By Charles Glover, Jr.
Major League Baseball (MLB) teams will start their World Series push with the Wildcard round beginning for the American League (AL) on September 30 and the National League (NL) starting on October 1. Some of the sports’ biggest stars will be center stage while some teams will be making their first appearance in the playoffs for quite some time.
The AL Wildcard game is between the Oakland A’s and Kansas City Royals. The winner of that game will face the Los Angeles Angels of Anahiem in the Divisional Series. The other Divisional Series will feature the Detroit Tigers versus the Baltimore Orioles.
The NL Wildcard game is between the San Fransisco Giants and Pitsburgh Pirates. The winner will face the Washington Nationals in the Divisional Series. The other Divisional Series will feature the St. Louis Cardinals versus the Los Angeles Dodgers.
There are three questions that are already present as the playoffs begin:
1) Will AL pitching carry their teams through the playoffs?
The conventional wisdom when it comes to AL teams is their offense tends to carry them as the Designated Hitter (DH) allows teams to have more offense regularly. While this is mostly true, recent examples from the Texas Rangers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Detroit Tigers have shows that pitching has been more valuable and consistent for AL teams lately. Starting pitching usually gets the headlines but pitchers out of the bullpen are more important in the post-season when scoring is at a premium. With only 13 Blown Saves and an %81 Save percentage, the Kansas City Royals can make this first playoff appearance in 29 years a memorable one.
2) Will power bats be present for NL teams in these playoffs?
There was a period recently when teams like the Philadelphia Phillies, Colorado Rockies, or the Cincinnati Reds would be built with plenty of offense and power in the middle of the lineup. That period has changed drastically as none of the 4 NL playoff teams had a player on their team that hit for more than 30 Home Runs (HR). Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers is the only NL player with more than 100 Runs Batted In (RBI), leading the NL with 116 RBI. Since runs will be at a premium, those quick scores will make a huge impact on the outcomes of series. With the Pirates finishing the season third in the NL in HR’s and Slugging percentage, they seems prepared to use some quick scoring to put them over the top and advance through the post-season.
3) Which of MLB’s stars will shine the brightest in the playoffs?
Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers) is regarded by most baseball pundits as the best pitcher in the game. Mike Trout (Angels) holds the distinction by many as being the best all around player in the game. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) has earned the title as the best hitter in baseball over the past few seasons. All of these players will have a chance to build their post-season resumes this year. Former MVP’s like Buster Posey (Giants), Justin Verlander (Tigers), and Andrew McCutchen (Pirates) will also have chances to enhance their playoff legacy. Young stars like Yasiel Puig (Dodgers) and Bryce Harper (Nationals) will also have the spotlight on them as the march to the World Series begins for MLB teams on Tuesday.–OnPointPress.net–
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.