Led by a lights-out bullpen and outstanding starting pitching, the Rangers had the best record in in the American League this season. Their dominance will continue in October leading them to their first-ever World Series. Last season’s acquisition Cole Hamels and mid-season acquisition Jonathan Lucroy are essential to the Rangers’ success. Hamels, the club’s ace, boasted a 15-5 record with a 3.32 ERA this season. Lucroy raked all season, racking up 24 home runs and he is not even the best slugger on the team. Adrian Beltre finished the season with an astounding 32 home runs, 104 RBI, and a batting average of .300.
While some teams rely solely on their superstars, the Rangers lineup is strong from the leadoff to number nine hitter. Elvis Andrus, who batted in the number nine slot towards the end of the season, had an incredible 0.326 on-base percentage. The fact that their number nine hitter can put up that kind of number shows the depth of the lineup. Other key late summer acquisitions include Carlos Beltran and Carlos Gomez. Both are veterans who can change any game with just one swing of the bat. The Rangers came up clutch all regular season, coming from behind to win 47 games. With unbelievable pitching and a stacked lineup, the Rangers have a clear path to winning their first World Series.
The Cleveland Indians have finished the regular season with a record of 94-67. Their surprisingly good season has come as a result of solid fielding and pitching, and an offense that has come out of nowhere to be one of the best in the league. Everybody anticipated that they were going to have one of the best defenses in the league. With Francisco Lindor and Jason Kipnis playing up the middle and Rajai Davis patrolling the outfield, it was inevitable. They finished in a tie for the fourth best team fielding percentage in the league, with a near perfect 98.5 percent.
Their pitching staff was also expected to be amongst the best in the league. Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar, and Carlos Carrasco were the key pieces of what looked like the best young starting rotation in the league. All three of them are now injured, but the Indians shutdown bullpen helps to minimize this problem. They acquired the league’s best setup man, Andrew Miller, from the Yankees over the summer, and their closer, Cody Allen finished the regular season with 31 saves and a 2.55 ERA. Corey Kluber will be returning for the AL Division Series, but the rest of the starting pitchers are sub-par, so the offense and the bullpen will have to carry the load. Luckily, the offense has been incredible this season, and if the team holds a lead going into the eighth inning, then a win is all but a sure thing.
The Indians had the fourth most runs per game this season, averaging a whopping 4.84. They had four starters hit over .285, and their two power hitters Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana both hit 34 home runs. The team went 16-11 in the month of September, so they have some momentum going into their ALDS series against the Red Sox. If their offense continues to fire on all cylinders, and their fielding and pitching stay stable, the Indians have an excellent shot to make a deep run in the postseason.
Boston Red Sox:
The Boston Red Sox have the best offense in baseball. They have scored 30 more runs than any other team. The bullpen has rounded into shape with a 1.52 ERA in September They added Brad Ziegler at the trade deadline and moved Joe Kelly into the Bullpen. Kelly has added some much-needed heat to the bullpen. Kelly has reached 101 miles per hour this year just eight other players have touched that speed. The Red Sox had an 11 game winning streak in September leading them to the American League East Championship.
For the last two years, the Red Sox starting rotation has been a question. Rick Porcello who had an abysmal 2015 campaign posting a 4.92 ERA in 28 starts, has become the ace of a deep Red Sox pitching staff. Porcello is one of the leading Cy Young candidates with 22 wins.
The Red Sox also have 40-year-old slugger David Ortiz. David Ortiz has come through countless times in the playoffs. Ortiz is playing the last games of his career and looks like he will go out with another great postseason moment. Dustin Pedroia, one of the most underrated players in baseball, is having a great season. The 33-year-old finished the year batting .318 with 12 defensive runs saved. Pedroia and Ortiz have five world series championships between them.
With two clutch veterans, a very deep offense, and bullpen. David Ortiz and the Red Sox look to add one more World Series Championship to their resume.
Toronto Blue Jays:
Ending the regular season with an impressive record of 89-73, the Toronto Blue Jays are on track to go deep into the playoffs and maybe even win the World Series. They won their wild-card game against the Baltimore Orioles and are hot coming into the postseason. The starter, Marcus Stroman had a good outing, and Edwin Encarnacion delivered an electrifying three-run home run to win the game and help the Blue Jays advance to the next round.
Backed by what some consider to be one of best lineups in baseball, an excellent closer, and the solid starting rotation, the Blue Jays have a great chance to win the World Series. The Blue Jays have a superb middle of the lineup, including Josh Donaldson with an OBP of .404 Additionally, Edwin Encarnacion is tied for first with 127 RBI and in third place for home runs with 42. Batting 4th in the lineup, Jose Batista can hit a clutch home run to win the game anytime. With these strong aspects of the team, they will be able to make a deep run in the playoffs. By the end of November, Encarnacion will be parading through the six with his bros.
Chicago Cubs: The Chicago Cubs finished the regular season with a record of 103 wins and just 58 losses. This was the best record in Major League Baseball. This is no fluke season the Cubs have one of the best front offices in baseball. Theo Epstein leads the charge as the President of Baseball operations. Epstein was the youngest general manager in baseball history when he was hired in 2003 by the Boston Red Sox. Of the 47 players that played for the Red Sox in 2003, 32 of them were older than Their boss Theo Epstein.
The Red Sox did not win the World Series in 2003 however just one year later the broke an 86 year World Series Championship drought when they beat the Saint Louis Cardinals in the World Series. The Cubs drought is at 108 years. If the Cubs do win the World Series Theo Epstein would go down as the best President of Baseball operations ever breaking two “curses” and bringing a championship trophy to, two historic Franchises in the Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
The Cubs have one of the best-starting pitching rotations in the league. Jon Lester is a former 20 game winner and a Cy Young candidate. Jake Arrieta Won the Cy Young in the 2015 season. And Kyle Hendricks posted the lowest ERA this year. At the trade deadline Epstein and the Cubs were not satisfied with their bullpen. In a classic Theo Epstein moved they acquired one of the best closers in the League in Aroldis Chapman. It doesn’t stop there the Cubs Offense are lead by MVP Candidates Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs are a rare mix of young and experienced players that many teams in the MLB don’t have. With the combination of a dominant pitching staff and an electric offense, the Cubs have a great chance of breaking their 108-year curse.
After another great season, the Washington Nationals are primed for their first deep postseason run. The Nationals finished the season at 95-67, tied for the second-best record in baseball. With stellar top of the rotation pitching and the team carrying boiling hitting into the postseason, the Nationals have a great chance to play deep into October. Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark lead a very experienced squad into the playoffs, hoping that another one of their top pitchers, Stephen Strasburg, can return before the end of their season. On the other side, Trea Turner, just a rookie, leads many hot batters into the postseason, including Daniel Murphy, who is hitting a team-high .347 for the year and leads the team in all other major hitting categories.
Although the team had an up-and-down season, once losing seven games in a row, the Nationals are coming into the postseason hot and is a very dangerous team. The Nationals also bring one of the most experienced postseason hitters ever in Jayson Werth to the plate. Although he has struggled at times this season, he remains one of the most clutch hitters on the otherwise young Nationals team. Werth has been on teams that went deep into the postseason and won the World Series in 2008 with the Philadelphia Phillies. Werth was a key player on the 2012 and 2014 Nationals team that made the playoffs and even scored the winning run in some of those playoffs games.
If the Nationals hope to make a run, they will need Scherzer, who led the league in wins and had a 2.96 ERA, to step up big time and create havoc for the other teams with his sizzling fastball and headache-inducing slider. With their top-notch fielding (.988 fielding percentage, best in majors), solid run support, and some of the best pitching in baseball, the Nationals are poised to get past their history of losing in the first round and bring a championship home to Washington.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Alex Martin
The Los Angeles Dodgers are once again in the Postseason. Lead by great pitching the Dodgers finished the season with a 91-71 record and winning the National League East Division. The Dodgers are led by what many think is the greatest pitcher of all time with Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw hasn’t posted an ERA above 3.00 since 2008 his rookie season. However, Kershaw was lost in the middle of the season to mild disc herniation. Kershaw, however, worked his way back into the rotation and posted another great season. In 21 games started Kershaw posted a 1.69 ERA and won 12 games. However, Kershaw has struggled in the postseason hosting a 4.65 ERA in 14 games started. Kershaw looks to turn his postseason stats around and lead the Dodgers to their first title since 1988. The Dodgers Bullpen is led by Kenley Jansen who had an impressive 47 saves this year. After the 2015 season, The Dodgers fired long time coach Don Mattingly after his inability to win in the postseason.
The Dodgers hired Dave Roberts a first time manager who was known for “the steal” in the 2004 American League Championship against the New York Yankees. “The steal” kept Redsox hopes alive in 2004 and led to a World Series Championship. Roberts looks to start a new chapter in his baseball career by winning a World Series. The Dodgers have struggled to score runs this year. Thus if they can lean on their impressive pitching staff they can win a World Series Title.
San Francisco Giants:
The San Francisco Giants are always in the Postseason conversation, and as long as it’s an even year, the Giants have a chance. It also seems that players who have mediocre regular seasons light it up in the postseason, like Travis Ishikawa did last year. The Giants are backed by an incredible pitching staff and a whole lineup of players who can step up at any time. One player who has already stepped up big this postseason was the third baseman Conor Gillaspie who scored the only runs of the game, on his three-run home run.
One of the biggest offseason acquisitions for the Giants was Johnny Cueto, a great pitcher who had one of the best ERA’s in the National League in the first half of the year. Jeff Samardzija is also a good pitcher on a great pitching staff and will be the X-factor on an already great rotation. And no one can forget about MadBum, Madison Bumgarner, who is one of the best postseason pitchers and has been one of the greats in recent history. Bumgarner continued this domination in the wild card game against the Mets with a complete game shutout. Bumgarner will shut down hitters all October, so it’s up to the other pitchers to do their job, too.
Buster Posey will provide a fantastic pitch-caller and blocker behind the plate and will provide a steady bat along with Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and Joe Panik. Posey has consistently batter .300 in the postseason and will hope to continue that trend. They are tied for the highest field percentage in baseball this year, which will help them in later innings when games are often riddled with mistakes.
If the Giants can continue their even year magic, Bumgarner can keep dominating in October, and Giants hitters can step up in key moments, the Giants will be well on their way to winning their fourth World Series in 7 years.