According to Billy Beane, the only GM to ever be portrayed by Brad Pitt (because that means something), the playoffs are a crapshoot. But you know what he thinks, and evidence certainly suggests he might be right. When you’re playing shorter series such as a one game playoff or a best of five, any team in baseball can get hot for three games. The 2001 Seattle Mariners may have been the best regular season team in history, they also failed miserably in the playoffs and were never heard from again in October. The 2002 “Moneyball” Oakland A’s had the best record in baseball, only to watch the Wild Card winning Anaheim Angels defeat the Giants in the World Series. For the twenty years, it always seems as though the Cardinals and the Yankees get hot at the right time in October, can it be the confidence that they’ve been there before, could it be in the other team’s head, or is it just random success?
For those that are unwilling to subscribe to such thought, there do seem to be two critical factors that can play a role in dictating playoff success, front of the rotation starting pitching and timely hits. The best offenses can be outgunned by the offenses that operate the most efficiently, the ones that simply get the right hit at the right time. They can also be silenced altogether by elite starting pitching. So which teams in the AL and NL look poised to go the furthest in October (assuming they make it)?
When you think of the Tigers offense, you think of the home run. They don’t manufacture runs, they aren’t fast, they don’t take the extra base. The Tigers just bludgeon teams to death, or so it seems. As it also turns out, the Tigers get timely hits as well. Detroit leads all of the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position. That makes them even more deadly when you also consider their knack for hitting the long ball. But the Tigers also have an enviable op of the rotation. Even without Justin Verlander being his normal self, the Tigers have the reigning AL Cy Young award winner in Max Scherzer, as well as Anibal Sanchez, Rick Porcello and Drew Smyly, all of which could’ve made a case as All-Star selections.
Los Angeles Dodgers
No one actually knows what their rotation will look like after the trade deadline, but they aren’t exactly in a bad place to start with in Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. The Dodgers also reach base more often with RISP than any team in the NL and also hit for the second highest average in their league behind the park inflated Colorado Rockies. The Dodgers might be very difficult to beat, assuming they can get past the Giants, who have had more than their fill of post-season success in recent history.
Every team that qualifies for the playoffs can win a World Series. History is littered with stories of teams that came in with less talent and won on the road. Rarely does the best team just breeze through the playoffs and claim their glory in dominant fashion in October. 2014 likely isn’t any different. The A’s have the best record in baseball, but what happens if they no longer receive the surprise production from unheralded players as they have for the past three seasons? The Angels are nipping at the A’s’ heels but how much can Mike Trout really effect a series being only one player that can be pitched around? The Pirates, Brewers and Cardinals are all very good teams, but what if the NL Central winner comes into the playoffs winded from overworking their aces in an attempt to make it to October?