BY BRANDON J. SMITH, Couchsideshow.com blogger
This list is based on regular season performance, and does not reflect what I think each playoff team will do going forward.
1. Washington Nationals (1) - Congrats to the Nationals on having an amazing season. It would be a great story if they continued on through the playoffs.
2. Cincinnati Reds (2) - Probably the most underreported and hyped team in the playoffs, if I had to pick one. Cincy’s biggest star is Joey Votto, and he isn’t exactly bringing about any exciting controversy to give the Reds more attention, but they’re likely fine with it. An upset win over the San Francisco Giants in the playoffs will get people talking.
3. Texas Rangers (4) - With all due respect to the Athletics, Texas overall was the better team all season, despite losing the division at the very end. The talent gap is pretty wide, but I guess that’s why you don’t play the games on paper, if to be cliché.
4. New York Yankees (3) - The Yankees played mediocre for most of the season and barely avoided a one game playoff against Baltimore, but that’s behind them now, and they can look forward to another ALDS upset.
5. San Francisco Giants (5) - The atmosphere at the coliseum during this final Rangers series was fantastic. It’s great to see fan turnout, and be able to sense and feel the energy from the crowd, that’s playoff baseball. Oakland’s run might be more impressive than their ‘Money ball’ run of 2002, because they used a starting rotation full of rookies with significant home/road splits.
6. Oakland Athletics (9) – Oakland’s run might be more impressive than their ‘Money ball’ run of 2002, because they used a starting rotation full of rookies with significant home/road splits. Oakland’s 3.48 ERA was second best in the league to another team on the list, aided by unknown Jarrod Parker, Tom Malone, Travis Bleckley, and AJ Griffin. The bullpen started off using rookie Ryan Cook as a closer, which he used to grab an All-Star spot, who later on was replaced by fiery Grant Balfour. Offensively Yoenis Cespedes turned out to be a great sign, hitting .291/.353./506 with 23 home runs in his rookie season; Josh Reddick went from a career high of 7 home runs to 32, and a host of characters at their side.
6. Atlanta Braves (6) - Both Atlanta and St. Louis are pretty even in most areas. Solid rotation, great hitters in Beltran, Chipper, Heyward, Molina, Craig, and Freeman. Braves Bullpen is fantastic, and the Cardinals isn’t half bad either. Should be a great contest on Friday evening.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (Not Ranked) – See above.
8. Tampa Bay Rays – The team with the best ERA in baseball won’t make the playoffs, and it’s a shame. But as we’ve learned throughout the years, baseball is not a fair game in the slightest. Tampa struggled to score runs all season, but did their best to maximize value with Fernando Rodney in the bullpen and manager Joe Madden mixing and matching lineups each night. David Price led the AL in ERA and may very well win the Cy Young, James Shields concluded a bounce back season with 15 strikeouts in his final start, Matt Moore had an up and down season, and they found quality talent in Alex Cobb among countless others. Losing Evan Longoria for most of the season may have been the difference between them making the playoffs, as opposed to watching the lesser Orioles pass them by.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (Not Ranked) – Evan Longoria’s dramatic go-ahead home run in the top of the 9th in Chicago firmly keeps the Rays in the playoff race. Only 2 games behind the last wild card spot, anything can in the final week.
10. L.A. Angels (Not Ranked) – I’ll get hate mail for this, and it’s possible my editor Wade will do the same, but I don’t believe the Tigers were a better overall team than the Angels in terms of results. The Angels played in a tougher division against two good teams in Texas and Oakland, whereas Detroit had the crappy Royals, Twins, and even worse Indians. The difference in competition is significant, and the Angels had a better record than Detroit overall. Should the Tigers be rewarded for winning the weakest division in baseball? This ranking system won’t. Detroit is a top 15 team, but overall they didn’t do enough to make me think they’re better than the teams I’ve just listed. Please send hate mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
11. Baltimore Orioles (7) - #Oriolesmagic never ends, and so does this season. Baltimore is the worst team in the AL Beast on paper, yet they pulled off one of the most remarkable feats in recent sports history. Regardless of what happens on Friday against Texas, it’s been a great accomplishment.
Teams Dropping out of the top 10: Detroit Tigers (10)