MLB Pre-Playoff Power Rankings
MLB Power Rankings Entering the 2013 Playoffs
From watching players loaf around in spring training to an extensive 162-game schedule, the grind of the baseball season can be overbearing and too extensive for some people's liking. But there are few people who can argue against the idea that the intensity and entertainment value that comes with playoff baseball is as consistent as the changing of the leaves every Autumn. After six long but entertaining months, we have finally reached this promise and of playoff baseball, as the pennant races are winding down and the leaves are beginning to change.
With only three games remaining in each team's regular season schedule, the only club that remains in contention but is not currently in the playoffs is the Texas Rangers, who sit behind the Cleveland Indians in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot. Aside from the race for the AL Wild Card, we already know that the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Oakland Athletics, Atlanta Braves, St. Louis Cardinals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates will be in the playoffs.
With many of these teams being settled into the playoffs, the last weekend of the season is setting up to be somewhat of a formality, as teams will look to rest their starters in anticipation of either the postseason or next season. This will make this weekend relatively boring for fans of every team except for the Rangers and Indians, but fear not baseball fans. After this boring week will come the best time of the season, and within a month, the 2013 MLB champ will be crowned.
With the playoffs and the offseason for some teams coming up, I have decided to compile a guide for who to watch out for during the playoffs in the form of a power rankings list.
30. Houston Astros
There is nothing that can really be said about the Houston Astros beside the fact that they have been absolutely awful in 2013. Their 51-108 record is the worst in MLB by a staggering eight games, they had the worst ERA in baseball and scored the 24th most runs in the game. To say "wait till next year" would be an ambitious statement for the Astros at this point. Maybe respectability is a realistic option in three years.
29. Miami Marlins
After trading Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Heath Bell amongst others, the Miami Marlins were not expected to be very successful in 2013. With a 59-100 record, they have performed just as many would have expected, but have had a few bright spots pop up during the 2013 season. Giancarlo Stanton is still a machine, Nate Eovaldi showed bright potential for the future and Jose Fernandez looked like an absolute stud. For Marlins fans' sakes, these guys better get it together soon and win something because they will surely be traded once owner Jeffrey Loria realizes they have value.
28. Chicago White Sox
Despite having a talented group of players that includes Chris Sale, Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, things just haven't worked out for the Chicago White Sox. The team played absolutely awful defense, didn't get on base enough and was let down by its bullpen throughout 2013. Still with Sale, Jose Quintana and Hector Santiago looking effective, things do not look so bad going into 2014 given smart offseason additions.
27. Minnesota Twins
Pitching truly let the Minnesota Twins down during the 2013 season, as their staff ranked 28th in WHIP 29th in ERA, and dead last in quality starts and BAA. At the end of August, the Twins publicly confirmed the realization that things were going to get worse before they get better by trading Justin Morneau to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Currently, things look grim in Minnesota for the 2014 season, and they could potentially get worse if Joe Mauer is sent out of town.
26. Chicago Cubs
In year two of the Theo Epstein rebuilding plan, things began to look better for the Chicago Cubs, even if the club has a 66-93 record. The team continued to nurture its youngsters in MLB including Anthony Rizzo, Wellington Castillo and Junior Lake, and picked up a couple more impressive youngsters with their trade of Matt Garza. Along with stacking up youngsters, Epstein has managed to get rid of Alfonso Soriano and his expensive contract, and has things generally looking positive in the Windy City -- even if this season's record wouldn't back up that claim.
25. Milwaukee Brewers
The 2013 season was an extremely tumultuous one in Milwaukee as the team saw Ryan Braun receive a 65-game suspension for his relation to the Biogenesis Clinic, and the team limped to a 72-87 record. Much of the struggles on the field came down to the struggles of the starting rotation, as Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta and Marco Estrada all had their fair share of struggles. Heading into the 2014 season, the Brewers will need to improve their pitching to have any chance of being successful.
24. Seattle Mariners
Despite arguably having the best one-two pitching combination in all of baseball in Hishashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners struggled mightily to finish with a 70-89 record. The team's pitching staff finished with the 26th-best ERA in MLB, and its hitters scored the 21st most runs in the game. This is a recipe for disaster and will need to be addressed for the team to have any chance for success in 2014.
23. Colorado Rockies
During the 2013 season, the Colorado Rockies were again marred by pitching woes, with the team ranking 28th in team ERA. Pitching problems have marred the organization throughout its time in Colorado, and it appears that no matter who they sign or how they humidify the balls, trying to out-pitch anyone in the mile high city is an exercise in futility.
22. New York Mets
While the New York Mets did struggle on their way to a 73-86 record, things did not look all bad throughout the season.
Matt Harveylooked like an ace of the future prior to going down to an elbow injury, a young core of players received game time and young pitching stars Rafael Montero and Noah Syndergaard continued to impress in the minor leagues. Things may not automatically get better next year, but they are looking better for the future.
21. Toronto Blue Jays
After acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Josh Johnson during the offseason, big things were expected of the Toronto Blue Jays. Unfortunately, each either struggled with form or injury, and the Blue Jays limped to a 72-87 record and last place in the AL East. Still, the team looked to have boatloads of potential and could yet make a return to where they were expected to be this season in 2014.
20. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies core continued to age during the 2013 season, as Jimmy Rollins struggled with form, Ryan Howard struggled with injury and Roy Halladay struggled with both. This group will only be getting older, and it may be time to blow the core up sooner rather than later.
19. San Diego Padres
The San Diego Padres were utterly average during the 2013 season, finishing 18th in ERA and 26th in runs scored on the way to a 75-84 record. Unfortunately for the Padres, their pitching staff is not effective enough make up for the inevitable poor hitting showing that comes with playing in the cavernous Petco Park.
18. San Francisco Giants
During the 2013 season, the San Francisco Giants were held back by the fact that their pitching took a giant step back. Starting pitchers Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito all put up ERAs of 4.00 or greater during the 2013 season, and the team's offense simply couldn't make up for this poor production. With Lincecum and Zito both being impending free agents, the franchise will have to either bank on their improvement or find successful replacements in order to be return to prominence in 2014.
17. Los Angeles Angels
After picking up Josh Hamilton to help provide protection for Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, the Angels were expected to have a great lineup during the 2013 season. Unfortunately, Pujols went down to an injury midway through the season and Hamilton struggled mightily, making the team less lethal than expected. When this is combined with the fact that the pitching was horrid aside from C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver, the outcome was a 78-81 record.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks
After leading the NL West for much of the early months in 2013, the Diamondbacks tailed off almost simultaneously with the Dodgers' rise to prominence. This was caused by the fact the team was simply average, posting the 13th-most runs in MLB and the 17th-best ERA on its way to an 80-79 record. With a host of role players on the team, it is hard to see Arizona getting much better going into the 2014 season.
15. Baltimore Orioles
After fighting tough all throughout the 2013 season, the Baltimore Orioles fell just short of a playoff spot. The team has a great group of core players in its lineup, including Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. The O's look likely to come back better than ever in 2014.
14. New York Yankees
2013 was a very tough year for the New York Yankees. Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira all missed significant time through injury, displaying the fact that the team is aging quickly. The postseason will not get any easier as the team will have to replace Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte, who are both retiring, and the team will also face a fight to retain Robinson Cano through free agency. Failure to replace these players will result in the team missing the playoffs for consecutive seasons for the first time since 1992 and 1993.
13. Washington Nationals
After coming into the 2013 season as a favorite to win the World Series, the Washington Nationals got out to a cold start over the first few months of the season and failed to recover in time to make the playoffs. Still, with Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper and Ryan Zimmerman all likely to be sticking around for the long term, this will not be the last time the Nationals came into a season as the favorite for the World Series.
12. Kansas City Royals
In what came as a huge surprise to many people, the Kansas City Royals will finish with a record over .500 as they are currently 84-75. This great season largely came down to the fact that the team's starting rotation was greatly improved, with the offseason acquisition of James Shields bringing a whole new mantra to the staff. With a young group of core players in the lineup, things may finally be going in the right direction in Kansas City after years of poor play.
11. Texas Rangers
An early September collapse appears to have done the Texas Rangers' playoff hopes in, and possibly cost Ron Washington his job in the process. With a talented core of players led by Yu Darvish, Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus coming back in 2014, it is likely that this will not be the organization's last crack at winning a World Series, regardless of who is manager.
10. Cleveland Indians
The 2013 season has been one of trials and tribulations for the Cleveland Indians, but in the end manager Terry Francona has the team in a great position heading into the play-in game against the Tampa Bay Rays. While they will likely be underdogs in this game, the facts are that they have been underdogs for the entirety of the season. They will be aided by the fact they are on a seven-game winning streak and have been scorching hot in the last month.
9. Cincinnati Reds
With a very similar roster to the one that won the NL central in 2012, the Cincinnati Reds have again had a great season, but will have to play their way into the Divisional Series after finishing behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the division. They will surely feel confident coming into the play-in game against the Pittsburgh Pirates though, as they will be able to throw ace Mat Latos in the game.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates
In what has turned out to be a bit of a mini-miracle, the Pittsburgh Pirates not only finished over .500 in 2013, but will be taking on the Cincinnati Reds in the Wild Card play-in game. They have been led by MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, who will be looking to make sure that the team's first foray into the playoffs in 20 years does not end after one night.
7. Oakland A's
After coming into the 2013 season as underdogs to the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, the Oakland A's have surprised the lot to become NL West champions. They have done it with a group built with the famed Moneyball strategy, as they have great starting pitching and a cheap group of effective run producers. The group will be looking to become the first team in the Billy Beane era to advance past the division series, and possibly go all the way to the World Series.
6. Tampa Bay Rays
With the Tampa Bay Rays' arrival in the postseason, things look bright for the group. David Price will lead the team's starting pitching group, with Alex Cobb and Matt Moore providing great no. 2 and 3 starters for the Rays. After going 8-2 in the team's last 10 games, it appears things are now going in the right direction for the Rays. They will be looking to continue this hot streak in October by winning the one-game Wild Card playoff against Cleveland.
5. Detroit Tigers
After winning the AL Central in 2013, the Detroit Tigers actually look like a bigger threat in the playoffs than they were in the regular season. With Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander being the team's top three pitchers, it will be nearly impossible to score runs against the Tigers. On the offensive side of the ball, Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera leads the way, and it is also hard to imagine the team not scoring a large amount of runs. With the normal formula for winning baseball games being scoring more runs than opponents, it would appear that Tigers are primed to do big things in October.
4. Atlanta Braves
During the 2013 season, the Atlanta Braves have been somewhat erratic, but with a 94-65 record, it is apparent that they tend to play better than not. The team has had very consistent starting pitching, and given a hot streak by the lineup, they could be poised to go on a hot streak to the World Series. After all, we have seen in the past that this is exactly the formula it takes to win in October, so hopes should be high in Atlanta.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
After fending off the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds to win the NL Central, fans in St. Louis will be comforted by the fact their team will not have to participate in the one-game Wild Card round. With a lineup that is as well rounded as any and doesn't rely upon stars to get the job done, it appears the Cardinals will show the selflessness to get runs on the board in October. Meanwhile their pitching staff, led by Adam Wainwright, has been both effective and consistent all season and will help make the Cardinals one of the toughest teams to beat in October.
2. Boston Red Sox
Throughout the 2013 season, the Boston Red Sox have received the revival of a lifetime under new manager John Farrell, finishing in first place in the AL East with a 96-63 record. With an incredibly deep lineup and a starting pitching staff led by Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz and Jake Peavy, this bunch will be a hard group to beat in October.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers have been on fire since June, and it appears as if they have the perfect lineup for playoff baseball. With Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco all lined up to start in a postseason series, scoring runs will be nearly impossible up until the eight inning, when teams will have to face a bullpen that has been extremely effective. Meanwhile, their lineup is arguably the best in baseball and appears nearly impossible to stop. Oh, the joys of what $200 million will buy.