I LOVE baseball! I grew up watching it and playing it every chance I got. Now I watch every game I can, I have a fantasy team, and if I can get tickets, I'm dropping everything and heading to the Bronx. Basically, if you want to win me over ask me to watch a game with you! I'm still unsure of what career I'll pursue after college, but my love for baseball has me considering a career in sports journalism. Baseball has had a significant impact on my life, but I know most people don't feel the same. So if you want to be able to talk baseball in October but you have no idea where to start here's 15 things you must know!
1. You need to know which teams made it to the postseason
In Major League Baseball there are two leagues, the American and the National League. The American League teams that made it are the Cleveland Indians, the Houston Astros, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees, and the Oakland Athletics. The National League teams are the Milwaukee Brewers, the Atlanta Braves, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies, and the Chicago Cubs.
2. You need to know some key terms
There are certain baseball terms mentioned in this article that will also be mentioned during the games that you need to know to follow along.
1. A starting rotation is comprised of four or five pitchers that start in games
2. The CY Young is a prestigious award given to the best pitcher in each league
3. ERA is a pitching statistic that stands for earned run average
4. Batting average measure a hitters success at the plate by factoring in walks, hits, and strikeouts for previous at-bats
5. Strikeouts occur when when a pitcher throws any combination of three strikes to a hitter
6. A closer is a relief pitcher that gets the final outs in a close game when their team is leading
7. A relief pitcher enters a game after the starter is removed
8. The Bullpen is comprised of the remaining starting pitcher, relief pitchers, and closers
9. The designated hitter does not play in the field but he bats in the lineup
10. An "Ace" is a teams best pitcher
3. You need to know how the divisions work
In each league, there are three divisions (East, Central, and West). The team with the best record in each division wins and advances to the postseason. Here's how it all went down this year.
East - Boston Red Sox
Central - Cleveland Indians
West - Houston Astros
East - Atlanta Braves
Central - Milwaukee Brewers
West - Los Angeles Dodgers
These six teams automatically advance to the postseason but four other teams compete in wildcard games to advance in the postseason.
4. You need to know what a wild card game is
The first two games played are elimination wild card games. Meaning that the loser goes home and the winner advances. The teams playing in these games did not win their division, but they had the two best records (excluding division winners) in their league. This year the Yankees will host the Athletics and the Cubs will host the Rockies. The team with the best record gets home field advantage. This year to determine which National league teams would play in the wild card game and which teams would win their division four teams had to play an extra regular season game.
5. You need to know what happens after the wild card games
Once the wild card games are played eight teams will play for their perspective league championship. The Boston Red Sox will play the winner of the American League wildcard game, and the Houston Astros will play the Cleveland Indians. In the National League, the Milwaukee Brewers will play the winner of the National League wildcard game, and the Atlanta Braves will play the Los Angeles Dodgers. These teams will play up to seven games to decide who will play for the American and National League Championship. Then the American and National League Champions play each other for the ultimate prize, a World Series Championship.
6. You need to know about the Houston Astros
The Houston Astros are the returning champs and there starting rotation includes two Cy Young winners in Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel as well as ace Gerrit Cole. Not to mention their bullpen which has the lowest ERA in baseball. However, they are not ranked number one in the league.
7. You need to know about the Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox finished with the best record in baseball (108 wins and 54 losses), so they will have home-field advantage as long as they keep winning. Boston's roster includes two MVP candidates, Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez. Boston led the MLB in batting average and runs scored, but perhaps their most valuable asset is left-handed pitcher Chris Sale.
8. You need to know about the Cleveland Indians
The Clevland Indians had an easy road to the postseason due to the worst performance from teams in the AL Central probably ever. Fransisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez each hit over 35 home runs but if the Indians advance it will be because of their pitching. Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Baur, and Mike Clevinger all reached 200 strikeouts this season.
9. You need to know about the New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are hosting the Wild Card game, and they finished with a record of 100 wins and 62 losses. This team set the single-season record for home runs with 267 and Miguel Andujar, and Gleyber Torres had phenomenal rookie seasons. In the Postseason relievers often pitch more inning which is good news for the Yankees who have Dellin Betances, Chad Green, David Robertson and closer Aroldis Chapman at their disposal.
10. You need to know about the Oakland Athletics
The Oakland Athletics have a dominant bullpen, and they only lost one game when they were leading after seven innings. The A's are an underdog because of there starting rotation but their designated hitter, Khris Davis hit 47 home runs this season and will likely lead their offense.
11. You need to know about the Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers acquisition of Christian Yelich before the trade deadline powered Milwaukee to a number one ranking. The starting rotation isn't the teams greatest strength, and they don't have an ace, but they will likely utilize their bullpen to go deep in games.
12. You need to know about the Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers lost to the Astros last year, and they had a rocky start to the 2018 season. The Dodgers have an ace in Clayton Kershaw who for the 10th straight season had an ERA under 3.00. The acquisition of Manny Machado filled the hole left by Cory Seager who suffered a season-ending injury in April. Machado has been instrumental to their offense; he put up 37 home runs this year.
13. You need to know about the Atlanta Braves
The Braves were not the favorites to win their division in postseason polls. They took advantage of the Nationals and the Phillies struggling late in the season, and they finished with 90 wins, 72 losses, and the NL East title. After getting called up rookie Ronald Acuna Jr hit 26 home runs this season, but the most significant improvement came from their pitching staff whose ERA decreased dramatically this year.
14. You need to know about the Chicago Cubs
The Cubs were the World Series champs in 2016, and this is their fourth consecutive season in the playoffs. Their shortstop Javier Baez hit 34 home runs and will likely be considered for national league MVP. However, their offense collectively struggled to hit over .240 in September.
15. You need to know about the Colorado Rockies
The Rockies have made the postseason two years in a row for the first time in franchise history. Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story carried their offense and their postseason hopes depend on these two staying healthy. This year their starting rotation was best in Rockies history but will it be enough to power them to a World Series appearance?
* * *
And that's all you need to know to about postseason baseball. If you keep this information in your back pocket, I guarantee you'll be able to impress everyone while watching games in October. So sit back and enjoy the show, it's going to be a great month of baseball!