Last week I was caught unprepared. At a friend’s house, talking baseball, I was asked who I thought would win the World Series.
Since the Athletics traded for Starters Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel I haven’t considered who I thought would win the World Series. Accuse me of being too caught up in hemming and hawing about whether or not the Red Sox should fire-sale (you’re right) but I haven’t given October baseball its proper consideration.
So I’ve spent the last week considering who has the best odds, and why.
Honorable Mentions: San Francisco Giants (18-1), Los Angeles Angels (12-1), Seattle Mariners (30-1)
Reasons for eliminating honorable mentions:
San Francisco Giants are one team in Major League Baseball with less run support than the Boston Red Sox. Congrats, Jake Peavy! The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim California America don’t have an ace to come in and shut down a must-win game. Jered Weaver isn’t that guy any longer, and Garrett Richards is too unproven. The Seattle Mariners don’t have enough offense. As a team, in the history of baseball, only five teams have had a team OBP below .300 – as of now the M’s are reaching base at a .299 clip.
(Vegas Insider Odds, as of this morning)
5. St. Louis Cardinals (15-1)
- I’m slightly miffed as to why the St. Louis Cardinals would sign A.J. Pierzynski when there was just a well-documented case as to why he’s so terrible at dealing with pitchers and still can’t hit. Granted their entire team suffers so long is Yadier Molina is out, and Tony Cruz was hitting just .220, but risking throwing off the clubhouse with the addition of Pierzynski, as he’s done so many times, can incite unnecessary fights. They have a bonafide ace in Adam Wainwright and a solid rotation with Joe Kelly, Shelby Miller, and Lance Lynn. Unfortunately, they lost Michael Wacha to Tommy John, but they are still a good enough team to win the title. An infield of First Baseman Matt Adams, Second Baseman Kolten Wong, Shortstop Jhonny Peralta, and Third Baseman Matt Carpenter will hit for contact, but not much power (excluding Adams). Their Outfield is their key source of production, even though Allen Craig has had a disastrous campaign thus far. They are well managed and are fresh-off a trip to the World Series, so this team won’t be fazed.
4. Detroit Tigers (11-2)
- How smart do the Tigers look right now? Answer: really smart. When they traded Prince Fielder this off-season, I was appalled. Ian Kinsler, he of the .229 July batting average, is still producing more than Fielder, who went on season-ending DL last month. Kinsler’s defense improves the Tigers from a season ago, as well as enabling Miguel Cabrera’s move to First. That also made room for Nick Castellanos, who has performed very well in his rookie season. With an incredibly productive Outfield (Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson, and the surprise J.D. Martinez), the Tigers are scoring runs at an impressive clip. They are currently 5th in the Bigs with 476 runs. They even have Rajai Davis who can play good defense and who’s a menace on the base-paths (18 steals in 20 attempts). The only complaint is that Jose Iglesias still isn’t manning the Shortstop position But from scoring runs to preventing them. Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez are the top two guys in this rotation who can make a difference in a postseason series, but weirdly enough it’s Justin Verlander, with his current 7-year $180 million deal, who’s the liability. Rick Porcello has been fine, but the back-end of the rotation is of some concern when looking at the postseason. And that’s to say nothing of their bullpen. They just went out and got closer Joakim Soria from the Rangers, which is a great move (17-19 save attempts, 2.67 ERA) because otherwise their bullpen has been atrocious. Even worse is the back end of the former closer, Joe Nathan. Dude was good in his day, but five blown saves to go with a 5.73 ERA doesn’t make happy a team with championship aspirations.
3. Washington Nationals (10-1)
- There’s so much to be excited about here. The pitching staff, which must be strong to win a championship, is excellent. Stephen Strasburg is a legitimate Ace to which you can hook your wagon, but even if he doesn’t bring it in the series Doug Fister has been lethal since he started the season one month late due to an injury. And even then Jordan Zimmermann has pitched brilliantly and Gio Gonzalez is a change-of-pace, southpaw complement. They even have one of the best closers in the business in Rafael Soriano, who’s 25 for 28 in save attempts and a sparkling 1.10 ERA this season. OK, you’re probably saying, so what’s the deal? Why aren’t they higher? Yes, they have allowed the 2nd-fewest runs in the Major Leagues (353) and have the best run differential in the National League (plus-75), but their offense can be impotent. They’ve scored one fewer run on the season than Miami. Adam LaRoche, a fine player, is hitting .273 with a meager 13 homers as their main clean-up hitter. Jayson Werth, their normal 3-hole batter, is nearly identical. Anthony Rendon and Ian Desmond are having great seasons, but their offense can be stymied by better rotations, which could mean trouble.
2. Oakland Athletics (11-2)
- I want so badly to rank the A’s lower, simply because the Moneyball pioneers have never actually assembled a team to win them the title when they mathematically should have. However, this season their team leads the league in runs scored (524) and is second in runs allowed (354) by a lone run. That is domination at every facet of the game. Their run differential of plus-170 is nearly double the next best team (the Angels, plus-91). They defy statistical trends and play better on the road (34-17) than at home (31-22). It’s wizardry by Billy Beane. Now, they have defied Oakland’s past by going out and sacrificing their top-tier prospects for accomplished, skilled veterans and have assumed a win NOW approach. Caps was needed for urgency. Getting Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Chicago Cubs launches the A’s into what should be unrivaled heights. However, because of their previous failures, I refuse to make them the odds-on favorite to win. Their rotation in the postseason could feature the likes of incredible reclamation project Scott Kazmir and ridiculously talented Sonny Gray. This team is built deep and well. Third Baseman Josh Donaldson has significantly cooled off from hitting nearly .270 to a dismal .227 in July with only four homeruns as the month draws to a close. They get speed from an aging Center Fielder Coco Crisp, power and spark from Left Fielder Yoenis Cespedes and solid all-around production from Josh Reddick. Even though he isn’t the Designated Hitter on the depth chart (that’s John Jaso), Brandon Moss has hit more homeruns in the last calendar year than anyone else in baseball. That’s such an unbelievable stat. Stephen Vogt and Dean Norris were scrap-heap finds (ahem! Scott Hatteberg, anyone?) who have contributed greatly to this team. Vogt is hitting .359 in 43 games, while Derek Norris is hitting .296 in 77 games. Oh wait, it’s the A’s. Pardon me. Vogt’s OBP is .387 while Derek Norris is an absurd .396. This team is a lot of things, but it needs magic to get there this team. As Billy Beane is fond of saying in October, “the hottest team at the time wins”. The Oakland A’s hope they’ve built their team enough for it to be them. Or could their magic be the internet troll’s favorite story of AAA player winning a fan vote for the Face of MLB?
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (5-1)
- Pitching, speed, power, defense, and gobs upon gobs of moola (and no in-fighting like DeMoula’s) are the keys to success. Clayton Kershaw is other-worldly on the mound, Zack Greinke dominates, and Hyun-Jin Ryu would be a number-one, rather than a number-three, on any other team. Josh Beckett has pitched well this year, and Dan Haren has been serviceable. Plus, when they make the postseason, Haren won’t be in the rotation, so the Dodgers need not worry. As for speed, they have many quick players in the field to play defensively (Puig, Ramirez, Kemp to a lesser extent), but they have blazing-fast Dee Gordon who leads the National League with 46 stolen bases. Plus, he’s been nabbed just 10 times. Their Outfield is stuffed with great talents, the foremost being Yasiel Puig. Then they have Matt Kemp, who’s owed $80 million more until 2019, but they can use as trade bait at the deadline. Then there’s Andre Either, a very good defensive Center Fielder who can hit some, and Carl Crawford who, upon fleeing Boston’s bright lights for the laid-back attitude of LA (wait, what?) has improved. They even have Scott Van Slyke, a right-handed hitting power bat off the bench. AJ Ellis, as Kershaw pointed out last night on Sunday Night Baseball, is a phenomenal signal-caller and has the trust of every pitcher on the staff. The bullpen is where the Dodgers only weakness lies. Reclamation projects Chris Perez and Brian Wilson have gone horrendously, with 5.06 and 5.23 ERAs, respectively. Kenley Jansen has remained steady, converting 30 of 35 save attempts. Brandon League (2.01 ERA) and J.P. Howell (1.26 ERA), both having pitched in at least 40 games, have anchored the bullpen. But the combination of being able to deal at the deadline with money as no object, and the talent they already have, should mean the World Series trophy will once again parade through the streets of L.A.
Sam Fortier is going to be a Freshman at Syracuse University this fall and writes for this blog as well as podcasting on iTunes under ‘Purely For Sport’ and ‘NFL Rundown’. He loves bratwurst and baseball, but dislikes romantic comedies. Follow him on Twitter @Sam4TR or this network @PurelyForSport.