With more than 75% of the 2021 Major League Baseball season already completed, we now have an idea of which teams look Postseason bound versus which teams don’t look Postseason bound. Some teams started the season off slow but have recently found their stride, some teams started the season off hot but have plummeted in the standings as of late, others have either been dominant or sluggish all year, and others have been a combination of some or all of three. With all of that being said, here are my top 10 MLB teams based on who I think has the best chance to win the World Series:
*All stats and rankings used in this post were prior to games played on 8/22
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
Although the Dodgers have been the second-place team in the NL West behind the Giants for the majority of the season, they are now just 2.5 games back of first place and are projected by Fangraphs to narrowly win the division. The Dodgers bolstered their already insanely talented team by acquiring Trea Turner, Max Scherzer, and Danny Duffy at the trade deadline. Despite numerous injuries to key players such as Mookie Betts, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, and Dustin May, the Dodgers have the third-best team wRC+ (109), seventh-best xwOBA (.326), best xFIP (3.71), and best SIERA (3.67) in all of Major League Baseball. If healthy, the Dodgers’ Postseason rotation will consist of Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urias. To go along with their star-studded rotation, the Dodgers lineup should be at full strength once Mookie Betts returns from the IL.
2. Houston Astros
Fresh off their third appearance in the American League Championship Series in four years, the Astros have been one of the best teams in all of Major League Baseball again in 2021. Although they are 10-10 over their last 20 games, the Astros are 3.5 games ahead of the Oakland A’s for the AL West lead and currently hold the second-best record in the American League behind the Tampa Bay Rays. Despite star third baseman Alex Bregman missing nearly half the season, The Astros have had the best offense in all of Major League Baseball this season ranking first in wRC+ (119) and xwOBA (.332). Although their pitching staff hasn’t been elite like their offense, the Astros have been above average on the mound sporting the 12th-best xFIP (4.12) and SIERA (4.05). If healthy, the Astros’ postseason rotation will consist of Lance McCullers Jr., Framber Valdez, Zack Greinke, and Luis Garcia.
3. New York Yankees
Despite having a 41-40 record over their first 81 games, the Yankees are now 20 games over .500 with a 72-52 record. Although some people thought the Yankees season was over at the trade deadline and that they should’ve sold, the exact opposite happened. At the trade deadline, the Yankees made two blockbuster trades to acquire Joey Gallo and Anthony Rizzo. The Yankees are now in possession of the first AL Wild Card spot and sit 4.5 games behind the Rays for the AL East lead. Even though it is more likely than not that the Yankees will have to play in the Wild Card game, I believe Gerrit Cole gives them a great chance to win that game, and the overall talent of the Yankees team can lead them to the World Series. Despite injuries and COVID cases to many players in their lineup such as Aaron Judge, Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Gio Urshela, and Aaron Hicks, the Yankees have the 11th-best wRC+ (102) and the ninth-best xwOBA (.325) in Major League Baseball this season. Even with Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery testing positive for COVID and Corey Kluber, Domingo German, and Luis Severino dealing with injuries, the Yankees pitching staff ranks eighth-best in xFIP (4.02) and sixth-best in SIERA (3.82). If healthy, the Yankees’ Postseason rotation will consist of Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Jameson Taillon, and either Corey Kluber, Luis Severino, or Nestor Cortes Jr. depending on what the organization chooses to do and the health of the players.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
Despite the Cardinals being the preseason betting favorite to win the NL Central, the Brewers have easily been the best team in the division. Currently, the Brewers have a 7.5 game lead over the Cincinnati Reds for first place in the NL Central and have the third-best record in the National League at 76-49. The Brewers lineup has been nothing special this season, ranking just 16th-best in wRC+ (93) and 19th-best in xwOBA (.309) at the plate this season. If Christian Yelich’s bat can heat up over the last month+ of the season, the Brewers lineup will, however, become much more difficult to face come October. What makes the Brewers so good (and scary in the Postseason) is their elite pitching. The Brewers pitching staff has the second-best xFIP (3.77) and fourth-best SIERA (3.81) on the mound this season. If healthy, the Brewers’ Postseason rotation will consist of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Freddy Peralta, and likely Brett Anderson.
5. Chicago White Sox
Although I originally didn’t think the White Sox would win the AL Central before the season, they have proved me wrong. The White Sox currently lead the second-place Cleveland Indians by 10.0 games and have the fourth-best record in the American League. What makes the White Sox so dominant is that they’re elite at the plate and on the mound. Even though the White Sox’s best hitter, Eloy Jimenez, has missed most of the season and key players Yasmani Grandal and Luis Robert have both missed significant time, the White Sox have the fourth-best wRC+ (109) and 14th best xwOBA (.317) in all of Major League Baseball. The White Sox pitching staff has been just as (or even more) impressive this season as they rank third-best in xFIP (3.86) and second-best in SIERA (3.71). If healthy, the White Sox’s postseason rotation will consist of Carlos Rodon, Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, and Dylan Cease. If the White Sox starters can keep the team in the game or on top after six innings, the White Sox will be in a great position to win due to their stacked bullpen. Even though their bullpen was already elite and headlined by Liam Hendriks, the White Sox traded for former Cubs bullpen studs Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel to add to their star-studded bullpen which also consists of Michael Kopech, Garrett Crochet, and Aaron Bummer.
6. Tampa Bay Rays
Although the Yankees looked like clear AL East favorites before the season and still pose a threat to them now, the Rays lead the division and have the best record in the American League. To improve their lineup, the Rays made a big in-season trade (which is rare for them) by acquiring Nelson Cruz, but he’s gotten off to a slow start with the team. On the season, the Rays lineup has the fifth-best wRC+ (107) and 18th best xwOBA (.309). In addition to their rock-solid lineup, the Rays’ pitching staff has been one of the best in baseball ranking sixth-best in xFIP (3.93) and third-best in SIERA (3.78). Beyond what is quantifiable, Kevin Cash and his coaching staff are among the best (if not the best) in all of baseball, which is crucial come October. If healthy, the Rays’ Postseason rotation will consist of Shane McClanahan, Chris Archer, and likely openers or some combination of Luis Patiño, Michael Wacha, and Ryan Yarbrough.
7. San Francisco Giants
Although they have had the best record in all of Major League Baseball throughout most of the regular season, the Dodgers are quickly gaining ground in the NL West which poses the threat that the Giants could be in danger of getting eliminated after one game in the Wild Card Game. For the record, if the Giants do win the NL West, I’d likely have them within the top five of this list, but I do expect the Dodgers to narrowly win the division so I’ve ranked both teams under that assumption. The main reason why the Giants have surprised most baseball fans this season is that their offense has been great. On the season, the Giants rank sixth-best in wRC+ (106) and 12th-best in xwOBA (.321). What makes the Giants a great offensive team is their ability to mix and match by platooning players. The Giants are one of six teams (Giants, Astros, White Sox, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and A’s) this season to have a top 10 wRC+ against both righties and lefties. The Giants elite pitching has also come as a pleasant surprise. On the season, Giants hurlers rank fourth-best in xFIP (3.91) and eight-best in SIERA (3.86). If healthy, the Giants’ Postseason rotation will consist of Kevin Gausman, Logan Webb, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood or Johnny Cueto.
8. Atlanta Braves
Although it looked like the New York Mets were the clear NL East favorites throughout most of the regular season, they have fallen off a cliff as of late and the Braves have taken full advantage. Over their last 20 games, the Braves are 16-4 which has propelled them to 5.5 games ahead of the second place Philadelphia Phillies for the NL East lead. Although Ronald Acuña Jr. has missed the last month and will be out for the foreseeable future, the Braves offense has survived ranking 14th-best in wRC+ (100) and fifth-best in xwOBA (.328). Although their pitching staff hasn’t been great this season, ranking 11th-best in xFIP (4.11) and 13th-best in SIERA (4.09), they’ve held their own and should only get better considering everyone on their starting pitching staff besides Charlie Morton has seen time on the injured list. If healthy, the Braves’ Postseason rotation will consist of Charlie Morton, Max Fried, Ian Anderson, and Huascar Ynoa.
9. Boston Red Sox
Although they were in first place of the AL East for most of the season, the Red Sox have fallen into a skid which has seen them drop down into third place, but they are still well within reach of a Postseason spot. The Red Sox offense has predictably been one of the best in the Majors this season ranking seventh-best in wRC+ (105) and fourth-best in xwOBA (.329). The Red Sox pitching staff has also been pretty good this season, especially considering Chris Sale has only pitched in two games and Tanner Houck has only pitched in seven games this season, ranking 10th-best in xFIP (4.09) and 11th-best in SIERA (4.02). Although they will likely be playing in the Wild Card game if they do make the Postseason, there aren’t many pitchers I’d rather have than Chris Sale on the mound and the Red Sox lineup is more than capable of slugging their way to a victory and possibly further into the Postseason. If healthy, the Red Sox’s Postseason rotation will consist of Chris Sale, Nathan Eovaldi, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Tanner Houck.
10. Cincinnati Reds
Although it will be a close race between the Reds and Padres for the last NL Wild Card spot, I believe the Reds will earn the final NL Postseason spot. While I think that the Padres are the better overall team, the Reds’ rest of season strength of schedule is much more favorable than that of the Padres which is why I think the Reds will narrowly get into the Postseason. The Reds’ offense this season has been quite the big red machine ranking ninth-best in wRC+ (104) and eight-best in xwOBA (.326). The Reds’ pitching staff hasn’t been nearly as good as their offense, ranking in the bottom half of the league in both xFIP (17th best with 4.28) and SIERA (18th best with 4.24). Although their pitching hasn’t been as good as many expected, the Reds certainly have the talent to turn it around over the last month+ of the season and to pitch well in a Postseason series. If healthy, the Reds’ Postseason rotation will consist of Luis Castillo, Wade Miley, Sonny Gray, and Tyler Mahle.
Honorable Mentions: Oakland A’s and San Diego Padres
I could definitely see both of these teams making it into the Postseason, I just don’t think they will.
I am a freshman studying magazine, news and digital journalism at the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications