A slightly unorthodox way of doing things, but rather than give you some inevitably incorrect predictions as far as the playoffs go, it's time for the final installment of our 2013 MLB power rankings.
|Photo from: yahoo.com|
While the Reds have already been eliminated, these clubs were ranked prior to the start of Tuesday's wild card game in order to maintain as much subjectivity as possible. As per usual, the numbers in parenthesis indicate where the team's ranked in our previous installment.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (9) - In baseball's most competitive division this season, the Cards did what they do best; won games when they mattered the most. Finishing the season with 97 wins (tied with Boston for the most in MLB), the Cardinals are one of the favorites to win the National League pennant, as well as the World Series. St. Louis had the best record in the NL in September, going 19-8. They went 8-2 in their last 10, and capped off the regular season winning 6-straight. Their pitching staff was extremely solid over the final month, posting an impressive 2.71 ERA, the best in baseball. Simply put, this team will be a force to reckon with in these playoffs.
2. Boston Red Sox (5) - With the American League's best record this season, the 2013 Red Sox are nothing like the 2012 version. In fact, this year's edition won 28 more games than they did last year, finishing 97-65. The difference? Manager John Farrell. From worst to first, and with postseason experience all over their roster, the Red Sox are a locomotive, essentially running over most of their opponents. Despite the fact that they were 5-5 in their last 10 games and lost their final two tilts of the season, Boston finished the month of September with an impressive 16-9 record. Their pitching staff allowed fewer hits, and offensively they hit for a better average, than any other AL team during that span. Although they sputtered a bit down the stretch, they're still the team to beat in the American League.
3. Oakland Athletics (8) - Oakland won their second-straight AL West title this year, even with the fifth-lowest team salary in the bigs. At 19-8 in September (second best in MLB), the A's enter the postseason as one of baseball's hottest clubs. During the regular season's final month, Oakland had the second-best ERA in the AL at 3.02, and held their opponents to the lowest AVG in the league at .231. To boot, their bats were solid to end the season, considering they struck out fewer times than all but one team in the majors, and posted the third-best AVG in all of baseball this September. Oakland's offense also combined for more home runs over the final month than any other team. In a tough ALDS matchup against the Tigers, it will be intriguing to see if the A's have what it takes to compete in the playoffs.
4. Cleveland Indians (13) - If they weren't forced to play a wild card game against Tampa Bay just to make the ALDS, the Tribe might have been No. 1 in these rankings, especially if you're a firm believer that the hottest team entering the postseason is the most likely candidate to win it all. Look no further than Cleveland if you're looking for a club that is on fire. The Indians held the best record in baseball this September at 21-6, and ended the regular season on a 10-game win streak. Pitching wins playoff games, and that is exactly what Cleveland does well. The Indians held an AL-best 2.84 ERA in the final month, and their staff struck out the second-most batters in all of baseball during that span. If Cleveland get by the Rays, expect them to put up a heck of a fight against the Red Sox in the ALDS. Manager Terry Francona has these guys playing well above expectations.
5. Detroit Tigers (3) - The Tigers appeared to let their foot off the gas at the end of this season. When it seemed like they had all but wrapped up their division before September began, they ended the year just barely ahead of the Indians, taking the AL Central by only a single game. Detroit was mediocre in September, finishing 13-13, having lost their final 3 outings. While this could have Tiger fans afraid of what's to come, there are still quite a few bright signs, and it would be foolish to count this team out already. During the final month of the season, Detroit's pitching staff had the most strikeouts in all of baseball, and their bats combined for the fifth-best AVG (.270). The Tigers/A's matchup might just be the best series in the division round this year.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (6) - It took 163 games, but the Rays find themselves in the postseason in a one-game tilt versus the Indians Wednesday night to advance to the ALDS. David Price and Evan Longoria were brilliant on Monday, solidifying Tampa's place in these playoffs. The Rays enter the postseason playing very good baseball, going 8-2 in their last 10 games. They were also 17-12 in the month of September, and combined for the most RBI in all of baseball. It is much to their dismay that they're forced to play on the road in Cleveland, but expect it to be a tight contest throughout.
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (7) - The Pirates have made the playoffs for the first time in 21 years, and secured home-field advantage in the wild card game with their consistent play this season. Pittsburgh went 15-12 in the final month, and won 94 games total this year. Their pitching staff, led by Francisco Liriano, held opponents to the fewest home runs hit all season, and center fielder Andrew McCutchen is an MVP candidate with his stellar all-around play. Fans in Pittsburgh are pumped to see their team finally back in the hunt for an NL pennant, and possibly even a World Series. Things could get interesting in Pittsburgh this postseason if this team continues to maintain their solid play.
8. Atlanta Braves (2) - The Braves were unimpressive down the stretch, with a sub .500 record in September (13-14). However, they did manage to finish the season 6-4 over their final 10 games. Also, their pitching staff was still pretty solid in the final month, posting a 3.31 ERA, tied for eighth in the majors. While they've looked mediocre as of late, one could chalk that up to the fact they have had their division seemingly wrapped up since June. It helps that Atlanta will be facing another ice cold team to start these playoffs, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
9. Cincinnati Reds (10) - The Big Red Machine went 14-12 in September and had the most stolen bases of any postseason team during that span. Unfortunately for them, they're already on the golf course. Cincinnati may have underestimated how relentless, loud and overbearing the Pittsburgh fans would be Tuesday night. The home-field advantage in a one-game playoff is huge, and the fact that the Reds were unable to keep up with the Pirates late in the season may have been the cause of their early exit. The good news for Cincy fans is that this team has promise. Expect them to be very competitive again next season.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (1) - Again, these teams were ranked prior to last night's game between the Reds and Pirates, but regardless, the Dodgers have really slowed down, and at the worst possible time imaginable. While they solidified their NL West title with relative ease, Los Angeles has looked very lackluster of late. Their 12-15 record in September is the worst of any playoff team, and they enter the postseason on a 2-game skid. That said, this club has been streaky all year long, and when they're good, they're one of the best teams in baseball. For the record, we're not sleeping on the Dodgers here. In fact, they'll probably beat Atlanta in the NLDS. But if they play anything like they did in September, don't expect big things from them.
That concludes our 2013 power rankings. October is a great time to be a baseball fan. Kick back and enjoy, and may the best team win.