Kevin Gausman went 14-6, 2.81 ERA, 227 K in 192 IP; Anthony DeSclafani went 13-7, 3.17, Logan Webb went 11-3, 3.03, 158 K in 148 IP, and Alex Wood went 10-4, 3.83 ERA, 152 K in 138 IP. Closer Jake McGee netted 31 saves (2.72 ERA), Tyler Rogers went 7-1, 2.22 ERA, 13 saves; Jarlin Garcia went 6-3, 2.62 ERA; Jose Alvarez went 5-2, 2.37 ERA, Zack Littell went 4-0, 2.92 ERA and Dominic Leone went 4-5, 1.51 ERA. Even September call-up, Camilo Doval got in on the fun, going 5-1, with 37 K in 27 IP.
I’ve never been a fan of picking “destiny” and in fact, prefer to bet against it. The Giants sure feel like a team of destiny. It reminds me of the 2001 Seattle Mariners. Remember them? They came out of nowhere to win an AL record 116 wins (116-46). What happened to them? They lost in 5 games (7 game series) to the Yankees.
The Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers advance to NLCS in five games.
MILWAUKEE BREWERS (95-67) vs. ATLANTA BRAVES (88-73)
Game 1: Braves (+125 ML) at Brewers (-1, -148 ML). O/U 7. Friday, 10/8. 4:30 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 2: Braves at Brewers. Saturday, 10/9. 5:10 p.m. ET (TBS)
Game 3: Brewers at Braves. Monday, 10/11. Time TBD. (TBS)
Game 4: Brewers at Braves. Tuesday, 10/12. Time TBD (TBS)
Game 5: Braves at Brewers. Thursday, 10/14. Time TBD (TBS)
Probably the least interesting series – no shade, just a ton of intrigue across the board – this series also has its share of history as the Braves used to play in Milwaukee (and before that Boston) and brought a World Series title to Milwaukee in 1957, thanks to Warren Spahn and Hank Aaron. In this series, the Milwaukee Brewers, who have never won a World Series (they lost in their only appearance in 1982), face off against the Atlanta Braves, in the NLDS.
The Braves are interesting, because on August 1, they were 52-55, buried in third place, and had lost two star outfielders, Ronald Acuna and Marcell Ozuna. From that point, they got their pitching healthy (Max Fried, Huascar Ynoa), added RP Richard Rodriguez from Pittsburgh, and most importantly, added bats Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario. While none of these hitters “tore it up” they all combined for 44 HR and 116 RBI, over the last 55 games. From August 2nd on, the Braves went 36-18, good enough to finish 88-73 and in first place in the East.
The Braves will lean on their duo of aces, Charlie Morton (14-6, 3.34, 216 K in 185 IP) and Max Fried (14-7, 3.04 ERA, 158 K in 165 IP). Their bullpen is solid, but not spectacular. Will Smith had 37 saves, but was vulnerable, going 3-7, allowing 11 HR in 68 IP, with a 1.13 WHIP and 3.44 ERA. Good, but not great for a closer. Overall, the “active” playoff bullpen was 19-31, which isn’t great.
Milwaukee, meanwhile, went against traditional Brewer teams – the big bat, homerun heavy offense – and won 95 games behind superior pitching. The Brewers boast three top, ace-quality pitchers: Brandon Woodruff, 9-10, 2.56, 211 K in 179 IP, 0.97 WHIP, 2.96 FIP, 166 ERA+; 10.6 K/9; Corbin Burnes, 11-5, 2.43, 234 IP, 167 IP, 0.94 WHIP, 12.6 K/9; 1.63 FIP, 176 ERA+; and Freddy Peralta, 10-5, 2.81 ERA, 195 K in 144 IP, 0.97 WHIP, 12.2 K/9; 3.12 FIP, 152 ERA+. These three studs all boasted over 10k per 9 IP. Even 4th starter, Adrian Houser, went 10-6, 3.22 ERA, while fifth starter, Eric Lauer went 7-5, 3.19 ERA. The Brewers ‘pen was even better, as Josh Hader was the league’s best closer, going 4-2, 1.23 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 34 saves and a whopping 102 K in 58 IP.
The rest of the bullpen was great, Hunter Strickland had a 1.73 ERA, Brad Boxberger had 5 wins, 4 saves, and a 3.34 ERA, and Brent Suter got 12 wins (3.07 ERA) in middle relief. One big concern though, star setup man, Devin Williams (8-2, 2.50 ERA, 87 K in 54 IP, 3 saves) punched a wall celebrating the Brewers playoff division-clinching win and broke his hand. Are you kidding me?!? He will miss the rest of the season. This is a huge blow to the Brewers’ pen, and they’ll have to rely on Suter, Strickland and maybe Lauer or Houser to take his place.
The Brewers lineup is…in a word…not great. Willy Adames, a mid-season get from Tampa, led the team, hitting .285-20-58, .886 OPS, over 99 games. Beyond that, Christian Yelich was extremely disappointing, hitting just .248-9-51, .736 OPS. Avisail Garcia is probably their best overall hitter, going .262-29-86, .820 OPS. Luis Urias, .249-23-75, .789; Kolten Wong, .272-14-50, .783 OPS; Tyrone Taylor, .247-12-43, .778; and Eduardo Escobar .268-6-25, 800 OPS round out the rest of the lineup.
So. What’s the call. Previously I said good pitching beats good hitting, so that should hold true here. But the Brewers lineup is just so mediocre, they could have a tough time against the Braves starting pitchers – at least Fried and Morton. Meanwhile the loss of Devin Williams is huge for the Brewers bullpen, when facing the likes of Riley, Freeman, Albies and Swanson. I went back and forth on this, because, frankly, Woodruff, Burnes, Peralta and closer Hader, are just so dominant. Ask yourself this: Do you think the Braves get enough pitching, and their trio of 30-home run superstars get enough hits, to beat the light-hitting Brewers or do the Brewers create enough offense, especially off the weaker Braves bullpen, to win a tight series behind their crew of flame-throwers? I debated this a long time – when it’s this close, the slightest issue can be the difference. The Brewers will miss Devin Williams. A lot.
The Pick: Atlanta Braves advance to NLCS in 5 games.
TAMPA BAY RAYS vs. CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The prediction here is that the Rays play the White Sox in the ALCS. The Rays have won the most games of any AL team over the last 3 seasons. They’re consistent. They’re deep. They’re very, very good. You keep doing that, you eventually get to the World Series. The White Sox will keep it close for a while, but the Rays just have too much overall pitching and overall depth. Example: The Rays always seem to have the right pitcher for the situation or the right hitter up in a key spot. They find a way to win.
The Pick: Tampa Bay Rays advance to World Series in 6 games.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS vs. ATLANTA BRAVES
In a short series, anything can happen. And the Brewers actually present a tougher challenge for the Dodgers based on matchups. So do the Giants. But the Dodgers v. the Braves is an absolute mismatch. I expect the Dodgers to win this in 4-5 games. Bottom line, the Dodgers just have too much pitching, too much hitting, overall depth and bullpen, for the over-matched Braves. The Dodgers won 106 games in 2019, 43 games in 2020 (short-season, 43-17) and 106 games in 2021. They are the class of baseball and will prove it again, going to the WS, behind Scherzer, Turner, Buehler, Seager and Betts.
The Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers advance to World Series in 5 games.
WORLD SERIES PREDICTIONS
TAMPA BAY RAYS vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS
We’ve got ourselves a rematch! In 2020, the Rays beat the Blue Jays, the Yankees and the Astros, to earn a World Series matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers won that one in six games. Will 2021 be any different? The Dodgers are the best team in baseball. Especially after adding Scherzer and Turner. They will roll with three of the best SP in the game, Walker Buehler, Scherzer and Julio Urias, the only 20-game winner in baseball.
The Rays have no SP that won more than 10 games. (Shane McClanahan won 10.) In fact, McClanahan is the only Rays pitcher that only pitched as a starter. He has not pitched in relief this year (Shane Baz has only started but he’s also only pitched 3 games). Every other Rays pitcher, except for JP Feyereisen (34 games) and Pete Fairbanks (47 games) has either started or relieved. For Tampa, it’s all hands on deck, all the time. They don’t have starters and subs. They are a team of starting players, each waiting their turn to play. I dig that. On paper, the Dodgers should win this series. But I don’t think they will. This is why they play the games.
The Pick: Tampa Bay Rays win World Series in 7 games.