For the second-straight season, the Texas Rangers have won the American League West.
The playoffs will start Friday and with a win Wednesday, the Rangers will be hosting the American League Wild Card winner.
Should Texas beat the Los Angeles Angels late Wednesday, the Rangers will play either the Tampa Bay Rays or Boston Red Sox at 4:07 p.m. at home.
If the Rangers lose and the Tigers win, the Rangers will have to travel to New York for a 7:07 p.m. date with the New York Yankees.
After 161 games, five teams are still in the running for the American League pennant. This is each team’s strength, weakness and what it will take for them to get to the World Series.
AL West Champion Texas Rangers
Strengths: Texas boasts the deepest lineup in the American League. For example, against the Angels in late August, the Angels walked Josh Hamilton to face Michael Young who proceeded to double into the left field corner to clear the bases. With their the best lineup, who is the easy out? This lineup was built to last, but can it explode for 11 more wins?
Weaknesses: When General Manager Jon Daniels traded for Mike Adams and Koji Uehara, the Rangers dramatically strengthened up their bullpen and made it one of the best in the American League. However, even team president Nolan Ryan admitted their bullpen has not been as bullet proof as it was supposed to be after the trades. If there is a question anywhere about the Rangers staff, the bullpen is the biggest question mark.
Will go to the World Series if…they beat Justin Verlander and/or CC Sabathia. Likely to get to the World Series Texas will have to beat Verlander and/or Sabathia once each along the way. To do that, C.J. Wilson will have to come up big against other proven aces in the American League. Texas is good at scoring runs with its speed (Elvis Andrus, Ian Kinsler, Endy Chavez, Craig Gentry) and with its power (Young, Hamilton, Beltre, Cruz).
AL East Champion New York Yankees
Strengths: The Yankees have the best ERA in the American League after the sixth inning. This is due largely to David Robertson’s 34 holds, Rafael Soriano’s 23 holds and of course, all-time save’s leader Mariano Rivera’s 44 saves this year. New York statistically has the best bullpen in the American League.
Weakness: The Yankees may be the best after the 6th inning, but they are third in the playoffs with a 3.90 ERA in the first six innings. Take Sabathia out of that equation and the number shoots well over four. Sabathia has 19 wins, Ivan Nova has 16 wins, but after that the Yankees rotation is very pedestrian.
Will go to the World Series if…their back end of the rotations catches fire and CC Sabathia does what he’s supposed to do in the playoffs. Sabathia and Nova will give the Yankees a chance to win, but someone else will have to step-up in games three and four of every series.
AL Central Champion Detroit Tigers
Strengths: Two words: Justin Verlander. Verlander is 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. When he starts, the Tigers are over 20 games over .500. There is not another pitcher in the American League that has thrown the ball better and this consistently this season.
Weakness: Playing the central division. Against their own division, the Tigers went an astronomical, 48-22, 26 games over .500. Against the West and the East, the Tigers played only four games over .500 (38-34).
Will go to the World Series if…Verlander goes 4-0 in the playoffs. If Verlander goes 4-0 in the playoffs, the Tigers will only need one more win somewhere in the division series and two in the ALCS. One would think that Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello with their 14 wins each could come up with one or two wins in the playoffs.
Wild Card contender Boston Red Sox
Strengths: Texas may have the deepest lineup, but Boston has the most prolific offense in the playoffs. Arguments can be made as to whether or not Boston or Texas has the better offense, but this clearly is the strength of the Red Sox.
Weakness: Starting pitching. Of the five teams that could make the playoffs, Boston’s overall ERA is highest at 4.20. And it’s worse in innings one through six with a 4.52 ERA.
Will go to the World Series if…two things happen. If they make the playoffs, it will be a relief and maybe a team that avoided an epic collapse will go on a roll. The Red Sox will also need their starting pitching to get going.
Wild Card contender Tampa Bay Rays
Strengths: Pitching. The only way Tampa makes the playoff is because of its pitching, which was good and then started to pitch even better in September. Overall, the Rays have the best pitching staff of any playoff team.
Weakness: Tampa has problems scoring runs. Of the five teams that could make the playoffs, the Rays batting average is the worst at .243 for the season, more than 20 points behind the Yankees. Tampa has scored 699 runs on the season, worst among the five possible playoff teams.
Will go to the World Series if…their starting pitching stays red hot. Starting pitching is the key to winning in October and the Rays looks good here.