MLB Playoffs 2012: Most Dangerous Teams in Postseason

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MLB Playoffs 2012: Most Dangerous Teams in Postseason
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Harper exiting the dugout Oct. 2 against the Phillies.

With a Los Angeles Dodgers loss yesterday the St. Louis Cardinals clinched the last playoff spot, finalizing what has been an exciting end to the regular season.

The 2012 season marks a new era for baseball. No longer do we have the perennial powerhouse teams of the past. MLB playoff berths are up for grabs this year.

Postseason newcomers like the Baltimore Orioles, Oakland Athletics and Washington Nationals have exceeded expectations. All are looking to prove that not only do they belong in the playoffs, but are a viable threat to veteran teams like the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.

Baseball fans everywhere are gearing up for what is sure to be another memorable postseason. NL match ups are set, while the AL is waiting on the results of tonight’s Orioles vs. Rays and Yankees vs. Red Sox.

The Nationals and Reds are tied for the best record in baseball at 97 wins a piece, but are they the most dangerous teams?

“That’s a clown question bro,” said Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper.

Here are the most dangerous teams in the AL and NL for the 2012 MLB Postseason:

 

The Washington Nationals

This has been the most exhilarating team to watch in all of baseball.

Drew Hallowell/Getty Images
Gio dealing a change-up against the Phillies Sept. 27.

The Nationals starting rotation has been the foundation behind this team’s success down the stretch. This rotation of young guns has contributed to a microscopic team ERA of 3.34, second in all of baseball.

Led by ace Stephen Strasburg and 20-game winner Gio Gonzalez, this Nats team has been everything the fans in Washington could ever hope for.

But in early September, Nationals’ management decided it would be in their best interest to shutdown their ace Strasburg, who had Tommy John surgery in the offseason.

Washington fans questioned management as other teams breathed sighs of relief; the best pitcher in the game had been removed from postseason play.

Not so fast.

Strasburg’s replacement, John Lannan is not your average mid-season call-up. This is a guy with successful major league experience.

Making his Major League debut in 2007 after being drafted out of Siena College in the 11th round of the 2005 draft, Lannan had instant success.

Being a part of a losing Washington team since 2007, his record has suffered, but he’s managed three seasons with ERAs below 4.00. In 2011, he ended the season 10-13 with 106 strikeouts and an ERA of 3.70.

Since his call-up, Lannan has started six games going 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA.

The rest of this rotation, made up of Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, Edwin Jackson and Ross Detwiler, has been outstanding this season.

The Nats would not be enjoying the champagne of October if not for their offensive, led by a 19-year-old rookie who’s started his career with a bang.

Bryce Harper has been the spark this Nationals franchise needed. Yes, he’s had his altercations with Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and Miami Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, but his production and hustle on the field goes unquestioned.

Harper is batting .270 with 59 RBI, 22 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 533 at-bats this season.

Harper may be the most talked about player in Washington, but he only compliments the arsenal of offensive power coming from the rest of this lineup.

SS Ian Desmond, 1B Adam LaRoche and 3B Ryan Zimmerman have well over 70 RBI each on the season.

With a healthy Jason Werth in left field, no pitcher wants to face this lineup.

Prediction

This is the most balanced team in baseball. Look for them to make their first World Series appearance since the ‘30s.

 

The Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics have spent most of their season slipping quietly under the radar, becoming the AL’s most dangerous postseason team.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Bob Melvin pulling SP Tommy Milone out of a game against the Mariners Sept. 30.

Oakland entered the All-Star break this year at .500 (43-43) and third place in the AL West standings. They proceeded to go 50-25 after the break, making them one of the hottest teams in the second half.

I can already hear Columbia Pictures calling Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill about the next Moneyball movie.

Improbable is the best word to describe what the Athletics have accomplished this season. After being constantly doubted about their lack of talent and lack of payroll, it’s time to really look at what this team has to offer.

The random assortment of players collected from various teams this offseason has paid off.

Josh Reddick has proved to be one of the better offseason moves. He’s currently batting .243 with 84 RBI and a surprising 32 home runs. He’s also had some key clutch hits down the stretch that have contributed to the A’s 93 wins.

Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to be the most big league-ready rookie coming into the season when the A’s signed him to a 4-year $36 million contract. He has not disappointed.

Cespedes is batting .291 with 23 home runs, 82 RBI and 16 stolen bases, and has been the A’s No. 1 offensive weapon.

This team has its offensive role-players, but that’s not why their playing in October.

Oakland’s starting pitching and rag-tag bullpen has combined for a team ERA of 3.48 this season, sixth best in all of baseball. In fact, Oakland and their $50 million payroll rank higher in pitching than all five of the highest payrolls in baseball.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Cespedes celebrating a victory over the Rangers Oct. 2.

Tommy Milone has been excellent going 13-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 137 strikeouts.

Rookie Jarrod Parker has been nothing short of superb as well, holding the Yankees to one run in 8.0 innings pitched in a September start.

Manager Bob Melvin is deserving of this year’s MLB Manager of the Year award without question. No one has done more with less.

Melvin and his A’s have also managed to be the hottest team in baseball going into playoffs. The A’s went 17-11 in the month of September and are currently on a five-game winning streak.

Prediction

If the A’s can beat Texas Wednesday afternoon and win the AL West, they have a chance go to on a serious postseason run.

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