Final Predictions for All 10 MLB Playoff Teams
With one week to go in the MLB season, the playoffs continue to take shape.
While things could still change, there are eight teams who are basically locks to make it. The only playoff spots left to be decided are in the AL Wild Card.
With that said, it's time to predict how things will turn out.
This list will look at each team I think will make the playoffs, and what their final standing will be when all is said and done.
Here are the final predictions for all 10 playoff teams.
Note: Just so there are no surprises for readers, the 10 teams that will be in the playoffs will be the Red Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Indians, Rays, Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, Reds and Dodgers.
Tampa Bay Rays: Lose in AL Wild Card Game
The Rays did everything they could early in September to give up the wild card, but they hung on and are starting to play good baseball again.
Tampa Bay will win a spot in the one-game playoff, where they will face the Indians.
David Price looks to be set up to pitch in that playoff. He is 8-8 on the year with a 3.43 ERA. He has pitched once against Cleveland this year. It was an eight-run effort in April, where he only lasted five innings.
Lately, Price is pitching better, although he's picked up losses in his last three decisions. However, he has not gotten the run support in those games, either. He has had nine runs of support while he's been in the game during his last five starts.
Honestly, the Rays' offense has not supported him well all year as he's only getting 3.76 runs of support this year.
The Indians are playing some of their best baseball at the end of the year and it will translate into a win in this game.
Pittsburgh Pirates: Lose in NL Wild Card Game
The Pirates are a great story this year, but I don't see them beating the Reds in the one-game playoff.
Pittsburgh has had a great rotation and bullpen all year, but the hitting has been sub-par. They're batting .245 this year and have the lowest number of runs scored (606) of any playoff team.
Francisco Liriano (16-7, 2.88 ERA) looks as if he may get the start in the game, but as we saw in last year's NL Wild-Card playoff, having the best pitcher in your rotation doesn't guarantee anything. Hits have to come and runs have to score.
Frankly, the Reds have done a better job of that this year, especially since Billy Hamilton will be available late in the game to steal a base and possibly score from second. Because of that, Pittsburgh's return to the playoffs will be short-lived.
Cleveland Indians: Lose in ALDS
For the Indians to even make the playoffs is a massive feat considering nobody expected them to be competing this year. Add in the fact that their best pitcher (Justin Masterson) was injured at the beginning of September and you see what they've faced this year.
I've predicted the Indians will beat the Rays in the Wild Card Game, but they'll get the Red Sox in the ALDS and I don't see them winning there.
Boston is too strong in the pitching department with Clay Buchholz, Jake Peavy and Jon Lester. Add in the bats of David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli and I see no way the Indians get past them, especially in a five-game series.
The Red Sox have scored 100 runs more than the Indians (812-705) and a given up a lower batting average to opponents (.246-.253).
Boston won six of seven from Cleveland this year, outscoring the Indians 43-30. And 12 of those runs came in one game for the Indians when Ryan Dempster had his worst outing of the year.
Simply put, the Red Sox beat the Indians easily in this five-game series.
Detroit Tigers: Lose in ALDS
This might be a big shock to many people who believe the Tigers will make the World Series.
However, the key lies with Justin Verlander. In most other years, that would be a good sign, but he's struggled this year with a 3.56 ERA.
Consider he also has a lifetime 4.22 ERA in the postseason. That doesn't give me any confidence in him moving forward.
Sure, the Tigers have Max Scherzer (20-3, 3.00 ERA) and Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.64 ERA), who are both having the best seasons of their career. But, will it last in the playoffs?
Oakland has some question marks of its own in the pitching staff. But the Athletics have been on a hot streak since the end of August when they took three of four from the Tigers. Since then, the A's are 22-6.
They have to be considered the hottest team in baseball entering the playoffs and I think it will translate into a series win over the Tigers.
Cincinnati Reds: Lose in NLDS
Although they will win the NL Wild Card game, the season will end in the NLDS for the Reds.
Cincinnati will face the Braves in the first round and it will be a close series. However, the Reds bullpen is what is going to cost them the series.
The Reds and Braves match up at the plate and in the rotation for the most part. I'd take Mat Latos (14-6, 3.23 ERA) over any of the Braves' starters, but after that, it's all Atlanta.
Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Mike Leake are all talented pitchers, but the Braves' trio of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Kris Medlen are better.
Add in the fact that the Braves have the best bullpen in all of baseball (2.46 ERA), while Cincinnati is almost a run higher (3.41).
When you have a lockdown bullpen, it isolates the potential Billy Hamilton could have to change the game late. Even with his speed, he's not going to get all the way around the bases on two stolen bases and a wild pitch.
The Reds have a lot at the plate in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo and Brandon Phillips. But the Braves counter with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann. While it's true they may strike out more, the fact remains the Braves hit the long ball more as well.
And the bullpen doesn't give home runs for the Braves. In fact, they've given up an MLB-low 27 long balls, while the Reds bullpen has given up 53.
It's going to come down to the bullpens and the Braves have the clear advantage.
St. Louis Cardinals: Lose in NLDS
This is actually a tough one for me and would go back on a prediction I had last week when I said the Dodgers would lose in the first round.
However, Clayton Kershaw has been just too dominant lately and I don't see any way the Cardinals can beat him. He's given up 13 earned runs in his last 10 starts, with only one bad start in that timeframe.
A Game 1 win is pretty much a guarantee in my book, even if the Cardinals throw Adam Wainwright.
From there, the Cardinals have a chance with Shelby Miller (14-9, 3.12 ERA) and Lance Lynn (14-10, 4.09 ERA) likely to pitch Games 2 and 3. But the Dodgers counter with Zack Greinke (15-3, 2.67 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (13-7, 3.03 ERA) who have both been equally good as the Cardinals' pair this year.
The Cardinals are better at manufacturing runs with their lineup, but the Dodgers can tie it just as quickly with theirs.
In the end, it's going to be a five-game series and I'd take my chances with Kershaw pitching in two of those games any day.
Oakland Athletics: Lose in ALCS
The Athletics will fall short once again to make the World Series, but it's going to be because Boston is loaded everywhere on its roster.
When you look at potential pitching matchups, the only one I'd be confident in for this series is Bartolo Colon (17-6, 2.64 ERA), who has been there and done that before.
Other than that, I'm not sure Jarrod Parker (12-7, 3.74 ERA), A.J. Griffin (14-9, 3.78 ERA) and Dan Straily (10-7, 4.08 ERA) can compete with the likes of Lester, Buchholz and Peavy.
Then you look at the offenses and there is no comparing between the Red Sox and A's. Third baseman Josh Donaldson is the only one on the A's I'd pick over his counterpart. Outside of that, the Red Sox look stronger at every position.
If this series does come down to the bullpens, the A's do have a slight advantage (3.35-3.53). Still, it won't be enough to make up the difference.
Los Angeles Dodgers: Lose in NLCS
I already know a lot of Dodger fans are going to call me a hater for not picking them to be the world champions, but so be it.
As I shared in a story Sept. 19, the Dodgers aren't clear favorites over the Braves for a number of reasons.
While everyone raves about the Dodgers pitching staff (and they deserve some credit), the stats clearly show areas of concern.
Atlanta is second in baseball with 96 quality starts, while the Dodgers are sixth with 90. Opponents are hitting .243 against the Braves, while the Dodgers have a .244 average against them. So, the pitching stats don't make the Dodgers a clear winner (or a winner at all).
Then there's the bullpen. Atlanta ranks first with a 2.46 bullpen ERA, while Los Angeles ranks 10th with a 3.62 mark. The bullpen for the Dodgers is also allowing opponents a .243 batting average, compared to .218 for the Braves.
The names may be sexier in the pitching department, but when you look at the numbers, Atlanta has the advantage.
Hitting-wise, the Braves have more home runs (177-133), RBI (630-599) and slugging (.403-.397). The Dodgers do have a higher average (.265-.248), but what that shows me is they're failing to drive in those runners they have on base.
I love the trio of Kershaw, Greinke and Ryu, but it's going to take more than that to beat the Braves in a seven-game series.
Atlanta Braves: Lose in World Series
The Braves will come up just short of a world title, disappointing Atlanta fans once again.
Facing Boston in the World Series would lend itself to an exciting series, but the fact that Boston has been playing better towards the end of the season gets them the nod here. Of course, you throw out everything once the playoffs start. But Boston will be rolling its way all the way through October.
When it comes down to it, the Braves are inexperienced when it comes to the playoffs in terms of the starting rotation. While they won't be as inexperienced once the World Series rolls around, the Fall Classic is a different atmosphere.
Just like the Super Bowl in the NFL, that one series (or one game in the case of the NFL) means everything in the world. I'm not saying the Braves can't handle the pressure, I just think the Red Sox are better equipped to handle it.
Atlanta has had its ups and downs all year, most notably all the injuries. However, the biggest was to Jason Heyward, who had his jaw broken by a pitch. While he's back and playing, it got the Braves out of a groove and is one of the reasons it took them so long to clinch the NL East.
If Atlanta can turn the series over to the bullpens, then I like their chances. But it's going to be a tough sell considering the lineup the Red Sox present.
It will be a close series, but the Red Sox will edge out the Braves.
Boston Red Sox: Win World Series
That leaves the Red Sox as the World Series champions.
A year after having one of their worst seasons in recent memory, the Red Sox reloaded with a bunch of players who played a specific role. Instead of going after the big hitters in free agency, the Red Sox filled in with guys like Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Jonny Gomes.
The bullpen has had its fair share of struggles this year, but the offense has largely carried the Red Sox.
Like I stated earlier, the Braves and Red Sox will be a close series. But with home-field advantage in Boston, you have to like the Red Sox chances where they are 53-28 at this year.
Boston does more of the little things right like stealing bases (120-60), taking walks (567-518) and scoring runs (812-661).
As a Braves fan, I hate to admit it. But there is one team better in 2013.