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Ranking the MLB Playoff Teams

(Boston, MA, 04/10/18) during the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston on Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Staff photo by Christopher Evans

(1) BOSTON RED SOX:  Why they will win?  The Red Sox are probably the most balanced team in the Majors.  The hitting is stout and just have a strong lineup top to bottom.  The starting pitching is strong with Sale, Price, and Porcello.  And they have the game’s best closer in Craig Kimbrel.  Why they won’t win?  Aside from Sale, the Red Sox do have streak issues from Porcello and Price.  Which if they have an off game in an ALDS early, the Red Sox can be had.  The bullpen leading up to Kimbrel is also in question.  OUTLOOK:  Boston was my pick at the beginning of the year to win it all.  I’m standing by my pick, but they need to be more consistent with the arms.  But they are the best all-around team heading into the postseason.

(2) HOUSTON ASTROS: Why they will win?  Houston’s starting pitching from top to bottom is sickening.  Verlander, Cole, Keuchel, and Morton just had dealt all season.  And in regards to Verlander, he is probably the best pitcher in terms of postseason baseball which will go a long way assuming if Houston needs to win a Game 5 in an ALDS or a Game 7 somewhere.  And their bullpen is pretty darn good.  Add that with the Killer A’s (Altuve and Alex Bregman), and you do have a strong balance.  Why they won’t win?  The Astros offense from a year ago has taken a drop, including Altuve.  Springer, Correa, and Marwin Gonzalez took major declines as did Josh Reddick.  If Houston’s bats struggle early on, they may be having a short October, even with as good of pitching as they have.  OUTLOOK:  Houston *should* be fine early on, but those key hits have to show up like they had last year in the postseason.

(3) NEW YORK YANKEES:  Why they will win?  They’re the Bronx Bombers.  They will slug and slug and slug you to death.  And the pitching has been underrated all season, starters and bullpen.  Why they won’t win?  The Red Sox, Astros, and Indians have big-game pitchers and ones you could probably rely on better than what the Yankees have to offer.  And if Aroldis Chapman can’t find consistency to close out games, it will be a major concern for New York.  OUTLOOK:  The Yankees I have that feeling if they aren’t put away early, they may not be put away at all.  But it will depend if the starters can hold the fort down, let the Bombers blast away, and Chapman can finish it off.

(4) CHICAGO CUBS:  Why they will win?  Top-to-bottom, the Cubs are the most talented bunch in the Majors.  The offense is stout and they have a good rotation and a strong bullpen.  And Joe Maddon knows how to press the buttons.  Why they won’t win?  It just seems at times the Cubs players don’t have that same killer drive like they had in 2016.  They have lacked consistency with the pitching most of the year and it just seems like if you get to them early and often, they lose interest of playing the game.  OUTLOOK:  Chicago is a team that is hard to figure out because it just seems like they want to be more of showmen than baseball players now.  They *should* represent the NL in the World Series, but they have to get that drive in them because they could get bounced by the Dodgers, Rockies, or even their hated rivals in the north in the Brewers.

(5) LOS ANGELES DODGERS: Why they will win?  The talent is there.  They slug the ball better than anybody in the NL (first in HR).  The lineup from top to bottom is dangerous as dangerous can get out.  The pitching is strong, both starters and bullpen.  They will be a tough out regardless in any match-up in the NLDS.  Why they won’t win?  For all the talk of how great Clayton Kershaw is, October hasn’t been kind to him throughout his career.  And while Alex Wood and Walker Buehler are strong options behind him, if Kershaw falters, that could leave an impact on those arms as well.  And if they see Colorado in the NLCS, Kenley Jansen’s availability will be an issue when they go to Coors and the last time the Dodgers went out there without Jansen, it was an epic nightmare.  Adding on, the Dodgers are a team that lives and dies with the home run.  That’s not a great formula in postseason.  OUTLOOK:  The Dodgers, like the Cubs have enough talent to get to the World Series.  The major thing that concerns me with them is they are an all-or-nothing offense.  If they run into stout pitching along the way, they may not muster much offense.

(6) CLEVELAND INDIANS:  Why they will win?  The starting pitching is excellent, led by Corey Kluber.  The hitting with Lindor and Ramirez is solid and it is a nice balance.  They obviously don’t get the same love as the Red Sox, Yankees, or Astros, but they are not one to be taken lightly.   Also, the Indians do better when nobody really talks about them and given how the AL Central was a mess this year and how the Indians didn’t overly dominate, it really gives them that “hush-hush” feel, which is deadly for a team.  Why they won’t win?  The bullpen is a massive concern.  In postseason when teams really jump at the bullpen a lot, the Indians may have a monster issue with that and could be very problematic against those AL lineups.  OUTLOOK:  With three teams pulling out 100 wins and a 4th team that had 97 wins, the Indians are ripe to shock many and could sneak past everybody in the AL if all goes their way.  But that bullpen will have to step up big time and they need clutch hits, something they lacked last year against the Yankees in the ALDS.

(7) ATLANTA BRAVES: Why they will win?  The Braves may be the most exciting team coming out of the NL with the likes of Albies, Acuña, Freeman, Markakis, etc. on offense.  The defense is pretty good and really saves a lot of runs for the underrated rotation of Foltynewicz, Gausman, Teheran, and Anibal Sanchez.  And they also have a knack of getting clutch hits late in games which could be a huge asset in October.  Why they won’t win?  They’re still a young team and not a lot of playoff presence with the vets (Freeman, Sanchez, and Gausman have some) so that could be a concern.  The bullpen is also a mess too.  That’s bad if the Braves have to see the Dodgers or Cubs.  OUTLOOK:  Hard to think that the Braves haven’t won a playoff series/wild card since 2001 when they were in the midst of their division title runs.  They were a year ahead of schedule with where this team should be at, but while the future for Atlanta looks great, there are one too many gaps with them and the likes of the Dodgers and Cubs.

(8) MILWAUKEE BREWERS:  Why they will win?  The Brewers are rolling and sometimes the hot team heading into October is the one standing tall at the end.  Adding on they have probably the NL MVP Christian Yelich in a very good lineup with solid defense that has made the Brewers pitchers look decent.  The starting pitching won’t be mistaken for Chicago, Los Angeles, or even Atlanta, but they have been serviceable and adding Gio Gonzalez was a huge move for them.  Why they won’t win?  Can the Brewers win with a starting rotation of Gio Gonzalez-Chase Anderson-Jhoulys Chacin-Wade Miley (or Junior Guerra)?  It isn’t like they were an epic disaster, but would you trust any of them in a deciding Game 5 or Game 7?  The bullpen also has been up and down this year.  That spells a bad recipe.  OUTLOOK:  Milwaukee really has that momentum heading in.  They could make Chicago play that Wild Card game and have the Cubs eliminated by the Dodgers or Rockies and have homefield throughout the NL playoffs.  But they will have to continue their torrid pace on offense (Yelich) for all of that to happen and get to the World Series for the first time since 1982.

(9) COLORADO ROCKIES: Why they will win?  They can hit, and this year they can pitch pretty well both from the starters and the bullpen.  They also have that October experience and I think the divisional race with the Dodgers will help them out greatly.  And honestly, they play better away from Coors, which is an added bonus for them.  Why they won’t win?  While the Rockies pitching has been great compared to their history of just having pitchers with what feels like is a 4.75 ERA at best, it is probably the worst out of the teams left.  OUTLOOK:  Colorado is that team that if they get hot, they could ride that streak all the way to the World Series.  But they are also that team if the bats get cold, they could get rocked, whether in Denver or elsewhere.

(10) OAKLAND ATHLETICS:  Why they will win?  They are young and dumb.  They will play like it is no tomorrow.  They can slug the ball with the rest of powers of the AL.  They have a great bullpen and they have a flair for the dramatic.  A team with nothing to lose in October are always the deadly ones.  And they are in with 4 other AL teams with high expectations and high pressure.  That is a key advantage Oakland has over the others.  Why they won’t win?  If history has anything to say, the Athletics will be out pretty quickly.  Since Billy Beane took the helm, Oakland has made the playoffs 7 times and only once have they advanced past the ALDS (2006).  But the other concerning issue is that the Athletics are similar to the Dodgers of being all-or-nothing on offense.  The starting pitching is decent, but will a Daniel Mengden-Edwin Jackson-Brett Anderson-Trevor Cahill-Mike Fiers group take down the Astros, Red Sox, or Yankees?  OUTLOOK:  Everything needs to go right for Oakland in my eyes and get clutch hits to even stand a chance of making it to the ALCS.  But it is why we play the games.

MY PREDICTION:  In the AL, I think the Red Sox will be consistent and strong enough to take down their Bronx rivals and then I think they will get enough key hits in an ALCS Series against the Indians (yes, I think Cleveland takes down Houston).

The NL, I think the only team that can beat the Cubs is the Cubs.  They should beat whatever Wild Card winner they have (Brewers, Rockies, Dodgers) and then take down whoever they see in the NLCS.  But again, they need to zero in more than what they have been because if Chicago loses to Milwaukee in the one-game tilt and then sees the Rockies or Dodgers in that Wild Card, I don’t think they will make it to the Series.  And in that case, I’ll go with a sleeper and go with the Brewers.  However, I think the Cubs from a talent level, will see the Red Sox in late October/early November.  But Boston will be too much for Chicago and take it in 5.

-Fan in the Obstructed Seat

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