By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The MLB regular season has entered it’s final weeks and it’s starting to dawn on some fan bases that they don’t have much of a shot at making the playoffs. For other fans, their teams have been out of it since Opening Day (it’s okay Phillies fans, Ruben Amaro Jr. is gone!).
With that realization comes the sinking feeling of not getting to watch meaningful baseball for your favorite team until next year. This can cause different reactions ranging from refusing to watch baseball for the rest of the year, declaring it football season and focusing on your favorite NFL or college team, or if you’re like me, you find a team to root for that will make the postseason.
Before you start emailing me and tweeting me angry thoughts, relax. I’m not suggesting you become a bandwagon fan and completely switch allegiances. Who should I root for you ask? Well, that’s what I’m here for, breaking down the remaining teams in the playoff race for rootability (yes we’ve reached the making up words section of the season) based on arbitrary things like most fun, and more concrete things such as best pitching staffs, line-ups, most likely to make the World Series (based on FanGraphs calculations) etc.
Honorable Mentions- Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins
The reason these three clubs get put in the honorable mention category is because they’re all currently on the outside looking in at the postseason. The Twins (1 GB) are the closest to the 2nd Wild Card spot and may be the most fun club of the bunch featuring a young superstar in the making in Miguel Sano, and “old-timers” like Joe Mauer and Torii Hunter. The Angels of course have the incomparable Mike Trout and the Indians feature young shortstop Francisco Lindor who in his last 61 games is hitting .342/.384/.525 with 7 homers and 31 RBI. Unfortunately, they’re currently on the outside looking in so they don’t make the Top 10.
10) St. Louis Cardinals
There’s nothing wrong with becoming a Cardinals fans for the stretch run. I get it, they’re consistent. They haven’t missed the post-season in 4 years, and each of the last 4 seasons they’ve made at least the NLCS and twice the World Series. That’s precisely the reason they’re low on this list. You don’t want to be that guy hopping on the bandwagon of the top team. That makes you a front runner.
9) Texas Rangers
The Rangers have some fun characters, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre notably, and they’ve really rounded into form lately. They went 18-10 in August and have won 6 of their last 10. But overall, they’re middle of the pack in hitting (15th) and their pitching hasn’t been great either so their chances of a deep run aren’t great. In fact, on FanGraphs they’re given just a 8.2% chance of making the World Series, the lowest of all of the 10 teams currently in playoff position.
8) Houston Astros
The Astros have a young team that hits a LOT of home runs. They’ve hit 198 this season which is 2nd to a team we’ll get to later. However, they also strikeout a lot. So while rooting for them bring the possibility of seeing a fireworks show, it also brings the chance of a 14 K game for the opposing pitcher, which granted would be very entertaining but for the wrong reasons if you choose this as your team.
7) Chicago Cubs
I’ll admit, I really wanted to put this team higher. They have multiple young, good ballplayers, quirky manager Joe Maddon, and have one of the better found gold stories with pitcher Jake Arrieta. The problem is, they will likely play in the Wild Card game. That means you could root for them the next three weeks and it could all be over after 9 innings on the first day of the postseason. That’s tough.
6) New York Yankees
The Yankees have gone 2-5 in their last 7 including dropping 3 of 4 to Toronto in a crucial series this past weekend. They’re 5-11 against the Blue Jays this season and are being given just a 14.1% chance by FanGraphs to make the World Series. Plus, they’ve already got 27 championships do you really want to root for another?
5) Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have a couple of things going for them, one is they’ve gone 7-3 in their last ten games, and 26-14 since July 31st. They’re only 2.5 back in the division and could overtake the Cardinals to avoid the Wild Card game. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to see this ball club that struggled for so many years to finally make it back to the top? Of course it would. But, they’re 8-8 against the Cardinals and 5-7 against the Cubs this year and they happen to have 10 games left against those two teams and would likely face them in the Wild Card game and then in the NLDS if they were to win. Tough road to go.
4) Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers are always an intriguing team this time of year because of the star power they have. Clayton Kershaw, Zach Greinke, Adrian Gonzalez, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager. The list of names is eye popping. Yet in each of the last two years they’ve imploded come playoff time. Both of those implosions came against the Cardinals who, oh by the way, would be the top seed and would have home field advantage in the NLCS. They’re 2-5 against the Cards this season, and they also happen to be just 4-3 against the Mets who they would likely meet in the first round. Speaking of the Mets.
3) New York Mets
The Mets have exploded since picking up Yoenis Cespedes. Just look at what he’s done by himself in September.
Excitement? Check. Good pitching staff? Check. The Mets feel like the most fun team to root for in the NL (and that’s coming from a Phillies fan). The problem is, they’ve got a lot of young pitchers who a) have never been in a postseason atmosphere (just ask Kershaw about the difference) and b) are approaching career highs in innings pitched. Will their arms tire? Also, the Mets are currently 7-20 against the Cubs, Pirates, Cardinals and Dodgers which is….not good.
2) Kansas City Royals
The Royals are fun. They’ve adopted “Trap Queen” as their official song which has hilariously confused multiple reporters in post game interviews this year. They’re also a good baseball team, leading the league in batting average, 11th in ERA and 3rd in bullpen ERA. We saw last year what this team can do with a dominant bullpen and okay rotation. That recipe seems to work. The only thing that gives me pause is their 10-16 record against the 4 teams likely to make the AL playoffs.
1) Toronto Blue Jays
We haven’t seen the Blue Jays in the postseason since I was 3 years old. Thankfully, I don’t remember that experience, otherwise I would have them ranked 10th (they beat my Phillies for the World Series). The Blue Jays lead the league in home runs (202) and average 5.5 runs per game. That explosive power makes for awesome TV viewing, plus FanGraphs gives them a 14.9% chance of winning the World Series and they’re 22-14 (11-5 against the Yanks) against the AL playoff contenders and are the hottest team since the deadline at 29-10. Ride the wave people. Ride the wave.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him. Agree/Disagree? Thoughts, comments, complaints? Email or tweet him.