Saturday, January 22

MLB playoff power rankings: Rays push NL West powers out of first place in October

With the Yankees and Cardinals, the two franchises with the most World Series titles, now out of the October picture, let’s take a look at the eight teams still standing.

Why do we wait? Honestly, while one-game wild card contests are dramatic and make for good television, they are a dumb (OK, dumb) way of deciding which teams advance to the World Series. Baseball is a sport that rewards the depth and talent of the team and the ability to wear down an opponent in a series of games. Determining who advances based on a single game is necessary against the 162 game schedule. Aargh.

MORE: Updated MLB Playoff Schedule

But we are not here to rant about it today. We brought it up to say that it is silly to do a team power ranking before coin toss wild card games. As we head to the Division Series contests, with a best of five leading to a World Series and LCS best-of-seven showdown, it’s time to see which teams have the best chance of winning it all.

8. Red Sox

Why are they here: I know I know They sure looked good in that wild card win against the Yankees. There are no arguments here. But Nathan Eovaldi is by far his best starting pitcher, and he will only start once in the ALDS (Game 3, with full rest because there is zero chance of starting Game 2 on two days rest), with a possible inning of relay or two in Game 5, if the series gets there. If the Sox had five Eovaldis, they would be higher in this ranking. But after Eovaldi, the headlines are a little more suspicious, and yes, that included Chris Sale, who failed to get out of the third inning in a must-see 162 game against the Nationals. It’s hard to watch them survive the Rays and their at-bat grinder lineup.

7. Braves

Why are they here: Don’t be fooled by the W / L record, 88 wins which is the fewest of any team in the postseason (less than the Blue Jays or Mariners, who did not qualify in the AL). The Braves made several major additions before the July 31 trade deadline and played like a legitimate contender the rest of the way, not a running back in a bad division. Atlanta was 36-19 in the final two months of the season and went 12-2 in the last 14 games to win the East. There’s power up and down the lineup: New leadoff hitter Jorge Soler hit 27 home runs this year and Dansby Swanson, who also hit 27 home runs, hit seventh or eighth most of last month. If starters can produce quality innings, and closer Will Smith pitched like he did in September (1.38 ERA) and not August (5.84 ERA), this is a Braves team that could surprise people.

6. White Sox

Why are they here: The White Sox are a very talented team and they absolutely could run for the American League side of the playoffs and even win a World Series. That would be nice; the Sox are a fun team to watch. But the Astros are a tough game for them, as evidenced by Houston’s 5-2 record against the Sox this year. In fact, the Red Sox haven’t played particularly well against the best teams in baseball this year. They were just 13-19 against the teams that qualified for the postseason, and that doesn’t bode well for good things to come.

MORE: 14 Postseason Oddities You May Not Know About

5. Brewers

Why are they here: The Brewers pitching is very good. Corbin Burnes (2.43 ERA), Brandon Woodruff (2.56) and Freddy Peralta (2.81) all had seasons worthy of a spot on the Cy Young ballot. Josh Hader is arguably the best closer in baseball, with a 1.23 ERA, 34 saves in 35 chances and 15.6 K / 9. And, sure, losing star setter Devin Williams is a hit, but the Milwaukee bullpen wasn’t just a show. of two men. There are a lot of good arms in the bullpen, led by Brad Boxberger and his closing experience. Additionally, Adrian Hauser (3.22 ERA), Eric Lauer (3.19 ERA) and Brett Anderson (4.24 ERA) made at least 20 starts this season, with two of the three entering the bullpen to help make up for Williams’ absence. Offense isn’t as good as pitching, but it’s still a solid group and the Brewers are more likely to play a 3-2-type game series than any other team this month.

4. Astros

Why are they here: Although the results of the regular season don’t have a tangible impact on the postseason, it still feels telling that the Astros were at their best against the best the American League had to offer this season. Check this out: Houston went 5-2 against the White Sox, 5-2 against the Red Sox and 4-2 against the Rays. The Astros have a deep lineup, with four players hitting at least 26 home runs this year, a list that doesn’t include Alex Bregman, who hit 12 in 91 games but is healthy now. And it’s not that batting average is a perfect statistic, but only three American League players hit at least .310 this year and two are on the Houston line: Yuli Gurriel (.319) and Michael Brantley (.311). ). It’s a lineup that crushes opposing pitchers. And the rotation? Let’s put it this way: Veteran Zack Greinke, who will one day wind up in Cooperstown, is the weakest link, statistically at least. This is a team built for October success.

3. Dodgers

Why are they here: They won 106 games in the regular season and have the majority of the players back from their 2020 World Series championship team. But they are without Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw, two huge pieces of last October’s puzzle. And that lineup, while powerful and potent, can be thrown, as the Cardinals demonstrated in the NL wild card game. If St. Louis had landed some sort of decisive blows in that drama-filled classic, the Cardinals were 0-for-11 with running backs in scoring position, the Dodgers would be home. There’s still plenty of talent on the roster to win another World Series, but his next series is against the team with 107 wins in the regular season, and that’s a tall order.

MORE: 14 Players Who Hold Lamentable Postseason Records

2. Giants

Why are they here: At this point in 2021, if you still doubt the Giants as an elite team, you’re being stubborn. Even Dodgers fans have come to grudgingly accept that San Francisco is a powerful club and a worthy World Series contender. The Giants have 10 hitters who hit at least 12 home runs this season. And yes, they don’t have Brandon Belt and his 29, but Lamont Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf combined to hit 18 home runs in his 239 AP at the position. That’s what these Giants have: there is always someone ready to step in and help the team win. The rotation is solid and the bullpen is outstanding: The team’s 2.99 bullpen ERA was the best in the majors this year.

1. Rays

Why are they here: At this point in the 2000s, if you still doubt the Rays as an elite team, you’re being stubborn. They have power, they have speed, they have defense and they have pitching. That’s the combo you want in October (obviously). They’re going to use guys you’ve probably never heard of (like the Shanes, Baz, and McClanahan) (the general baseball public didn’t know Randy Arozarena last October) to beat the teams and players that have made headlines for years. It’s the Rays’ way of operating.

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