2013 MLB Postseason Predictions

MLB World Series - 2013It’s October! And that means it’s time for Playoff Baseball. This postseason is filled with great storylines, headlined by the Pittsburgh Pirates making their first playoff appearance since 1992. It’s hard not to root for them, but do I think they can win it all this season? Keep reading to find out.

The Cleveland Indians welcomed Terry Francona and his post season experience and great managing (Manager of the Year?) returned the Indians to the playoffs for the first time since 2007. Francona’s old team, the Boston Red Sox, welcomed John Farrell to the mix, and went from worst to first in the American League East, which was also good for the best record in the American League. The Tampa Bay Rays fought off the Texas Rangers late in the season and secured a Wild Card spot after 163 games. The Oakland Athletics continue to prove that you don’t need a large payroll to win games. The Detroit Tigers did what everyone expected and won the division.

In the National League, we have the aforementioned Pirates joined by fellow National League Central opponents – St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds – both of which were expected to make the playoffs this season. The Atlanta Braves, somewhat surprisingly, dominated the National League East – a division many predicted the Washington Nationals to win. Last, but certainly not least, the Los Angeles Dodgers lived up to the loftly expectations that the largest payroll in the National League brings, despite a very poor start.

How do I expect the playoffs to breakdown? Well they say pitching wins in October, as evidenced by San Francisco last season (Barry Zito, really?). Here are the team ERA stats for all playoff teams (with MLB rank in parenthesis):

Atlanta Braves – 3.18 (1)
Los Angeles Dodgers – 3.25 (2)
Pittsburgh Pirates – 3.26 (3)
Cincinnati Reds – 3.38 (4)
St. Louis Cardinals – 3.42 (5)
Oakland Athletics – 3.56 (7)
Detroit Tigers – 3.61 (9)
Tampa Bay Rays – 3.74 (12)
Boston Red Sox – 3.79 (14)
Cleveland Indians – 3.82 (15)

As you can see, all the teams that made the playoffs finished with an ERA in the top half of the MLB. I also believe that strikeouts are important in the playoffs, the less contact, the less chance of scoring runs against good pitching. Here are the team strikeout numbers (in terms of hitting) for all playoff teams (with MLB rank in parenthesis):

Detroit Tigers – 1073 (3)
St. Louis Cardinals – 1110 (5)
Los Angeles Dodgers – 1146 (9)
Tampa Bay Rays – 1171 (10)
Oakland Athletics – 1178 (11)
Cincinnati Reds – 1245 (21)
Cleveland Indians – 1283 (22)
Boston Red Sox – 1308 (23)
Pittsburgh Pirates – 1330 (25)
Atlanta Braves – 1384 (T27)

Last year the San Francisco Giants were 7th in ERA and 5th in strikeouts. In 2011, the Cardinals were 12th in ERA and 2nd in strikeouts. In 2010, the Giants were 1st in ERA and 12th in strikeouts. Just to show you that my theory isn’t completely crazy.

The last part of my theory is taking the playoff ranks of each category above (for instance, in strikouts the Tigers are 1 and Braves are 10) and adding them up to get a composite score (lower number = better chance of winning, in my system). The ranks are:

Los Angeles Dodgers – 5 (2+3)
St. Louis Cardinals – 7 (5+2)
Detroit Tigers – 8 (7+1)
Cincinnati Reds – 10 (4+6)
Oakland Athletics – 11 (6+5)
Atlanta Braves – 11 (1+10)
Pittsburgh Pirates – 12 (3+9)
Tampa Bay Rays – 12 (8+4)
Cleveland Indians – 17 (10+7)
Boston Red Sox – 17 (9+8)

This isn’t an absolute system, but to me it separates the best teams. Here is how I see the playoffs breaking down:

American League:
AL Wild Card
Tampa Bay Rays over Cleveland Indians
(Alex Cobb has been dominant this season, and I see the Rays beating the Rookie, Danny Salazar. If the Rays had to face Ubaldo Jimenez, maybe, I see this differently)

Tampa Bay Rays over Boston Red Sox
Detroit Tigers over Oakland Athletics

Detroit Tigers over Tampa Bay Rays

National League:
NL Wild Card
Pittsburgh Pirates over Cincinnati Reds
(Hard to go against the Pirates in this game)

St. Louis Cards over Pittsburgh Pirates
Los Angeles Dodgers over Atlanta Braves

Los Angeles Dodgers over St. Louis Cards

World Series
Los Angeles Dodgers over Detroit Tigers (in 6 games)

In the end, the Dodgers and Tigers both pitch extremely well and they put the ball in play. The Dodgers have the best 1-2-3 (Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu) starting rotation in the playoffs and that will carry them to win the World Series.

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