The 2012 MLB regular season has come to a close, and the postseason field is set after an exciting final week of the season showcased exactly why the new wild-card system was a good idea.
The wild-card round will kick off this Friday, and the playoffs will be in full swing by Sunday as the playoffs promise to bring us even more unforgettable moments.
With the playoff picture now clear, here are my odds of each of the 10 postseason teams winning the World Series.
1. Washington Nationals
2. Cincinnati Reds
3. San Francisco Giants
WC Atlanta Braves
WC St. Louis
1. New York Yankees
2. Oakland Athletics
3. Detroit Tigers
WC Texas Rangers
WC Baltimore Orioles
The A's capped their remarkable second-half run by sweeping the Rangers to capture the AL West crown, forcing the Rangers to the wild card.
They're a roster comprised of no-name veterans and rookies, but they continue to find a way to win and they should by no means be taken lightly in October.
In the end, though, their pitching staff is incredibly young, and they lack that premiere offensive player who could put a team on his back for a series.
The Orioles have been one of the best stories of the 2012 season, and they were able to avoid a letdown to secure a postseason spot as one of the AL wild cards.
Their incredible knack for winning one-run and extra-inning games makes them a very dangerous group, and they have as hot a hitter as there is in baseball in Chris Davis anchoring a solid lineup.
However, do they have the pitching to win a postseason series? Chris Tillman has been solid in the second half and Wei-Yin Chen has had a good rookie season, but you need that reliable veteran ace to lean on in the playoffs and the Orioles simply don't have that.
The Braves seemingly had the first wild-card spot in the National League sewn up months ago, and if not for the disadvantage of having to play an extra game in play-in round, their odds would be much better.
As it stands, they'll likely use second-half revelation Kris Medlen against the Cardinals in hopes he can shut them down and advance the team to the NLDS.
Their rotation and bullpen should be an asset in a five-game series, but the question is whether or not they'll score enough runs to back that staff. They ranked 20th in the majors in runs scored this season, and have struggled to find consistent production from anyone.
The Cardinals used another strong late-season push to work their way into the postseason, and as they proved last season, once you make it to October anything can happen.
They'll have their hands full with the Braves in the wild-card playoff game, as Kyle Lohse will take the ball looking to build off the best season of his career.
The Cardinals' experience can't be overstated, as they are essentially the same team as last year minus a 100 percent healthy Chris Carpenter. Losing Albert Pujols was a big blow, but after scoring 3 more runs in 2012 than 2011 with a virtually identical OPS, it is clear that their offense is just as efficient this time around.
Still, they have to get to the NLDS first, and that extra game certainly drops their odds.
October is where superstar players earn their reputation, and their money, and the Tigers have a trio of guys in Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder who certainly fit the bill of superstar.
They seized the AL Central from a White Sox team that seemingly did everything in its power to not make the playoffs, and from a record standpoint, the Tigers are tied for the worst record of any of the 10 playoff teams at 87-74.
It'll have to be that star power that carries them, as they do have holes in their lineup. The rotation behind Verlander is hit or miss, and closer Jose Valverde has been anything but automatic this season. It'll all depend on just how much they can get from the unheralded guys.
The Yankees secured the best record in the American League and home-field advantage with their win on Wednesday night, but being the No. 1 seed in the AL is no cakewalk this year.
With the Rangers slipping to the wild card, the Yankees could wind up facing the team many still view as AL favorites in the ALDS. And if the Orioles come out of the wild-card game, they're a tough draw as well.
Really though, it all comes down to pitching for the Yankees, and beyond CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda they will need someone to step up; Andy Pettitte will be slotted in as the No. 3 starter. Look out for Robinson Cano, who is playing out of his mind heading into the playoffs.
The Reds were in complete control of the NL Central this season, as they clinched a playoff spot all the way back on September 21.
They have a bonafide ace in Johnny Cueto, a lights-out closer in flame-thrower Aroldis Chapman, and an offense led by sluggers Joey Votto, Ryan Ludwick, Jay Bruce and table-setter Brandon Phillips.
However, they don't have a clear-cut No. 2 starter, with their remaining three guys more or less interchangeable in that spot. Further, there are undeniable holes behind the aforementioned big boppers in the lineup.
The Nationals closed out the regular season with the best record in baseball, going 98-64 and capping off what has been a dream season with home-field advantage in the National League.
Even without Stephen Strasburg, their starting rotation is deep, and anchored by Cy Young candidate Gio Gonzalez they should keep opponents from putting up too many crooked numbers.
Offensively, Michael Morse and Ryan Zimmerman have turned it on in the second half and their lineup top to bottom lacks any glaring holes. The question everyone is asking though is, did they jinx themselves by letting Teddy Roosevelt win the presidents' race?
After leading or sharing a lead of the AL West for the entire season, the Rangers lost the title on the final game of the season with a loss to the A's. They back into the playoffs after being swept and having to settle for the wild card.
That extra game certainly is a blow to their World Series odds, and they match up against the scrappiest team out there in the Orioles.
While the Rangers must play an extra game, it is at home in Texas where they are 50-31 this year. The really strange tweak to the ALDS playoff schedule in 2012 arguably gives an edge to the wild card team over the No. 1 seed, as the first two games of the ALDS would be played in Texas--putting the Yankees and their flawed staff in a really tough spot in a short five-game series. As a result, the Rangers may actually have an easier path to the ALCS than any AL Team.
Keep in mind that finishing the season poorly certainly does not eliminate an MLB team from making a deep run. Just look to the 2000 Yankees going 9-17 down the stretch before winning the World Series, or the 2006 Cardinals finishing 4-10 including losing 8 straight before fitting themselves for rings.
Their experience and high-powered offense are enough for me to view them as AL favorites, even with a shaky pitching staff. They look to be in a good position for their third straight AL pennant, but they'll have to get past Baltimore first for a shot at the Yankees.
The Giants ran away with the NL West title late, distancing themselves from a Dodgers team that spent big for a chance at the postseason.
They certainly have the pitching to be a scary draw for anyone, as Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have been among the best in the league this season, and Tim Lincecum has quietly had a solid second half after a disastrous first couple months.
Their offense is staked by MVP candidate Buster Posey and is arguably better than the team that won it all back in 2010. While they don't have closer Brian Wilson, their bullpen has enough depth that they'll find ways to close out games.
The Giants are my pick to win it all right now, and we'll see if my odds ring true over what should be an exciting next couple months of baseball.