Every postseason contender's biggest weakness

October 2nd, 2022

Every team has at least one weakness, even the biggest postseason powerhouses. So let's take a look at what they are for this year's field with the postseason about to begin.

Here's the biggest weakness for every 2022 postseason contender.

Teams are listed in order of postseason seeding if the season ended today. Stats are through Friday.


Astros: First base

Yuli Gurriel has been a rock of every Astros postseason run since their championship season in 2017. But, now 38 years old, he just hasn't been the same this year. The reigning AL batting champion has seen his average drop from .319 to .240 in 2022, a career low for a full season. And Trey Mancini, who could have been another option at first base, is batting below the Mendoza Line since arriving in Houston from the Orioles, with a .184 average.

Yankees: Shortstop

Isiah Kiner-Falefa just isn't in the same tier as some other star shortstops in the postseason -- the likes of Bo Bichette, Wander Franco, Trea Turner and Francisco Lindor. The Yankees brought him in to try to address their pressing shortstop question in the offseason, but although he's been an everyday starter and contributed 21 stolen bases, he hasn't given New York much offense (four home runs, 85 OPS+), and his defense has dropped off from where it was with the Rangers (15 errors, -3 Outs Above Average).

Guardians: Lack of hard contact

Cleveland has a lot of hitters having a solid year, but the team's lack of hard contact could become a concern in the postseason as it faces ace pitchers and competes against high-powered offenses. The Guardians just don't hit the ball hard, a problem exemplified by their rotating cast at designated hitter, where they've gotten the second-worst offensive production in the league (68 wRC+). The Guardians' 33.1% hard-hit rate is the lowest in the Majors -- they're the only team that hits the ball hard less than a third of the time -- and their 87.2 mph average exit velocity is the lowest in baseball, too. So is their 4.8% barrel rate -- that means fewer than one in 20 balls they hit reaches the top level of exit velocity and launch angle that's likely to produce an extra-base hit or home run.

Blue Jays: Rotation depth

Alek Manoah is a bulldog. Kevin Gausman is nasty. Then what? José Berríos was supposed to be a third ace, but he's lost his stuff this season, with a 5.37 ERA, a league-high 196 hits and 99 earned runs allowed, and his lowest K/9 rate since his rookie season (7.8). Ross Stripling has been more consistent, but he doesn't have the same electric upside and doesn't tend to go very deep into games. Meanwhile, Mitch White has a 7.38 ERA and Yusei Kikuchi might not even make the postseason roster if the Jays don't trust him in big spots.

Mariners: Julio Rodríguez's health

Julio Rodríguez is the Mariners' biggest strength. Having to play without him -- or with him not at full strength -- in their first postseason appearance in over 20 years would be their biggest weakness. J-Rod is on the injured list with a lower back strain, and the fact that Seattle sent him to the IL at the most critical point of the season, with a postseason berth on the line, shows there's a real concern there. The Mariners think their rookie sensation will be ready to go when the 10 days are up, but if Rodríguez is limited at all by his back, Seattle won't be the same.

Rays: Playing on the road

The Rays, strangely, have had trouble winning on the road this season, with a 35-42 record away from Tropicana Field, guaranteeing that they'll finish under .500 on the road. Their .461 winning percentage is the worst of any postseason team, and they're the only contender in the bottom half of the league in road record. That could end up mattering, since the Rays are a Wild Card team, which means they may need to play their entire first postseason series away from The Trop under the new postseason format.


Dodgers: Rotation balance

Here's one odd quirk about the juggernaut Dodgers: they're going to show their opponents a lot of the same looks with their starting pitching. The Dodgers might run out an all-left-handed starting rotation in the postseason -- Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Tyler Anderson and Andrew Heaney -- depending on whether Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May can build back up into form as they return from injury. The Dodgers' lefties are all very good lefties, but maybe a team with big righty bats (say, the Cardinals, with Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado and Albert Pujols) can find the tiniest edge there.

Braves: Over-aggressiveness

This could also be Spencer Strider's health, as the breakout rookie's sore oblique is putting his postseason in question. But let's look at Atlanta's team offense. The defending World Series champs are one of the most aggressive hitting teams in baseball. Sometimes that can be a double-edged sword. Atlanta has the highest swing-and-miss rate of any team in baseball at 28.4%. The Braves chase 31% of pitches out of the strike zone, third highest in MLB, and they strike out in nearly a quarter of their plate appearances, also third highest. Hitters like Dansby Swanson can be great when they're hot, but when they're not, it could lead to a lot of strikeouts (Swanson has 180 this season, compared to 47 walks, for example).

Cardinals: Missing bats

The Cardinals have gotten the fewest swings-and-misses of any pitching staff in baseball, inducing a Major League-low 22.2% whiff rate this season. Their 19.7% strikeout rate as a team is sixth-lowest in the Majors, and they rank far below all the other postseason teams. St. Louis' starters in particular are posting low strikeout numbers, with Adam Wainwright, Miles Mikolas, José Quintana and Jordan Montgomery all striking out under a batter per inning. If Jack Flaherty is back to his old self, that could go a long way, but otherwise, if the Cardinals need a big strikeout in the postseason, will they be able to get it?

Mets: Middle relief

The Mets have an elite starting rotation headlined by Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer. They have an elite closer in Edwin Díaz. But the bridge between them has plagued New York at times this season. The Mets have setup options like Seth Lugo, Trevor May and Adam Ottavino, but the team has had too much inconsistency in middle relief, forcing the Mets to test out starters like David Peterson and Tylor Megill in the bullpen. Someone has to get those outs in October.

Padres (have not clinched): Center field

Trent Grisham plays great defense in center field, but his offense has been nonexistent down the stretch, as he batted .068 in September to bring his season average down to .182, far below the Mendoza Line. Even with his 17 home runs this season, that's a problem. And if not Grisham, the Padres would have to turn to José Azocar, who's more a platoon option, or Wil Myers, who is not a true center fielder. That makes center field the Padres' chief postseason concern.

Phillies (have not clinched): Defense

The Phillies' defensive issues are no secret; it's been a storyline since the offseason, when they added Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos to a team that was already one of the worst fielding teams in the league. And the season has proceeded as expected -- Philadelphia ranks second-to-last in the Majors at -34 Outs Above Average, which is by far the worst of any team in the postseason picture (the Brewers are next-closest at -1 OAA, and every other contending team is above average defensively). The hope is that Schwarber & Co. will outslug their defensive deficiencies … but will they?

Brewers (have not clinched): Contact hitting

(Note: Milwaukee trails the Phillies by one game for the final NL Wild Card spot)

The Brewers are lucky they still have Devin Williams, or their trade of Josh Hader at the Deadline would make the back end of their bullpen by far their biggest weakness. But let's look at how their lineup is constructed. Milwaukee has some power hitters -- Rowdy Tellez has 34 homers, Willy Adames has 31, Hunter Renfroe has 28, and so on. But contact? It's nowhere to be found. The Brewers don't have one regular batting above .260 this season (Renfroe is the "leader" … at .252), and their .235 team average is the lowest among NL postseason contenders.