Four Major League Baseball teams approach playoffs with recent victories
As the leaves begin to turn brown in beautiful New England and the brisk autumn “sweater- weather” starts to roll in, baseball enthusiasts can savor the beginning of the annual playoffs of our national pastime. This year, four mighty teams reached the milestone of more than 100 wins, suggesting the playoffs will showcase a lot of great ball clubs.
St. Louis Cardinals (91–71) versus Atlanta Braves (97–65)
The National League Central Champion Cardinals were very successful this season through superior pitching and defense — they ranked fifth and first among all major league teams. Unfortunately, their hitting was mediocre as they ranked only 19th of 30 major league teams in batting. However, the old adage that great pitching beats great hitting bodes well for their chances to succeed in the playoffs.
The NL East Champion Braves were a more potent offensive team than Cardinals, ranking seventh in overall offense in the majors, and launching 249 home runs this season. However, their pitching and fielding were both in the top third among all major league teams, suggesting an excellent and balanced adversary.
Washington Nationals (93–69) versus Los Angeles Dodgers (106–56)
The Nationals, the wild card playoff winners over the Milwaukee Brewers, have a respectable pitching staff with an Earned Run Average of 4.27. They boast a top-ten defense and an excellent offense led by Anthony Rendon (.319 batting average) and Howie Kendrick (.344 batting average).
The Dodgers, owners of the best record in the National League, will be a difficult opponent for the Nationals. They were ranked first in pitching and fifth in hitting in the majors. The Dodgers have star pitchers, left-handed Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and right handers Walker Buehler and Kenta Maeda, all of whom won double-digit games this season.
Minnesota Twins (101–61) verses New York Yankees (103–59)
The Twins were a top-ten ranked pitching team with a very respectable 4.18 ERA (American League teams who pitch to talented designated hitters typically have higher ERA’s than NL teams who pitch to weak-hitting pitchers). However, their fielding was a weak spot, with a ranking of 26th among 30 major league teams, as demonstrated by having committed 111 errors during the season. The Twins are an offensive powerhouse who led the league in home runs andwere ranked second overall in batting.
The Yankees live up to their classic nickname, the Bronx Bombers, as they were number one in batting this season. They scored 943 runs (nearly six runs per game). However, their pitching and fielding were not nearly as impressive, with rankings of 14th and 20th among the 30 major league teams respectively. If the Yankees fail in the postseason, it will likely be due to this relative weakness. However, the Yankees have history on their side, having won 27 World Series Championships, more than twice the closest franchise, the Cardinals who have won 11. The Yankees have also beaten the Twins in all four previous playoff matchups. However, perhaps the law of averages will smile upon the Twins.
Tampa Bay Rays (96–66) versus Houston Astros (107–55)
The Rays beat the Oakland Athletics in the AL Wild Card. The Rays’ strength is pitching and they ranked second only to the Dodgers in this category with an impressive team ERA of 3.65. Charlie Morton led the squad with 16 wins and a 3.05 ERA. Their fielding was very good, ranked 11th of 30 major league teams, while hitting seems to be the weakest part of their game with a ranking of 18th among major league teams.
The Astros are a juggernaut, boasting the best record in the majors. They are uniformly outstanding among the three major areas of the game and ranked third in batting, pitching and fielding. The Astros have two star pitchers who have won 20 or more games this season, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. This season, their offense was led by Alex Bregman with 41 home runs. The Astros do not appear to have any weaknesses and the Rays are in an unenviable position.
The adage “good pitching beats good hitting,” suggests a Dodgers versus Rays or Dodgers versus Astros World Series. There are so many variables in sports, from weather to momentum to luck, among others. The playoffs should be a delight for true baseball fans. Get your peanuts and crackerjacks.