MLB Playoffs 2011: Power Ranking Postseason Teams with Most Momentum
Sometimes, even more than a high-powered offense or a stacked pitching rotation, what wins World Series championships is having the most momentum at the right time.
How else could you explain that seven out of the last 18 teams to make the World Series were also Wild Card winners? Although they account for just 39 percent of World Series teams in the past nine years, it's a much larger figure than their Wild Card status would otherwise suggest.
After all, in general, isn't it fair to say that the Wild Card winner should be worse than the best divisional champion and therefore make it to the World Series less than 39 percent of the time?
The point is: in the MLB playoffs, momentum means a lot. With that in mind, the following list is not meant to power-rank the teams most likely to win the World Series—but instead answer the question: who is the hottest team in the MLB Playoffs right now?
As for the discussion about what that means for the World Series predictions, chime in by leaving your comments below.
No. 8: Arizona Diamondbacks
Based on the way the Arizona Diamondbacks finished the regular season, it's hard to put them at the bottom of this list. After all, they finished September with a .640 win percentage and a 3.43 team ERA.
Of course, all this was the case before they ran into the buzzsaw known as the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLDS. Because since then, the D-Backs have completely tanked.
Things really went south after D-Backs ace Ian Kennedy served up a two-run home run to Prince Fielder in the bottom of the 7th inning in Game 1. Although the Brewers were already up 2-0 at the time of Fielder's homer, the blast was pivotal in sinking Arizona's proverbial playoff hopes, as they came out flat in Game 2 as well, losing 9-4.
Arizona has just one hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.091) in the series, and their sparkling team ERA has ballooned to an even 6.00 in the first two games of the NLDS.
No. 7: New York Yankees
So much had been made of the Red Sox collapse in September that the New York Yankees sort of skated when it came to their own rather soft month.
Although they still posted a winning record in September (16-12), they batted a weak .239 at the plate and collected their lowest single-month RBI total of the season (123).
Their pitching wasn't much better. In September, they posted a 3.94 team ERA (their second-highest single-month total) and allowed 111 walks in 258 innings after allowing only 59 in 244 innings a month earlier.
Their woes continued Tuesday night with a Game 3 loss to the Detroit Tigers, and now will have to win two in a row behind the young Ivan Nova and inconsistent AJ Burnett.
And if they want to have any shot at all, Alex Rodriguez (0 for 10), Mark Teixeira (1 for 11) and Nick Swisher (2 for 11) all need to step up their games.
No. 6: Philadelphia Phillies
You don't have to be an expert baseball analyst to know that the Philadelphia Phillies are absolutely stacked with talent.
They have three Hall of Fame-caliber pitchers in their starting rotation and feature offense-producing juggernauts, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, in their everyday lineup.
Despite all this, they struggled in September, finishing out the season with their worst single-month record of the year (16-14).
Although their pitching has continued to be stellar, posting a 2.92 team ERA in September, their offense has sputtered moving into the playoffs, posting a .248 batting average in September.
Now they find themselves knotted up with one of the hottest teams of the regular season's final month, the St. Louis Cardinals. While the Phillies match up favorably against the Cards on paper, clearly, momentum has already been (and will continue to be) a factor in the series.
No. 5: St. Louis Cardinals
Although none of the St. Louis Cardinals monthly totals for September is anything to write home about, they did okay making it into October, with a 18-8 record over their final 26 games.
While they did receive some strong pitching from their aging ace, Chris Carpenter, in September (3-0, 1.12 ERA in final five starts of the season), their ascension into the MLB playoffs had as much to do with the Atlanta Braves' epic collapse as their own successes.
What really drove their September run, however, were the successes of the bats in the middle of their order. Lance Berkman led the way, hitting .374 in September, followed by Albert Pujols (.355), Yadier Molina (.341) and youngster Allen Craig, who hit .327 with five home runs.
No. 4: Detroit Tigers
In September, the Detroit Tigers pulled away from all the other AL Central pretenders and cemented their status as one of the elite teams in the AL. They finished the season with some authority, posting single-month highs in team batting average (.310), home runs (38), RBI (164), SLG (.519) and OPS (.893).
Although their pitching wasn't great, they held their own with a 3.50 team ERA. Besides, when it comes to the playoffs and you have an offensive machine firing on all cylinders (like the Tigers offense is), and you have Verlander pitching at least two games a series, you have to feel pretty good about your chances.
In Game 3, the Tigers continued to swing hot sticks, as they lit up usually dominant CC Sabathia for four earned runs over 5 1/3 innings.
No. 3: Texas Rangers
In terms of sheer offensive talent, the Texas Rangers have the obvious advantage against the slight-hitting Tampa Bay Rays. And after Game 3, they have the clear advantage in the series too.
However, it took a strong offensive assault in Game 2 and a superb pitching performance by Colby Lewis in Game 3 to stave off the streaking Rays.
Unfortunately for Tampa Bay, this is nothing new for the Texas Rangers, who have seen a momentum surge of their own toward the end of the season.
The Rangers showed why they must be considered the odds-on favorite to represent the AL in the World Series, as they posted an absurd .320 team batting average, 3.22 team ERA, and a resplendent .760 win percentage in September.
While the Rays were generally considered to be the hottest team in baseball moving into the playoffs after dethroning the sinking Red Sox in September, the Rangers are too hot and just too darn good to be similarly cast aside.
No. 2: Tampa Bay Rays
Before you say anything: yes, I do know the Rays are down two games to one in a best of five series, going into a must-win situation in Game 4 on Tuesday. May I also point out that they go up against the next-hottest team in the AL, the Texas Rangers?
Also, the Texas Rangers are just better. Certainly Tampa Bay may have an edge in starting pitching, but their offense (aside from Evan Longoria) is innocuous, and, well... I'm sure you already know the many exploits of the Texas Rangers offense.
Still, we're talking about momentum here, people. And you can't get more momentum than a walk-off home run to end your regular season and thrust you into the playoffs. After chasing down their bitter, bigger-brother rivals, the Boston Red Sox, the Rays have ridden a wave of ecstasy into October.
Unfortunately for them, it looks like the Texas Rangers might be right there to slap them back into reality.
No. 1: Milwaukee Brewers
Okay, look. I know I've been talking about September stats up and down this slideshow until this point. But for my No. 1, I've got to go with my gut.
Milwaukee and their Brewers are just on fire!
Yes, their September was very unimpressive, both at the plate and on the mound. They went just 15-10 over their last 25.
But there is just something about this team and something about that town.
It's worth mentioning again: when Fielder hit his aforementioned home run in Game 1, Milwaukee just seemed to explode. Did you see the looks on those peoples' faces? They looked like they were at Disneyland!
Fielder was excited too, but he may have been smiling about the millions more that shot may get him in the offseason.