Building a 25-Man Super Team Using All 2013 ALDS, NLDS Playoff Teams
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For a team to get to the postseason, it usually takes the effort of a full 25-man roster and, in most cases, as many as 30-35 players throughout the 162-game regular season. But as you'll probably notice while watching postseason baseball, every one of these teams has at least one or two superstar players that are obviously better at playing baseball than just about everyone else on the planet.
In total, there are 21 players getting set to compete in a division series that compiled a WAR (wins above replacement player) of at least 5.0. That's an average of about five players on the field per game who performed at an elite level in 2013.
There's so much star power in the playoffs, in fact, that this 25-man Super Team I've put together using only players in the ALDS or NLDS might have actually gone 162-0 if they were an actual team. OK, maybe they wouldn't go undefeated. But I'd bet on at least 142 wins. Regardless, it is a fun roster to view on paper, or in this case, on the computer screen.
1 Matt Carpenter, 2B (STL): .318/.392/.481, 129 R, 11 HR, 55 2B, 78 RBI
2 Andrew McCutchen, CF (PIT): .317/.404/.508, 21 HR, 38 2B, 27 SB
3 Miguel Cabrera, 3B (DET): .348/.442/.636, 44 HR, 26 2B, 137 RBI
4 David Ortiz, DH (BOS): .309/.395/.564, 30 HR, 38 2B, 103 RBI
5 Matt Holliday, LF (STL): .300/.389/.490, 22 HR, 31 2B, 94 RBI
6 Freddie Freeman, 1B (ATL): .319/.396/.501, 23 HR, 27 2B, 109 RBI
7 Hanley Ramirez, SS (LAD): .345/.402/.638, 20 HR, 25 2B, 10 SB
8 Yasiel Puig, RF (LAD): .319/.391/.534, 19 HR, 21 2B, 11 SB
9 Yadier Molina, C (STL): .319/.359/.477, 12 HR, 44 2B, 80 RBI
It doesn't get much better than nine players with a batting average of .300 or better, an on-base percentage of at least .359 and a slugging percentage of at least .477. It would be difficult to make an argument against any of these picks, although you're encouraged to do so in the comments section.
They're not an extremely fast lineup, aside from McCutchen and Puig, but there's also not a sense of urgency to try and manufacture one run when it's so likely that this group will string together several extra-base hits at some point in the game.
The most telling stat that shows just how hard it would be to contain this lineup is the 11 combined months in which one of these hitters had an OPS under .800. Cabrera (pictured) had the lowest at .728 as he battled nagging groin and abdomen injuries during the month of September.
A .728 OPS wouldn't be considered a bad month for any player, just less productive for this group. Puig and Molina also had a sub-.800 OPS in September, so they would've had to rely on just six great performances in the month as opposed to nine. Same for April when Carpenter, McCutchen and Molina were under .800.
Now keep in mind that a team with two or three lineup regulars posting an OPS over .800 would make it a fairly successful month. The Indians, who had the best record in baseball during the month of September, had four hitters between .823 and .869 for the month. The A's and Cardinals, who each went 19-8 in September, had five and three lineup regulars, respectively, go over the .800 OPS mark.
Having seven and eight hitters well above that mark on a regular basis would be...well, this isn't called the "Super Team" for nothing.
1 Clayton Kershaw, LHP (LAD): 16-9, 1.83 ERA, 236 IP, 164 H, 52 BB, 232 K
2 Max Scherzer, RHP (DET): 21-3, 2.90 ERA, 214.1 IP, 152 H, 56 BB, 240 K
3 Francisco Liriano, LHP (PIT): 16-8, 3.02 ERA, 161 IP, 134 H, 63 BB, 163 K
4 Adam Wainwright, RHP (STL): 19-9, 2.94 ERA, 241.1 IP, 223 H, 35 BB, 219 K
It's not like the "Super Team" lineup needs their starting pitcher to completely shut down the opposing team. But on the rare occasion they may only score three or four runs, it helps to know that their four-man rotation is pretty "super" themselves, combining to allow more than three earned runs in only 19 percent of their starts this season (24 times in 126 starts).
To put that in perspective, this quartet has nearly as many double-digit strikeout games between them (17-of-126) and have allowed one earned run or fewer in nearly half of their starts (61-of-126).
Only Liriano (pictured) and Wainwright had overall months that would be considered poor this season—Wainwright had a 4.78 ERA in August; Liriano had a 5.14 ERA in September—although that's misleading because their numbers were bloated by one really bad start.
Not only would this team be nearly unbeatable in a playoff series, they'd be quite capable of running the table and winning 11 straight games to complete the postseason sweep.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C (BOS): .273/.338/.466, 14 HR, 40 2B, 65 RBI
Josh Donaldson, 3B/1B/C (OAK): .301/.384/.499, 24 HR, 37 2B, 93 RBI
Evan Longoria, 3B (TB): .269/.343/.498, 32 HR, 39 2B, 98 RBI
Andrelton Simmons, SS (ATL): .248/.296/.396, 17 HR, 27 2B, 59 RBI
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF (BOS): .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 31 2B, 8 3B, 52 SB
Unlike the starting nine, who didn't show many flaws, if any at all, to their offensive game in 2013, the bench was assembled based on their strengths as a whole, as opposed to individually.
In a perfect world, a team's bench would consist of a plus-defender in the infield (Donaldson, Longoria, Simmons) and outfield (Ellsbury), defensive versatility (Donaldson has played C, 1B and 3B in his pro career with a handful of games at 2B, SS, LF and RF), right-handed pop, (Donaldson, Longoria), left-handed pop (Saltalamacchia) and speed (Ellsbury).
This five-man bench has all that and more, including MVP candidates Donaldson (pictured) and Longoria.
CL Craig Kimbrel, RHP (ATL): 1.21 ERA, 67 IP, 39 H, 20 BB, 98, 50 Sv in 54 chances
SU Kenley Jansen, RHP (LAD): 1.88 ERA, 76.2 IP, 48 H, 18 BB, 111 K, 28 Sv in 32 chances
SU Koji Uehara, RHP (BOS): 1.09 ERA, 74.1 IP, 33 H, 9 BB, 101 K, 21 Sv in 24 chances
MID Joaquin Benoit, RHP (DET): 2.01 ERA, 67 IP, 47 H, 22 BB, 73 K, 24 Sv in 26 chances
MID Grant Balfour, RHP (OAK): 2.59 ERA, 62.2 IP, 48 H, 27 BB, 72 K, 38 Sv in 41 chances
MID Jason Grilli, RHP (PIT): 2.70 ERA, 50 IP, 40 H, 13 BB, 74 K, 33 Sv in 35 chances
LR Edward Mujica, RHP (STL): 2.78 ERA, 64.2 IP, 60 H, 5 BB, 46 K, 37 Sv in 41 chances
The argument for the side that believes that the closer's role is still extremely important just got stronger. All eight division series teams have shutdown closers that have been key to their team's success in 2013.
Where would the Cardinals be without Edward Mujica stepping in and solidifying the closer's role in St. Louis after Jason Motte went down? Ditto Koji Uehara and the Red Sox, who lost Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey to season-ending injuries.
And would the Dodgers have been capable of their amazing run without Kenley Jansen closing out games instead of Brandon League, who he replaced back in June just as the team was beginning to heat up? Think about how much a blown save or two can kill the momentum of a team trying to make up games in a pennant race.
The lone closer to not make this squad is Fernando Rodney, who blew five of his first 14 save attempts before settling in and returning to his dominant form of 2012. There are no left-handers but it doesn't matter. Only Grilli, who allowed a .707 OPS to left-handed hitters, had trouble. As a result, he'd be the designated specialist who would only be called upon to face a tough right-handed hitter or two.
Aside from Mujica, all of them strike out batters at a high rate while the group combined on a 91 percent save rate, which would rank ahead of, arguably, the two greatest closers of all time, Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, who each had an 89 percent save rate during their illustrious careers.
With four starters capable of going seven and eight strong innings every time out, it would be hard to give all seven pitchers regular work. All seven are reliable, although it's hard to argue against Braves pitcher Craig Kimbrel (pictured) getting the ball in the ninth inning.
The 25-year-old Kimbrel already has 139 career saves and a 90 percent save rate to go along with an incredible 15.1 K/9 in 231 career appearances. Rivera didn't reach 139 saves until his 30th birthday. Same with Hoffman. They rank one and two, respectively, on the all-time saves list.
There isn't a manager in the game who gets more out of his team than Joe Maddon, who has compiled a 677-620 record in eight seasons with Tampa Bay, including four playoff appearances, two division titles and an AL Championship. And he's done it with a team that has a payroll ranked near the bottom of the league annually. Same with home attendance, which was last in baseball this season, according to ESPN.
Getting the most out of a team that normally hasn't been very good on paper and motivating them to play hard in front of less than 20,000 fans is what separates Maddon from other great managers who haven't had a chance to do it or might have even failed previously in similar conditions. The bottom line is that players love playing for him. His peers have the utmost respect for him. And his teams win.
The only risk in choosing Maddon to lead the "Super Team" is that he's not used to having so much talent to work with. Maybe he's in his comfort zone with the small-market Rays. Even if that's the case, this team can make the worst manager look great. Maddon would be fine, though, keeping his team level-headed and focused on the ultimate goal, whatever that may be.