We are almost three weeks into September and the MLB playoffs are right around the corner. This year, it looks like we are going to have two very different groups of teams in the playoffs. In one group, we have the teams that have been there before; these are the teams with playoff experience and veterans galore.
In group two, we have the inexperienced playoff teams; these are the group of guys that are not only young, but unproven when it comes to the lights of October.
In group two this year: Tampa Bay Rays, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds and the National League West (Padres, Giants, Rockies).
I am definitely not saying the teams in group two cannot win a World Series, but what I am saying is look for moments of lapse in judgment as the playoffs come closer and the divisional series’ begin. Out of the ten teams I named above, only three of them have an under .500 record on the road [Rockies, Rangers, Braves]; I think that says a lot about both the talent in the playoffs this year and how the toughness of a long season has not worn down these teams.
The two teams I really want to focus on here are the Cincinnati Reds and the Texas Rangers. With managers like Ron Washington and Dusty Baker, the Reds and Rangers are going to enter the playoffs playing great baseball and with two of the youngest relief pitching studs in the game. Neftali Feliz and Aroldis Chapman are sure to have a huge impact on the playoff lives of both of these teams.
Chapman seriously reminds me of Francisco Rodriguez [K-Rod] for the Angels in 2002, when they won the World Series, he was a no-name pitcher the entire regular season and literally exploded when October game around. Chapman is lightning in a bottle that needs to be used very carefully (Mr. Strasburg), but also should give the Reds the reliever they need to beat the giants of the National League.
The Texas Rangers, on the other hand, have a ton more hitting than they do pitching. Starting with their own hitting machine Josh Hamilton, if the Rangers are going to win the World Series it will be behind this mans glove and bat. The only Texas Ranger with real playoff experience is the veteran Vladimir Guerrero, and if the Rangers are going to get by the Yankees or Rays, they are going to need the Impaler to come through in the clutch.
The other team I think has a real chance to make a splash in October is the Minnesota Twins. With the addition of Jim Thome to the clubhouse, the Twins look like an entirely different team this season. The Twins have experience in the playoffs, they have been there a bunch of times, and have lost to the powerhouses of the American League every single time. I think this could be the season they push through and fight for the right to go to the World Series. Justin Morneau has been out of the lineup for a good portion of the second half of the season, and the Twins have not faltered. They have the best catcher in the games in Joe Mauer, and at some point he is going to figure out a way to beat the Yankees or Rays and the Twins will advance.
The playoffs are just weeks away, and my suggestion to you is to watch every single game. With this many unexpected teams in the playoffs, anything can happen this year and I think we will see more parody than usual.