The 2011 Major League Baseball playoffs will feature a few unexpected teams as well as a few teams everyone expected to see in the postseason. Whether you are a fan of a squad who rarely makes the playoffs, or a fan who expects nothing but a World Series ring, it is always better for a franchise and it's fan base to play in October.
(Fan Satisfaction graphs subject to change as they are updated daily. All 30 MLB teams have a Fan Satisfaction graph. They can be found on their respective teamsite, which you can get to by going here.)
The Texas Rangers reached the 2010 World Series, and began the 2011 season as a strong favorite to return. Anything less than another run at a championship for this talented team would be a disappointment. While the fan base is obviously happy with the team, and an AL West crown is expected, this is a team that hasn't quite lived up to it's preseason expectations.
Injuries to star players Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz throughout the course of the season, as well as an upstart Los Angeles Angels team, has the Rangers fighting to hold on in the AL West. If Texas can get Cruz back from injury, capture the AL West and make a deep run in the playoffs, this fan base will be ecstatic once again.
With statistics comparable to the 2010 season, it's World Series or bust for the Rangers.
The Atlanta Braves entered the 2011 season as the wild card favorite in the National League, and that is exactly where they will finish.
After a slow start early on, the Braves have used a strong pitching staff, that currently ranks third in the MLB in team ERA (3.39) and first in strikeouts (1,164), to cement it's position in the playoffs.
While it may have been nice to contend for first place in the NL East, the fans cannot fault the Braves for finishing second to the juggernaut Phillies. A solid season overall and a chance to do some damage in the postseason has the fan base feeling good about the Braves in 2011.
After a 2010 season that saw the Detroit Tigers finish 81-81 and 13 games out of first place in the AL Central, this season began surrounded by uncertainty for the Detroit fan base. 141 games into the season, the Tigers are 17 games over .500 (7.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians), and seem headed for a division title.
What really gets this fan base excited is the performance of Justin Verlander. With a 21-5 record and dominance in just about every stat category, Verlander is the clear favorite for the AL Cy Young, and a candidate for AL MVP as well.
Despite currently having the worst record of any expected playoff team, Verlander and an offense that ranks in the top-five in the MLB in batting average, hits, runs and RBIs makes this a team no one wants to see in the playoffs, giving fans hopes of a surprise postseason run.
With 27 championships and a massive payroll, this is a fan base that only thinks about the World Series year in and year out, and anything else is considered a disappointment. Each season begins and ends with high expectations.
Although the Yankees are currently first in the AL East and have the second best record in baseball (86-53) during a season in which one the greatest Yankees of all time surpassed 3,000 hits (Derek Jeter, obviously), any Yankee fan will tell you it's still not enough.
Beat the Red Sox. Win championships. That's what the New York Yankees are all about, and that is why they are ranked as only the fifth happiest fan base at this point in 2011.
After missing the postseason and finishing third in the AL East in 2010, a 2-10 start that saw the Red Sox drop their first six games was exactly what this team and fan base did not want to see. Boston quickly rebounded, however, and is now a lock for the postseason.
The Red Sox made huge additions in the offseason and, much like the Yankees, are expected to win the World Series. This is a fan base that wants to beat the Yankees and wants to win it all, especially after bringing in Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford.
The Sox have fallen behind New York as of late, having dropped five of its last seven games. To make this fan base truly happy, Boston will need a late season surge into first and a deep postseason run.
Philadelphia's pitching staff currently ranks number one in the MLB in ERA (3.06) and third in strikeouts (1,087). The Phillies have the best record in baseball (89-50) and an 8.5 game lead over the Braves in the NL East.
As impressive as the regular season has been, Philly fans obviously want more. Nothing short of a World Series title is enough. With a healthy Jimmy Rollins and the four-headed monster of Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels, and Roy Oswalt, the fans just may get what they are hoping for.
Until that happens, they rank as the third happiest fan base.
The Milwaukee Brewers finished 2010 with a disappointing record of 77-85, 14 games behind the upstart Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central. Behind the bats of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Corey Hart, this was a team that fans expected to compete.
Instead of banking on their bats to carry them in 2011, the Brewers went out and added two top of the rotation guys in Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum, to give the team not only a great offense, but a rotation capable of dominance as well. Those moves have paid dividends, as Milwaukee now sits 10.5 games ahead of St. Louis and 15.5 games ahead of 2010 division winner, Cincinnati, with an 85-57 record.
In addition to Greinke and Marcum, pitchers Yovanni Gallardo, John Axford, Francisco Rodriguez and Chris Narveson have performed well for the Brewers, giving them the seventh best ERA in baseball (3.65) and fourth highest total in strikeouts (1,078). The offense, as expected, ranks in the top-ten in the MLB in batting average, hits, runs and home runs.
The Brewers will enter the playoffs a complete baseball team, which is exactly what management hoped for when they made those offseason moves. Making moves to improve a team (and having them actually work) always makes a fan base happy.
Lacking the pitching prowess of the San Francisco Giants, and the offensive firepower of the Colorado Rockies, it looked like a third-place finish at best for Arizona in 2011. Turns out, the Diamondbacks have the pitching and the hitting to not only compete in the NL West, but to take a seven-game lead and all but lock up the division.
The offense ranks in the top 10 in the MLB in runs, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI's and stolen bases. The pitching staff, led by Ian Kennedy and J.J. Putz, has posted a team ERA of 3.87. Even the most optimistic fans were unlikely to predict a division title entering the season, and that is why the Arizona Diamondbacks have the happiest fan base of 2011.