MLB playoff power rankings: Rays nudge NL West powers out of top spot in October


With the Yankees and Cardinals — the 2 franchise with essentially the most World Sequence titles — now out of the October image, let’s check out the eight groups nonetheless standing. 

Why’d we wait? Truthfully, although the one-game wild-card contests are dramatic and make for good tv, they’re a foolish (OK, dumb) technique to determine which groups advance towards the World Sequence. Baseball is a sport that rewards staff depth and expertise and the flexibility to put on down an opponent over a sequence of video games. Figuring out who advances based mostly on only one sport spits within the face of the 162-game schedule. Aargh.

MORE: Updated MLB playoff schedule

However we’re not right here to rant about that as we speak. We simply introduced it as much as say it’s foolish to do an influence rating of groups earlier than the coin-flip wild-card video games. Now that we’re heading into the Division Sequence contests, with a best-of-five resulting in best-of-seven LCS and World Sequence matchup, it’s time to take a look at which groups stand the perfect likelihood of profitable all of it.  

8. Crimson Sox

Why they’re right here: I do know, I do know. They positive seemed good in that wild-card win in opposition to the Yankees. No arguments right here. However Nathan Eovaldi is by far their greatest beginning pitcher, and he’s solely going to begin as soon as within the ALDS (Sport 3, on full relaxation as a result of there’s zero likelihood he begins Sport 2 on two days relaxation), with a doable reduction inning or two in Sport 5, if the sequence will get there. If the Sox had 5 Eovaldis, they’d be larger on this rating. However after Eovaldi, the starters are a bit extra suspect, and sure, that included Chris Sale, who didn’t make it out of the third inning in a must-win Sport 162 in opposition to the Nationals. It’s exhausting to see them outlasting the Rays and their lineup of at-bat grinders.  

7. Braves

Why they’re right here: Don’t be deceived by the W/L report, the 88 wins which are the fewest of any staff within the postseason (fewer than the Blue Jays or Mariners, who didn’t qualify within the AL). The Braves made a number of important additions main as much as the July 31 commerce deadline and so they performed like a professional contender the remainder of the way in which, not like an also-ran in a nasty division. Atlanta went 36-19 within the final two months of the season and completed with a 12-2 mark within the final 14 video games to clinch the East. There’s energy up and down the lineup — new leadoff hitter Jorge Soler hit 27 homers this 12 months and Dansby Swanson, who additionally hit 27 homers, batted seventh or eighth many of the final month. If the starters can churn out high quality innings — and nearer Will Smith pitched like he did in September (1.38 ERA) and never August (5.84 ERA) — it is a Braves squad that might shock folks. 

6. White Sox

Why they’re right here: The White Sox are a really proficient staff, and completely may run by means of the AL aspect of the playoffs and even win a World Sequence. That may be gratifying; the Sox are a enjoyable staff to observe. However the Astros are a tricky matchup for them, as proven by Houston’s 5-2 report in opposition to the Sox this 12 months. In actual fact, the Sox have not performed significantly nicely in opposition to the perfect groups in baseball this 12 months. They have been simply 13-19 in opposition to the groups that certified for the postseason, and that is not a harbinger of excellent issues to return. 

MORE: 14 postseason oddities you might not know about

5. Brewers

Why they’re right here: The Brewers’ pitching is simply so excellent. Corbin Burnes (2.43 ERA), Brandon Woodruff (2.56) and Freddy Peralta (2.81) all had seasons worthy of a spot on the Cy Younger poll. Josh Hader is arguably the perfect nearer in baseball, together with his 1.23 ERA, 34 saves in 35 possibilities and 15.6 Okay/9. And, positive, shedding star setup man Devin Williams is a blow, however Milwaukee’s bullpen wasn’t only a two-man present. There are many good arms within the bullpen, led by Brad Boxberger and his closing expertise. Plus, Adrian Hauser (3.22 ERA), Eric Lauer (3.19 ERA) and Brett Anderson (4.24 ERA) all made not less than 20 begins this season, and two of the three will slide into the bullpen to assist make up for Williams’ absence. The offense isn’t almost pretty much as good because the pitching, however it’s nonetheless a strong group and the Brewers usually tend to play a sequence of 3-2 kind video games than another staff this month. 

4. Astros

Why they’re right here: Although regular-season outcomes haven’t any tangible influence on the postseason, it nonetheless feels telling that the Astros have been at their greatest in opposition to the perfect the AL needed to provide this season. Test this out: Houston went 5-2 in opposition to the White Sox, 5-2 in opposition to the Crimson Sox and 4-2 in opposition to the Rays. The Astros have a deep lineup, with 4 gamers who hit not less than 26 homers this 12 months, a listing that doesn’t embody Alex Bregman, who hit 12 in 91 video games however is wholesome now. And never that batting common is an ideal stat, however solely three AL gamers hit not less than .310 this 12 months and two are within the Houston linuep: Yuli Gurriel (AL-best .319) and Michael Brantley (.311). It’s a lineup that grinds down opposing pitchers. And the rotation? Let’s put it this manner: Veteran Zack Greinke, who will someday wind up in Cooperstown, is the weakest hyperlink, not less than statistically. It is a staff constructed for October success. 

3. Dodgers

Why they’re right here: They received 106 video games within the common season and have many of the gamers again from their 2020 World Sequence championship staff. However they’re with out Max Muncy and Clayton Kershaw, two enormous items of final October’s puzzle. And that lineup, whereas highly effective and potent, will be pitched to, because the Cardinals confirmed within the NL wild-card sport. If St. Louis had provide you with any kind of clutch hits in that drama-filled basic — the Cardinals have been 0-for-11 with runners in scoring place — the Dodgers could be at residence. There’s nonetheless loads of expertise on the roster to win one other World Sequence, however their subsequent sequence is in opposition to the staff with 107 wins within the common season, and that’s a tricky project. 

MORE: 14 players who own unfortunate postseason records

2. Giants

Why they’re right here: At this level in 2021, should you nonetheless doubt the Giants as an elite staff, you’re simply being cussed. Even Dodgers followers have begrudgingly come to just accept that San Francisco is a powerhouse membership and worthy World Sequence contender. The Giants have 10 hitters who popped not less than 12 residence runs this season. And, sure, they’re with out Brandon Belt and his 29, however Lamont Wade Jr., and Darin Ruf mixed to hit 18 homers of their 239 PAs on the place. That’s the factor about these Giants — there’s all the time somebody able to step in and step up and assist the staff win. The rotation is strong and the bullpen is borderline excellent — the staff bullpen ERA of two.99 was the perfect within the bigs this 12 months.  

1. Rays

Why they’re right here: At this level within the 2000s, should you nonetheless doubt the Rays as an elite staff, you’re simply being cussed. They’ve energy, they’ve pace, they’ve protection and so they have pitching. That’s the combo you need in October (clearly). They’re going to make use of guys you’ve in all probability by no means heard of (such because the Shanes, Baz and McClanahan) — the final baseball public didn’t know Randy Arozarena final October — to beat the groups and gamers who’ve grabbed headlines for years. It’s the Rays’ method of working. | MLB playoff energy rankings: Rays nudge NL West powers out of prime spot in October

Aila Slisco

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