The Ringer recently obtained a confidential report prepared before the 2018 playoffs by an anonymous MLB advance scout for an unspecified team. Although the scout’s language suggests that he’s neither familiar with nor friendly to more modern forms of analysis and it’s apparent that they didn’t follow the league very closely before receiving this special postseason assignment, it’s hard to argue with their insights. This work was not intended for public consumption, but we’ve decided to publish the report to counter the frequent claim that the playoffs are random and impossible to predict.
Like you asked, I’ve been sitting on some recent series and reviewing video of our possible playoff opponents. My full report is attached, but I’m sending you this summary because I know October can be busy and I bet the numbers guys are already drowning you in data and postseason “projections,” ha ha. (Don’t get me started.) I included our team too because it’s always good to be your own best critic. Most of these clubs can be beaten, and I don’t expect too many surprises. Let’s go get ’em.
Boston Red Sox: Solid team, but you can pitch to the top of the order, especially Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts. Everyone raves about the outfielders, but I wouldn’t worry about the bats in the corners—Jackie Bradley Jr. is the one you want to watch out for. The key is not to let Brock Holt and Christian Vázquez beat you. Eduardo Núñez, too—that guy gets his uniform dirty. Wouldn’t want to see Steve Pearce up against a right-hander, either. Whatever you do, don’t pitch to this team with two outs: Walk the first guy you face with one out and make no effort to retire anyone else until you get a double-play ball.
I know Ian Kinsler has a Gold Glove and the statheads say he saves runs, but if I were in that dugout, I wouldn’t want the ball hit to him with the game on the line. [Redacted] told me Rafael Devers almost led the league in errors, but for me, he makes all the plays. Oh, and even though he doesn’t do much at the plate, Mookie can catch everything. It’s probably safe to say that if he doesn’t snag something, it’s in the stands.
If you ask me, this is the best bullpen in baseball—not surprised Dave Dombrowski didn’t add at the deadline. Craig Kimbrel’s command can be shaky, but Ryan Brasier and Matt Barnes are lights-out and Joe Kelly throws nothing but strikes. Don’t be surprised to see Nathan Eovaldi often—that guy has a rubber arm because they tied his elbow back together with a garden hose after his UCL snapped the second time. I know Chris Sale is supposed to be the ace, but he’s so skinny he looks like he’s about to be hospitalized. David Price is a competitor who really rises to the moment.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Stay away from David Freese, and don’t try to tell me that Yasiel Puig can’t hit lefties. Otherwise I’d be shocked if this lineup slugged .350. The catchers can’t hit, at least one of them can’t catch, and Kike Hernández can’t make contact. Their best batters don’t start half the time, but because of that, they’ve got good bench depth, so I like them if a game goes past the 15th.
I like some of the starters, but if you give the ball to Kenley Jansen with a lead in the late innings, you’re asking for trouble. Julio Urías is the guy who gets the big outs, especially when he pitches on back-to-back days.
Milwaukee Brewers: Another team with its worst hitters in the heart of the order—you have to wonder what they’re thinking. Christian Yelich will take a walk, but that’s about it. Not sure how he hit earlier in the year, but Orlando Arcia looks like the biggest power threat on the roster (other than Brandon Woodruff, of course), and Erik Kratz can kill you if you give him the chance.
Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chacín give them the most dominant top of the rotation any team will run out there, so just try to keep it close and score off the closer. Miley can beat you with the bat, too. Don’t trust anything Craig Counsell says—if you ask him for directions and he tells you to turn right, go left.
Houston Astros: There’s a lot to like about Justin Verlander, but he doesn’t go deep into games. Knock him out early, send up a righty to tee off on Joe Smith, and hope for a big inning against Roberto Osuna.
Honestly, had a hard time finding holes here. This offense is scary, especially George Springer and Alex Bregman, and obviously the little guy (Tony Kemp). They’re not gonna get outhit or outpitched by anyone, so bank on a controversial call in the field or a missed strike or an incredible catch (or all of the above, if you’re really lucky). They’re so good that sometimes it seems like they’re cheating.
New York Yankees: The Achilles’ heel here is that this team doesn’t hit enough homers at Yankee Stadium. You have to go deep in October to go deep in October, if you know what I’m saying, and that means showing a little pop in your park. It’s not like this team is built to beat out ground balls.
The bullpen might be unhittable, but Luis Severino and CC Sabathia still have to start, and the manager might let them lose.
Cleveland Indians: Sometimes scouting is simple. Come on—Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Brad Hand? Take your pick: Hit it over the fence or hit it right at them and watch them throw it away. Francisco Lindor aside, I’m not sure this lineup has a .200 hitter. You don’t need my help here. This roster reeks of AL Central.
Colorado Rockies: I don’t see anyone here who can hit a home run. But beware of Tony Wolters.
Atlanta Braves: Almost forgot these guys! If the Braves played the Rockies, the series might be scoreless. I like that Ronald Acuña Jr. kid, but I don’t need any “O-Swing%” to tell me that this team will swing at anything.
Chicago Cubs: I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but you can’t win if you can’t score, and against playoff pitching I don’t see this lineup mustering more than a run per game, tops. Might need a new hitting coach.
Oakland Athletics: Not sure we’ll see a single starting pitcher, and from what I can tell, the bullpen is bad too. Maybe next year, Billy Beane.
Anyway, this was just a “small sample” (ha) of my report, but I hope it helps—I’m pretty sure my shit will work in the playoffs. Please let me know if you need any additional details.