The postseason exalts the virtues of the best teams. But they all have their weaknesses.
Here the greatest shortcomings of each club that will participate in the playoffs.
Astros: Catcher Offense
Puerto Rican Martín Maldonado is a solid defender, but his bat is one of the few weaknesses in the Astros’ deep lineup. He is hitting .173 in 400 times at bat, with an OPS + of 59. The Astros have had the worst offense from catcher among postseason teams. And they face the White Sox in the Division Series. Chicago has the best masks in baseball, led by Cuban Yasmani Grandal (OPS + of 159).
The Rays have very good hitters and they already know how he can spread his arms in the bullpen. But the rotation is unproven, especially without ace Tyler Glasnow on hand. Two of the club’s starters could be rookies; Shane McClanahan and Shane Baz, not to mention a third, Drew Rasmussen, who have been starting games since mid-August. Regardless of who completes the rotation – Ryan Yarbrough, Michael Wacha, Luis Patiño of Colombia – none of them are likely to go deep in games. The Rays don’t have that ace, like the rest of the postseason teams. Since Glasnow was out, Tampa Bay’s starters have had the most ERA of any team in playoff position (4.59) and completed the second fewest innings (419.1).
The Red Sox can hit, that’s for sure. But can they prevent the number of races needed to win? They are the worst defensive team in baseball. They rank last in the majors with -37 Outs Above Average (OAA), which has cost the team a total of 28 runs – the most in the majors. Dominican third baseman Rafael Devers has been the second worst defender in the league (-14 OAA), shortstop Xander Bogaerts is one of the worst in his position (-9 OAA), as is first baseman Bobby Dalbec (-8 OAA ). In an outfield without Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Verdugo has been one of the weakest patrols in the game (-7 OAA).
The White Sox should be one of the most complete teams in the playoffs. But injuries have affected them. The biggest question is about the discomfort in Carlos Rodón’s left arm. Chicago’s other three starters have dealt with some discomfort in September as well – Lucas Giolito (left hamstring), Lance Lynn (knee swelling) and Dylan Cease (right triceps). Fortunately, Cuban Luis Robert and Dominican Eloy Jiménez are back from the injuries that kept them out for much of the season.
Yankees: Pushing runs
The Yankees have been a home run machine on the year. But when they try to produce races, they have had two problems; batting with runners in scoring position and their base run. The Yankees have the fifth worst batting average (.236) with men in scoring position and their .697 OPS is the fourth lowest, ahead only of the Pirates, Orioles and D-backs. Then there is the base run. The Bombers are the second-worst running team in baseball (-15.2 lines on the run, according to FanGraphs; ahead only of the Nationals). They have found 50 outs on the bases; tied for the sixth-most in the league.
Braves: Defense of the gardens
The Braves traded bats for good defense in the corners of the outfield. Acquiring Cuban Jorge Soler has paid off (13 homers and 125 OPS +), but he’s one of the worst gloves in the league on the right field (-6 Outs Above Average). On the left is Puerto Rican Eddie Rosario, who has been hitting well (OPS + of 125 with Atlanta), but his defense is average, at most.
Brewers: Power hitting
Home runs win games in October … and the Brewers aren’t hitting a lot of them. Christian Yelich has nine home runs this year! In 115 games, then averaging 40 per season in his first two years with the team. And the acquisition of Eduardo Escobar, who hit 22 homers in 98 games with the D-backs, has produced just six homers in 45 games with Milwaukee. The team’s collective slugging of .397 is in the top 10 worst in the majors.
Cardinals: A lot of walks and not as many strikeouts
Strikeouts tend to increase in the postseason. The Cardinals pitching staff is not a fan specialist and they have a passport problem. The Cardinals have the third lowest strikeout rate of any team (20.2%) and the lowest K / 9 (7.77). They award the highest ticket average (10.0%) and the third highest amount of BB / 9 (3.85). The Cardinals make up for it with their elite defense (their +50 OAA is the best in MLB).
It’s hard to find a weakness for the Dodgers, but the midfield should be the closest thing to that. If Cody Bellinger can be Cody Bellinger, we forget all this, but the gunboat season has been a nightmare. He’s hitting .162 – the lowest number for a player with 300 or more batting times this season. His .539 OPS is third-lowest, only better than Jackie Bradley Jr. and Austin Hedges.
This is just bad luck. Brandon Belt was the unofficial captain of the club and just missed out for much of the postseason after suffering a broken left thumb on a bunt attempt. Belt was having a great season – his 29 home runs are a career high – and he’s been on fire since he was activated from the disabled list on Aug. 5. In fact, he was the fourth-best hitter in baseball since that span (wRC + of 183, behind only Juan Sorto, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper).