2011 MLB Playoff Predictions: Power Ranking the 8 Playoff Teams
With the MLB playoffs just over a month away, it’s time to determine which eight teams are set to play in October and which teams will be the favorite to reach the Fall Classic.
Each team has been projected from eight to one and have been ranked according to their ability to win once they reach the postseason.
When determining these power rankings, StatSheet.com’s Team StatRank was taken into consideration. Team StatRank uses metrics such as strength of schedule, momentum, ballpark and a variety of other baseball statistics.
Check back soon as I will take these power rankings to the next level and project who will win each round, where each team will be eliminated and who will be crowned 2011 World Series Champ.
All StatRank grades are subject to change as the rankings are updated daily after each game played.
8: NL West Champion, Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona Diamondacks Look To Win The NL West
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While everyone waits for the young Diamondbacks to concede the division to the San Francisco Giants, they continue to win. Led by outfielders Justin Upton and Chris Young, what Arizona lacks in household names, it makes up for in talent. The Diamondbacks are currently 10th overall (84.9) in the StatSheet StatRank, but fourth in the National League, putting them right where they need to be to steal the NL West. As a comparison, the Giants sit at #12 (81.4) while the Rockies are 17th (77.3).
Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson have been solid atop an unheralded rotation, and J.J Putz has been lights-out as closer all season. Pitchers Josh Collmenter, Joe Saunders and David Hernandez will need to continue their better than expected seasons if the Diamondbacks want to play in October.
The recent additions of first baseman prospect Paul Goldschmidt (call up from Double-A Mobile), second baseman Aaron Hill (acquired from Toronto) and shortstop John McDonald (acquired from Toronto), may be just what this lineup needs to hold off the defending World Champion Giants and an inevitable September surge by the Colorado Rockies.
7: AL Central Champion, Detroit Tigers
Tigers have taken command on the AL Central
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The Tigers currently sport a comfortable lead in the AL Central and have arguably the game's best pitcher in Justin Verlander, who leads the MLB in both wins and strikeouts. He grades out as the top player in the StatSheet Player StatRank with a 101.4, the only pitcher in baseball to surpass the 100 mark. After Verlander, however, the rotation leaves a lot to be desired.
Brad Penny, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have all been inconsistent throughout the season, though Scherzer is known for his second half prowess and the addition of Doug Fister (acquired from Seattle) has improved the rotation’s depth. A team ERA of 4.09 gives Detroit the worst ERA of all teams entering the playoffs.
Offense is a different story for Detroit as Miguel Cabrera heads a very solid group. The Tigers offense is in the top half of many statistical categories, and the recent addition of Delmon Young (acquired from Minnesota) gives this team another bat to drive in runs. If Delmon can return to even a shadow of his 2010 form, this becomes a very formidable group.
Detroit won’t be a favorite heading into the playoffs, but any team that can put Verlander on the hill twice in one playoff series has a chance to make some noise.
6: AL West Champion, Texas Rangers
The Rangers will need their rotation to step up if they want to make noise in the postseason.
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It’s surprising to see the defending American League Champions sitting at sixth in the power rankings, but right now the Rangers should just be concerned with holding off the Los Angeles Angels for the AL West crown. The Rangers also rank sixth in Team StatRank with an 89.3.
While Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton have both battled injuries this season, offense has not been the issue, currently ranking third or better in batting average, hits, runs, RBIs, home runs and doubles in the MLB. The subject to many offseason trade rumors, Michael Young has proven to be the most consistent hitter for the Rangers this season, currently leading the team in RBIs and Batting Average.
The starting rotation resembles the 2010 rotation only somewhat, with C.J Wilson picking up where he left off from a year ago and Colby Lewis occasionally showing flashes of his 2010 form. Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison can be dominate at times, but, as the season winds down, both have shown signs of wear.
If the rotation can hold until the seventh inning, the Rangers have one of the game's most dominant bullpens with Mike Adams (acquired from San Diego) and Koji Uehara (acquired from Baltimore) setting up the ninth inning for flame-thrower Neftali Feliz. If Feliz stumbles, both Adams and Uehara have what it takes to take the ball in the ninth.
With plenty of offensive firepower, a dominant bullpen and the experience of being a year removed from a World Series appearance, this is a team that can make up for its struggles in the regular season come playoff time.
5: NL Central Champion, Milwaukee Brewers
Arguably the best 3-4 hitters in baseball in 2011.
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The hottest team in baseball ran away with a once-close NL Central battle behind a potent offense and a solid pitching staff from top to bottom. The Brewers are the fifth (91.5) ranked team according to Team StatRank and also have the top offensive player in baseball according to Player StatRank (Ryan Braun, 100.0). Braun is currently the only hitter in baseball with a score of 100 or better and should be considered a front-runner for MVP in the NL.
With Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan batting in front of Braun and Prince Fielder, the top of the Brewers lineup is as scary as any in the National League. It can be argued that Braun and Fielder are the best 3-4 hitter combo in baseball. With Fielder playing for a monster contract after the season, it only makes the duo that much more scary.
The Brew Crew spent its offseason upgrading their pitching staff, and it has paid dividends. Zach Greinke, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo will be a formidable trio come playoff time. With John Axford dominating the ninth inning and recent acquisition Francisco Rodriguez (acquired from New York Mets) setting him up, the bullpen is just as strong as the rotation.
The Brewers may not be on anyone’s list to contend for the Fall Classic, but this is a complete team, and, with guys like Braun and Fielder, they should never be counted out. These two hitters will challenge even the most elite pitchers in the National League.
4: NL Wild Card, Atlanta Braves
The Atlanta Braves new look offense with Michael Bourn
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The Braves have run away with the National League Wild Card, leaving only the NL West up for grabs. Atlanta is capable of playing with any team in baseball behind a strong rotation that seemingly does not run out of young pitchers to call upon when needed.
The Braves are fourth (93.9) in Team StatRank behind a pitching staff that currently has seven pitchers with a grade of 87.8 or higher. Of that group, Brandon Beachy has the highest ERA at 3.31. As we saw with last year’s champs, pitching staff alone can be enough for a team to win the World Series.
The injury bug has hit the Braves pretty hard, losing offensive weapons Brian McCann, Martin Prado, Chipper Jones (of course) and Jason Heyward for periods of time this season. However, with the recent resurgence of Dan Uggla, and the additions of Jose Constanza (call up from Triple-A Gwinnett) and Michael Bourn (acquired from Houston), this is a Braves team that isn’t lacking at the plate. Failing to mention rookie Freddie Freeman would be a crime, as he has come into his own offensively and is a candidate (along with teammate Craig Krimbel) for NL Rookie of the Year.
Atlanta may enter the playoffs as the Wild Card, but they are clearly the second best team in the National League and have been all season.
3: AL Wild Card, New York Yankees
The Yankees continue to possess one of the games top offenses.
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Curtis Granderson has been the MVP of New York this season and is a top candidate for AL MVP. He currently leads the MLB in runs (and it’s not close), is tied for the MLB lead in RBIs and is second to only Jose Bautista in home runs. He currently ranks fourth in Player StatRank (96.4) behind only Braun, Bautista and Matt Kemp. With both Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter missing time due to injury, Granderson has been the horse, along with Mark Teixeira and Robinson Cano, that has kept the Yankees offense as explosive as we’ve come to expect.
When it comes to the New York Yankees of late, it’s never about the offense but always about the pitching. The continued struggles of A.J. Burnett, coupled with the recent struggles of C.C. Sabathia and the disappearance of the 2010 version of Phil Hughes, leaves this team wondering if it can contend with the Rangers, Tigers and Red Sox for a chance to add a 28th World Series championship to its trophy case.
2: AL East Champion, Boston Red Sox
Adrian Gonzalez has brought some much needed pop to the middle of the Red Sox lineup.
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The Boston Red Sox made quite a few upgrades to its offense in the offseason, and, despite the lackluster season by Carl Crawford, it has paid off handsomely. This has everything to do with the MVP-caliber performance by Adrian Gonzalez, who currently leads the MLB in batting average and is tied with Granderson for the lead in RBIs. Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox expected of him when they plucked him from the offensive sinkhole that is the San Diego Padres.
The Red Sox currently rank second in Team StatRank (97.4) and first in the American League. Both Josh Beckett and David Ortiz have returned to form, giving this team a veteran presence and even more depth at the plate and in the rotation.
On offense the list goes on and on, with both Jacoby Ellsbury (MVP candidate as well) and Dustin Pedroia once again enjoying big seasons for the Sox. Guys like Josh Reddick, Jed Lowrie, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Marco Scutaro have all contributed at times, making this team one of the toughest lineups to deal with from one through nine. The return of Kevin Youkilis from injury will make this offense all that more dangerous.
The Boston pitching staff is led by the one-two punch of Jon Lester and Beckett, and the addition of Erik Bedard (acquired from Seattle) adds some depth to a top-heavy rotation. Set-up man Daniel Bard and closer Jonathan Paplebon continue to shut down games at the back end for the Sox.
The Red Sox are built to compete with the number one team in the power rankings for a chance at the 2011 World Series title.
1: NL East Champion, Philadelphia Phillies
Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee lead a dominant Phillies rotation.
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When the Phillies re-acquired free agent Cliff Lee last offseason they immediately became the team to beat and to this point have not disappointed. Currently sporting the best record in baseball and the top Team StatRank (100.8), Philadelphia grades out as the only team over 100.
After Roy Halladay, the front-runner yet again for the NL Cy Young, both Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels would be the ace of most staffs in baseball. Veteran Roy Oswalt hasn’t been quite as dominant as he was in 2010, but, as the fourth arm in the rotation, he doesn’t have to be. Vance Worley has stepped up and pitched big for Philly when given the opportunity.
On offense Philadelphia boasts the usual suspects of Shane Victorino, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. Recently, Hunter Pence (acquired from Houston) was added to the mix, giving this team one more significant bat to put in the lineup. While this offense does have a tendency to go cold, as we saw in last year's NLCS, when everything is working it can be as good as any in baseball.
The biggest issue for the Phillies is health. Currently both Jimmy Rollins and Cole Hamels are on the DL, two guys who are needed if this team is going to win a championship in 2011.