My Top 10 2017 MLB Playoff Teams

I try to mix it up with my Top 10 lists, but you know that at the end of December and beginning of January, I’ll be respectively counting down my favorite songs and books read of the year. And December 1 will probably do something holiday related. But it’s October, and it’s MLB playoff season, because as Dane Cook exclaimed in some postseason commercials from 2007, THERE’S ONLY ONE OCTOBER!

Ten MLB teams make the playoffs, and that leads itself nicely to a Top 10 list. Here they are, in the order I want them to win the World Series, NOT my odds for who’ll win it all. However, 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 a lot of these teams could win it. This was a fantastic year for baseball, with some impressive records and streaks set, so it’s going to be a wonderful October. Almost any of these teams could win it all.

And thanks to all the teams for clinching their respective playoff spots before the final day of the season. Only the AL East and NL second Wild Card came down to yesterday. That’s impressive considering where things were in the second AL Wild Card a couple months ago. You’ll read about that later.

But now, let’s play ball!

 

#10 – New York Yankees

World Series won: 27

Last World Series win: 2009

Last World Series appearance: 2009

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost AL Wild Card game)

I’m a Red Sox fan, and if you know anything about Red Sox fans, then you understand why the Yankees are at the very bottom of this list. I won’t deny that they’re serious contenders this year. What was supposed to be a rebuilding year for them has become a legitimate title contending year. Based on individual performances, they could have won the AL East, but due to some bad cluster-luck (when hits/runs are strung together), they missed by only a few games. The current, younger Yankees are a lot more likeable than the previous regime with over-inflated contracts. That makes for some fun Sox-Yankees rivalry games in the years ahead.

Prediction: As much as I hate to admit it, they’re as good as several other division leaders and should win the Wild-Card play-in game, but the Indians will overtake them in the ALDS.

 

#9 – Chicago Cubs

World Series won: 3

Last World Series win: 2016

Last World Series appearance: 2016

Last Playoff appearance: 2016 (won World Series)

They had the #2 spot last year (behind my Red Sox) and the #1 spot in 2015. Honestly, the only reason they’re dropping to #9 is because they won last year, ending their 108-year championship drought. They still have the same genius general manager in Theo Epstein, still have the same awesome manager in Joe Maddon, and they still have a lot of the same players. I think they underperformed a little bit compared to last year, but they still won their division. Maybe the additional month of playing last year—all the way through seven games of a fantastic World Series against the Indians—wore them down a bit. No matter, they’re in the post-season. The only reason I have them this low on my list is because there are many other droughts to end this year.

Prediction: Hardest match-up to predict. I think their playoff experience give them an intangible edge, but the Nationals will take it. Could go five games.

 

#8 – Colorado Rockies

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: 2007

Last Playoff appearance: 2009 (lost in NLDS)

I don’t have anything particularly against the Rockies. I was hoping that the Milwaukee Brewers would snag the second NL Wild Card because they don’t get to the postseason often either. But it’s the Rockies, which actually is impressive considering that the National League West was clearly the strongest team in the division with three teams in the playoffs. The Rockies have earned this spot by playing hard. Charlie Blackmon has set the record for most RBIs by a leadoff hitter. Sure, they play half their games in the thinner air of Denver, but I don’t think this is their year. They only have one World Series appearance in their 25-year history, so there are longer droughts to end, but it’s good to see them in the playoffs.

Prediction: They’re good, but I think the Diamondbacks are better. They’re done after the Wild Card game.

 

#7 – Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series won: 6

Last World Series win: 1988

Last World Series appearance: 1988

Last Playoff appearance: 2016 (lost in NLCS)

Let’s just say that the Dodgers are clearly the strongest team in the National League. They’re the only NL team with more than 100 wins. On August 25, they had an unbelievable win-loss record of 91-36, a win percentage of .716. Then they lost 16 out of their next 17 games, including an 11-game losing streak, and THEY STAYED IN FIRST PLACE! That’s really amazing, and it’s because they have a talented team—one of the top few in the league, and they have ex-Red Sox player Dave Roberts as their manager. They have almost a 30-year World Series drought, so there are a few other teams with that going for them. Yeah, I’m all about the underdogs, and the Dodgers certainly aren’t underdogs. I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the World Series, I just want other teams to do it more than I want them to.

Prediction: They’ll face the winner of the NL Wild Card game, which will probably be the Diamondbacks, in the NLDS. That’ll be a fantastic series which either team could win, but I give a slight edge to the Dodgers.

 

#6 – Minnesota Twins

World Series won: 3

Last World Series win: 1991

Last World Series appearance: 1991

Last Playoff appearance: 2010 (lost in ALDS)

A couple weeks ago, the second AL Wild Card spot was up for grabs among eight teams: the Twins, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, Royals, Angels, Mariners, and Rangers were all hovering around a .500 winning percentage. There was actual panic about the possibility of an eight-way tie—or even a four-way tie—but it didn’t play out that way, and the Twins emerged on top. And no one is quite sure how they did it. Seriously. At the July 31 trade deadline, they were 50-53 and trading away players because they thought they were out of it. But now they’re in it. It’s been a while since they’ve been in the postseason, and 26 years since they last won the World Series. (Note: of their three championships, 1991 and 1987 were as the Minnesota Twins, and 1924 as the original AL Washington Senators). Seeing this kind of underdog team win it all would be cool, but I think they’re the team that has the odds most stacked against them.

Prediction: For them to win the World Series, they’d first have to get through the one-game playoff against the Yankees, which I don’t think they’ll do. But if they did, they’d have to face the Indians, which I doubt they’d get through. And if they did that, they’d have to get through the Astros or Red Sox, and I doubt they’d get through either. And if they managed to get to the World Series, it’s probably against the Dodgers—or the Nationals, Cubs, or Diamondbacks. Sorry, Twins fans, but you’ve got the toughest road to get there.

 

#5 – Arizona Diamondbacks

World Series won: 1

Last World Series win: 2001

Last World Series appearance: 2001

Last Playoff appearance: 2011 (lost in NLDS)

Big, big, big improvement over the last three seasons in Arizona, and I’m going to credit that to their new manager, Torey Lovullo. At this point last season, he was the bench coach for the Red Sox, and he acted as interim manager at the end of 2015 when Sox manager John Farrell was out getting treated for lymphoma. The team played better under his management than they did through the first part of the season. It was clear he’d be a good manager, and I’m really happy for him that he got such a position. Ever since they came into the league in 1998, I’ve liked the Diamondbacks. I think the team name is a perfect blend of baseball (diamond) and regional animal life (diamondback snakes), and their logo with the red A with the jagged black snake marking is awesome. And there’s a swimming pool behind the centerfield wall! They’ve got about as many wins as the Red Sox and Cubs, so they’d probably be a division leader if they weren’t in the same division as the Dodgers. They belong in the postseason, and they could go all the way…

Prediction: …but I don’t think they will. They’ll beat the Rockies in the NL Wild Card game, but then they have to go against the Dodgers with their #2 starter facing Clayton Kershaw. Dodgers in 4 games.

 

#4 – Washington Nationals

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: never

Last Playoff appearance: 2016 (lost in NLDS)

If underdogs and long championship droughts have been recurring themes in this list, let me introduce you to the Washington Nationals. They’re not so much underdogs in the standings, being a few games shy of 100 wins. But they play in the dismal NL East, emerging with a 20+ game lead over the second place Marlins. They are underdogs based on their postseason experience: this is their fourth NL East title in six years, but they have yet to win a playoff series. They’ve had a great, consistent team, and the addition of Dusty Baker as manager before the 2016 season began has definitely helped, but as solid as his managerial stats are, he has yet to win a World Series—having only been there once. So they may not be true underdogs, but they’ve got their own drought. They’ve only been in Washington since 2005, but counting their origin as the Montreal Expos (who I loved), they’ve got almost a 50-year drought back to 1969. If a National League team wins it, this is the one I’d want.

Prediction: With Jake Arietta of the Cubs out till Game 3, and Jon Lester not pitching as well, I think the Nationals’ rotation of Scherzer, Strasburg, and Gonzalez get them through the NLDS for the first time in team history.

 

#3 – Houston Astros

World Series won: 0

Last World Series appearance: 2005

Last Playoff appearance: 2015 (lost in NLDS)

If you check out this post from 2015, you’ll see that I predicted the Astros to win the 2017 World Series. They squeaked in as the second Wild Card in 2015 and made it to the ALDS against the ultimate champion Kansas City Royals that year. They were a great team that year, but a few pieces short of a legitimate postseason run. Well, here it is in 2017, and Dallas Keuchel is pitching well, but the last-minute addition of Justin Verlander will put them over the edge in the playoffs. But my reason for listing them at the top is deeper than a prediction I made two years ago. They’re one of six teams that don’t have a World Series win, and they’ve only been there once in their 56-year history. I like to see droughts erased. But more than that: I think of the terrible devastation in the Houston area due to Hurricane Harvey, and the city and its residents need something to cheer for, just like the Red Sox used the Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 to unify the city all the way to their title. Back in 2001, when the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees in the final game, I wouldn’t have been upset that year if New York had won.

Prediction: See below.

 

#2 – Boston Red Sox

World Series won: 8

Last World Series win: 2013

Last World Series appearance: 2013

Last Playoff appearance: 2016 (lost in ALDS)

I feel somewhat traitorous not selecting my own team for the top spot, although you already know I didn’t pick the Yankees over them. This year’s effort hasn’t been as focused as other years, and there has been a little too much off-field drama with the team through most of the year. It has died down, mainly because the team and fans are in celebration mode from finally clinching the division on the penultimate day of the season. The loss of David “Big Papi” Ortiz is truly felt in the clubhouse and in all offensive stats. Mookie Betts’s stellar numbers from last year have come down a bit, but he’s still doing well. And it’s not like there haven’t been great things. New pitching ace Chris Sale has performed as expected, closer Craig Kimbrel has been lights-out, and Drew Pomeranz became an unbelievably reliable #2 starter. The Pablo Sandoval experiment is over, and top prospect third baseman Rafael Devers has been fun to watch. Will I be thrilled if they win another World Series? Absolutely. They’ve clearly got the talent, and I love the shift from relying on big hits to dependable pitching and defense, and more aggressiveness on the base path. I just wish there was a little more consistency.

Prediction: By some really coincidental scheduling, the Red Sox ended their season with a four-game series against the Astros. The Sox dropped the first two, despite a good pitching effort from Doug Fister in the second game, and then won the third game because of Pomeranz’s solid pitching and some great hitting. They’ll have three days off before facing each other in Game 1 of the ALDS, where Chris Sale will probably face Justin Verlander. It’s going to be an amazing series—and if the Red Sox starting pitching steps up, and if the bullpen (with David Price off the disabled list) does what they do, then they should win.

 

And finally, WHO I WANT TO SEE WIN THE 2017 WORLD SERIES…

#1 – CLEVELAND INDIANS

World Series won: 2

Last World Series win: 1948

Last World Series appearance: 2016

Last Playoff appearance: 2016 (lost World Series)

Yes, it looks like I’m cheering against my hometown Boston Red Sox. It’s really a 1A and 1B kind of thing here. In Terry Francona, the Indians have one of the best three managers in all of MLB (with the Cubs’ Maddon and the Giants’ Bruce Bochy). They’ve got great pitching with staff ace Corey Kluber and bullpen wizardry from Andrew Miller. They’ve got great young talent like Francisco Lindor. And they’ve got the best record in the American League, so they have homefield advantage throughout the AL half of the playoffs. Then there’s the matter of just how amazing their season was, including an AL-record 22-game winning streak (August 24 through September 14). They managed to stay hot after that, winning 10 of their next 13. They’re certainly not underdogs, but thanks to the 2016 Cubs, the Indians now own the longest championship drought in baseball at 69 years. In my adult lifetime, I’ve seen the Red Sox end an 86-year drought in 2004, the Chicago White Sox end an 88-year drought in 2005, and the Cubs end their 108-year drought last year. I want to see one more drought erased, and that’s the reason—the only reason, fellow Red Sox fans—that I’m putting them atop this year’s list.

Prediction: Whether they face the Twins or Yankees, they should win. If it’s the Yankees, it’ll be a competitive series. The Yankees will not scare Francona, as he has plenty of experience against them, and he’ll manage the talented Indians to the ALCS.

 

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

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