After enduring the regular season, we have now flung open the gates to the MLB postseason. The 16-team format from last season had its moments, but this year we return to a 10-team format that contains a greater air of legitimacy.
On the final day of the regular season, both the NL West division and American League Wild Card were up for grabs. Here, we take a look at the power ranking structure of the remaining teams contending for the World Series this fall.
10. St Louis Cardinals
Placing the Cardinals in this slot appears harsh after a franchise record 17 consecutive wins towards the end of September, however, they’re about to run into the Dodger juggernaut. Buoyed by the news of a one-year deal for 2022 with starting pitcher Adam Wainwright, St. Louis last won the World Series from the Wild Card position in 2011. With Yadier Molina and Edmundo Sosa nursing minor injuries and a middle-of-the-pack standing in team batting average and RBIs, the Cardinals may be running out of steam.
9. New York Yankees
The Yankees showed spirit in their 1-0 walk-off victory over the Tampa Rays in their regular season finale, but the recent dismal showing against the Toronto Blue Jays and fragility under pressure will see them fall short. Gerrit Cole may have gotten the better of Nathan Eovaldi in their recent September 24th encounter at Fenway, but the tables are about to be turned.
8. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox and Yankees have been streaky all season and this extends to their head-to-head season record, which has been 10-9 in favor of the Red Sox. Digging into the detail, we witnessed the Red Sox winning the first seven contests, only to have the Yankees win the final six matchups. Home advantage doesn’t seem to hold much weight, so it all comes down to a one-game shootout. On the final day of the regular season, Boston overcame a 5-1 deficit against the Washington Nationals to secure their spot in the postseason.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
The reigning 2020 World Series Champions have kept themselves toe-to-toe with the San Francisco Giants and enter the postseason for a ninth consecutive year. The Dodgers possess considerable firepower, finishing top five in the league in both RBIs and home runs. Mid-summer acquisitions Trea Turner and Max Scherzer have bolstered the ranks, and with fellow pitchers Julio Urias and Walker Buehler, they appear to have all the tools to hand. However, they have been dealt a blow with recent news of Clayton Kershaw suffering a left arm injury, making him pessimistic about his chances of appearing in the postseason. Meanwhile, Max Muncy is listed as doubtful for the Wild Card game after suffering an elbow injury.
6. Atlanta Braves
Holding off the surging Philadelphia Phillies in dominating fashion during their regular season series finale, the Braves enter the divisional series with high confidence. Bopping 239 home runs, third in the MLB, despite losing slugging outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr to a mid-season injury, was impressive. Starting pitchers Charlie Morton and Max Fried have a complementary blend of postseason experience and electrifying form, but questions remain with regards to relief pitching.
5. Chicago White Sox
In what promises to be a mouth-watering matchup between managerial legends Dusty Baker and Tony La Russa, the White Sox enter the divisional matchup with a chip on their shoulder. Having been swept in their last visit to Houston, a lot rides on the health of their key pitching. Starter Carlos Rodon, who pitched a no-hitter in April, was placed on the IL in mid-August with shoulder soreness and hasn’t been the same since. Among the elite in in both team batting average and hits, Chicago has proven worthy winners of the AL Central division. However, there are concerns regarding the health of pitching staff members such as Dylan Cease, Evan Marshall and Ryan Tepera.
4. Houston Astros
Ignoring last year’s shortened 60-game season, the Astros have maintained their recent formality of winning the AL West. Keen to move on from their tainted 2017 World Series victory, the Astros are a formidable force, leading MLB with a .267 batting average, 834 RBIs and an average of 5.3 runs per game. Led by Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and AL batting champion Yuli Gurriel, all eyes will be on the pitching rotation, which could include a returning Zack Greinke.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
Quietly going about their business and securing the NL Central during their final regular season homestand, the Brewers will be feeling confident heading into the divisional series against the Atlanta Braves. The batting seems rather underwhelming, with a 27th-ranked team average of .233 and 18th-ranked finish in home runs. However, timely hitting from the likes of Avisail Garcia, Luis Urias and mid-season pickup Willy Adames should be enough to the send the Brewers deep into the playoff picture. Their strength is undoubtedly their pitching staff that has finished in the top three when it comes to ERA, strikeouts and quality starts. With a rotation including Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta, Milwaukee is well suited to the short series format. News that they will have to make do without 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams dampens the mood somewhat.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
With an American League-leading 100 wins, the Rays are in formidable shape for a return to the World Series. With an American League-best team ERA of 3.67, the Rays boast a talented crop of young starters in Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen and top prospect Shane Baz. They will have the advantage of avoiding ace pitchers in either Gerrit Cole or Nathan Eovaldi. Tampa Bay holds an 11-8 record over both the Red Sox and Yankees. Finishing second in runs scored and third in RBIs, the Rays are an exciting all-round package capable of taking that final step to glory.
1. San Francisco Giants
With the best record in baseball and an impressive display of grit, the Giants were able to fend off the reigning Los Angeles Dodgers to secure their first NL West title since 2012. This title breaks up an eight-year dynasty set by Los Angeles, but as World Series winners themselves from a wild card position in 2014, the Giants have to keep the momentum going. Slugging first baseman Brandon Belt, who leads the team with 29 home runs, remains an injury doubt and is considered likely sidelined until the World Series. It is arguably their pitching which is their strength, posting an ERA of 3.24, second in the National League to the Dodgers, and a league-leading 56 saves.