MLB playoff picture: What to watch for as postseason nears


The changing of the leaves and the cooling of the temperature signify the end of summer and the beginning of fall. For some that means days at the pumpkin patch, baking delectable desserts and raking leaves. For baseball fans, it also means the start of the Major League Baseball playoffs. 

Twelve teams will make it into the postseason, fighting their way to the top to be crowned this year’s champion. Whether it’s a divisional champion with a straight path to the divisional round, or a team just squeaking by through the wild-card spots, everyone has a shot at glory. With the regular season nearly concluded, let’s take a look at the playoff picture, including which teams look the best and which could be dark horses. 

The Tampa Bay Rays have been the most powerful offensive team in the league this season, scoring 811 runs. Despite being in the AL East, one of the toughest divisions, the Rays were able to comfortably secure their third straight playoff appearance and the top seed in the conference. They look to be firmly in the driver’s seat to defend their pennant and get revenge on the Dodgers for last year’s World Series loss.

The next closest rivals the Rays will have are the Houston Astros and the Chicago White Sox. The Astros hold the best run differential in the American League, proving that they can compete on both sides of the ball. They also made some trades later in the season, adding much-needed depth to the pitching rotation. The White Sox were able to handily take the AL Central, but they have some injuries to manage as the competition gets stiffer. 

Also coming out of the AL East are the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays, all closing out the season on a hot streak. There’s enough firepower on each of those teams to be a threat, especially to a division rival such as the Rays. 

The two best teams in baseball find themselves both in the same division, as the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers have battled all year for control of the NL West. Fulfilling their underdog narrative, the Giants are most likely going to take the division, relegating the World Series favorite Dodgers down to the wild-card. 

The Dodgers have dominated baseball with their overpowering financial wealth and talent, with their pitching rotation being one of the best. They also have the best run differential in the league, scoring 247 more runs than they’ve allowed. The smart money will be on them to reclaim their title. 

The Atlanta Braves have enough home runs to be a spoiler, as they have the third-most in the league. They had to fight their way out of the NL East, with the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets being hot on their heels. 

The St. Louis Cardinals, thought by many to be left for dead back in August, have won a franchise record 15 consecutive games (at the time of this writing) to jolt them back into playoff contention.  Once October hits, it is a wide-open race to claim the World Series.