Playing out a 2015 March Madness Bracket of All 30 MLB Teams

Karl Buscheck@@KarlBuscheckContributor IIIMarch 19, 2015

Playing out a 2015 March Madness Bracket of All 30 MLB Teams

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    March is all about the madness.

    The action takes place on the basketball court, but there's no reason why baseball can't get in on the fun too. Imagine building a bracket out of all 30 MLB teams and then playing out a Big Dance-style tournament. Each round from the first to the national championship consists of a five-game series, and the 30 squads are seeded from No. 1 to No. 30.

    In such a scenario, aces rule, but teams with the ability to manufacture runs in a variety of ways and clubs with lockdown bullpens are also in a great spot. The tournament begins ASAP, which means that teams dealing with injuries to a star player are at a major disadvantage.

    While it's difficult to quantify, postseason pedigree is also an incredibly important factor in the process of figuring out which club will be the last one dancing.

The Seeds

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    The Bracket-Building Process

    The selection committee took two main factors into consideration in the process of dishing out seeds:

    1. How well a team performed in 2014
    2. How well a team is projected to perform in 2015

    To make a bracket of 30 teams work, the top two seeds received byes in the opening round. After that, No. 3 faces No. 30, No. 4 takes on No. 29 and so on.

    1. Washington Nationals
    2. Los Angeles Dodgers
    3. St. Louis Cardinals
    4. Los Angeles Angels
    5. Baltimore Orioles
    6. Detroit Tigers
    7. San Francisco Giants
    8. Pittsburgh Pirates
    9. Seattle Mariners
    10. Cleveland Indians
    11. Boston Red Sox
    12. Oakland Athletics
    13. Kansas City Royals
    14. Toronto Blue Jays
    15. San Diego Padres
    16. Chicago Cubs
    17. Miami Marlins
    18. Chicago White Sox
    19. New York Mets
    20. New York Yankees
    21. Milwaukee Brewers
    22. Cincinnati Reds
    23. Tampa Bay Rays
    24. Houston Astros
    25. Texas Rangers
    26. Arizona Diamondbacks
    27. Atlanta Braves
    28. Minnesota Twins
    29. Colorado Rockies
    30. Philadelphia Phillies

The Opening Round

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 16 Chicago Cubs vs. No. 17 Miami Marlins

    The Miami Marlins don't get the credit that the squad deserves.

    The Fish are currently without the electric Jose Fernandez, but the team has a quality replacement ace in Henderson Alvarez. Miami also has savvy veterans like Mat Latos and Dan Haren to help anchor the staff. Headlined by the likes of Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and Jason Hammel, the Chicago Cubs also have a top three that shouldn't be ignored.

    Both clubs have airtight bullpens, but it's the lineups that separate the two. Miami has serious power thanks to Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, and the team also has the ability to scratch out runs with the likes of Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich and Martin Prado setting the table.

    The Winner: Marlins

    The Matchup: No. 9 Seattle Mariners vs. No. 24 Houston Astros

    The Houston Astros are indisputably on the rise.

    Still, there's no chance that the American League West club could take out its division rival in the Seattle Mariners in a five-game set. In the offseason, the M's imported Nelson Cruz to provide some much-needed right-handed pop. Cruz is also a proven postseason menace, with 16 home runs and a .669 slugging percentage in 41 career postseason games.

    Additionally, Felix Hernandez has the stuff to be a game-changer for the Mariners. King Felix has never thrown a pitch in the playoffs, but based on his regular-season resume, he could easily dismantle an opponent in a short series.

    The Winner: Mariners

The Opening Round

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 8 Pittsburgh Pirates vs. No. 25 Texas Rangers

    The odds for the Texas Rangers in this series would be a lot better if Yu Darvish wasn't already on the shelf. As the rosters are currently constructed, the Pittsburgh Pirates have two starters in Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole who would allow the team to take a commanding lead in this set.

    In the late innings, the Pirates also have an array of weapons that the Rangers' suspect relief corps doesn't offer. Last season, Mark Melancon, Tony Watson and Jared Hughes all checked in with sub-2.00 ERAs.

    The Winner: Pirates

    The Matchup: No. 4 Los Angeles Angels vs. No. 29 Colorado Rockies

    The Los Angeles Angels would have no problem rolling past the Colorado Rockieseven with Garrett Richards still on the mend. Per Paul White of USA Today, the rising star is expected to miss Opening Day but could be on the mound at some point in April.

    Regardless of who takes the hill for the Angels, that pitcher will be better than whoever the Rockies call on. Last season, Colorado's starting staff piled up the worst ERA in the NL by more than half a run. Simply put, Colorado would pitch its way out of this clash.

    The Winner: Angels

The Opening Round

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    The Matchup: No. 13 Kansas City vs. No. 20 New York Yankees

    It's time for the first upset of the tournament.

    This upset comes courtesy of Masahiro Tanaka. There's been plenty of concern surrounding the health of the 26-year-old's right elbow, but Tanaka said he's good to go so far.

    “I was able to throw just like I would throw before I got injured,” Tanaka told David Waldstein of The New York Times via an interpreter.

    For the New York Yankees, the Japanese right-hander is the linchpin, but the importance of the the bullpen can't be underrated. Last season, one of the keys to the Kansas City Royals' October run was the dominance of Greg Holland, Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis. With Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller in the mix, the Yankees have the late-innings weapons to neutralize that advantage.

    The Winner: Yankees

    The Matchup: No. 12 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 21 Milwaukee Brewers

    Both of these teams face-planted in the second half of 2014, but they sure took different approaches to the offseason.

    Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland Athletics, reeled off nine trades. Doug Melvin, his counterpart with the Milwaukee Brewers, didn't do much of anything at all.

    There's no question that the Brewers have the superior offense, but Oakland has the pitching to win the series. The AL West team has a couple of legitimate difference-makers stationed atop the rotation in Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Plus, Oakland has a flood of intriguing starters—from Jesse Hahn to Drew Pomeranz to Kendall Graveman and even Barry Zito.

    The Winner: Athletics

The Opening Round

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 5 Baltimore Orioles vs. N0. 28 Minnesota Twins

    The Baltimore Orioles earned one of the top seeds thanks to the club's great 2014 season. There's no avoiding that the O's lost quality contributors like Nelson Cruz, Nick Markakis and Andrew Miller. Then again, it can't be forgotten that the team is adding franchise cornerstone Manny Machado back into the picture.

    Even with the offseason addition of Ervin Santana, the Minnesota Twins just don't have the rotation to give Baltimore any serious problems. The Orioles staff was sneaky good in 2014, and it should be even better in the upcoming campaign as Kevin Gausman continues his rise.

    The Winner: Orioles

    The Matchup: No. 15 San Diego Padres vs. No. 18 Chicago White Sox

    This matchup pits two of baseball's most improved teams against each other. Both the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox have revamped their rotations, which means pitching is a push in this matchup.

    The potential Achilles' heel for the Padres is the team's underwhelming glove work—especially in the outfield. In a five-game series, a single defensive miscue could be disastrous. At the plate, the powerful Jose Abreu has the ability to turn the series in the White Sox's favor with a single swing at any given time.

    The Winner: White Sox

The Opening Round

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 10 Cleveland Indians vs. No. 23 Tampa Bay Rays

    The Tribe is the forgotten contender in the AL Central.

    The Cleveland Indians have an underrated closer in Cody Allen and a high-powered offense that could be downright dynamic if both Jason Kipnis and Brandon Moss are healthy in 2015.

    Cleveland also has a one-two punch that would allow the squad to make quick work of the Tampa Bay Rays. Corey Kluber is the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, and Carlos Carrasco posted a 1.72 ERA in 17 outings after the All-Star break.

    The Winner: Indians

    The Matchup: No. 7 San Francisco Giants vs. No. 26 Arizona Diamondbacks

    The Arizona Diamondbacks have a lot of power, but that's about it. There's nothing intimidating about a pitching staff when Josh Collmenter is slated to be the Opening Day starter.

    Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants can call on Madison Bumgarner for the Game 1 start. However, there are plenty of questions marks facing the Giants that could cause problems later in the tournament. After MadBum, the rotation is unsettled, and the lineup looks weak with Hunter Pence on the shelf.

    The Winner: Giants

The Opening Round

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 30 Philadelphia Phillies

    This is the easiest call of the first round. The Philadelphia Phillies have the same chance of beating the St. Louis Cardinals in a five-game series as a No. 16 seed has of topping a No. 1 in actual March Madness.

    On paper, the Phillies look like the worst team in baseball. However, it is worth noting that the club could have been unexpectedly dangerous in a short series if not for Cliff Lee's recent elbow injury. Per Jake Kaplan of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the lefty isn't even expected to pick up a baseball for at least two months.

    The Winner: Cardinals

    The Matchup: No. 14 Toronto Blue Jays vs. No. 19 New York Mets

    With Marcus Stroman tearing his ACL and Zach Wheeler requiring Tommy John surgery, both the Toronto Blue Jays have and the New York Mets have lost promising young starters this spring. The big difference between the clubs is that the Mets are far better prepared to weather the loss.

    There's no question about it, the Blue Jays have a far more powerful offense. Still, in the context of a five-game set, it's the Mets' impressive array of arms that gives the NL East team the edge.

    The Winner: Mets

The Opening Round

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 11 Boston Red Sox vs. No. 21 Cincinnati Reds

    The Boston Red Sox have bats. All sorts of them. Of course, the Cincinnati Reds have bats too. This offseason, the club acquired Marlon Byrd in a swap with the Philadelphia Phillies. Having gone yard 25 times in 2014, the left fielder is one of the most underrated additions of the winter.

    What the Red Sox don't have is an ace to match up with 2014 NL Cy Young Award runner-up Johnny Cueto. With Cueto pitching two games in the set, the Red Sox are in trouble.

    The Winner: Reds

    The Matchup: No. 6 Detroit Tigers vs. No. 27 Atlanta Braves

    This is a classic upset alert.

    The Atlanta Braves' outlook isn't terribly promising in the 2015 season, but it's a different story in a five-game clash. With Julio Teheran and Alex Wood atop the rotation, the Braves actually have a legitimate chance of taking down the AL Central powerhouse.

    The problem for Atlanta is that the club's underwhelming lineup wouldn't be able to score any runs against the likes of David Price and Anibal Sanchez. This opening-round series would be closer than it initially appears, but in the end, the Detroit Tigers still go through.

    The Winner: Tigers

The Sweet 16

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 1 Washington Nationals vs. No. 17 Miami Marlins

    After a first-round bye, the Washington Nationals open up the tournament with the task of trying to dispatch the Marlins. Considering that Miami is without Jose Fernandez and that the Nats have a rotation of aces, doing so should be easy enough.

    However, there is a complication or two to consider. As Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports, Washington is currently down two key cogs. Anthony Rendon is sidelined with a left knee injury, and Jayson Werth is still recovering from right shoulder surgery.

    Those health scares would help tilt the scales back in the Marlins' favor, but not enough to overcome the Nats' outstanding starting pitching.

    The Winner: Nationals

    The Matchup: No. 9 Seattle Mariners vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh Pirates

    This one is difficult to call. Entering the season, the Mariners and the Pirates are both looking like serious playoff contenders with seriously good pitching staffs.

    Ultimately, the edge goes to Pittsburgh because manger Clint Hurdle's squad has more playoff experience in recent years. Admittedly, the Pirates haven't exactly reeled off October runs in either of the past two seasons. At the same time, on both occasions, Pittsburgh was knocked off by the team that went on to represent the NL in the World Series.

    The Winner: Pirates

    The Matchup: No. 4 Los Angeles Angels vs. No. 20 New York Yankees

    It's time for the Yankees to pull off another upset. In this Sweet 16 faceoff, the Angels are the victim.

    Last year, the AL West winners proved that the squad was one of the best in baseball during the regular season. Once the AL Division Series rolled around, though, the Angels proved that the team was very beatable in a five-game series.

    With Tanaka and Michael Pineda leading the way, the Yankees continue the club's unexpected March run into the Elite Eight.

    The Winner: Yankees

    The Matchup: No. 12 Oakland Athletics vs. No. 5 Baltimore Orioles

    After the Manny Machado bat-throwing incident last summer, this matchup would have a little extra drama. Bats would once again be at the center of the story, but for an entirely different reason.

    As currently constructed, the Athletics roster is looking devoid of impact hitters. Both teams have all sorts of starting options and formidable bullpens, but it's Oakland's uninspiring offense that hands the edge to manager Buck Showalter's Orioles.

    The Winner: Orioles

The Sweet 16

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    The Matchup: No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 18 Chicago White Sox

    Following the bye, the Dodgers draw an interleague opponent in the squad's first tournament action.

    The ninth inning is a question mark for the NL West winners, with Kenley Jansen out with a broken foot, but the Dodgers have the pieces to overcome that weakness.

    Having Clayton Kershaw on the mound for Game 1 certainly helps get the club moving in the right direction. Plus, the Dodgers have a much improved defense from a season ago and a loaded bench to spark those vital late-game rallies.

    The Winner: Dodgers

    The Matchup: No. 10 Cleveland Indians vs. No. 7 San Francisco Giants

    As recent history makes clear, it's often foolish to pick against the Giants in a playoff situation. Even with that warning in mind, there's no way to ignore the reality that the Cleveland Indians are the better all-around team.

    Cleveland has a two-headed pitching monster in Kluber and Carrasco, which would put the Giants' understrength lineup in check. Plus, the Tribe's offensive attack would tee off on any San Francisco starter not named Madison Bumgarner.

    A series win for Cleveland in the Sweet 16 would end any chance of the Dodgers and the Giants meeting up for an Elite Eight rumble.

    The Winner: Indians

    The Matchup: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 19 New York Mets

    It's right here in the Sweet 16 that the Mets bow out. For the NL East team, it's the lack of offensive firepower that proves to be the downfall.

    Meanwhile, from Matt Carpenter to Kolten Wong, the Cardinals just have a knack for delivering clutch hits. Last October, the Cards led all playoff teams with 15 home runs even though St. Louis appeared in only nine postseason games.

    The Winner: Cardinals

    The Matchup: No. 6 Detroit Tigers vs. No. 22 Cincinnati Reds

    After topping one AL heavyweight in the opening round, the Reds run into another in the Sweet 16. This time, the Reds end up on the wrong end of the scoreline.

    As the Tigers learned last October, the team's flimsy bullpen is a serious liability in a five-game series. Still, against this Reds team, the Tigers have the starters and the offense to keep on rolling to the next round.

    The Winner: Tigers

The Elite 8

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    Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 1 Washington Nationals vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh Pirates

    As was the case in the Sweet 16, the absences of Rendon and Werth could prove problematic for the Nationals in the Elite Eight.

    From the rotation to the bullpen to the starting lineup, the Pirates don't have any obvious weaknesses. That makes the Pirates a challenging opponent for the No. 1 seed in this series. However, it would simply be too big of an upset for the Nats and the club's crew of aces to trip up at this stage of the tournament.

    The Winner: Nationals

    The Matchup: No. 20 New York Yankees vs. No. 5 Baltimore Orioles

    The underdog run goes on for the Yankees. In this Elite Eight matchup with the club's AL East neighbor, Tanaka continues to come up big when it matters most.

    The bullpen is also a vital contributor for the Yankees. The Orioles have one of the nastiest relief corps in the AL, but the combination of Miller and Betances proves to be just as unhittable.

    The Winner: Yankees

    The Matchup: No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 10 Cleveland Indians

    Another round. Another AL Central opponent for the Dodgers.

    The best chance for the Indians to steal this series would be to try and beat up on a Dodgers bullpen that scares no one at 100 percent and is currently minus closer Kenley Jansen.

    There is a way for Los Angeles to avoid just such a scenario playing out. The key to doing so would be to get a big series from Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu.

    The Winner: Dodgers

    The Matchup: No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals vs. No. 6 Detroit Tigers

    This series would be a lot of fun because the Cardinals and the Tigers are two of the most successful teams in baseball over the past five years.

    Unfortunately for the Tigers, the team is running into the Cardinals at the wrong time. Per Jason Beck of MLB.com, both Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez are possibilities for Opening Day, but neither has played a spring game as they both recover from offseason surgeries. With neither Cabrera nor Martinez in the lineup, the Tigers wouldn't stand a chance against the back-to-back NL Central champs.

    The Winner: Cardinals

The Final 4

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    The Matchup: No. 1 Washington Nationals vs. No. 20 New York Yankees

    The run is finally over. The dominance of Tanaka and the club's late-inning weapons have carried the Yankees to the Final Four, but no further.

    The Nationals' stacked rotation proves to be a buzz saw that the Yankees' aging lineup just can't overcome. After drawing the No. 1 overall seed and cruising through the first three rounds, the Nats have officially punched the club's ticket to the national championship.

    The Winner: Nationals

    The Matchup: No. 2 Los Angeles Dodgers vs. No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals

    This is a nightmare matchup for the Dodgers and the team's ace in Kershaw.

    As manager Don Mattingly explained to Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles after a recent spring start, the lefty refuses to settle: "He's always going to be striving for perfection and wanting more."

    Unfortunately for Kershaw, the game's best starter has been far from perfect against the St. Louis Cardinals. The NL Central team has torched Kershaw in October in back-to-back seasons and sent the Dodgers home on both occasions. Make that three times after this Final Four series.

    The Winner: Cardinals

The National Championship

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    The Matchup: No. 1 Washington Nationals vs. No. 3 St. Louis Cardinals

    The Cardinals just know how to win when the pressure is on.

    It's no surprise that the squad landed in the national championship considering that St. Louis has advanced to at least the NL Championship Series in each of the past four seasons.

    On paper, the Nationals have the superior rotation, bullpen and lineup—even with Rendon and Werth on the sidelines. On the diamond, the Nats have yet to prove that the club can get it done when it matters most. Last October, Washington was taken out by the less talented Giants. In the national championship, the Cardinals take on that role.

    The Winner: Cardinals

    Note: All stats courtesy of MLB.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.