With all of the surprises in this year's regular season finishes, one club that is right where it was expected to be is the Philadelphia Phillies.
With baseball's best record at 102-60, the Phillies powered their way into the postseason. After being eliminated by the Giants in last year's NLCS, Philadelphia is hungry for a return to the World Series.
Here are 10 reasons why they won't only return, but will win the 2011 Fall Classic ...
Philadelphia is a city that has high expectations for its sports franchises, and the Phillies are certainly no exception.
Including 2011, the Phillies have reached the postseason five consecutive years, and have been in the World Series in two of those seasons (winning in 2008 and losing to the Yankees in 2009).
Every member of this club understands from the first day of spring training that anything short of a World Series title is equivalent to failure. Reaching the postseason with the best record in baseball under that kind of pressure is a testament to just how focused and poised the Phillies are in their quest to bring the title home to Philadelphia.
After watching the San Francisco Giants celebrate winning the National League Pennant on their home field in 2010, the Phillies are hungrier than ever for a return to the World Series.
The underdog Giants snatched away a pennant that the Phillies and their faithful felt was theirs for the taking. The burden of that defeat will surely not be alleviated until the Phillies get back to — and win — the World Series.
With several players that have been with the Phillies over their successful five-year run beginning in 2007, Philadelphia has the definite edge of postseason experience on their side in 2011.
None of the other three National League playoff clubs were in the postseason last year, which gives the Phillies an advantage of knowing how it feels to be under the bright lights of October.
The Phillies are tied for the best team fielding percentage in all of baseball (.988). The team they're tied with, the Tampa Bay Rays, have had 101 fewer fielding chances than Philadelphia, which shows just how good the Phillies have been defensively.
Pitching and defense wins games in the postseason, and in what promises to be a very well-pitched October in the National League, defense will become all the more crucial.
The Phillies have the edge in that department.
As Dave Roberts' famous stolen base for the Boston Red Sox when his team was down to its final out in the 2004 ALCS proves, a stolen base can mean the difference between elimination and a trip to the World Series.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has his boys running when it counts. Far more often than not, his base-running strategy has worked wonders for Philadelphia's offensive attack.
The Phillies are the only team in baseball to have won 50 games on the road this season.
Philadelphia's ability to play well away from home will serve them extremely well in the postseason, when road games become even more difficult with fans creating a loud, chaotic and hostile environment for opposing clubs.
Since coming to Philadelphia, Pence has hit .324 with 11 home runs, 35 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage. The energy and excitement of his playing style could be the X-factor for the Phillies this postseason.
Combining that with Philadelphia's untouchable pitching staff and steel-trap defense, it's hard not to think the Phillies will be celebrating beneath a World Series trophy when all is said and done.
As stellar as Philadelphia's starting rotation is, its bullpen has been absolutely phenomenal in 2011.
The Phillies' pen, including Antonio Bastardo (0.93 WHIP, 70 K in 58 innings pitched), just doesn't give up a late lead. In save situations, Philadelphia's ERA is 0.99, and opponents are hitting just .192.
In the postseason, a lead must be protected at all costs, and the Phillies know how to do just that.
The primary reason that the Philadelphia Phillies will take home their second World Series championship in four years is the strength of their starting pitching.
It isn't just good, it's historic. The Phillies' team ERA for 2011 is 3.02, which leads all of baseball.
The next closest club is the Giants, who posted a 3.20 ERA, which was .16 better than the MLB-leading 3.36 ERA they posted in their 2010 championship campaign.
By contrast, the best team ERA of any other playoff-bound team is Tampa Bay's, at 3.58.
The Phillies have a pitching staff that is far superior to any other staff in this postseason, and it will ultimately be the difference-maker.
The Phillies are a cut above the other seven clubs who have made the postseason, and while anything can certainly happen in October, Philadelphia has a great chance to celebrate its second world championship in four years after the final pitch has been thrown.