Power Ranking the MLB Playoff Teams Entering the Postseason
Major League Baseball 2014
Pitching the key for postseason success
1. Los Angeles Dodgers - After clinching the National League West division title, the Dodgers will likely have home field advantage in the division series. The greatest strength of this Dodgers team is the top of their rotation with Aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitching back to back in each playoff series. That is not the only strength of the Dodgers though, as they are among the National League leaders in runs scored and team on base percentage for the 2014 regular season. With athletic defenders who have impact bats, up and down the Dodgers lineup, Los Angeles is a favorite to make a deep run into the postseason in 2014.
2. Detroit Tigers - After playing in the American League Championship series each of the past two years, with one World Series appearance to show for it, the Tigers are once again in great position entering the 2014 postseason. Not having home field advantage in the divisional round should not matter for the Tigers, as they are led by Aces Max Scherzer and David Price. Breakout pitcher Rick Porcello and playoff veteran Justin Verlander will round out the Tiger's postseason rotation that will be backed by one of the top offenses in the game of baseball this season. With past postseason success, the Detroit Tigers head into the playoffs with great middle of the order hitters in Miguel Cabrera andVictor Martinez. This time around they are joined by Tigers breakout hitter and left fielder JD Martinez. This combination of hitting ability and power in the middle of the Tigers order will make them tough for any pitcher to face in the postseason.
3. Washington Nationals - With strong pitching being the key for postseason success, the Nationals are in great position to have postseason success as their starting rotation is more than four deep with excellent pitching. Ace Stephen Strasburg leads the Nationals rotation, that features other elite talent in Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzales and Doug Fister. On the offensive side, the Nationals have a collection of good offensive players, but nobody who has performed at a superstar level at the plate. Leadoff man Denard Span is the sparkplug for the offense with run producers Jayson Werth, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Zimmerman and Anthony Rendon all playing key roles. Bryce Harper has taken a back seat in the Nats offense this season, but he is still a more than capable contributor. The Nats depth for both their pitching staff and offense, are what makes this team a World Series contender going into the postseason.
4. Los Angeles Angels - Even though the Angels lost Garrett Richards to a season ending injury, they have home field advantage throughout the postseason and they have some veteran pitchers who have been postseason Aces in the past. With pitchers Matt Shoemaker, Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson leading the team into the postseason, the Angels are in a very good spot. The pitching is not all the Angels have though, as superstar Mike Trout leads their offense that features strong middle of the order hitters in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Complementary hitters throughout the lineup such as Kole Calhoun, Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick are all fantastic offensive players for the Angels as well. The Angels bolstered their bullpen with multiple trade deadline additions to help them close out games in the later innings. This combination of strengths should play a significant role for the Angels in the postseason with the opportunity to win a title on their home field.
5. Baltimore Orioles - The Orioles played great baseball in the second half of the season that led to an early clincher and home field in the divisional round. This team has a deep pitching rotation, but no true Ace on the staff. For the second straight season, Chris Tillman has posted numbers that put him among the league's number one starters, which will have him pitching the opening game of the Orioles first playoff series. Bud Norris, Kevin Gausman and Wei Yin Chen, round out the Orioles solid playoff rotation. For the Orioles their strength on the pitching staff is in their depth with four strong starters to throw in each playoff game they participate in. Offensively they are led by Nelson Cruz who provides the homerun power. Steve Pearce, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, JJ Hardy and Alejandro De Aza are all key pieces to a deep Orioles offense. While the Orioles could make a deep run, being at a disadvantage in a matchup of Ace starters could hold them back this postseason.
6. St. Louis Cardinals - The Cardinals have the pitching staff to compete with anybody in the postseason, but they do have some offensive shortcomings. With a pitching staff led by Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals are in great position to make another run with the help of veteran starters Lance Lynn and John Lackey, to go along with youngster Shelby Miller. The Cardinals offense does not hit very many homeruns, they do not steal many bases and they are not known to be adept at drawing walks. The one redeeming factor for the Cardinals offensively is that they do not strike out much, and although they do not steal many bases, they do have some speed in their lineup to beat out infield hits that come with the amount of times they put the ball in play.
7. Oakland Athletics - For a significant portion of the season, the Athletics had one of the best records in baseball. That all changed when they traded cleanup hitter Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Ace pitcher Jon Lester. The A's have the pitching to compete at a very high level in the postseason, led by Aces Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, with 2013 playoff hero Sonny Gray behind them along with Scott Kazmir. The A's offense is where things get interesting though, as they have capable run producers in Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson, but with Josh Reddick's struggles continuing, they have trouble piecing together the rest of their lineup. With a strong bullpen and a strong starting rotation, the A's have a chance to make some noise in the postseason, but first they have to win a wildcard matchup in order to participate in a playoff series.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates - The National League's light version of the Baltimore Orioles has played well in September to clinch their second straight postseason berth. The Pirates face a potential wildcard matchup for the second straight season, but this year they do not have a true Ace going into the postseason. Leading the way for the Pirates are recent project pitchers Edinson Volquez and Francisco Liriano. They have yet to decide between Jeff Locke and Vance Worley who will be their fourth postseason starter, but 24 year old Gerrit Cole will be their third starter in the postseason. The strength of the Pirates is their ability to get on base and their power up and down the lineup. Leading the National League in on base percentage and having nine different position players reach double digit homerun totals could help the Pirates to some postseason success in 2014.
9. San Francisco Giants - The Giants returned to the postseason in 2014 led by another strong pitching staff. As of late, only Ace Madison Bumgarner and Jake Peavy have pitched well for the Giants. Facing a one game wildcard matchup after the Dodgers clinched the National League West, the Giants would likely send Bumgarner to the mound. On the offensive side, the Giants have power at all four corner positions, but they only have one elite hitting talent on their team. Although the Giants have a deep pitching staff and a decent offense, their lack of elite hitting talent to complement Buster Posey in the postseason could present problems for the Giants. The Giants recent track record in the postseason would suggest that they do not need great offensive play in order to have playoff success though.
10. Kansas City Royals - Looking to break their long postseason drought, the Royals have some players on their roster with postseason experience. They have a solid pitching staff that is led by a big game pitcher in James Shields. Jason Vargas is the other veteran, as their rotation is rounded out by youngsters Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura. Their offense has been inconsistent this year, but there is talent in the Royals lineup. Alex Gordon is the star of the Royals lineup, but without many great complementary stars the Royals lineup could struggle in the postseason. The Royals will grind out at bats at the plate, while putting the ball in play at a high rate to lead their offensive success. With their lack of postseason experience and offensive prowess this season, the Royals are the tenth best team to qualify. However this does not mean they will not emerge as a surprise team in the 2014 MLB playoffs.