Each October, eight teams compete to prove who is the best baseball team in North America.
This year, the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, and the Atlanta Braves will try to prove their mettle in the postseason.
It's not necessarily the best regular season team that will win: whichever team is best built for the playoffs will come out victorious.
Playing the Phillies this postseason is simply terrifying: they have one of the two or three best offenses and three ace-quality pitchers at the top of their rotation.
Were their bullpen more consistent, it would almost be fair to anoint them World Series champions and skip the weeks in the middle.
Another very complete team, the Rays have slightly less pitching and offensive capabilities than the Phillies.
They have the second-best offense and the best pitching rotation from top to bottom in the AL. This is already shaping up to look like a rematch of the 2008 World Series.
They are solid from top to bottom of the lineup, have an above average rotation, and a better bullpen than the Phillies.
What the Giants used to lack in offense, they made up for with pitching.
Now, with Buster Posey and Aubrey Huff, they have the offense to win. Top to bottom, there is no pitching staff as good as the Giants.
With Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez, they have a young and very talented rotation. In addition to Posey and Huff, they have Juan Uribe and Pat “the bat” Burrell, both capable of clutch hits and timely home runs.
This is a young, talented, and dangerous team.
The Rangers are a wildcard (not literally) in this postseason.
With Josh Hamilton just returning, their lineup is as, if not more, dangerous than anyone else competing this October. Their rotation, headlined by Cliff Lee, is their only question mark.
Should Lee pitch to his abilities, they have perhaps the only pitcher in the league who can match Roy Halladay pitch for pitch.
But Lee hasn’t looked the same since moving to Texas. Behind him are the both very adequate C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis, and the not-to-be-trusted Tommy Hunter (low strikeout, fly-ball guy in Texas? I’ll pass).
If those three pitch to their potential, expect a tough series for the Rays.
Once again, the Yankees have made the postseason.
But, unlike last October, this will not be their year. While the Yankees' lineup is stacked from top to bottom, their pitching rotation is in shambles.
CC Sabathia is a rock, and a legitimate Cy Young contender (should he carry them through the postseason, and if voting were late enough, he would deserve to win). But after that, the Yankees have no one.
Andy Pettitte spent much of the first half pitching above his head (none of his peripherals suggest that he should have been a 2.88-ERA pitcher), and A.J. Burnett spent the whole year throwing over batters heads (alright not exactly…but who knows where his pitches will be going?).
Pettitte is probably a strong third starter at this point in his career, but is likely the second-best starter on the Yankees roster. Phil Hughes is an immensely talented pitcher, but has never pitched this many innings, looked tired down the stretch, and is under an innings cap much like the one that derailed Joba Chamberlain last year.
It’s too bad—the Yankees' lineup and bullpen has, at times, looked to be one of the best they’ve fielded this decade.
The Twins are a talented, young team.
With Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano at the top of their rotation, they have two quality starters who match up pretty well with anyone. Unfortunately, their talent level is simply not up to par with that of the strong AL teams.
While Michael Cuddyer has performed admirably filling in for Justin Morneau, Target Field has removed all of his power. The resurgence of Jim Thome has done some to alleviate this loss, but the Twins simply do not have the power without Morneau to compete with the best AL teams.
The Reds are an exciting team to watch: Joey Votto deserves to win the NL MVP, and will take his team back to the postseason many times during his career.
The Reds' only problem is the lack of an ace on their pitching staff—an almost necessity in the postseason. They may have several above average starters, but the lack of a true shutdown stopper will hurt them this October.
Next year, with the development of Edinson Volquez, they should be back and even more dangerous.
For quite a while, the Braves looked like the best team in the NL.
Their pitching rotation was strong from top to bottom, and their lineup was performing very well.
Until they caught the injury bug.
Now, without Martin Prado, Chipper Jones or Jair Jurjjens, and with their rotation performing worse than any other point during the season, Bobby Cox’s final season looks to be ended without another ring.