Why Each MLB Playoff Team Could Win the World Series

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Why Each MLB Playoff Team Could Win the World Series

Jack Schmelzinger, Staff reporter

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With October comes changing leaves, cool weather, and most importantly, playoff baseball. The unpredictability of MLB’s playoffs is what makes them so interesting and dramatic. 12 Wild Card teams have made the World Series since 1995, and unlike some professional leagues (looking at you, NBA) no team has repeated as champions since the Yankees accomplished the feat from 1998-2000. Truly, every team in the playoffs has a shot to win the Fall Classic. 

Here’s why each team in the playoffs this year has a chance to win the World Series:

Atlanta Braves: The Braves have one of the most electric young cores in baseball. 2018’s Rookie of the year, Ronald Acuna Jr. is already one of the game’s best players at only 21 years of age. He hit 41 home runs in 2019 and was worth 4.8 wins by himself according to Baseball Reference’s Wins Above Replacement stat. Acuna is surrounded by established stars like former MVP Josh Donaldson, and four-time all-star Freddie Freeman, and a pitching staff that gave up the fifth fewest runs in MLB this year. The Braves are one of the most all-around solid teams in the playoffs this year. If they emerge from the Fall Classic as champions, it will be because of their well-roundedness.

Houston Astros: The Astros are the favorites to win the World Series, and deservedly so. Their three-man playoff pitching rotation is arguably the best ever seen in MLB. The three-headed monster that they call a pitching staff has two former Cy Young winners (MLB Pitcher of the Year), Justin Verlander, and Zach Greinke, both behind the man who was baseball’s best pitcher this year, Gerrit Cole. The three combined for a miserly 2.67 ERA this year along with 813 strikeouts. Their lineup is also fearsome; The team scored the third-most runs in MLB in 2019. The Astros are one of the best baseball teams in recent memory and will give opposing coaching staffs headaches throughout these playoffs.

Los Angeles Dodgers: It is easy to see why many are calling the Dodgers a World Series favorite. Their pitching staff, led by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw and rising star Walker Buehler, allowed the least runs in MLB in 2019. Their offense, an impressively put-together amalgamation of journeymen and upstart rookies also scored the most runs in the National League. It would not be a surprise to see the team that lost the last two World Series finally win one in 2019.

Milwaukee Brewers: The Brewers are the National League’s second Wild Card card team and the only team in the playoffs that won fewer than 90 games. Their best player and last year’s NL MVP Christian Yelich is also out for the playoffs with a lower-body injury. Despite this, the team has a chance on the back of its lineup led by former all-stars like Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, Mike Moustakas, and Yasmani Grandal, all of whom are excellent defensively as well as offensively. UPDATE:  Brewers lost on Tuesday, 4-3.

Minnesota Twins: Minnesota has a historically good offense. No team in history has ever come close to the Twins’ prolific home run barrage; Their 308 home runs in 2019 are 41 more than any team had hit in major league history before this year. The significance of that stat cannot be overstated. With their dangerous offense comes an extremely impressive pitching staff that ranked ninth in ERA this year in MLB. Though overshadowed by the Astros and Yankees in the American League, the Twins are a great bet to go far into these playoffs.

New York Yankees: The New York Yankees have one of the deepest offenses in recent memory. Fourteen Yankee hitters (two more than most teams carry on their rosters at one time during the season) hit more than ten home runs in 2019, and every player in their starting lineup is well above league average based on OPS+, a stat that combines on base percentage and slugging percentage. The Yankees’ downfall is their starting pitching; All three pitchers expected to start for them in the postseason have been plagued by injuries throughout the season and have been wildly inconsistent. If the Yankees win the World Series, it will be on the backs of their offense. 

Oakland Athletics: The Oakland Athletics are the  American League’s least lucky team. For the second straight year, they won 97 games and will have to play in a one-game series for the right to play in the division series. Unfortunately, that’s how it goes when you play in the same division as the Houston Astros. Despite that, the Oakland is for real. Although they don’t have a true star, the Athletics’ third baseman, Matt Chapman is the best defensive player in the game and no slouch offensively either. They have dangerous hitters throughout their lineup, including Khris Davis, a defensively inept but slugging outfielder; and Matt Olson, an all-star first baseman. Their bullpen could also lead them to the promised land, with all-stars like Blake Treinen, Lou Trivino, and Liam Hendricks. UPDATE:  Oakland lost on Wednesday, 5-1.

St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals made the playoffs on the backs of their pitching which allowed the second least runs in the NL last year. The staff is led by 23 year old Jack Flaherty, 24 year old Dakota Hudson and a player who recently returned from a stint playing in Japan named Miles Mikolas. These three, along with veteran  Adam Wainwright quietly formed one of the best rotations in baseball last year. Their offense was relatively weak, however, so if they win the World Series, it will likely be because of their pitching.

Tampa Bay Rays: The Rays have no business being in the playoffs. It is not because of their record; their 96 wins are extremely impressive, but because of their overall financial situation. The Rays’ payroll of just over $63 million dollars is lowest in the league by almost $10 million. The New York Yankees (who won just seven games more than the Rays) have a payroll nearly four times larger than Tampa Bay’s. Their attendance is consistently among the lowest in the game, and this year, despite their success, only the Miami Marlins’ games were more sparsely attended. In spite of this, the Rays are an extremely dangerous team. Although their offense is around league average, their pitching staff had the best ERA in the American League and could carry them to their first World Series in team history. UPDATE: Rays won on Wednesday 5-1.

Washington Nationals: Washington is the National League’s other Wild Card team that made the playoffs because of its excellent pitching staff. Future Hall of Famer and three-time Cy Young award winner Max Scherzer leads them, with former all-stars Patrick Corbin, Steven Strausburg and Sean Dolittle behind him. Their offense is impressive as well; it scored the sixth most runs in MLB behind electrifying young superstars, Victor Robles, and Juan Soto. It will be a tough road through the Wild Card for the Nationals, but it would not be surprising to see the team claim its first World Series title in team history.  UPDATE: Nats won on Tuesday 4-3.

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