MLB Playoffs 2013: Teams Most Vulnerable to Exit in Division Series
Even if a team loses in the division series, it was worth it just to make it to the MLB postseason.
That's what four teams are going to be saying in a couple of weeks after they're bounced out of the playoffs in the opening series.
Since it's decided over five games rather than seven, the division series offers a much greater chance of seeing the better teams making quick exits.
Some of these predictions, of course, hinge on certain wild-card teams not only making it to but also winning the one-game wild-card playoff. They're also based off of what would be the current playoff matchups, via MLB.com's Postseason Picture.
The one thing you need the most in the postseason is pitching. As the saying goes, good pitching always beats good hitting.
Cleveland Indians fans should know that already, having seen the 1995 World Series. It was that year that Cleveland came in with a great lineup, headlined by Albert Belle. However, the Tribe were neutralized by the magnificent Atlanta Braves starting rotation.
This Indians team is kind of a poor man's version of that great '95 team. The offense makes up for a suspect pitching staff.
Cleveland is 15th in the league in team earned run average. Ubaldo Jimenez is the anchor of the rotation, and despite his strong 2013, he's still the guy who was dreadful in 2011 and '12. You cannot fully trust him, and it only goes downhill from there. Then there's the mess of a bullpen. Chris Perez has zero confidence at the moment, and the rest of the relievers don't inspire a ton of confidence.
The Tribe look to be one of those teams with a magic touch, but like the Baltimore Orioles last season, an exit in the division series looks like the likeliest outcome.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Should the Los Angeles Dodgers meet the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, it wouldn't be the most optimal matchup. The Dodgers are just 2-5 against the Braves this season.
Atlanta's only been 40-41 on the road this season, but in a five-game series, it's less of a problem. The Braves counter with a 55-24 home record, so all it takes is one win in Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles is 47-32 at home, so it's definitely there for the taking.
Although you need pitching, it can only take you so far. You still need to have a very good offense if you hope to advance. While the Dodgers have improved a lot since Hanley Ramirez came into the fold, this is still a team that is 16th in runs and 13th in slugging percentage.
Los Angeles doesn't have the kind of power hitters necessary to upend a talented pitching staff like what the Braves could counter with.
It's amazing how the Oakland Athletics continue operating on a shoestring budget yet maintain competitive in a tough American League West. For all their success, though, the A's have only been to the American League Championship Series once since the playoffs expanded in 1994.
Meeting the Detroit Tigers would mean that run could continue, and much like with the Indians, pitching would be the difference.
Oakland can't counter the Tigers' top-end rotation. Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer both have ERAs under 3.00, and there's also Justin Verlander. Despite what has been a down year for the former MVP, don't bet against him in the American League Division Series, where he's a career 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA and 39 strikeouts in five starts.
Jarrod Parker, Bartolo Colon and A.J. Griffin have all been very good. In a five-game series, though, you'd have to favor the Tigers.
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