The 2013 Major League Baseball season officially ends on September 29, and after what will seem to be an endless round of post-season playoffs, the World Series on Wednesday, October 23.
While some baseball teams have no hopes of seeing any post-season action (sorry, fans of the Astros, Marlins, White Sox, Twins, Brewers, Mariners, Angels and Cubs, among others), there are still plenty of teams with a shot at winning it all.
Here’s a look at the overall playoff picture before the league championship series get underway:
NL Wild Card Game: Cincinnati Reds vs. Pittsburgh Pirates
NL Division Series A: Reds/Pirates vs. St. Louis Cardinals
NL Division Series B: Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Atlanta Braves
AL Wild Card Game: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Cleveland Indians
AL Division Series A: Rays/Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
AL Division Series B: Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland A’s
Early World Series Favorites: L.A. Dodgers
The early favorites to win the World Series are the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have had an impressive run since mid-June. They continue to play extremely well and while they may not be the sentimental fan favorite of anyone outside of Southern California, they certainly have the firepower to be in it until the end.
The big story with the Dodgers is coach Don Mattingly, who was probably a loss or two away from losing his job earlier in the season. He’s had to deal with a lot of injuries, but has focused his team as they have made their comeback. He’s also been helped by left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who is a favorite to win the league’s Cy Young award.
The Dodgers’ Fiercest Competition: Boston Red Sox & Detroit Tigers
The Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers are the two teams most likely to rival the power of the Dodgers. While Boston may not be a sentimental favorite, they’ve done a wonderful job of turning around a team that last year had its worst record since 1965. New Boston manager John Farrell has also brought a calmness to a team divided last season by Bobby Valentine. But because, as many baseball fans know, the Red Sox (and their rivals, the NY Yankees) have seen their fair share of World Series games, it would be exciting to see the Tigers make it make their mark in the post-season.
Detroit has been going through a rough decade, with a declining population and an economic base so weak the city was recently forced to declare bankruptcy. One of the few highlights for the city has been the Tigers, who beat the Yankees last year in the American League before falling to the defending American League champion Texas Rangers in the ALCS. The Tigers are an even better team this season, while both the Rangers and the Yankees struggled in recent weeks to be eliminated from the playoff picture.
One of the best players on the Tigers has been pitcher Max Scherzer, who is the big favorite to win the American League’s Cy Young Award. And let’s not forget third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who might be the best hitter on the planet this season. He’s a runaway favorite to win the AL MVP award.
Playoff Contenders: Pittsburgh Pirates
One of the teams with a reasonable shot at doing well in the playoffs is the Pittsburgh Pirates. Their success has been sparked by the comeback of left-hander Francisco Liriano. After struggling last season with the White Sox and the Twins, he signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Pirates and went on to become their ace pitcher.
Another highlight has been center fielder Andrew McCutchen, whose bat and base-stealing abilities have taken more than a few games away from rivals. He’s the favorite to win the NL MVP award.
It’s easy to root for the Pirates, since they have a roster that costs about half as much as the Tigers and they haven’t been in the playoffs (or had a winning season) since 1992. They probably don’t have the legs to go all the way, but it would be a wonderful thing to see.
The Pirates are led by manager Clint Hurdle, a former Pirates player who has managed the team since 2010. Hurdle is a big supporter of organizations such as Baseball Chapel and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. During a press conference last season, he explained that “I just don’t think that if you truly develop a relationship with Christ that you can keep quiet about it or that you can sit in your house and not get out. You’re got to be more involved.”
Playoff Contenders: St. Louis Cardinals & More
The St. Louis Cardinals are also having a good year, thanks in part to an excellent pitching staff. Veteran Adam Wainwright has led the squad with rookie Shelby Miller playing, so well he might just win the National League Rookie of the Year award. And there are several other teams with decent shots at the World Series, including the Atlanta Braves (which have struggled with injuries).
As a surprise to many, the New York Yankees, led by manager Joe Girardi, are missing from this year’s playoff picture, due to a struggle towards the season’s end. Girardi has been a calming influence in a clubhouse filled with strife, in part due to his faith. ”Playing here is a platform to show them that Christ is my outlet, my provider,” Girardi told the NY Post. “The Bronx is a tough place. People are looking for hope. I want to show them that my hope is in God, and theirs can be too.”
That uncertainty is part of what makes post-season baseball so exciting. The World Series champion isn’t always the team with the biggest stars or the most talented manager. It takes a combination of drive, luck and playing your best just at the right team to win it all. Luckily for fans, it’s an exciting process everyone gets to enjoy in the comfort of their homes.