8 Teams Who Actually Have a Shot at Winning the World Series
We are at a point in the season when you can look at the standings and begin to distinguish the playoff teams from teams who will experience postseason play only through their televisions.
While some divisions like the NL East or NL Central have clear leaders atop the standings, battles are ensuing in the AL East and AL Central where ground is struggling to be made.
However, while some teams may seem poised to carry regular season successes into the postseason, playoff baseball is a different game, and the stage is one that is quick to expose weaknesses in any team's lineup.
This being said, here are eight teams who actually have shots at being world champions in October this year.
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The Philadelphia Phillies have the best team on paper in the eyes of many baseball fans and analysts across the country,and are an obvious choice for this list.
With the godlike tandem of Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to lead off a typical playoff three-man rotation, and the option of Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt to anchor the staff, the Phillies will definitely have the most talented pitching in the playoffs.
Halladay, Lee and Hamels have combined for 40 wins up to this point in the season—a feat no other three pitchers on any team have done—and all three have ERA's under three, another stat no other team has accomplished.
With their pitching as solidified as it is, the Phillies were able to obtain one of the most valuable hitters on the market at the trade deadline. The addition of Hunter Pence to the Phillies' athletic outfield of Shane Victorino and Domonic Brown will strengthen the team in several ways.
Pence offers a great deal of talent in the first three spots of the batting order and can benefit the team with his defensive capabilities, as well as his hitting prowess and plate discipline.
Philadelphia is a team that can hurt you in many different ways. While allowing a minimal amount of runs, their offence is strong from top to bottom, and with the collective playoff experience of many of the Phillies' players, it's no wonder why they have been World Series favourites since opening day.
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Milwaukee has been a dominant force in the NL Central all year long, and in a division that plays host to teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds, the Brew Crew have shown they're the real deal in 2011.
Their laundry list of talented hitters goes from almost the top to the bottom of their lineup, and guys like Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and Corey Hart allow them to hit the ball with power from several facets of their lineup.
In addition, the Brewers have very talented base runners with speed—another way to create runs.
On the other side of the equation, Milwaukee is one of the few teams with playoff aspirations who I think can potentially keep up with the three headed-monster in Philly.
Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo and former Cy Young winner Zach Greinke combine to make one of the strongest three-man rotations in baseball and, since the National League looks like it will be decided this year by the team who can overcome Philadelphia's superstar lineup, Milwaukee will have the pitching to fend off Phillies hitters and a more than suitable lineup of hitters to keep Philly pitchers' hands full.
San Francisco Giants
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Like the previous two teams, the Giants will need to get postseason production from their pitchers if they want a shot to win it all.
That being said, it is quite likely the Giants will receive as much production as will be required from a staff that has been compared to Philly's.
With his 3.00 ERA, Matt Cain is .01 shy from allowing the Giants to join the Phillies in having three starters with ERA's under three.
Along with the two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum and the surprisingly excellent Ryan Vogelsong, San Francisco should experience little problems with keeping opposing run totals in check.
The only question mark in the conversation a Giants repeat is if their hitters will have enough in the tank to provide the necessary run support for postseason play.
Cody Ross surprised the country and made a name for himself in San Francisco during last year's postseason as he was the Giants' most effective offensive player.
For 2011, they will again need to see quality postseason performances from Ross, as well as consistent production from Pablo Sandoval and Aubrey Huff.
And if Carlos Beltran is able to offer the full range of his-five tool talents in October, it is well within the realm of possibility for the Giants to repeat at world champions.
St. Louis Cardinals
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Although Milwaukee has been the shining star of the NL Central in 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals have let it be known that they will not be dismissed from the playoff race so quickly.
It is a little surprising to see them 4.5 games back at this point in the season as I believe they have one of the most talented lineups in the National League.
While their pitching has been less of a cohesive unit than in recent years, the combination of Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse have the potential to compete with any three-man rotation in baseball.
However, it is 100 percent necessary for the Cardinals pitching staff to play to their potential in order to gain some ground in the Central and to achieve success in postseason play.
If they can receive the much needed solidity from their hurlers, the Cardinals will be a hard team to beat as they have a very talented batting order.
St. Louis currently leads the National League in batting average and runs scored, and with the power potential of All-Stars Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have the ability to give any rotation a run for their money.
Boston Red Sox
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The Boston Red Sox, like the Phillies, were early favourites to win the World Series.
This is mainly due to the offseason acquisitions of Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, who give Boston one of the strongest offenses in the majors.
First in runs scored and batting average in the American League, and second in home runs, their lineup boasting the likes of Gonzalez, Crawford, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and Jacoby Ellsbury, will have no problem generating runs on a day to day basis.
The addressable weakness, if you could call it that, of the Boston Red Sox is in their rotation's consistency.
Josh Beckett has been a consistently inconsistent pitcher throughout his career. He's a pitcher who puts up All-Star seasons in alternating years, and has stuck to that for the better part of his career. Luckily for Boston, he is currently in the middle of one of his good seasons; one where he is boasting a 2.17 ERA.
Jon Lester, the ace of the staff, has also produced a great season for the Sox in 2011, putting up a follow-up to his fantastic 2010. He has contributed 11 wins and has a 3.32 ERA.
The question mark is the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Ideally, Clay Bucholtz will return from injury in September and start where he left off, but as his injury is a serious one—and so is the question of who can provide a strong punch from the anchor position of a postseason rotation.
John Lackey just hasn't been all there for the Red Sox in 2011, and although he has put up an 11-8 record, he is currently representing an ugly 6.13 ERA.
Boston will need to put a solid, reliable, consistent starter in the three-spot when October rolls around, and if they are able to find the production from one of their hurlers, they will be in excellent position to not only dismiss the rest of the American League's elite, but to enter November with a little more hardware.
New York Yankees
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In spite of the Boston Red Sox being the second closest team to 80 wins (looking up only to Philadelphia), the often heated AL East is as hot as ever.
The New York Yankees are stringing together a very good season, and even though they've experienced their share of difficulties, they are separated by only 1.5 games from Boston.
New York is in a position to make the playoffs with a wild card spot, and they are frantically in the process of solidifying a rotation suitable for the postseason.
At this point in time, one thing is certain about the Yankees' pitching situation: AJ Burnett has got to go. To the minors, to another team, or to another country. Anywhere but New York.
The only contribution I can see him offering up is going winless in the postseason, and aiding the Yankees' prompt postseason departure.
What New York needs to do to win a World Series—and they can certainly do it—is to be wise in determining their rotation for the remainder of the season.
With CC Sabathia and either Bartolo Colon or Freddy Garcia being locks for two of the three postseason rotation spots, at this point in time that third spot needs to be Ivan Nova.
This is a high-risk, high-reward scenario, but it is the only alternative to other high risk scenarios, all of which offer less reward.
The idea of having Sabathia, Colon AND Garcia in the rotation offers the lowest likelihood for risk, but that rotation doesn't have what it's going to take to be successful in the postseason this year. The potential that a young starter like Nova or Hughes offers could give New York the added push that will be increasingly necessary as the postseason commences.
Aside from Jorge Posada being virtually absent on the stat sheets, New York hasn't experienced many troubles from the offensive perspective in 2011. With the continued production from sluggers Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson, the consistency from Robinson Cano, and the highly anticipated call-up of prospect Jesus Montero, the Yankees can focus their attention to building the most efficient, talented rotation available for the postseason.
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Any time you have a guy who can throw into the high 90s during the eighth and ninth innings of a complete game, you have something special.
Justin Verlander is something special for the Detroit Tigers and he will assuredly lead them through the playoffs this year if they can lock down the AL Central.
The pressure will be on Verlander, who will likely be the ace of one of the weaker rotations in the postseason. Max Scherzer and and Doug Fister seem to be the best options to fill the other two spots. And although the two of them have put up 4.33 and 3.37 ERA's, respectively, they will have their work cut out for them in the postseason as they go up against the top pitchers and most talented orders in baseball.
On the other hand, Detroit may have one of the best hitting lineups in the postseason this year. They aren't the fastest team on the base paths, but with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila all hitting over .290, and several other Tigers producing solid numbers at the plate, Detroit will be one of the more difficult teams to keep off the scoreboard.
If the Tigers are able to grind out wins from their rotation under the leadership and intensity of Justin Verlander, and produce at the level they are used to at the dish, they will be a hard team to beat in nine innings and will demand the best from every team standing in way of a World Series title.
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Nobody wants to win the World Series this year more than the Cleveland Indians.
Arguably the most active team in at the trade deadline with additions like Kosuke Fukudome and Ubaldo Jiminezr, Cleveland knows that it is going to take depth to take the 2011 title.
If Cleveland can edge the Tigers in the AL Central race, Jiminez gives them a more than adequate ace for the postseason,.
With Jiminez at the head of the staff, Nos. 2 and 3 in the rotation will likely go to Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin. I rather like this combination as it offers much potential.
Masterson is having an excellent season behind a 2.69 ERA, and with Jiminez having improved exponentially from his rocky start, along with Josh Tomlin contributing 11 wins to the Tribe this season, Cleveland could very well match up with some of the better rotations in the postseason.
They obviously will have one of the weaker rotations, but as they work to match up with opposing hurlers, Indians hitters will need to be on their game and consistently pressure opposing starters.
Cleveland is able to receive offensive surges from a number of players on the roster, and their great mixture of veteran leadership and young energy will work wonders toward the clubhouse morale as the intensity of the postseason looms.
Manny Acta wanted to teach his team a winning attitude after last season, and targeted 2011 as being a year in which the Indians would be winners.
With the strength of teams like Philadelphia, Boston and New York sometimes overshadowing the Tribe's deep lineup, Cleveland will certainly need to perform at their very best for the remainder of the season and October if they want to contend for a championship.
I could see this happening, as the attitude is there. Furthermore, their consistently strong play throughout the season and talent across the lineup presents the opportunity for postseason success in Cleveland for 2011.