We're now through one round of the playoffs, or if you count the wild-card play-in/coin-flip/ultimate challenge game as a round, two rounds through the playoffs. Either way the baseball season has dwindled to four teams. Do they miss their friends? Will there be enough people to play telephone at the picnic? Who will bring snacks? These are questions I've carefully considered before ignoring them completely in favor of actual baseball.
You may recall this article from two weeks ago and, if so, you recall correctly. The original Postseason Power Rankings have held strong, as the more highly ranked teams went 4-2 against their lesser-ranked opponents in the first few rounds. The lone stand-outs were the Pirates who beat the Reds in the wild-card game (I claim small sample size!), and the Dodgers who beat the Braves in the division series (I claim wrongness!). And, if you don't count the losses, the Postseason Power Rankings are undefeated!
So, who has moved up? Who has fallen? You might know the answers, but you've already clicked the article so you may as well read the rest of the final installment of the Sports on Earth 2013 MLB Postseason Power Rankings!
As in the previous iteration of this article, what you will find below is a subjective ranking of all the teams still remaining in the postseason. I've ranked them by a combination of stats, seasonal performance, recent performance, uniform color and my general distaste for coconut cream pies.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers. In almost all cases in the first few rounds of the playoffs you could make the case the better team advanced. It is true the Braves were ranked ahead of the Dodgers but that was before the Braves tried to win a playoff series by starting Freddy Garcia in an elimination game. Consulting the Postseason Power Rankings Rulebook, rule 43.b-17c clearly states, "Starting Freddy Garcia may be done in an elimination game only if one of the following stipulations are met: 1. The game follows a natural disaster ("follows" meaning falls within 30 minutes of); 2. The team involved is attempting to perpetrate a complex and overly involved practical joke or 3. Freddy Garcia is holding the whole world hostage, Dr. Evil style, and pitching an elimination game is the only way he can be deterred from blowing up the world. What I'm saying: facing Freddy Garcia may have helped Los Angeles beat a better team.
But worse team or not, the Dodgers played well. Clayton Kershaw was his normal dominating self no matter how much rest he had, Zack Greinke was fine, and the Dodgers bullpen would hear no crying or complaining before shutting the lights out each night.
The same will have to happen for the Dodgers to beat St. Louis. Yes, I understand the Cardinals are extremely unlikely to trade for Garcia and thrust him into the St. Louis starting rotation. I'm not talking about that, fantastic though it would be. Not unlike the Tigers, the Dodgers are a team of extremes and those extremes will have to perform up to or beyond their abilities if Los Angeles is to beat a deeper team. That is why the Dodgers are ranked fourth of four teams. The problem isn't Kershaw, Greinke, Yasiel Puig, Kenley Jansen and Adrian Gonzalez, it's what happens when it's not one of those guys.
3. Detroit. There was kvetching and whining and other things that are like kvetching and whining (unless they're the same in which case it was only like one of them) about the state of the Tigers stars heading into the postseason. Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander hadn't looked like their normal other-team-destroying selves. Cabrera had been felled (metaphorically!) by a series of injuries to his torso area and Verlander just hadn't been able to Verland for most of the season. The best he could do was Ver and that wasn't quite enough. The Red Sox were licking their chops and probably other less relevant things and then Game 5 happened. In Game 5, Verlander shut a good hitting A's team down completely and Cabrera homered. It was like old times and everyone outside of Oakland (and New England) rejoiced.
The Tigers have more star power and a bit more depth than the Dodgers, which why they find themselves third. But they can't compete with the depth of the teams in front of them. This means, to beat either, their star players have to go off baseball-wise, or some of their role guys have to play like stars. This isn't as hard as it seems in a seven-game series, but it's always more likely a good player will go off than a bad one. And still the Tigers are one of the best teams in baseball this season. Talk about nitpicky!
2. St. Louis. At a certain point Carlos Beltran should be enough in the postseason by himself. In Game 1 he was the difference on his own. He probably can't keep doing, but he did it against Jansen and Greinke so he can probably do it to just about anyone (through the miracle of roster rules he doesn't have to face Clayton Kershaw). There may just come a time when you turn on the game, it's the 18th inning, Beltran is on the mound pitching and, with the opponent's best hitters coming up, he strikes out the side. Because it's the playoffs and Carlos Beltran.
Adam Wainwright doesn't hurt anything (except opposing players' stats) either. The Cardinals are just a bit deeper and more well-rounded a team than the Tigers and Dodgers, which should mean they're more likely to win, but in practice may make them more likely to lose because it's a seven-game series and who knows.
1. Boston. There's a tendency to make a win seem one-sided in retrospect. We look back on it and see inevitability where none existed at the time. And yet the Red Sox crushed Tampa and we all should have seen it coming. The series was as one-sided as any non-sweep with Boston out-scoring Tampa's 11 total series runs in the first game alone.
That said, the Red Sox won't have the advantage at starting pitcher in four out of a potential seven games against Detroit. That is huge but arguably not as huge as having the offensive and defensive advantage for all seven games, and likely the bullpen advantage as well. The Tigers are a very good team, but the Red Sox are, for this season anyway, the best.
So there's a very good chance they'll lose. Happy postseason everyone!