Teams often expand their game day preparations during the playoffs. Not only is it important to be prepared for your game, it’s paramount that a team pays attention to the outcomes on the other side of the bracket.
Doing so is vital to making important strategic decisions like which pitcher to strut out in Game 1. That being said, there are three teams in the American League that will give the Chicago Cubs a run for its championship dreams if given a World Series match-up.
Boston Red Sox
There are remnants of Theo and Jed here. In Big Papi’s final year, the Red Sox are playing like a championship team—both on offense and defense. Their pitchers rank second behind Chicago in ERA and WHIP, while leading the league in complete games. Offensively, they rank second behind Colorado in runs scored, and lead the league in OPS, hits, and total bases.
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Toronto Blue Jays
Even though Toronto is missing arms in the back of their bullpen, their starting pitching is strong enough to carry the team. They’re ranked in the top-10 in ERA and wins while pitching the least amount of innings in the league. Offensively, they can compete with anyone. Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, and Edwin Encarnacion are a trio that no team wants to face, let alone in the playoffs. It’ll be up to their stars to drive the team through the postseason.
Cleveland has the best chance to spoil David Ortiz’s hopes at retiring with a new championship ring to add to his collection. If Danny Salazar and Corey Kluber comes back at full strength, their starting pitching will be a monster on par with the Mets. And adding Andrew Miller at the trade deadline certainly solidified their bullpen. This team didn’t earn a top-5 spot in an overall record without this pitching core.
Why not Texas or Baltimore?
Baltimore has the offensive firepower to compete with the AL teams, but they’re 2-6 against Toronto in Canada. Even with Zach Britton, the Orioles have had their troubles winning on the road, recording a 35-41 record.
Texas appeared to be a powerhouse in the AL West at the beginning of the year but have since cooled off. They’ve only outscored their opponents by eight runs this season, even though they rank top-10 in the league in home runs and OPS. Their pitching staff has been unreliable this year as well. It’s hard to sustain momentum in the playoffs on offense alone.
The Chicago Cubs have a very favorable road through the playoffs ahead. For one, they have home-field advantage through the NL rounds—where they went 57-24 during the regular season, And all of the other NL teams have lost considerable firepower—both in effectiveness and by injury. This isn’t to say that the Cubs should look past any of their opponents. But, following the AL bracket will give Chicago perspective. Something strategically important to breaking the curse this year.