2021 MLB playoffs: Predicting AL, NL champions, World Series winners

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Pavlovic, Johnson make their 2021 MLB playoff predictions originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

The playoffs are here, and it's time to make predictions. NBC Sports Bay Area's Alex Pavlovic and Dalton Johnson break down who they believe will face off in the World Series and which player will be crowned MVP of the Fall Classic. 

Alex Pavlovic

 

American League

Astros over White Sox in 3

Rays over Red Sox in 4 

Rays over Astros in 6

Explanation: In a division with four 90-win teams, the Rays went 100-62 and easily finished with the best record in the American League. They're the gold standard, and they're battle-tested after losing in the World Series last year. They'll bullpen their way back to the final round. 

National League

Giants over Dodgers in 5

Braves over Brewers in 5 

Giants over Braves in 7

Explanation: Look, the Dodgers have the most talented roster in baseball even without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw. They also spent four months chasing the Giants and never found a way to get over the final hurdle. There was just something about that race -- the Giants always managed to come out on top at the very last second. On the other side, the bet here is that Max Fried and Charlie Morton match Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff enough that the Braves lineup pulls through. 

A few weeks ago, the Giants didn't look like they had enough starting pitching. But all four of their guys are throwing well and it was the most dangerous quick-strike lineup in the league. After seven games of #torture, they'll win the Ehire Adrianza Bowl. 

World Series

Rays over Giants in 6

Explanation: Remember that 2014 Royals team that Madison Bumgarner kept from winning a title? It was really well built, and the next year that group came back and won it all. The Rays won't repeat the Blake Snell mistake, and the guess here is that they have too much pitching for anyone who comes out of the National League. 

World Series MVP: Wander Franco

Explanation: Because you can't give it to a whole bullpen, we'll go with the 20-year-old who had a .372 on-base percentage and slugged .500 in the second half. 

Dalton Johnson

 

American League

White Sox over Astros in 5 

Rays over Red Sox in 3

White Sox over Rays in 6 

Explanation: I'm already terrified picking against the Rays. I think Wander Franco is going to be a star in the playoffs, but so will Luis Robert. The White Sox didn't exactly look like World Series contenders down the stretch, but they're now at near full strength and they're an extremely scary team when they have all their pieces intact. This could just be the beginning for this White Sox squad. 

National League 

Giants over Dodgers in 5 

Braves over Brewers in 5 

Giants over Braves in 6 

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Explanation: Well, the Giants and Dodgers played each other 19 times. The Giants won 10, the Dodgers won nine. The Giants won 107 games, the Dodgers won 106. Giants in five. 

The Giants and Braves split a six-game series this year, and two of the Giants' losses came in games started by Anthony DeSclafani. The question mark for the Giants is their pitching staff after Logan Webb and Kevin Gausman, but the offense carries them and Camilo Doval looks like this year's Francisco Rodriguez from 2002. 

World Series

White Sox over Giants in 6 

Explanation: The White Sox finished second in team ERA in the AL, and the Giants finished second in the NL. But the White Sox led the AL in strikeouts and a deep pitching staff that consists of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease and Carlos Rodón could be the difference. Add in a bullpen of Liam Hendriks, Craig Kimbrel, Garrett Crochet and Michael Kopech, plus healthy bats in Robert and Eloy Jimenez, and the ultra-talented White Sox could be too much for the extremely deep Giants. 

A coaching matchup of Tony LaRussa against Gabe Kapler would be fascinating to watch. 

World Series MVP: Luis Robert

Explanation: Robert was limited to only 68 games this season. In that sample size, he hit .338 with 13 homers, a .946 OPS and a 155 OPS+. He's a future MVP who is going to remind a lot of people just how talented he is this postseason.

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