The warm spring of April, when all 30 MLB Teams were still in the running for a World Series title is long behind us and we are left with only eight teams to square off in the 2010 MLB Playoffs. If you look at the teams who comprise this year’s playoffs, you might see a few surprises, some teams who you probably wouldn’t have picked to be left standing when the season began in April. But I assure you, each of the remaining teams is in the playoffs for a reason. 162 games is a long season and effectively separates the contenders from the rest of the crowd.
This year’s American League Playoffs will have it all. Lockdown Pitching, Unstoppable Offense, and Clutch Performing.
Before we get into predicting who will reign victorious at the conclusion of the American League playoffs, let’s take a look at each team and try to understand a little more about why they made it this far in the first place.
Tampa Bay Rays – 2010 AL East Champion
Tampa Bay is arguably the best team in baseball right now – they surely play in one of the toughest divisions in the Majors and were able to come out on top. Their pitching staff boasts the fewest runs allowed of any American League playoff team and the second lowest totals of any team in the AL period. On the offensive side of things, they are one of only three teams this season to score 800 or more runs (The Yankees and Red Sox Were the Other Two Teams), which shows that they don’t miss too many opportunities to plate base runners. Their bullpen led the league in saves and tied for the league low in blown saves – when this team has the lead, they rarely relinquish it. Although their offense is formidable, it will be their pitching that needs to lead them throughout the 2010 playoffs.
Minnesota Twins – 2010 AL Central Champion
The Twins come in with the second lowest total runs allowed of any AL Playoff team. They are nearly impossible to beat at home, putting up the highest home winning percentage in the AL and second in the Majors. They too have bats that can hurt teams and combined with their highly regarded pitching, they posted a +110 run differential, best in the AL Central by far. They are solid defensively, with only 78 errors all year en route to the second highest fielding percentage in the AL. When you make contact against their pitching staff, the Twins make the play. Errors can kill a team’s World Series chances, just ask the 2006 Detroit Tigers, so some solid play with the leather will keep this team’s title chances afloat.
Texas Rangers – 2010 AL West Champion
Say what you want about the Rangers, but they won their division with a pretty solid blend of pitching and hitting. Their staff ERA was third best in the AL West alone, which is more a testament to that division’s solid pitching than anything else. When asked to come through, however, this team is clutch. They have more extra inning wins than any other AL Playoff team which shows that if you let them hang around, they will beat you – even if it takes a little longer than normal to do it. But the one factor that shows why this team is in the playoffs is their top to bottom hitting. They posted the best team batting average of anyone in the Majors this year, which means they have few, if any, soft spots in that order. Opposing pitchers MUST come to play when facing this Ranger’s lineup.
New York Yankees – 2010 AL Wildcard Winner
Ok, so they didn’t win the AL East, but do not take this team lightly. They put up more runs than any other team in the Majors which isn’t much of a surprise for the Bronx Bombers. This year, however, they also put up some decent pitching statistics which makes this team even more dangerous. Wildcard or not, you don’t win 95 games without putting a solid lineup on the field day in and day out. They hit the most home runs out of any other AL playoff team this year and as anyone who has watched the MLB Playoffs before knows, an entire series can shift with just one swing of the bat and nobody is better at that than the Yankees. They also have the second most road wins of any AL Playoff team, meaning they get the job done even when not playing in The House that Ruth Steinbrenner Built.
Each of these 2010 American League playoff teams has one thing in common – the ability to put up runs which has long been the strength of the American League. Each team does it in different ways, but in the end, it will come down to who can play the best defense, who can get the most quality starts out of their rotation and who can seal the deal when the game is on the line. All of this remains to be seen.