Are we having fun yet?
After an exhilarating regular season that took all 162 games before the postseason field could be set, we’re on to October -- the real October, when the stakes are high, nerves are shot and every pitch of every inning matters.
With that, we present our first postseason Power Rankings, listing the postseason teams, 1-10, to the best of our ability. This exercise is a lot more difficult than during the regular season, mainly because all of the postseason teams are good enough to get this far.
Power Rankings Top (And Only) 10
Giants TV analyst Mike Krukow said it best, once the team clinched the National League West division on Sunday: “For a team that many predicted would win 72 games ... well, yeah, they did -- that was like three months ago.” San Francisco was good at the beginning, middle and end of the season, winding up with a franchise-record 107 wins. What a year.
The Dodgers were 37-10 from Aug. 13 through Sunday, the best mark in the big leagues during that stretch. And they cut the Giants’ NL West lead by only four games. Anything can happen in the NL Wild Card Game, and the Cardinals steamrolling through September should be taken seriously. But if the two best teams are to face off in the NL Division Series, it’ll be the Giants and Dodgers.
As one of the first division clinchers, the Rays have known for quite some time where they’ll be playing on Thursday -- at home, having long secured the best record in the American League. They don’t yet know who they’ll be playing, and they’ll happily watch a pair of their AL East rivals, the Yankees and the Red Sox, duke it out in Tuesday night's AL Wild Card Game. The Rays have plenty of reasons for optimism. They won 100 games for the first time in franchise history, ranked second in the Majors in runs scored (857) and owned the AL’s best ERA (3.67).
The Brewers’ past week can be looked at in one of two ways -- either they clinched the NL Central and locked in the No. 2 seed so early that they had the luxury to dial it back, reset for the postseason and not worry about results, or they slogged through an uninspiring road trip against two great teams (the Cardinals and Dodgers) and may need a little kick in the pants before Friday's NLDS opener against the Braves. For the sake of the Milwaukee fan base still waiting for the franchise's first World Series championship, we’ll go with the former. The pitching is fabulous and it’s lined up exactly as the Brewers want it.
The Astros went a tepid 7-6 in the final two weeks, but they had a nice end to the regular season, winning a home series over the A’s and scoring 23 runs over those three games. One of Houston's best postseason performers, shortstop Carlos Correa, is a pending free agent, and he may have an extra incentive as he begins what might be his final October with the Astros. That adds some intrigue to this particular postseason appearance, Houston’s fifth straight.
6) White Sox
The White Sox helped eliminate one narrative that had followed them through much of the second half by gaining some steam in the past week. After going 29-31 from July 21 to Sept. 25, the Sox won six of their final seven games, outscoring opponents 41-21 during that stretch. Their starters have been on a roll, too. During their recent six-game winning streak, they posted a 1.41 ERA.
The Yankees’ final two weeks was a microcosm of their entire season -- the highest of highs (winning eight of nine to close out September), the lowest of lows (a 12-2 loss to the Rays in a crucial Game 161 on Saturday) and teeth-gnashing endings that provided never-ending reminders to fans in New York that nothing comes easy to these Yanks. Now, it’s on to Boston for an AL Wild Card Game matchup with their biggest rivals. Again, we ask -- are we having fun yet?
The Braves haven’t lost a series since they dropped two of three in San Francisco from Sept. 17-19. Since then, they’ve won series over the D-backs, Padres, Phillies and Mets. And they have their steady veteran taking the mound for Friday's NLDS Game 1 against the Brewers -- right-hander Charlie Morton, one of the most successful postseason pitchers in recent times.
Cardinals wins these days are about as common as references to Ted Lasso’s biscuits, and despite a little hiccup at the end in the form of a series loss at home to the Cubs, St. Louis is probably one of the last teams an opponent wants to see right now. Shall we review the Cards' September? A 22-7 record and a 17-game winning streak that turned a once-compelling race for the second NL Wild Card into a one-team wrecking ball that knocked everyone else out more than a week ago.
10) Red Sox
The Red Sox somehow pulled this off, surviving this long to get to the AL Wild Card Game, despite losing series to the Yankees and Orioles heading into the final weekend of the season. A sweep of the Nationals wiped the slate clean, and the Sox get home-field advantage in the win-or-go-home showdown with the Yankees. Get your popcorn ready!
Voters: Alyson Footer, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sanchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn.