Ranking MLB's 5 Most Likely 2013 World Series Matchups

Ben BerkonContributor ISeptember 19, 2013

Ranking MLB's 5 Most Likely 2013 World Series Matchups

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    With the American League Wild Card and the National League Central divisional races still wide open, the 2013 playoffs are hardly settled. Any two of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Baltimore Orioles, the Cleveland Indians and the Texas Rangers could nab wild-card spots. The St. Louis Cardinals’ lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cincinnati Reds could be overturned in an instant.

    But fans are already eager to pick their favorites for the World Series. The 2012 World Series-winning San Francisco Giants are not in the picture this season, but between powerhouses like the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, it’s not difficult to start predicting late-October scenarios.

    Read on to view the five most likely 2013 World Series matchups.

     

    Selections based primarily on overall success, second-half success, statistical team performance and individual talent. Main statistics used in analysis include park-adjusted wRC+ and FIP.

    All statistics (including Sept. 18 games) sourced from Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs.com.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Oakland Athletics

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    Before the season, fans might have looked at you oddly if you predicted the Pittsburgh Pirates to even post a winning season. The Pirates haven’t enjoyed a .500 record since 1992. But 2013 has been a fruitful one for the oft-struggling organization.

    The Pirates (87-65 record) are only a handful of games out of first place in the Central but are more or less a lock to take one of the two wild-card spots. Behind Andrew McCutchen (park-adjusted 160 wRC+ and 20 home runs) and Francisco Liriano (2.92 ERA vs. 2.86 FIP), the Pirates could find themselves in their first World Series since 1979. 

    Like the Pirates, perhaps the Oakland Athletics (89-63 record) deserve a little more credit for their winning ways. Thanks to elite performances from Bartolo Colon (2.73 ERA vs. 3.24 FIP) and Josh Donaldson (149 wRC+ and 23 home runs), the Athletics are quietly putting together their second consecutive low-cost, division-winning season. In fact, the second-place Texas Rangers are spending over 50 percent more money. 

    With competition like the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers, the Athletics have an uphill battle ahead of them in the playoffs.

    But a matchup between the Pirates and the Athletics could still realistically go down.

4. St. Louis Cardinals vs. Detroit Tigers

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    Any World Series list has to include the St. Louis Cardinals. Since 2006, the Cardinals have won two World Series rings despite being the underdogs in both contests.

    Given the Los Angeles Dodgers’ elite play in the second half, the Cardinals will once again play second fiddle to another National League team in the playoffs. But to the Cardinals' credit, the team owns a league best 104 wRC+ (tied with the Dodgers) and 3.43 FIP.

    Even if the Cards bounce the Dodgers in the playoffs, it goes without saying that critics would still favor the Detroit Tigers in a series.

    Considering both Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer could very well win the MVP and the Cy Young Awards, respectively, the Cardinals would have to channel some 2011 and 2006 magic to prevent a Tigers championship.

3. Atlanta Braves vs. Boston Red Sox

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    The Atlanta Braves haven’t advanced to the World Series since 1999, but the 2013 squad is certainly deserving and able. The team leads the National League with 90 wins and hasn’t slowed down in the second half either (36-21 record).

    The Braves’ two most productive players have been Freddie Freeman (park-adjusted 143 wRC+) and Mike Minor (3.19 ERA vs. 3.33 FIP). By comparison, the Boston Red Sox boast David Ortiz (150 wRC+) and Clay Buchholz (1.51 ERA vs. 2.53 FIP).

    The Braves and the Red Sox squaring off in the World Series would make for a memorable one as each team possesses its respective leagues’ best records. Given the competition in the National League, the Braves would likely have to endure more playoff hurdles than the Red Sox, however.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Detroit Tigers

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    The Detroit Tigers got swept in the World Series last season by the San Francisco Giants, but the team is still a favorite to return to the big stage in 2013. Based on how the second half has played out so far, it appears as though the Los Angeles Dodgers could join them.

    As much emphasis as critics might put on the Tigers’ and Dodgers’ hitting, it’s really their pitching that would be the spectacle in October. Perhaps the only rotation that could best Clayton Kershaw (2.48 FIP), Zack Greinke (3.34), Ricky Nolasco (3.37) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (3.26) is Max Scherzer (2.68), Anibal Sanchez (2.48), Doug Fister (3.30) and Justin Verlander (3.45). 

    It’s also quite possible that a duel of Kershaw vs. Scherzer would be a preview of the two league’s 2013 Cy Young Award winners.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox

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    It’s hardly a lock that the two strongest teams will meet in the World Series, but in the case of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox, it’s entirely possible.

    In the American League, the Red Sox are currently tied for first in park-adjusted wRC+ (114) and third in FIP (3.40) in the second half. The team has been even better in September, posting a 134 wRC+ (first) and 3.14 FIP (third).

    Similarly, the Dodgers have dominated the National League in the second half. The team owns a 110 wRC+ (second) and 3.51 FIP (fourth) while posting a .689 win percentage (40-18 record).

    The Red Sox might not have a hitter like Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, but the team’s entire lineup would be more of a nuisance—even for a pitcher like Clayton Kershaw.