There’s no better time of year than the Fall Classic. The 2017 MLB Playoffs are jam packed with excitement. Unlike other sports, the baseball playoffs are a complete crapshoot. This is a sport where failing 70 percent of the time is considered a positive. There’s a lot of variance in baseball that creates a lot of room for intrigue.
For the Yankees and Diamondbacks, they were winners of the dumbest rule in sports, the Wildcard Game. To play 162 games and have that not be enough for two wildcard winners to play each other despite a large talent gap is absurd. Imagine what MLB would have done if the Twins actually won that game? Even the worst team in baseball wins 40 percent of their games making a one-game playoff the dumbest thing in sports. Luckily for the fans, the right two teams luckily did enough to win creating more drama.
Some teams are built better for this time of year, however. High strikeout rates usually carry over. Elder pitchers usually find a way to win games. Managers matter…..A lot. Current win/loss streaks also play a role. Does your team have a legitimate shot to win the World Series? With that being said, how do the 8 playoff teams stack up heading into the 2017 MLB Playoffs?
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
The D-Backs are second in the NL in ERA (3.66). Their starting rotation has the lowest mark in the majors but now they enter a series where their ace Zack Greinke had to pitch the wild-card game. Arizona’s second-best starter Robbie Ray even pitched in relief in an effort to take out the Rockies. The Diamondbacks also have the shakiest bullpen of the group. Archie Bradley might be the best reliever in the game but Fernando Rodney closing out a game should cause panic. The team only converted 69.35 percent of their saves. Outside of Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez, this offense probably can’t carry them. Arizona feels like the only team that doesn’t really belong in the postseason. That can be attributed to the first-year manager Torrey Lovullo who has turned into one of the games best.
Outside of Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez, this offense probably can’t carry them. Arizona feels like the only team that doesn’t really belong in the postseason. That can be attributed to the first-year manager Torrey Lovullo who has turned into one of the games best.
7. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals have never won a postseason series in the history of their franchise. Let me repeat myself, this franchise can’t win in primetime! In a series against the reigning champs in Chicago, things don’t figure to be in their favor despite the better record. Bryce Harper is still recovering from an injury and has played sparingly down the stretch. Even when healthy, Harper is just a .211 hitter in the playoffs. The advantage when it comes to offense and bullpen figures to side with the Cubs in the first round. Oh yeah, Joe Maddon probably outclasses Dusty Baker too.
The good news for Nats fans is they have the best rotation of any playoff team. Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and Gio Gonzalez have been fantastic all year. If those guys can put together dominating starts against a tough Cubs lineup, they could have the advantage in any postseason series. It also helps to have guys that can rake in the form of Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon. The secret weapon with the Nats is their speed leading all postseason teams with 108 steals on the year. Trea Turner might be the X-Factor in determining their fate.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
Since the Dodgers acquire Yu Darvish, they haven’t been a very good team. LA finished the month of September with a record of 12-17. LA also hasn’t played a meaningful game since April with the division seemingly locked up since May. Something weird is also brewing with Yasiel Puig where the rest of the guys seem like they are begging management to trade him. LA also has the worst offense of any team in the postseason (770 runs scored). More than anything, the Dodgers pure depth with the highest payroll in the sport helped them tremendously. I’m just not sure they have the star power outside of Clayton Kershaw, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner to get the job done.
The good news is the Dodgers pitching staff is phenomenal. October is about pitching and defense. The Dodgers had the best ERA in all of baseball (3.38). That number figures to stick come playoff time considering LA also led the NL in strikeouts (1549). LA also has the best fielding percentage of any National League playoff team (.985). LA has a lot of bodies to play in the matchups. The question is how well will Dave Roberts play his hand?
5. New York Yankees
New York has the best manager in baseball, Joe Girardi. We already saw him manage his tail off in that Wildcard game. New York also has the best bullpen in baseball. The question is whether their offense and starting pitching can carry them? The Yanks hit the most home runs in baseball but a lot of that is the short porches in Yankee stadium. Outside of the Cubs and D-Backs, the Yankees strikeout the most of any playoff team (1386).
The Yankees do have the ingredients to make a deep run and shock the Indians. Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and even shortstop Didi Gregorius have massive power. The bullpen of Chad Green, David Robertson, Tommy Kahnle, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman is excessively deep. C.C. Sabathia and Sonny Gray both have postseason experience. New York will be no gimme putt for the Indians.
4. Chicago Cubs
Yes, the Cubs fall to 6th on the list. They may have the advantage over the Nats but there isn’t much separation. The Nats and Cubs have the two worst catching downfalls in the NL playoffs which led to the Cubs falling off from last years win total. David Ross and his leadership are gone as Chicago only threw out 22.44 percent of base stealers. The Cubs also had an ERA of 3.95 collectively. Jon Leser (4.33 ERA), Jake Arrieta (3.53), and others have taken a step back.
The positive is these guys have been here before. With a deep bullpen and 2nd best offense in the NL (1,401 runs), the Cubs can go a long way. No team has a scarier middle of the lineup in the NL. Good luck facing Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.
3. Boston Red Sox
If the Red Sox make a deep playoff run, Chris Sale will have to carry them. I like his chances to do so. Sale’s grit and grind make him a candidate to flourish this time of year. He did even say he’s going to “throw until his arm falls off”. Sale’s struck out 308 batters this year in the American League. His impact gives the Red Sox the edge in three games of any postseason series. The question is whether the team can do enough to win in games he isn’t pitching?
Boston’s lineup has a bit of that Kansas City Royals feel to it from a few years ago. Boston doesn’t have a lot of power as they are the only team in the majors not to hit a grand slam this year. What the Sox do really hit is make contact and put pressure on the base paths. Only Houston and Cleveland strikeout less. Boston does, however, led the AL in stolen bases (106). Andrew Benintendi, Jackie Bradley, and Mookie Betts also make up the best outfield in baseball. The Red Sox catchers are also outstanding throwing out 39 percent of base stealers.
What has to scare any Red Sox fan is having to throw out Doug Fister or Eduardo Rodriguez in a postseason start. Boston’s offense will have to really step up with shaky pitching after Drew Pomeranz. Can Boston’s bullpen get the ball to Craig Kimbrell? Can Hanley Ramirez recreate David Ortiz’s playoff success? By the way, Boston also has one of the worst managers in baseball with John Farell. The team wins in spite of him at this point as there is a reason why he is on the hot seat after winning the AL East. This roster is loaded.
2. Cleveland Indians
There isn’t a more complete team in the game. Their 22 game win streak earlier this season only proves that. Terry Francona won two rings as the skipper in Boston as you can’t get much better than Tito. Cleveland leads baseball in fielding percentage (.987) and ERA (3.30). You name the category, the Indians are at the top.
Cleveland has a Cy Young winner in Corey Kluber and amazing depth behind him in the form of Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, and Trevor Bauer. The Indians have star power in Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez, and Edwin Encarnacion. The Pen with Andrew Miller and Cody Allen is also great. There isn’t much to add besides for the fact that Cleveland is built about as well as humanly possible. Can Cleveland break the last remaining curse in baseball? Did the Indians spoil their win streak too soon?
1. Houston Astros
I feel really bad for the loser of the Astros, Red Sox series. In the National League, both teams would probably have the upper hand to reach the World Series. I’ll give Houston a slight edge over Cleveland for the sole fact that they are playing with a heavy heart after Hurricane Harvey.
Like Cleveland, Houston is also at the top of every conceivable category. It’s Houston’s offense here that really stands out scoring 896 runs on the season. They hit home runs and rarely strikeout, a dangerous combo this time of year. Jose Altuve will probably win the MVP after hitting .346 on the season. Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Alex Bregman make up part of a stacked lineup.
Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel are a great one-two punch. Outside of that, there are question marks. Are Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton capable of winning postseason games? Do you really trust Ken Giles in a save situation? Nevertheless, the Astros are the perfect example of why everyone should embrace tanking! Houston tanked for years and put themselves in position to win a World Series.