My Top 10 2016 MLB Playoff Teams

I did this last October, and I can now officially make it an annual tradition. Ten MLB teams make the playoffs, and that leads itself nicely to a Top 10 list. I would have posted this yesterday—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 both league’s Wild Card races, but additional tiebreaker games were miraculously avoided.

I made some predictions at the start of the season and did fairly well. I had correctly predicted three division leaders and one wild card, plus an additional three teams but in the wrong seeding position. Yay me!

But this list ranks them in the order I want them to win the World Series, NOT my odds for who’ll win it all—but I will 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 a lot of these teams could win it. The middle of this list was a lot more challenging than last year’s because there are more teams with long postseason and/or championship droughts, and we all love the underdogs. A lot of these teams come from cities that have been waiting to win, and that may be factors that help push teams forward or drag them under the weight of history.

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

 

#10 – San Francisco Giants

World Series won: 8

Last World Series win: 2014

Last World Series appearance: 2014

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (won World Series)

It’s an even year, so the Giants could work their particular brand of October magic once again, after winning three of the past six Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Only one other team has won that many World Series since 2000—the Red Sox. I have much respect for what the Giants have done in recent years, but enough is enough. In this year’s playoff pool, there are many teams with long championship droughts, so I have to put the team with the shortest here. Before you call me hypocritical for placing the team with the second shortest championship drought at the other extreme of this list, consider who that other team is.

Prediction: Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner is a stud when it’s all on the line, so I give him the edge over Mets’ ace Noah Syndergaard in the NL Wild Card game. But then the Giants have to face the Cubs in a 3-for-5 series with Bumgarner likely to get only one start.

 

#9 – New York Mets

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1986

Last World Series appearance: 2015

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost World Series)

The Mets really surprised me last year, making it all the way to the World Series, where they were dismantled by the 2015 juggernaut known as the Kansas City Royals. I thought their success would continue with back-to-back NL East wins. That was not the case, as their offense all year missed Daniel Murphy (playing for rival Washington). It has been 30 years since the Mets last won the World Series, infamously against the Red Sox. Since you can all guess which team is my #1 on this list, I want no possibility of a 1986 rematch. There’s no other real reason I’m ranking the Mets this low.

Prediction: Just look at the team before them. I don’t think the Mets get out of the Wild Card game.

 

#8 – Baltimore Orioles

World Series won: 3

Last World Series win: 1983

Last World Series appearance: 1983

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost in ALCS)

There are three teams in the playoffs from the AL East, just showing how strong it was this season. The Orioles, Blue Jays, and Red Sox all beat up on other teams and had great series against each other. Baltimore depended on lots of offense, particularly home runs, to win their games. That may work for the regular season, but it’s not the way to win in the playoffs. Their pitching isn’t as strong as other teams on this list, and if they face a strong pitcher, they’ll be shut down. I think

Prediction: They played well against the Blue Jays this past week when it mattered, but I think the Jays will get the best of them in the Wild Card game.

 

#7 – Toronto Blue Jays

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1993

Last World Series appearance: 1993

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost in ALCS)

Through the late 90s and the first half of the 2000s, the AL East had been dominated by the Yankees and Red Sox. The rest of the division couldn’t break through. Then the Tampa Bay Rays became competitive. Then the Baltimore Orioles did. And last year, the Blue Jays were the Cinderella team and won the AL East. I didn’t expect them to get to the ALCS, but watching them, I saw that they could’ve beaten the Royals. They didn’t, but they’re back, showing that last year wasn’t a fluke. But if I want a team from the AL East to win the World Series this year, it’s not this one.

Prediction: They’re a more complete team than the Orioles, so I expect them to win the Wild Card game, but I don’t see them getting through the Rangers.

 

#6 – Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series won: 6

Last World Series win: 1988

Last World Series appearance: 1988

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost in NLDS)

This is a very different Dodgers than last year, minus Zack Greinke and manager Don Mattingly. They’ve got first-year manager Dave Roberts, the base-stealing hero from the 2004 Red Sox ALCS. They still have great pitching and great offense, which makes sense since they have the highest payroll in all of baseball. Payroll doesn’t necessarily lead to success, as evidenced by the Yankees lack of a World Series victory/appearance since 2009 and very few playoff appearances since then. As for the Dodgers, this will be their fourth consecutive NL West title, but they haven’t made it past the NLDS since 2013. They’ve got something great to rally around—longtime announcer Vin Scully’s retirement—but will that be enough?

Prediction: Against the Washington Nationals, they’re the most interesting match-up of the first round. Imagine a Game 1 pitchers’ duel between Kershaw and Scherzer. That could go either way, but I think Washington’s home-field advantage gives them an edge.

 

#5 – Texas Rangers

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: 2011

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost in ALDS)

Shame on me for not predicting them to make the playoffs this year. I really thought the 2015 surprise Houston Astros were going to win the AL West handily this year. The Rangers swooped in and took it in the end. They held the division lead for a good chunk of the season, and they’ve made the playoffs five times since 2010, including two World Series appearances. They’re a solid team—in fact, the only AL team I’m genuinely concerned about being difficult for the Red Sox. They’ve got an unbelievable home record, so their ballpark is a place where other teams lose. With the best record in the AL, they have the home-field advantage. In almost any other year, I’d cheer for the Rangers to win the World Series. They’ve never won, and they were so close in both 2010 and 2011, the latter one I was openly cheering for. Besides the Red Sox being there this year, there are so many other championship-starved teams in this postseason mix, so I’m ranking that batch based on time since their most recent chances. Sorry, Texas, but your victory should have been 2011.

Prediction: They’ll trounce the winner of the Wild Card game and make it to the ALCS.

 

#4 – Cleveland Indians

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1948

Last World Series appearance: 1997

Last Playoff appearance: 2013 (lost AL Wild Card game)

The Chicago Cubs are getting a lot of attention this year for their exceptional ball play and their long championship drought (108 years—71 years since they were in the World Series). Why aren’t the Cleveland Indians getting similar attention? They haven’t won the World Series in 68 years, and have only been there three times since. They ended up with the second best record in the American League this year, good enough to win the AL Central and get home-field advantage in the ALDS against the Red Sox. Adding to all the storylines this postseason is the managerial match-up between the Indians’ Terry Francona and the Sox’ John Farrell. Francona led the Sox to World Series victories in 2004 (his first season as manager) and 2007 (while Farrell was his pitching coach!). Then in 2013, Farrell, in his first year as Sox manager, went to the World Series. For Red Sox fans, this is a fun match-up. And for Indians’ fans, it’s a chance to make a run for the World Series.

Prediction: They’re a solid team, but untimely injuries have left them a little short-staffed. The Red Sox should beat them.

 

#3 – Washington Nationals

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: never

Last Playoff appearance: 2014 (lost in NLDS)

This is their third time winning the NL East in five years, but in the previous two (2012 & 2014), they didn’t advance past the NLDS. At the start of the 2015 season, I predicted them to go all the way. They had good pitching, but I felt that the addition of Max Scherzer put them over the edge. Well, a late-season implosion along with a late-season surge by the Mets spoiled their 2015. But this is 2016, and the hiring of new (to them) manager Dusty Baker has been a significant improvement. He has turned teams around before, though he hasn’t had much post-season success. But the team has been consistently good for a few years and even more so this season. I think if they can look forward instead of backward, they have a legitimate chance.

Prediction: The Game 1 match-up between Kershaw and Scherzer is must-see baseball, but Washington needs to sweep or win in four or that match-up comes back in an anyone’s-call Game 5. I think they will.

 

#2 – Chicago Cubs

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1908

Last World Series appearance: 1945

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost in NLCS)

The only reason The Cubs aren’t topping the list again this year is because my team’s in the playoffs, and I won’t root against them. Otherwise, you’ve got to cheer for The Cubs. They haven’t won a World Series since 1908 or even appeared in one since 1945. They had the third-best record in baseball last year, but they ran into the super-hot New York Mets in the NLCS and missed the World Series. Well, they got better this year, adding John Lackey to their rotation (my 2013 Red Sox postseason MVP) and Aroldis Chapman to their bullpen. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer in the front office know how to build championship teams, and Joe Maddon is one of the best managers in baseball right now. If my Red Sox don’t make it to the World Series, I’m throwing all my support toward The Cubs. They had the best regular season record and have been behaving like a team of destiny.

Prediction: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta, John Lackey on the mound in games 1-2-3. The Wild-Card winner won’t get through that.

 

And finally, WHO I WANT TO SEE WIN THE 2016 WORLD SERIES…

#1 – BOSTON RED SOX

World Series won: 8

Last World Series win: 2013

Last World Series appearance: 2013

Last Playoff appearance: 2013 (Won World Series)

Are you surprised? After two last-place seasons, it’s been so much fun watching the Sox be relevant again. It’s even more sentimental because it’s the final season for DH (and future Hall-of-Famer) David Ortiz. He’s going out with a bang rather than a whimper, among the league leaders in several offensive categories. A fourth World Series ring would be the perfect way to cap off his historic season and career. Then there’s the rest of the team. With the emergence of all the young players like Mookie Betts (an MVP candidate), Jackie Bradley Jr. (stellar defense and a 28-game hit streak early this season), and Andrew Benintendi, the Sox look poised for success the next few years. Other players have had career years. Hanley Ramirez transitions to first base well and heats up at the plate. David Price, after a shaky first-half, returns to ace form, while Rick Porcello steps up as the most reliable starting pitcher and achieving 20 wins. The back-end of the bullpen with Ziegler, Uehara, and Kimbrel is established. Mid-season it looked like they’d limp into a Wild Card spot; now, they look like legit contenders. I can’t wait for the postseason to start!

Prediction: With some key injuries in Cleveland and a great road-record, I expect the Sox to get to the ALCS.

 

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

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