Hey Baseball Fan! You made it through the season and it only took nine months. Between the seasons change, the call ups from the minors and the never ending slurping of the final year of some guy named Derek, the payoff has finally arrived. Now the playoffs are here and chances are, your team is not involved, but that doesn’t mean it’s not without compelling drama. That’s why we’re here to help you figure it all out.
Detroit vs. Baltimore
This is almost a cliche blue-collar matchup that probably should have been saved for the AL Championship series. Detroit (90-72) has the best batting average, second in runs and on base percentage and second in slugging. They also have a starting rotation that has three of the best pitchers in baseball in Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and David Price. Price came over in a end-of-deadline trade to make the team just ridiculously unfair. Their weakness is in their bullpen where they’ve yet to nail down solid rotational players—to the point there is a rumor of moving Verlander to the pen.
If the Tigers are the elite Hawks from The Mighty Ducks, the Orioles (96-66) are the titular Ducks. A rag-tag group that lost their starting catcher and third baseman to injury and their first baseman is suspended 20 games for taking ADD medication without permission. They managed to put up a crazy amount of homeruns thanks to redemption story Nelson Cruz and got the third-overall slugging percentage, while only having the ninth-best batting average. They’ve stepped away from always trying to hit the long ball (which has done them in the previous two seasons) and have had star turns from the likes of Steve Pearce, Alejandro De Aza and Caleb Joseph. They have a solid, if not underwhelming, starting rotation, but their bullpen has been stacked and kept the barbarians at the gate.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals
The Angels (98-64) have bats for days, led by the ridiculous Mike Trout. Trout leads the team in HR, RBI, runs and OPS (on base percentage + slugging) and he still doesn’t even have the best batting average of the team. They also have Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols, so there’s nowhere a weak pitching staff can hide on this team.
They have some good starters, but also suffer from a middling bullpen and saver situation; they don’t have one pitcher with 20 saves, but split the task between two players. If they go against a like-minded, bat-heavy team, they could get behind quickly.
The Kansas City Royals (89-73) won the wild card game on Tuesday night in probably the most dramatic fashion you could imagine. Royals manager Ned Yost pulled their ace early in the game, and his replacement, Brian Moss, gave up a three-run homer. The Athletics added some more runs before the inning was over, but the Royals came streaking back to tie the game in the ninth inning before winning with a walk off in the 12th. Oh, and this is the Royals first post-season in 29 years.
They have the fourth best team batting average, but squeak by in the middle on runs and on base percentage. They have a small-ball team that shouldn’t have gotten this far, and a manager that messed up big time in the spotlight, but the Royals could pull together some spoiler games with the most team speed left standing. And if they don’t get far enough in the playoffs, they could be one of those teams that wears the opponent down and leaves them limp for the next round.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Cards (90-72) have a low offensive outpouring for a team this far ahead, but their pitching three-headed hydra of Adam Wainwright, John Lackey and Justin Masterson is dominating. And their bats might not look great on paper, but anyone counting out Jhonny Peralta, Yadier Molina, Matt Holiday or Matt Adams will be doomed to hear an earful from Cardinals fans about how they win “the right way.”
The Dodgers (94-68) host two pitchers you should have heard of, even if you aren’t a baseball fan in Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke. Kershaw has a record of 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA and a fast track into winning the National League Cy Young award. Greinke is up there too with a 2.71 ERA on a 17-8 record. So basically, they will kick in your front door and steal all the baseballs in your house before you have the chance to get a hit against them.
The Dodgers also have one of the most killer arms in the league in Yasiel Puig who is flashy and arrogant and a ton of fun to watch. Did you know he is also the inspiration for power violence band, Puig Destroyer? Who else could have that kind of crossover appeal?
Washington Nationals vs San Francisco Giants
The Nats (96-66) are probably the team with the most depth. Offensively, they have five players who are threats to all pitchers at all times. Of their four rotation pitchers, the highest WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) is 1.12. Tl;dr, that’s really, really good. Oh, and on the last game of the season when the game was meaningless? Their pitcher put up a no-hitter.
Adam LaRoche leads the team with 26 homeruns, which isn’t bad, but it means this is a team that doesn’t hit the longball with the threatening consistency that some of the other playoff teams do. The Nationals are also a pretty young team without a lot of playoff experience and if you believe in that kind of thing, then the ex-Expos could be iced out in the big spotlight.
If you tuned into the Wild Card game on Wednesday night it appeared the Pittsburgh Pirates were losing to a bunch of Degeneration X cast offs, but no, that’s the San Francisco Giants (88-74). The Team That Really Needs A Haircut has stuck around in ways that they shouldn’t have, but their pitching core is scary enough to get them through. Buster Posey leads the team in four of the five top Batting categories which is why he gets away with having a clean cut look. Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence are also no slouches, but the series with the Nationals could turn into a series of pitching duals which means the nation will take its couch naps like patriots.