MLB Playoffs Now Underway

Photo from mlb.com

Photo from mlb.com

Zach Friesen, Staff Writer

   After six long months of teams fighting one another, dealing with adversity and jostling for position in the standings, it is finally here. It is finally playoff time for Major League Baseball as the postseason is now upon us. Eight teams will now fight for the chance to rewrite the history books and cement their place in history as world champions. The only question now is, “Who will rise to the top?”

   In the American League, the playing field is wide open, with all teams having their own advantages and leaders. The Boston Red Sox go into the playoffs holding the best record in the American League, also tied for the best record in all of baseball. They were able to make it this far with a great balance of timely hitting and pitching. Offensively they are led by mainstays David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury, though many different players, such as Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava, have stepped up throughout the season when called upon. Their pitching staff has been impressive as well, with Clay Buchholz leading the starting rotation and the bullpen being anchored by closer Koji Uehara.

   It will be no cakewalk for the Sox, however, with the American League being very deep. The Oakland Athletics finished just one game behind Boston for the best record and are a very dangerous team. They do not have the star power many other playoff teams have, but they are able to beat teams through good all-around team play and lethal execution, both in the field and at the plate.

   The Detroit Tigers, on the other hand, are a dangerous team because of the many star players on their roster. Their pitching staff is possibly one of the best in all of baseball, led by Cy Young candidate Max Scherzer, as well as Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander, who won the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player and is widely considered one of the top pitchers in all of baseball. Offensively they are led by last year’s MVP Miguel Cabrera, as well as Prince Fielder, Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter.

   This year’s Wild Card winner, the Tampa Bay Rays, could possibly be more dangerous than any other team in the American League, having made a miraculous late-season run to stay in the playoff race, as well as winning two win-or-go-home games, both on the road. They are successful thanks in large part to their pitching staff, led by last year’s Cy Young winner David Price, as well as young hurlers Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Chris Archer. The offense has also been deadly as of late, being led by players like Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers and Evan Longoria.

   With the amount of balance there is in the American League, the National League could possibly be even tighter of a race. The St. Louis Cardinals come into the playoffs as the top team in the National League. They could possibly possess one of the most complete rosters in the league, with standout pitchers such as Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Michael Wacha, while the offense is one of the deadliest in the league, led by stars Matt Carpenter, Yadier Molina and Matt Holliday.

   Not far behind the Cardinals are the Atlanta Braves, who finished just a game back of St. Louis and has one of the best pitching staffs in the National League. They are led by starters Mike Minor and Kris Medlen, as well as closer Craig Kimbrel. Offensively they rely on a roster that can catch fire at any given time, led by stars Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman and Brian McCann.

   Also in the hunt for the National League crown are the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Dodgers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball the second half of the season, led by Cy Young front-runner Clayton Kershaw, as well as rookie sensation Yasiel Puig. On the other side, the Pirates are one of the better stories this postseason, as this is the first time since 1992 that Pittsburgh will be a playoff team. They are led offensively by Marlon Byrd, Starling Marte and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, as well as pitchers A.J. Burnett, Francisco Liriano and closer Jason Grilli.

   With so many evenly matched teams facing off this postseason, fans can expect plenty of great match-ups to watch and even better games, especially the closer teams get to the coveted World Series championship. Judging by how entertaining the regular season was, this October should be one to remember.