MLB Playoffs 2013: Breaking Down Top World Series Contenders
The 2013 MLB season is winding down, and although the playoff races in both the American and National Leagues have been tight, there are several teams who stand out above the rest as the top World Series contenders.
As owners of the best record in baseball, the Boston Red Sox have to be considered the favorite to take home their third championship since 2004 in their first playoff appearance after a three-year hiatus.
The Atlanta Braves look to be the team to beat from the National League, even though the currently surging St. Louis Cardinals lead them by a half game for the NL pennant.
A third franchise with multiple world titles to its name, the Oakland Athletics, have clinched a second consecutive AL Western Division crown and will be a force to be reckoned with, too.
Note: Top contenders were determined by MLB.com's expert power rankings.
Boston Red Sox (97-64, AL East champions)
Defense and pitching are typically the foundation of a championship-winning formula, but that may not be quite the case this year in Beantown.
Although the Red Sox are third in the MLB with 95 quality starts, it's the offense that is truly stacked, leading baseball with 842 runs, a .349 on-base percentage and a .446 slugging percentage.
Boston is also second in team average at .276, and the focal point has been the production of David Ortiz.
Big Papi recently made franchise history by joining the legendary Ted Williams with seven seasons of at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, per ESPN Stats & Info:
David Ortiz now has 7 seasons with 30 HR and 100 RBI, tying Ted Williams for the most in Red Sox history.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 28, 2013
Beyond Ortiz, there are four other major contributors to the lineup who bat just under .300, including former AL MVP Dustin Pedroia.
Fenway Park will foster home-field advantage even if the Red Sox reach the World Series, since the AL won the All-Star game. That only gives skipper John Farrell's club an even better chance at a victory parade in October.
Atlanta Braves (95-66, NL East champions)
The X-factor in the Braves playoff fortunes has to be 24-year-old prodigy Jason Heyward, who hasn't quite lived up to his hyped-up billing since ascending to the big leagues in 2010.
Who will win the World Series?
Atlanta's 20-something starting pitching trio of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran give the Braves the potential to win three games per series with minimal run support.
What is somewhat concerning is just that the marquee hurlers aren't too experienced in pressure-packed postseason situations, which could be a detriment to their respective performances.
It should be a defensive struggle in the NLDS against the Los Angeles Dodgers formidable pitching, and the NL West champs will be counting on their own precocious youngster Yasiel Puig to provide an extra boost.
Puig has slumped in hitting .222 in September, though, and facing the Braves isn't likely to enhance his confidence.
Oakland Athletics (95-66, AL West champions)
After winning 8-2 against the Seattle Mariners on Friday—a game that featured 2010 AL Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez starting against them—the A's dropped the penultimate regular season game at Safeco Field.
That gave the Red Sox home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but Oakland has plenty to be proud of beyond that disappointment.
As strong as Oakland's pitching has been this season, the Tigers have the likes of 21-game winner Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander as part of a very deep rotation, which leads the MLB with 107 quality starts.
Among the perceived top bets to make it to pro baseball's promised land, the Athletic's road may be the most difficult in the early going.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?