The 2024 season has come to an end and we head to the playoffs with a fun field of teams that includes a couple of first-time SAHL playoff teams (Reds, Rangers). Congratulations to all owners on a successful season, whether you are in it to win in 2024, or positioned your team for future success, SAHL has had a great year across the board.
As we head into the post-season, we will break down the matchups over the course of the next few days, starting with the Wild Card Races:
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres
Game Info: A couple of years ago, this matchup would have sparked fear into Cards GM Mitch’s soul, as the Padres handled the Cards in the regular season and post season in the 2022 SAHL year (the Padres dispatched the favored Cardinals 3-0 in the NLDS in 2022). This year, however, the teams have played it close, with the Padres having won the season series 4 games to 2.
Recent Play/Injuries: The Cards enter the playoffs having had a great September and with all their key pieces healthy, a recipe for success in playoffs past. The Padres, on the other hand, come in on a semi-cold streak, having played just about .500 ball in September and burdened by significant injuries to their starting 2B and two of their best starting pitchers.
Likely Starting Pitchers: The Cards had to battle the last week of the season in an attempt to take the division away from the Reds, but they still have a plethora of top tier options to choose from in the best of 1 series. Jack Flaherty is the logical choice given his post season history. For the Padres, likely Cy Young winner McKenzie Gore would probably be the most ideal pitcher to have going in a one-game series of any pitcher in the SAHL. Padres GM Ray did not take any chances, having rested Gore the final week of the season so that he is fresh and ready to go.
Prediction: It’s tough to pick against Gore with the season he has had, especially since he pitched very well in his lone start against the Cards earlier this season. That said, when a team has been to the WS 3 straight times, you just cannot pick against them in a series until they show signs of faltering. Add to the that the fact that likely Cards’ starter Flaherty dominated the Padres in two starts this season and that the game will be in St. Louis and things look promising for the Cards. St. Louis’ regular season gave us glimpses of the potential beginning of a decline, but we are not sold on it yet. Cards win a close one.
AL Wild Card: Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers
Game Info: Who would have predicted that the mighty White S*x would have had to wait until the second to last day of the season to secure a Wild Card birth? The S*x finish a whopping 13 games out of first place in the central, but have a home game win-or-go-home matchup against the surprising Texas Rangers for the right to play the Indians in the ALDS. The Rangers come into their first ever SAHL playoff game with a young team that is led by a solid starting staff while the S*x bring in their veteran talent with more postseason experience than any team in the AL. The Rangers won the season series between the two clubs by a narrow 4-3 margin.
Recent Play/Injuries: The Rangers enter the playoffs having had a great September (17-8) and are fresh off of the high of clinching their first ever postseason birth. The White S*x, on the other hand, struggled mightily to end the season, having gone 11-15 in September and 36-38 since the All Star break, the worst record of any postseason team. Both clubs are relatively healthy entering the playoffs, so we should see a good matchup with the best club coming out on top.
Likely Starting Pitchers: Slade Cecconi is likely to get the nod for the Rangers, having gone 10-8 this season with a 3.82 ERA. Cecconi did not face the S*x this year, so he will have a bit of an advantage given the powerful Chicago offense has not faced him in recent memory. The White Sox can go with either Dustin May or Alex Vesia, as both will be on full rest. Vesia has had the better season, but both he and May did not fare well against the Rangers in their matchups this season (combined ERA against the Rangers of over 8). That said, both Vesia and May had a much better second start against the Rangers this season, and the Rangers have hit better against righties this year, so we expect Vesia to get the nod.
Prediction: It’s tough to pick against a team that has dominated the SAHL postseason over the last 5 years, but the Rangers have a guy on the mound who can get it done in young right hander Slade Cecconi. The Rangers are the hotter club (and that usually bodes well for teams as they head into the playoffs) and have seen a lot of whoever starts between May/Vesia. That said, the postseason can be overwhelming to a young team and the S*x have experience on their side so we are going S*x in a close one.