MLB Playoffs 2017: Playoff Picture, Bracket, Standings Before Season Finales

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2017

Washington Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Much of the drama was taken out of the final day of the MLB season, with nine of the 10 postseason berths locked up before the weekend began and every matchup already set coming into Sunday.

Nonetheless, the regular-season finales will precede what promises to be an exciting postseason as the Chicago Cubs look to defend their title.

         

American League Standings

East

1. Boston Red Sox (93-68)

2. New York Yankees (91-70)

3. Tampa Bay Rays (79-82)

4. Baltimore Orioles (75-86)

5. Toronto Blue Jays (75-86)

        

Central

1. Cleveland (101-60)

2. Minnesota Twins (84-77)

3. Kansas City Royals (80-81)

4. Chicago White Sox (67-94)

5. Detroit Tigers (64-97)

      

West

1. Houston Astros (100-61)

2. Los Angeles Angels (79-82)

3. Seattle Mariners (78-83)

4. Texas Rangers (78-83)

5. Oakland Athletics (74-87)

         

National League Standings

East

1. Washington Nationals (97-64)

2. Miami Marlins (77-84)

3. Atlanta Braves (71-90)

4. New York Mets (70-91)

5. Philadelphia Phillies (65-96)

       

Central

1. Chicago Cubs (92-69)

2. Milwaukee Brewers (85-76)

3. St. Louis Cardinals (83-78)

4. Pittsburgh Pirates (74-87)

5. Cincinnati Reds (67-94)

         

West

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (103-58)

2. Arizona Diamondbacks (92-69)

3. Colorado Rockies (87-74)

4. San Diego Padres (71-90)

5. San Francisco Giants (63-98)

       

American League Playoff Matchups

New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins (Wild Card)

Houston Astros vs. Boston Red Sox (Divisional)

Cleveland vs. Yankees/Twins (Divisional)

       

National League Playoff Matchups

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Colorado Rockies (Wild Card)

Washington Nationals vs. Chicago Cubs (Divisional)

Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks/Rockies (Divisional)

        

Analysis

CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 30: Wade Davis #71 of the Chicago Cubs (L) and Eugenio Suarez #7 celebrate their win over the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field on September 30, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The Chicago Cubs won 9-0. (Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
Jon Durr/Getty Images

The Cubs may be returning to the postseason, but they will do so with either the third- or fourth-best record in the National League. That leaves them with a matchup against the talented Washington Nationals.

It's been a roller coaster of a year for the Cubs, who went into the All-Star break under .500 and never quite resembled the juggernaut of last season. On the other hand, this Cubs team has the experience of winning a World Series title and has the core of last year's outfit largely intact.

Pitching is a concern, though. Jon Lester has been up-and-down since July. Jake Arrieta has struggled since coming off the disabled list. 

Depth isn't a concern, however. The Cubs could feasibly start Kyle Hendricks in Game 1 starter and Jose Quintana in Game 2, and they likely wouldn't miss a beat.

In fact, it's depth that remains Chicago's greatest strength. The stalwarts—Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez, to name a few—lead the way. But behind them, the Cubs offer manager Joe Maddon options as he mixes and matches his lineups and makes moves in the later innings. That depth was a major factor for the team last season and should be again this October.

The Nationals are no strangers to the postseason, either, led by a dangerous lineup and dynamic pitching staff. Bryce Harper is the superstar in that lineup, but Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner are coming off fantastic seasons. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are the aces, but Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez round out a nasty postseason rotation.

The Cubs may be the defending champs, but it won't be much of a surprise if they can't get past the Nats.

The top seed, the Los Angeles Dodgers, were on pace for a historic season before they forgot how to win in late August and early September, losing 16 of 17 games at one point. Those struggles seem to be behind them, but the Dodgers head into the postseason looking far more mortal than they once appeared.

In the American League, Cleveland and the Houston Astros will be the favorites. Cleveland is the defending AL champion and won an incredible 22 straight games between August and September. The team hit the century mark this regular season and are paced by the dynamic trio of Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez in the lineup, Corey Kluber in the rotation and Andrew Miller in the bullpen.

Houston is loaded as well, led by George Springer, Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Marwin Gonzalez. The Astros easily had the American League's most dangerous lineup in 2017 and will look to slug their way to a title.

Add in the loaded Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees to the fray, and the American League postseason should be wild.