My Top 10 2015 MLB Playoff Teams

I love baseball, and here comes the 2015 Postseason. I would have posted this on the first of the month like my previous top 10 lists, but not all playoff spots were locked up. It went down to the final day in the AL West and second Wild Card races. The ten teams in the World Series hunt are all known now, so I’m ranking them in the order I want them to win the World Series. These are not my predictions on who could win it all or will win it all—just who I’d like to see win it. At the end of each explanation, I’ll include my predictions for the two Wild Card play-in games and the four League Division Series. I can’t predict beyond that now because almost any of these teams could win it. It looks like an exciting postseason, and I’ll have a new post before the League Championship Series begins.

But let’s get to the list, and let’s get to the postseason. THERE’S ONLY ONE OCTOBER!

 

#10 – New York Yankees

World Series won: 27

Last World Series win: 2009

Last World Series appearance: 2009

Last Playoff appearance: 2012 (lost in ALCS)

This should come as no surprise. As a lifelong Red Sox fan, there’s no way I bring myself to cheer for the Yankees. It’s not in my blood. They’ve won more World Series than any other MLB team, most recently six years ago, so they don’t really need another. And all that’s before we consider the A-Rod story. Nope, can’t support the Yankees.

Prediction: I think they’ll win the AL Wild-Card game, but I don’t see them getting through the Royals in the ALDS.

 

#9 – St. Louis Cardinals

World Series won: 11

Last World Series win: 2011

Last World Series appearance: 2013

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost in NLCS)

I personally don’t have anything against the Cardinals. They’re a consistently strong organization, even after the managerial switch a few years ago when Tony LaRussa retired and Mike Matheny took over. My beloved Red Sox beat them in the 2004 and 2013 World Series, and they have my 2013 Red Sox postseason hero John Lackey on their strong pitching staff. They’re this low really that they’ve been to the Series four times this millennium (2004, 2006, 2011 and 2013), winning it the two times they didn’t face the Red Sox.

Prediction: They have the best overall record in baseball, but they don’t have significantly more hits that some of the other strong teams. They benefitted from some “cluster luck” by stringing hits together in the same inning. Over a season, that should balance out, but it hasn’t. In their NLDS, they’ll face off against either the second or third best team in baseball. Whoever emerges from this NLDS should make it to the World Series…and probably win it.

 

#8 – Texas Rangers

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: 2011

Last Playoff appearance: 2012 (lost AL Wild Card game)

They weren’t predicted anywhere near the AL West division lead. The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angles were predicted above them, and then the Houston Astros overtook the division by storm for more than half of the season. Some key trades, particularly Cole Hamels from the Phillies, and the combined floundering of the Astros and mid-season underachieving of the Angels opened the division up for them. I threw all my support at them in both of their only trips to the Series, but they lost to the Giants in 2010 and devastatingly to the Cardinals in 2011. A few days ago, I would have ranked them higher, but their Saturday afternoon game against the Angels was a disaster. They already had a playoff spot and a win against the Angels (fighting for a playoff spot) would have secured the NL West, but they gave up a four-run lead in the ninth inning and lost the game on a caught steal of second. That didn’t make them look like a serious contender.

Prediction: The Blue Jays are the far superior team, so Texas won’t make it past the ALDS.

 

#7 – New York Mets

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1986

Last World Series appearance: 2000

Last Playoff appearance: 2006 (lost in NLCS)

What the Mets did this year is almost as impressive as what the Rangers did. The Washington Nationals were predicted to win not only the NL East, but very likely the World Series. They were my own pre-season pick. But while the Nationals floundered and fell apart, the Mets made a brilliant trade for Yoenis Cespedes and then took complete control. If I were compiling this list before 2004, the Mets would be #9 only because they beat the Red Sox in the 1986 World Series. But my Sox have three titles since then to the Mets’ zero, so I’m over that.

Prediction: The Mets are a solid team, but in a 3-out-of-5 NLDS, I can’t imagine them outhitting the tremendous pitching of the Dodgers.

 

#6 – Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series won: 6

Last World Series win: 1988

Last World Series appearance: 1988

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost in NLDS)

Their payroll is about a bazillion dollars, and when you look at most of the teams further down this list, it proves that spending exorbitant money doesn’t always lead to postseason success. I’m not particularly holding that against the Dodgers, but they’ve been regularly making the playoffs and I think the spending has something to do with that. Still, if they do end up winning it all, I won’t be disappointed. It has been almost 30 years since they won it. Manager Don Mattingly and their amazing pitching aces Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw undoubtedly deserve a World Series ring.

Prediction: They’ll beat the Mets in the NLDS in four games.

 

#5 – Houston Astros

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: 2005

Last Playoff appearance: 2005 (lost World Series)

The Astros have been awful for almost a decade—both in the NL and AL—but everyone loves a Cinderella story. In the past few years, there have been some other playoff teams in similar boats (see them later down this list). When the Astros were leading the AL West in the first two months of the season, people claimed it was a fluke. Two months later, they seemed legitimate contenders. But they faltered in the final two months due to an absolutely horrific win-loss record on the road and let their intrastate rival take the division. They’ve only made it to the World Series once in 2005 and were swept by a juggernaut Chicago White Sox team erasing an 88-year Black-Sox-scandal-cursed championship drought. Wouldn’t it be fitting if they win the AL Pennant and find themselves facing another long-time cursed Chicago team?

Prediction: Though they held off the Angels till the final day for that second Wild Card spot and might be feisty going into the AL Wild-Card game, facing the Yankees on the road doesn’t bode well for them. Their fairytale year will end before the ALDS begins.

 

#4 – Toronto Blue Jays

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1993

Last World Series appearance: 1993

Last Playoff appearance: 1993 (won World Series)

Here’s the real Cinderella story of the 2015 baseball season. The Blue Jays—and the entire country of Canada—haven’t seen a baseball playoff game in 22 years. The Jays just ended the longest current playoff drought. They were strong before the trade deadline, outscoring everyone in baseball. Then they pulled out a great pitching trade for David Price and a great offensive trade for Troy Tulowitzki. They’re a strong team, and they’re fun to watch. They very well could make it to the World Series. As a fan of another team in their division, I want them to win to represent the AL East, but I don’t want them to win because they had to beat the Red Sox to do it. No ill will towards them. They deserve it this year, and it’s kind of cool knowing that within the last eight years, every team in the AL East won the division at least once. That’s parity, and that’s really good for baseball.

Prediction: They’re going to heavily outscore the Rangers and move on to the ALCS against the…

 

#3 – Kansas City Royals

World Series won: 1

Last World Series win: 1985

Last World Series appearance: 2014

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost World Series)

And now on to last year’s Cinderella story. The Royals were the team I cheered for last year (after the Pirates were eliminated), and they took their improbable season all the way to Game 7 of the World Series before losing to the San Francisco Giants. I refuse to credit the Giants with winning the Series last year. Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner won the 2014 World Series. Other than his three wins, the Royals played better. It was a fun Series to watch because of the energy of the Royals. Most of that team is back, and they played this season with winners’ swagger. Then to add Ben Zobrist and pitcher Johnny Cueto to their roster, it was clear they’d dominate the AL Central. They won it handily and were the first team to clinch a playoff spot. But clinching early and “relaxing” can break momentum. They’ve stumbled a little in the final two weeks, but I hope they pick it back up. They want to make up for last year and erase the controversy surrounding an umpire’s bad call in the 1985 Series. This could be their year.

Prediction: They’re going to beat the Yankees easily and face the Blue Jays in the ALCS, which will be an exciting series that most of the country sadly won’t watch.

 

#2 – Pittsburgh Pirates

World Series won: 5

Last World Series win: 1979

Last World Series appearance: 1979

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost NL Wild Card game)

And here’s the Cinderella story from two years ago. Can I just gush about how much I love the Pittsburgh Pirates right now? Manager Clint Hurdle did wonderful things with the 2007 Colorado Rockies and since he has done more wonderful things with the Pirates, somehow balancing old-school sensibilities with new-school data-driven analysis. A friend of mine recently recommended the book Big Data Baseball to me about how the Pirates made their turnaround after over twenty consecutive losing seasons. Pittsburgh has the most beautiful non-Fenway ballpark in MLB. And Andrew McCutchen is one of the best and humblest players in baseball and deserves the NL MVP award almost every year. The only thing stopping me from cheering for them in 2013 was that the Red Sox were in that postseason. I wanted them to win it all at this point last year. They made solid trades to improve themselves this year and improved their record over previous years to have the second-most wins in all of baseball. It stinks that they’re in the same division as the Cardinals with the best record, thus relegating the Pirates to the Wild-Card game. So if I have so much love for them, why did I rank them #2?

Prediction: This is the one drawback of the way the playoff teams are seeded. The three teams in each league that win their divisions go right to the LDS. The two Wild Cards (non-division-leaders with the best records) also get in but have to play ONE GAME against each other, thus using their best starting pitcher, and then face the top division leader in their league. I understand it makes winning the division a stronger goal, but this year, the two NL Wild Cards are the SECOND and THIRD best teams not just in the National League, but in all of baseball! It’s unfortunate that the Pirates will have to play that other team in a Wild-Card game instead of in a five-game NLDS or a seven-game NLCS, but it’s going to be one fantastic game, perhaps the best in the entire 2015 postseason. And who’s that other team? They’re next on the list.

 

And finally, WHO I WANT TO SEE WIN THE 2015 WORLD SERIES…

#1 – CHICAGO CUBS

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1908

Last World Series appearance: 1945

Last Playoff appearance: 2008 (lost in NLDS)

The Cubs haven’t won a World Series since 1908, and as a Red Sox fan once dealing with the baggage of a really long drought, I can sympathize with Cubs fans. But added to that 106-year championship drought is a 69-year World Series appearance drought, and there’s some pressure on this team to deliver. Here’s what they’ve got going for them: (1) A general manager (former Red Sox GM Theo Epstein) who has already played a part in reversing another team’s curse. (2) A manager (Joe Maddon) who’s intelligent, creative, and has also previously turned around a team; the Tampa Bay Rays turned from perennial last-placers to contenders during his tenure there. (3) A pitching ace (Jon Lester) with great postseason numbers, even if he can’t throw good pickoff attempts to first base. (4) A second pitching ace (Jake Arrieta) with 22 wins and a historical post-All-Star-Game ERA of 0.75. (5) They’re the hottest team going into the playoffs, having won their final eight regular season games. But the most unique, intangible factor they’ve got going for them: (6) Back to the Future II predicted they’d win the World Series. When Marty McFly traveled from 1985 to 2015, he saw the news that the Cubs swept the Miami Gators. Okay, there isn’t an AL team named the Gators, but there is a team in Miami. In any other year with these ten teams, I’d be cheering on the Pirates. My identity as a Red Sox fan has changed since 2004’s breaking of the curse; baseball needs the story of long-time beleaguered fans. Who would take the Cubs’ place if they win? But this year, in 2015, pop-culture coincidence has to take precedence. The whole country—the whole world—should collectively think positive thoughts about the Cubs winning the World Series. Because if they do win—making Back to the Future right—then maybe I can have a Hoverboard soon.

Prediction: The Cubs-Pirates Wild-Card game is must-see baseball, and I think whoever wins it will beat the Cardinals in the NLDS.

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? Pitch ‘em at me!

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