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    Each MLB Postseason Team’s X Factor

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    Houston Astros

    The Astros have been there and done that for the last five years winning three American League pennants and a World Series. One of Houston’s most prominent postseason performers was shortstop Carlos Correa, but he’s now a Minnesota Twin. In his place, the Astros have turned to rookie Jeremy Peña as their everyday shortstop. Dusty Baker has recently penciled Peña in as the Astros’ two-hole hitter sandwiched in between Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve who respectively have the second and third-best wRC+’s in the American League this season. Due to his lineup position, Peña will likely be up at the plate in big spots throughout the Postseason and his at-bats could determine if the Astros potentially win the World Series.

    New York Yankees

    While Aaron Judge is having one of the best offensive seasons in Major League Baseball, the rest of the Yankees lineup has been up and down for most of the season. One player this is specifically true for is Giancarlo Stanton. Although he was an All Star game starter and has hit 30 home runs, Stanton’s 112 wRC+ is the lowest he’s had in any season since making his debut with the Marlins in 2010. A big reason why Stanton has had a down year in 2022 is that he has a 59 wRC+ in the second half of the season. Stanton spent nearly a month on the injured list due to an Achilles injury and since coming off the IL has a .160 batting average while striking out in 35.0% of his at bats. However, if Stanton can get in a grove in the postseason, his powerful bat could help bring the World Series back to the Bronx.

    Cleveland Guardians

    The Guardians’ offensive identity of high contact, low power, low strikeout rates, and low walk rates will be interesting to watch throughout their October games. However, where the Guardians need to dominate is on the mound. Cleveland’s pitching staff has been excellent this season, but especially their bullpen. The Guardians bullpen has been one of the best in baseball this season pitching to a 3.09 (fifth best in MLB) and 6.3 fWAR (4th best in MLB). While the Guardians’ rotation features ace Shane Bieber and one of 2022’s best breakout pitchers Triston McKenzie, their rotation as a unit has been more toward the middle of the pack than the top of the pack. However, if Cal Quantrill can prove to be a reliable number three in Cleveland’s rotation like his 3.42 ERA this season suggests, it could be challenging to beat them this season. Quantrill is a pitcher that relies on soft contact and has been successful over his last three seasons despite subpar swing and miss stuff. Although it’s worked for him in the regular season, Quantrill’s method of pitching could be susceptible to getting hit hard in the postseason as he faces some of the best lineups in Major League Baseball. However, if Quantrill continues to keep runs off the board in the postseason, Cleveland’s “big three” of Bieber, Mckenzie, and himself followed by their Emmanuel Clase led bullpen will make it extremely difficult for opposing teams to score.

    Toronto Blue Jays

    Although he’s not guaranteed to start a postseason game, Jose Berrios could be an integral part of a deep postseason run for the Blue Jays. While it’s looking like Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Ross Stripling would be Toronto’s Wild Card round starters (assuming the series goes three games), Jose Berrios could potentially be in line to start Game 1 of the ALDS. After trading for him at the trade deadline last season and pitching well for the team, Berrios earned a $131 million extension from the Blue Jays in the 2021-2022 offseason. Although he was paid and has pitched like an elite starting pitcher, Berrios has pitched horribly to a 5.23 ERA in 2022. If Berrios is able to pitch like the pitcher the Blue Jays invested in, he takes their rotation from good to great. A potentially great rotation to go along with the Blue Jays’ start-studded lineup would be a dangerous matchup for any team this postseason.

    Seattle Mariners

    In terms of pure ability, the Mariners might have the best overall pitching staff in Major League Baseball. Their rotation is headlined by ace Luis Castillo, 2021 AL Cy Young Robbie Ray, and two up-and-comers who are already great in Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. Additionally, their bullpen is filled with absolutely filthy arms like Andres Muñoz and Erik Swanson. Additionally, Seattle’s lineup is good but it would be even more dangerous if Mitch Haniger can get going. By no means has Haniger, had a bad season at the plate as he has a 113 wRC+, but from 2017-2021 Haniger had a 126 wRC+. Haniger had some big moments as the Mariners tried to make the postseason last season, if he can carry the clutch gene into the actual postseason, look out for the Mariners to make a deep run.

    Tampa Bay Rays

    Despite all of the injuries they’ve had to deal with this season, the Rays are back in the postseason for the fourth consecutive season. In order to make a deep run, the Rays will need to follow their recent postseason formula and rely on their pitching staff to win ballgames. The Rays have a deep bullpen and rotation, however, they will need Shane McClanahan to pitch as he did in the first half of the season. For the first few months of 2022, it looked like McClanahan was the best pitcher in baseball as he pitched to a 1.71 ERA with 11.95 K/9 and 1.55 BB/9. In the second half, however, McClanahan regressed to a 4.20 ERA with 7.60 K/9 and 3.07 BB/9. With a combination of Corey Kluber, Jeffery Springs, and whatever Tyler Glasnow can give them, the Rays have a legitimately strong rotation as long as they have an ace to lead them in McClanahan, and their (almost) fully healthy lineup and bullpen give them a legitimate shot to head to their second World Series in three years.

    Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Dodgers won 111 games this season which is the fourth most single-season wins in the history of Major League Baseball. The Dodgers arguably had the best lineup and pitching staff throughout the regular season as they had the best team wRC+ and lowest team ERA. However, if the Dodgers want to get back to the World Series, they will need Trea Turner to get back on track as soon as possible. When he’s at his best Turner is one of the best players in baseball, but he has struggled over the last month of the season. Since September, Turner has hit .252/.298/.382 (92 wRC+) which is a far cry from his overall season numbers of .296/.342/.461 (127 wRC+). With a star-studded lineup, the Dodgers become all that more dangerous if Turner can set the table at the top of the order and hit and use his speed to his capabilities.

    Atlanta Braves

    Although he’s probably the most talented player on the Braves and one of the most talented players in Major League Baseball, Ronald Acuña Jr. had his worst season since debuting with the Braves in 2018. Acuña had career lows in OBP, SLG, ISO, OPS, wRC+, DRS, OAA, and fWAR/150. The main factor in Acuña’s struggles this year was that he was still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last summer. Although it was definitely a disappointing year by Acuña’s standards, he still had a fine season and is more than capable of playing at an elite level throughout the postseason. If Acuña does return to All Star form, the Braves’ lineup becomes that much better, and with their great pitching staff, it will be really difficult to beat the Braves.

    St. Louis Cardinals

    The Cardinals lineup has had an unbelievably good season as they will likely have Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado finish within the top three for NL MVP voting, Albert Pujols had an unbelievable season hitting 24 home runs to get over the 700 mark for his career, and Tommy Edman having a breakout season. However, their pitching staff, especially in a best-of-three Wild Card series, is a bit troubling. In order to get out of the Wild Card and make a deep run, the Cardinals will need Jose Quintana to be at his best. After trading for him at the trade deadline, Quintana pitched 62.2 innings to a stellar 2.01 ERA. The Cardinals don’t necessarily have a true ace, but if Quintana can pitch as he has since becoming a Cardinal, the Red Birds will have a much better chance of making a deep postseason run.

    New York Mets

    Despite a spectacular 101 win season, the Mets weren’t able to hold on and win the NL East. This is a big deal as instead of receiving a bye through the Wild Crard, they have to play a best-of-three series against the Padres just to potentially face the 111 win Dodgers in the NLDS. While it won’t be an easy task to make a deep postseason run, the Mets are more than capable of going back to the World Series for the first time since 2015. In big time games, teams need their big time and highest paid players to step up. For the Mets, this player is Francisco Lindor. Despite having a “down” year in his first season in Queens, Lindor had a fantastic 2022 and should receive some top five NL MVP votes. We all know the Mets have the pitching with Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Chris Bassitt, and Edwin Diaz, so any amount of run support could be enough to win ballgames. If Lindor and the offense can hit like they did in the regular season, the Mets might be the best balanced team in the postseason.

    San Diego Padres

    After making a blockbuster trade with the Nationals to acquire Juan Soto and Josh Bell, the Padres upgraded their lineup tremendously. While Soto was able to get going after a slow start with San Diego, Bell was never able to get going. As a National Bell had a tremendous 142 wRC+, but his wRC+ has been nearly cut in half with the Padres as he had a 79 wRC+ after the trade. With Soto, Manny Machado, Jurickson Profar, Jake Cronenworth, and Brandon Drury, the Padres already have a good lineup, but if Bell can get going, they will become great. With a very good rotation with Joe Musgrove, Yu Darvish, and Blake Snell in addition to their Josh Hader led bullpen, the Padres are a serious threat to make some noise if the offense shows up.

    Philadelphia Phillies

    With a top-notch rotation led by Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola and a very deep bullpen, the Phillies could be in a position to be a threat throughout the postseason. However, they will need their lineup to give them run support. While the 1-4 in their lineup is among the best in the majors, the Phillies’ 5-9 is what will dictate the team’s success or lack of success in the postseason. Among these players, no player has the upside to be as impactful as Nick Castellanos. After an All Star campaign with the Reds in 2021, the Phillies signed Castellanos to a 5 year $100 million contract. In his first year in Philadelphia, Castellanos had a worst-case scenario season as his -0.7 fWAR was the third lowest among all qualified position players. Although he had a horrible regular season, Castellanos can erase that if his bat wakes up in the postseason and the Phillies make a deep postseason run.

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    I am a freshman studying broadcast and digital journalism at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications and I'm from New York City. @mlbzone_ on Instagram

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    Justin Girshon
    I am a freshman studying broadcast and digital journalism at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications and I'm from New York City. @mlbzone_ on Instagram

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