The more I'm reading Jonah Keri, the more I find myself anticipating his next article; a huge rarity for me. Intelligent, insightful, and even plays to the SABR crowd enough that you can't just brush him off as rubbish. I found especially interesting, the take from 'Baseball Between the Numbers' from 2006, which seemingly attempts to look deeper into what builds a champion aside from looking at things like Pyt. Rec. and saying a team is 'unlucky'. After all, in the playoffs you get a team's Top 3 starters and not much else, while they trot one or two schmucks out there once or twice a week in the regular season in games that equate to the same as when, say, Cliff Lee or Roy Halladay start. Judging the 162 game body of work as a whole ignores a lot of things, and our devaluing of the playoffs as a result may be equally as flawed as some of the archaic ideologies we lament.
...To identify the sleeper team no one wants to face in October, we need to establish parameters.
First, we need a team with a real chance to play spoiler. Fifty Sixty years and three days ago, the New York Giants trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers by 13 games with 47 games to play. We know how that ended. But there's a reason the Shot Heard 'Round the World is regarded as the most dramatic, unlikely moment in baseball history. You don't bet on miracles.
All of which means we can safely rule out the following teams: Houston, Baltimore, Kansas City, Seattle, Oakland, Minnesota, Toronto, Washington, Florida, San Diego, Colorado, the Dodgers, the Cubs, and the Mets.
Second, a favorite can't be a spoiler. A spoiler should be a team with a low payroll, or merely an outside shot at winning the whole thing, that screws up another team's run. That means the Phillies and Red Sox, the best teams in their respective leagues, are out. If the playoffs started today, the Yankees would be a wild card, but they're a wild card on a 99-win pace with a $207 million payroll. They're out, too. The Giants aren't even in first place, but they're the defending champs. They're out. The Rangers might finish with a worse record than either league's wild card — but they also won the AL pennant last year, dealt for two elite relief pitchers at the deadline, and convinced plenty of smart people that they're a great bet to get back to the World Series this year. They're out, too.
With all of those teams out of the picture, here are the six clubs with the best chance to go Z-Bo on the rest of the league...
Well, I enjoy seeing the Brewers head that list. As solid as Chris Narveson has been as far as 5th starters go, the opportunity to shrink the rotation down to Grienke/Marcum/Gallardo with a Wolf start or two as needed gives the Brewers the type of rotation necessary, and finishing games with Saito/Hawkins/K-Rod/Axford has been a terrific formula so far. And our current hot streak comes without the services of one of our all-stars (Weeks) and our best defender (Gomez).
Jonah Keri does hit on our fatal flaw though...defense. The article only specifically talks about Yuni B, but bad defense has been everywhere for us...McGehee, Fielder, Lucroy, Braun, etc...really anyone not named Nyjer Morgan, Carlos Gomez, Craig Counsell or Jerry Hairston Jr. If we do happen to make the playoffs and run into a team like Philly who can certainly best that rotation and can keep up offensively...those defensive liabilites could make all the difference.
Yeah I agree with the Brewers and with the Tigers.
To elaborate on the Tigers more, they have a very formidable and underrated offense. Put them in a playoff situation and they could be very dangerous. A lot of solid contact hitters and Verlander at the top of the rotation. The rest of their rotation isn't stellar but is it that much worse than the Yankees or Sox? I guess on paper they don't really pop out at you but that is why they play the game. Not sure a lot of people would have picked San Fran to win it all last year, esp against a team like Texas.
C - Pierzynski 1b - Dunn 2b - Cano 3b - Beltre SS - Rotating OF - Bruce, De Aza, Cespedes Util - Encarnacion BN - Asdrubal, Adam Jones, Freddie Freeman