Top 10 World Series Contenders
World Series Contenders
As September approaches, the division and wildcard races are really starting to heat up. In the American League, the East continues to be an all-out battle with the Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles fighting for the lead. Even the New York Yankees have found new life with Alfonso Soriano on the team, making the American League Wild Card race extremely interesting.
The AL Central is proving to be more interesting than what I expected, with the surprising seasons by the Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals. With Justin Verlander not having a great year, the Detroit Tigers aren’t a guarantee to win this division.
The AL West continues to be an interesting race this year with the Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics battling it out to the end like they did in 2012. Oakland is only two games behind Texas, and if I were a betting man, I’d say Texas pulls out the division this year.
The National League race isn’t near as interesting as the American League, as the races aren’t very close, with the exception of the Central. The Atlanta Braves have already won the NL East, barring a truly miraculous comeback by the Washington Nationals, and will now focus on getting home field advantage for the playoffs.
The Central is by far the most interesting race in the NL, with three teams all battling for playoff spots. The Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals have been playing some of the most intense series of the season as of late, as they fight for the division lead. The Cincinatti Reds are right behind St. Louis in the division race, and hold a decent lead in the wild card. The nearest team to them is the Arizona Diamondbacks who, at six games back in the wild card race, do still have a small chance at the postseason this year.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been nearly unstoppable since the All-Star break. Since the arrival of Yasiel Puig and the return of Hanley Ramirez, the Dodgers have gone from the most expensive disappointment in recent memory, to the hottest team in baseball. The Diamondbacks are seven and a half games behind the first place Dodgers, and with the way they've been playing, I don’t expect that to change.
So, of these teams, who has the best chance at going to the World Series? Follow the slides to see which teams are pretenders, and which are contenders.
American League -Detroit Tigers
What can you not say about the Detroit Tigers? They have the second lowest team ERA in the American League, at 3.56, second only to Kansas City Royals. Justin Verlander has struggled this season, but he has showed some glimpses of his true form as of late. With Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the three and four holes, the Tigers have the most dangerous lineup in baseball, and sport a major league leading .281 team batting average. Even without Verlander at his best, the Tigers are my favorite for winning the ALCS.
Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox have had an amazing turn around since 2012. After ending last season with their worst record since the 60’s, Boston leadership fired Bobby Valentine, and made some good acquisitions. Behind the leadership of manager John Farrell, the Red Sox have won a cool 72 games. With a .273 team batting average, the Sox have a devastating lineup, but their pitching has struggled this year. Boston has put up a 3.84 team ERA this season, making pitching the teams’ largest weakness. Red Sox management is smart though, and they went out and picked up Jake Peavy, and have made some big acquisitions in their bullpen. With Clay Bucholz set to return soon, the Red Sox have a great shot at the Fall Classic in 2013.
No one wants to win a World Series more than the Texas Rangers. After losing consecutive series in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers have had a chip on their shoulder. Last season they lost the division at the last possible opportunity, and were promptly wiped out of the playoffs in the new wild card game. This season they look stronger. Their pitching has been good, with a 3.65 ERA; their hitting has been even better, putting up a .262 BA. The Rangers aren't the best team in baseball, but if they get hot in October, watch out.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays has been outstanding this year. With one of the lowest payrolls in baseball, what they have done is nothing short of amazing. Their team BA is .261 with a decent 3.88 ERA but this team is better than what it puts on. With a great lineup, good pitching and Fernando Rodney at the back end of the bullpen, this team can go deep into the playoffs.
Oakland’s pitching has carried them this season. They have the third best ERA in the AL with an outstanding 3.58, but their batting has been their greatest weakness. With their weak lineup, I don’t think Oakland has the ability to consistently take on playoff caliber pitching. I'd say it's a long shot that Oakland ends up in the World Series.
Sleeper Team: Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City Royals have put up amazing numbers this year. Their pitching has been the best in the American League with a 3.52 ERA, though their batting has suffered. If it weren't for a decent separation between the Royals and the division crown or a wild card spot, I'd have Kansas City higher. If they can get into the post season, I think this team has the pitching to take it deep. Getting there at this point in the season will be the toughest task for the Royals.
National League-Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves have run away with the NL East against their growing division rival, the Washington Nationals, and they now have time to prepare for the postseason. The Braves have the best record in baseball and they are just now starting to get their lineup right. Despite disappointing performances by Dan Uggla, BJ Upton and Justin Upton in the first half, the Braves have found themselves approaching October with a comfortable hold on the division. The Braves pitching staff has the second lowest ERA in the National League at 3.20, and since ace Tim Hudson went down, they are 18 and 3. This team has enough good starters to actually sport a six man rotation if they wanted to, even after Hudson’s season ending injury. Their lineup has picked up each other all season and sports a .254 BA, but with the Upton brothers finally coming around, and Dan Uggla's pending eye surgery, this lineup is much more dangerous than the numbers lead on.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Since June 22nd, the Los Angeles Dodgers are 40-8. That’s just outrageous. Yasiel Puig has changed the entire feel of that team, and the performance of Hanley Ramirez, since his return, has been truly amazing. The Dodgers are on fire, and it looks like no one can stop them. Despite this, I think the Dodgers are just hot right now; I understand they’re a great team, but I'm not calling them World Series favorites just yet. While they've proven they can be consistently great, it'll take them playing like they have against playoff caliber pitching and lineups to win the World Series.
My favorite story of 2013 is definitely the resurrection of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The last playoff game the Pirates played was the 1992 NLCS against the Braves, where Sid Bream slid into home, and crushed a franchise for two decades. It hasn't just been 20 years since Pittsburgh had playoff baseball though, it has actually been 20 years since the Pirates have even gone .500. Pittsburgh deserves this team, and I’m personally hoping for a 1992 NLCS rematch. The Pirates are only sporting a weak .245 team BA, but their pitching has been the best in the majors with a 3.11 ERA. Their hitting isn't top notch, but with pitching that good, Pittsburgh can go deep into the postseason.
St. Louis Cardinals
You can never count out St. Louis. In 2011, they made one of the greatest comebacks in baseball history. They were nine games back in September, and ended up winning the World Series when the only people who thought they could do it was themselves. Even last year, with the help of MLB, they squeaked into the playoffs with the new wild card and defeated the Braves. The Cardinals ended up going deep into the playoffs, despite subpar performance during the regular season. They've put up a great 3.49 ERA, with a National League leading .273 team BA. The Cardinals are built to win, but they're going to have to find a way to beat elite pitching, something they've had trouble consistently doing, if they wish to see the World Series again.
The Cincinatti Reds have been great this season, though they have received little attention with the Pirates taking the NL Central by storm. Currently three games back in the division, this team could easily be in the NLCS come October. Their pitching has been outstanding, with a 3.35 ERA, though their hitting has been subpar. Their .247 BA isn't the best, but, like the Pirates, their pitching can carry them deep into the postseason. I wouldn't bet on the Reds making it to the World Series, but if their lineup gets hot, they've got a real shot.