Complete 2013 MLB Playoff Preview: Schedule, Team Rankings and Predictions

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 1, 2013

Complete 2013 MLB Playoff Preview: Schedule, Team Rankings and Predictions

0 of 26

    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    With the AL wild-card race now sorted out—following the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 163—the 2013 MLB postseason picture has now officially taken shape.

    Things will kick off with the NL Wild Card Round game (Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates) on Tuesday night, followed by the AL Wild Card Round game (Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians) on Wednesday night, and by Thursday, the Division Series will be in full swing.

    With the field now set, what follows is a complete 2013 MLB playoff preview. Included is a look at the complete playoff schedule, rankings of each postseason team's lineup 10-1, pitching staff 10-1, the managers and finally complete predictions from the Wild Card Round through the World Series.


    *Along with watching on TV, you can also catch every TBS playoff game online this year at

Complete Schedule

1 of 26

    Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

    Wild Card Round

    Oct. 1 
    Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates (8:07 p.m. ET)

    Oct. 2
    Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians (8:07 p.m. ET)


    Division Series (both series within each league are played on the same day)

    Oct. 3
    National League, Game 1

    Oct. 4 
    American League, Game 1
    National League, Game 2

    Oct. 5
    American League, Game 2

    Oct. 6
    National League, Game 3

    Oct. 7
    American League, Game 3
    National League, Game 4*

    Oct. 8
    American League, Game 4*

    Oct. 9
    National League, Game 5*

    Oct. 10
    American League, Game 5*


    Championship Series

    Oct. 11
    National League, Game 1

    Oct. 12
    American League, Game 1
    National League, Game 2

    Oct. 13
    American League, Game 2

    Oct. 14
    National League, Game 3

    Oct. 15
    American League, Game 3
    National League, Game 4

    Oct. 16
    American League, Game 4
    National League, Game 5*

    Oct. 17
    American League, Game 5*

    Oct. 18
    National League, Game 6*

    Oct. 19
    American League, Game 6*
    National League, Game 7*

    Oct. 20
    American League, Game 7*


    World Series

    Oct. 23
    at American League, Game 1

    Oct. 24
    at American League, Game 2

    Oct. 26
    at National League, Game 3

    Oct. 27
    at National League, Game 4

    Oct. 28
    at National League, Game 5*

    Oct. 30
    at American League, Game 6*

    Oct. 31
    at American League, Game 7*

No. 10 Lineup: Pittsburgh Pirates

2 of 26

    CF Andrew McCutchen
    CF Andrew McCutchenCharles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. LF Starling Marte
    2. 2B Neil Walker
    3. CF Andrew McCutchen
    4. 1B Justin Morneau
    5. RF Marlon Byrd
    6. 3B Pedro Alvarez
    7. C Russell Martin
    8. SS Jordy Mercer
    9. Pitcher


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C John Buck
    1B Gaby Sanchez
    IF Josh Harrison
    SS Clint Barmes
    1B/OF Garrett Jones
    OF Jose Tabata


    Lineup Overview

    The Pirates have gotten to where they are thanks in large part to their pitching staff, but that does not mean their lineup has not been vastly improved over last season, and the additions of Justin Morneau and Marlon Byrd have only made it better.

    Andrew McCutchen remains the man, though, and he is a legitimate NL MVP candidate after finishing third in the voting last season. He's had a big second half and is one of the game's true superstars.

    Pedro Alvarez provides some elite power, Starling Marte has had a nice first full season in the majors, and Russell Martin has been one of the best signings of the offseason. The Pirates have the pieces to put together a nice playoff run.

No. 9 Lineup: Tampa Bay Rays

3 of 26

    3B Evan Longoria
    3B Evan LongoriaAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. LF Desmond Jennings
    2. RF Wil Myers
    3. 1B James Loney
    4. 3B Evan Longoria
    5. 2B Ben Zobrist
    6. DH Delmon Young
    7. CF David DeJesus
    8. C Jose Molina
    9. SS Yunel Escobar


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Jose Lobaton
    IF/OF Sean Rodriguez
    IF/OF Kelly Johnson
    OF Sam Fuld
    OF Matt Joyce


    Lineup Overview

    The Rays offense has benefited greatly from a busy offseason, and while the addition of Wil Myers was the big move, the under-the-radar pickups of James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have helped bolster the offense as a whole.

    The team then made a pair of solid pickups in August in David DeJesus and Delmon Young, rounding out their lineup and giving them some solid depth heading into the playoffs. It will again be incumbents Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist who are counted on to carry the load though.

    Desmond Jennings has been nursing a hamstring injury, but he started in Game 163 and will likely see his fair share of playing time if the team advances to the ALDS.

No. 8 Lineup: Atlanta Braves

4 of 26

    1B Freddie Freeman
    1B Freddie FreemanJerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Jason Heyward
    2. RF Justin Upton
    3. 1B Freddie Freeman
    4. LF Evan Gattis
    5. C Brian McCann
    6. 3B Chris Johnson
    7. SS Andrelton Simmons
    8. 2B Elliot Johnson
    9. Pitcher


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Gerald Laird
    IF Paul Janish
    OF Reed Johnson
    OF B.J. Upton
    OF Jordan Schafer
    OF Jose Constanza


    Lineup Overview

    The return of Jason Heyward can't be overstated, and the fact that he went 5-for-5 on Thursday shows he's ready to make an impact atop the lineup heading into October.

    B.J. Upton will likely find himself on the bench for the playoffs with Evan Gattis producing well enough to justify everyday at-bats, and Dan Uggla will split time with August acquisition Elliot Johnson at second base.

    When they're firing on all cylinders, the Atlanta Braves lineup is as good as any in baseball, but they have been streaky all season, and that is why they find themselves in the bottom half of these rankings.

No. 7 Lineup: Cleveland Indians

5 of 26

    C/DH Carlos Santana
    C/DH Carlos SantanaRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Michael Bourn
    2. 1B Nick Swisher
    3. 2B Jason Kipnis
    4. DH Carlos Santana
    5. LF Michael Brantley
    6. SS Asdrubal Cabrera
    7. C Yan Gomes
    8. 3B Mike Aviles
    9. RF Drew Stubbs


    Projected Postseason Bench

    3B Lonnie Chisenhall
    OF Ryan Raburn
    1B/DH Jason Giambi
    OF/DH Jason Kubel


    Lineup Overview

    The offseason additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn stole the headlines, but it's the Cleveland Indians trade of Esmil Rogers to the Toronto Blue Jays for Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles that may have been their best move of the winter.

    The incumbent trio of Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana have been solid, once again, while Michael Brantley is enjoying a breakout season of sorts. Add in the depth they have on the bench with Ryan Raburn, Jason Giambi and Jason Kubel, among others, and the Indians have plenty of offensive weapons at their disposal.

No. 6 Lineup: Cincinnati Reds

6 of 26

    1B Joey Votto
    1B Joey VottoFrank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Shin-Soo Choo
    2. 2B Brandon Phillips
    3. 1B Joey Votto
    4. RF Jay Bruce
    5. LF Ryan Ludwick
    6. 3B Todd Frazier
    7. SS Zack Cozart
    8. C Ryan Hanigan
    9. Pitcher


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Devin Mesoraco
    IF Cesar Izturis
    1B/3B Jack Hannahan
    OF Chris Heisey
    OF Xavier Paul
    OF Billy Hamilton


    Lineup Overview

    Shin-Soo Choo has been among the best pickups of the offseason, giving the Reds exactly what they needed as an on-base machine capable of setting the table at the top of a very good lineup.

    Stars Joey Votto and Jay Bruce have had terrific seasons, once again, and even though he's not had his best year, Brandon Phillips has done a nice job driving in runs while spending much of the season hitting in the cleanup spot.

    The big decision here will be whether to include the dynamic Billy Hamilton on the bench with Xavier Paul and Chris Heisey already in the fold as backup outfielders. Given how big of an impact pinch runners can have in the playoffs, my guess is he gets the nod.

No. 5 Lineup: Los Angeles Dodgers

7 of 26

    SS Hanley Ramirez
    SS Hanley RamirezChristopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. LF Carl Crawford
    2. 2B Mark Ellis
    3. SS Hanley Ramirez
    4. 1B Adrian Gonzalez
    5. RF Yasiel Puig
    6. 3B Juan Uribe
    7. CF Skip Schumaker
    8. C A.J. Ellis
    9. Pitcher


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Tim Federowicz
    IF Nick Punto
    IF Dee Gordon
    1B/3B Michael Young
    IF/OF Skip Schumaker
    OF Scott Van Slyke


    Lineup Overview

    With Matt Kemp sidelined for the entire postseason and Andre Ethier battling an ankle injury and likely relegated to pinch-hit duties early on, Skip Schumaker will likely find himself in the everyday lineup come October alongside Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford.

    Even without him, though, the Los Angeles Dodgers look to be in good shape offensively. The duo of Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez have produced all season, while Puig continues to provide a spark and Crawford has been solid of late.

    Juan Uribe has been a pleasant surprise at third base, and while Mark Ellis and A.J. Ellis are average options at best, the team has enough firepower to deal with some sub-standard production at the bottom.

No. 4 Lineup: Oakland Athletics

8 of 26

    3B Josh Donaldson
    3B Josh DonaldsonRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Coco Crisp
    2. 3B Josh Donaldson
    3. SS Jed Lowrie
    4. LF Brandon Moss
    5. DH Yoenis Cespedes
    6. RF Josh Reddick
    7. 2B Albert Callaspo
    8. 1B Daric Barton
    9. C Derek Norris


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Stephen Vogt
    C Kurt Suzuki
    IF Eric Sogard
    OF Seth Smith
    OF Chris Young


    Lineup Overview

    No lineup in baseball has more moving parts than the Oakland A's, as they have 16 players who have seen at least 100 plate appearances this season. They have perfected getting the most out of a lineup that is short on star talent.

    While they don't necessarily have a household name, Josh Donaldson has been a stud all season, and Jed Lowrie, Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes are hitting the ball well right now.

    Alberto Callaspo has been a great pickup, adding some offense at a second-base position that was a black hole from a production standpoint earlier in the year. Top to bottom, this is a team that knows how to get the most out of its personnel.

No. 3 Lineup: St. Louis Cardinals

9 of 26

    LF Matt Holliday
    LF Matt HollidayBenny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. 2B Matt Carpenter
    2. CF Jon Jay
    3. LF Matt Holliday
    4. RF Carlos Beltran
    5. C Yadier Molina
    6. 1B Matt Adams
    7. 3B David Freese
    8. SS Daniel Descalso
    9. Pitcher

    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Tony Cruz
    IF Pete Kozma
    IF Kolten Wong
    OF Shane Robinson
    OF Adron Chambers


    Lineup Overview

    The St. Louis Cardinals lineup has absolutely thrived in the clutch this year, as they are hitting .329 with runners in scoring position, a full 48 points higher than any other team in baseball. That ability to capitalize on scoring chances will, no doubt, be crucial to their postseason success.

    The team will be without first baseman Allen Craig, and according to Bob Nightengale of USA Todayhe will likely be on the sidelines for the duration of the postseason with a left foot injury.

    Matt Carpenter has done a great job setting the table, as he leads all of baseball in hits, doubles and runs scored, and the veteran trio of Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran and Yadier Molina has plenty of postseason experience. Matt Adams could be the X-factor replacing Craig, and he's hit .313/.345/.563 with six home runs in 22 games since Craig went down.

No. 2 Lineup: Detroit Tigers

10 of 26

    3B Miguel Cabrera
    3B Miguel CabreraJim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Austin Jackson
    2. RF Torii Hunter
    3. 3B Miguel Cabrera
    4. 1B Prince Fielder
    5. DH Victor Martinez
    6. LF Andy Dirks
    7. 2B Omar Infante
    8. C Alex Avila
    9. SS Jose Iglesias


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C Brayan Pena
    IF Ramon Santiago
    IF Hernan Perez
    SS/OF Jhonny Peralta
    IF/OF Don Kelly


    Lineup Overview

    Despite getting subpar production from left field and catcher for much of the season and losing All-Star shortstop Jhonny Peralta to a PED suspension, the Detroit Tigers offense has ranked among the best in baseball for most of the year.

    Catcher Alex Avila has heated up of late, and the trio of Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez is still as dangerous as any in baseball, even with Cabrera battling a groin injury.

    Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter have done a nice job setting the table at the top, and with the team trying Peralta in left field since he returned from suspension, it could be without any real weak spot in its order heading into the playoffs.

No. 1 Lineup: Boston Red Sox

11 of 26

    DH David Ortiz
    DH David OrtizNoah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Starting Lineup

    1. CF Jacoby Ellsbury
    2. RF Shane Victorino
    3. 2B Dustin Pedroia
    4. DH David Ortiz
    5. 1B Mike Napoli
    6. LF Jonny Gomes
    7. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
    8. 3B Will Middlebrooks
    9. SS Stephen Drew


    Projected Postseason Bench

    C David Ross
    1B/OF Mike Carp
    SS/3B Xander Bogaerts
    OF Daniel Nava
    OF Quintin Berry


    Lineup Overview

    Top to bottom, there's no lineup in baseball right now that is better than the Boston Red Sox's, and their bench is deep and talented as well.

    Offseason signings Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Stephen Drew and Jonny Gomes have all been great additions, while incumbents Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz are leading the way in the middle of the lineup once again.

    The trio of Gomes, Daniel Nava and Mike Carp will likely split time in left field, and top prospect Xander Bogaerts could steal a start from Drew or Middlebrooks. There is no weakness in Boston's offensive attack.

No. 10 Pitching Staff: Cleveland Indians

12 of 26

    SP Ubaldo Jimenez
    SP Ubaldo JimenezRick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Corey Kluber
    2. RHP Zach McAllister
    3. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
    4. LHP Scott Kazmir


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Danny Salazar
    RHP Justin Masterson
    LHP Rich Hill
    RHP Matt Albers
    RHP Bryan Shaw
    LHP Marc Rzepczynski
    RHP Cody Allen
    RHP Joe Smith


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Indians have gotten a terrific bounce-back season from Ubaldo Jimenez and a surprise season from minor league flier Scott Kazmir, while the duo of Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber has taken a step forward as well in what has been a surprisingly solid rotation. Danny Salazar will take the ball in the Wild Card Round game, so there's a good chance he won't get a start in the ALDS.

    Justin Masterson, the staff ace for most of the season, recently returned from injury and will likely play a key role out of the bullpen, which has been a mess. Chris Perez was recently removed from the closer role, and in his place, right-handers Cody Allen and Joe Smith will likely be relied on in the late innings.

No. 9 Pitching Staff: Oakland Athletics

13 of 26

    SP Bartolo Colon
    SP Bartolo ColonRonald Martinez/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Bartolo Colon
    2. RHP Sonny Gray
    3. RHP Jarrod Parker
    4. RHP Dan Straily


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Jesse Chavez
    LHP Brett Anderson
    RHP Dan Otero
    LHP Jerry Blevins
    LHP Sean Doolittle
    RHP Ryan Cook
    RHP Grant Balfour


    Pitching Staff Overview

    Bartolo Colon (18-6, 2.65 ERA) has, again, found the fountain of youth this season, leading a young A's rotation with, arguably, the best season of his career.

    Behind him, Jarrod Parker and is joined by rookies Sonny Gray and Dan Straily as the rotation is talented but very young. A.J. Griffin is the odd-man out, at least for the ALDS round, as an elbow injury opened up the No. 4 starter spot for Straily.

    Closer Grant Balfour has been a bit more hittable in the second half, blowing three saves with a 4.13 ERA after converting all 25 of his opportunities with a 1.63 ERA in the first half. The bullpen, as a whole, remains solid. Setup men Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook have been great all season and rank among the best in baseball.

No. 8 Pitching Staff: Pittsburgh Pirates

14 of 26

    SP A.J. Burnett
    SP A.J. BurnettDavid Maxwell/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. LHP Francisco Liriano
    2. RHP A.J. Burnett
    3. RHP Gerrit Cole
    4. RHP Charlie Morton


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Vin Mazzaro
    RHP Jeanmar Gomez
    LHP Justin Wilson
    RHP Bryan Morris
    LHP Tony Watson
    RHP Mark Melancon
    RHP Jason Grilli


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Pirates rotation has benefited greatly from the surprise performance of Francisco Liriano this season, while veteran A.J. Burnett and top prospect Gerrit Cole have filled out the rotation behind him. Charlie Morton didn't debut until June, but he's been terrific since returning, and he'll fill the No. 4 spot in place of struggling All-Star Jeff Locke.

    The bullpen is the real strength of the Pirates, as Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon both made the All-Star team and Tony Watson, Justin Wilson and Vin Mazzaro all made at least 50 appearances and posted an ERA under 3.00. Pittsburgh's 2.89 bullpen ERA was third-best in the MLB.

No. 7 Pitching Staff: Tampa Bay Rays

15 of 26

    SP David Price
    SP David PriceTom Pennington/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. LHP Matt Moore
    2. LHP David Price
    3. RHP Alex Cobb
    4. RHP Chris Archer


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Jeremy Hellickson
    LHP Wesley Wright
    RHP Jamey Wright 
    LHP Alex Torres
    RHP Joel Peralta
    LHP Jake McGee
    RHP Fernando Rodney


    Pitching Staff Overview

    It’s been an up-and-down year for the Rays rotation, as David Price, Alex Cobb and Matt Moore have all missed significant time with injuries and Jeremy Hellickson has struggled all season. Rookie Chris Archer has stepped up big, and the entire staff is healthy now, which makes it awfully dangerous.

    Closer Fernando Rodney has not been nearly as dominant as he was in 2012, as he’s converted just 37 of 45 save chances, but he was 6-for-6 with a 0.82 ERA in the month of September. Setup men Joel Peralta and Jake McGee will be used often as well.

No. 6 Pitching Staff: St. Louis Cardinals

16 of 26

    SP Adam Wainwright
    SP Adam WainwrightDustin Bradford/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Adam Wainwright
    2. RHP Lance Lynn
    3. RHP Joe Kelly
    4. RHP Michael Wacha


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Shelby Miller
    RHP Carlos Martinez
    RHP Seth Maness
    LHP Kevin Siegrist
    RHP Edward Mujica
    LHP Randy Choate
    RHP John Axford
    RHP Trevor Rosenthal


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Cardinals lost Kyle Lohse in free agency, and Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia have been sidelined for most of the season, so they entered the season with little in the way of experience behind Adam Wainwright in the rotation.

    However, a trio of rookies in Shelby Miller (15-9, 3.06 ERA), Joe Kelly (10-5, 2.69 ERA) and Michael Wacha (4-1, 2.78 ERA) have locked down the rotation, while Lance Lynn (15-10, 3.97 ERA) has been inconsistent but will take the ball in Game 2 nonetheless.

    The bullpen was an absolute disaster early on, but Edward Mujica filled the closer role for much of the season and made the All-Star team, while rookies Trevor Rosenthal (74 G, 2.63 ERA), Kevin Siegrist (45 G, 0.45 ERA) and Seth Maness (66 G, 2.32 ERA) have all pitched well. 

No. 5 Pitching Staff: Boston Red Sox

17 of 26

    SP Clay Buchholz
    SP Clay BuchholzGreg Fiume/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. LHP Jon Lester
    2. RHP John Lackey
    3. RHP Clay Buchholz
    4. RHP Jake Peavy


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Ryan Dempster
    LHP Felix Doubront
    LHP Franklin Morales
    RHP Brandon Workman
    LHP Craig Breslow
    RHP Junichi Tazawa
    RHP Koji Uehara


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Red Sox offense has been the driving force behind the team's success this season, but the bounce-back seasons of Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz and acquisition of Jake Peavy have gone a long way in helping the Red Sox turn things around as well.

    John Lackey is the wild card, as he's had a nice season, but his home/road splits are extreme (6-3, 2.47 ERA at home, 4-10, 4.48 ERA on road), and the Red Sox may shuffle their postseason rotation as a result.

    The bullpen was a disaster early on but has been a strength since Koji Uehara took over as closer. He's gone 17-for-18 on save chances with a 0.22 ERA since the beginning of July. Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa head a solid group of unheralded setup relievers.

No. 4 Pitching Staff: Cincinnati Reds

18 of 26

    SP Mat Latos
    SP Mat LatosJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Johnny Cueto
    2. RHP Mat Latos
    3. RHP Homer Bailey
    4. RHP Bronson Arroyo


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Mike Leake
    RHP Alfredo Simon
    LHP Manny Parra
    RHP Sam LeCure
    LHP Sean Marshall
    RHP J.J. Hoover
    LHP Aroldis Chapman


    Pitching Staff Overview

    A year after going 19-9 with a 2.78 ERA to finish fourth in NL MVP voting, ace Johnny Cueto was limited to just 11 starts this season, and while he's made just two starts in September after missing nearly three months, he'll take the ball in the Wild Card Round. In his place, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have anchored the staff, while veteran Bronson Arroyo has been solid once again at the age of 36.

    Flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman has been overpowering in the ninth-inning role, while second-year man J.J. Hoover has emerged as a solid setup option. The veteran duo of Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall missed much of the season, but a relatively unknown cast helped the 'pen to a 3.29 ERA.

No. 3 Pitching Staff: Atlanta Braves

19 of 26

    SP Kris Medlen
    SP Kris MedlenHunter Martin/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Kris Medlen
    2. LHP Mike Minor
    3. RHP Julio Teheran
    4. LHP Freddie Garcia


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    LHP Alex Wood
    RHP Luis Ayala
    RHP David Hale
    RHP David Carpenter
    LHP Luis Avilan
    RHP Jordan Walden
    RHP Craig Kimbrel


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The Braves starting rotation is somewhat short on experience, but the trio of Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran should, by no means, be taken lightly, as they've all been very good this season. The No. 4 starter spot is still a question mark, and Freddy Garcia gets the nod over Paul Maholm in the NLDS, with Alex Wood heading to the bullpen.

    The bullpen is what pushes them up the rankings this high, as they were the top group in the MLB this season, with all-world closer Craig Kimbrel, once again, leading the way. Injuries to Eric O'Flaherty and Jonny Venters hurt the Braves early, but an unheralded group has pulled together, and Jordan Walden was a key offseason addition.

No. 2 Pitching Staff: Detroit Tigers

20 of 26

    SP Anibal Sanchez
    SP Anibal SanchezEd Zurga/Getty Images

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. RHP Max Scherzer
    2. RHP Justin Verlander
    3. RHP Anibal Sanchez
    4. RHP Doug Fister


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Rick Porcello
    LHP Jose Alvarez
    RHP Al Alburquerque
    RHP Luke Putkonen
    LHP Drew Smyly
    RHP Jose Veras
    RHP Joaquin Benoit


    Pitching Staff Overview

    Justin Verlander has not turned in his usually dominant performance this season, but Max Scherzer (MLB-best 21 wins) and Anibal Sanchez (AL-best 2.57 ERA) have exceeded expectations, and with Doug Fister joining that trio, it seems to be a rotation built for the postseason.

    The bullpen was a mess early, and the team attempted a closer-by-committee at the beginning of the season, but Joaquin Benoit has locked down the ninth-inning role since taking over. Jose Veras was a nice addition at the deadline, and alongside Drew Smyly, the team has a quality bridge to the ninth.

No. 1 Pitching Staff: Los Angeles Dodgers

21 of 26

    SP Clayton Kershaw
    SP Clayton KershawKirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Postseason Rotation

    1. LHP Clayton Kershaw
    2. RHP Zack Greinke
    3. LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu
    4. RHP Ricky Nolasco


    Projected Postseason Bullpen

    RHP Chris Capuano
    RHP Chris Withrow
    LHP J.P. Howell
    RHP Brian Wilson
    RHP Ronald Belisario
    LHP Paco Rodriguez
    RHP Kenley Jansen


    Pitching Staff Overview

    The one-two punch atop the Dodgers' staff of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke looks like the best in baseball, but it's the depth that Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco provide behind them that really makes the Dodgers staff dangerous in October.

    The Brian Wilson signing has looked like a great one for the team's bullpen, and he joins Ronald Belisario and rookie Paco Rodriguez to form a solid group of setup relievers bridging the gap to lights-out closer Kenley Jansen.


22 of 26

    Jim Leyland, Tigers
    Jim Leyland, TigersWinslow Townson/Getty Images

    Manager Rankings

    NameRecordWin%PlayoffsPennants WS Titles
    1. Terry Francona, CLE  1,121-985 .532     6      2      2
    2. Jim Leyland, DET 1,769-1,728 .506     8      3      1
    3. Bob Melvin, OAK  730-694 .513     3       0      0
    4. Joe Maddon, TB  704-644 .522     4       1      0
    5. Dusty Baker, CIN 1,671-1,504 .526     7      1      0
    6. Clint Hurdle, PIT  779-866 .474     2      1      0
    7. Fredi Gonzalez, ATL   555-486 .533     2       0      0
    8. Mike Matheny, STL   185-139 .571     2      0      0
    9. John Farrell, BOS   251-235 .516     1      0      0
    10. Don Mattingly, LAD  260-225 .536     1      0      0


    Manager Overview

    Only two managers in this year's field have won a World Series title, with Terry Francona taking home titles while managing the Red Sox in 2004 and 2007, and Jim Leyland winning one in 1997 while managing the then-Florida Marlins.

    Coming in right behind them is A's manager Bob Melvin, who does a fantastic job shuffling his lineup and playing the matchups, as everyone on the A's roster has contributed to the success of that team. Joe Maddon employs a similar strategy with the Rays' versatile collection of players.

    Dusty Baker joins the top two as 1,000-game winners, and while he has been criticized, at times, for how he handles his pitching staff, he is a proven winner, and he's done a nice job piecing together the Reds bullpen this year.

    Clint Hurdle took the Colorado Rockies to the World Series in 2007, and after the Pirates suffered back-to-back collapses, he led them to their first postseason berth since 1992 this year. Fredi Gonzalez has done a nice job handling a talented Braves lineup since coming over from the Marlins, and will look to prove his managerial chops this year.

    The careers of Don Mattingly and Mike Matheny as bench bosses have just started, so they are short on experience, but they both have talented rosters to work with. After two solid seasons in Toronto, John Farrell has reached the postseason in his third year as a manager, thanks in part to a veteran roster around him.

Wild Card Round Predictions

23 of 26

    SP Francisco Liriano
    SP Francisco LirianoRob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

    AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays at Cleveland Indians

    The Rays used Matt Moore and David Price to get to the Wild Card Round game, so they'll turn to Alex Cobb for the Wild Card Game, while the Indians will counter with rookie Danny Salazar. While Salazar only has 10 big-league starts under his belt, and will be on a short leash, I think he pitches well enough to get the win, and the Indians offense takes some pressure off of him early.

    Game Prediction: Indians 6, Rays 3


    NL Wild Card: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Reds and Pirates closed out the season playing each other in six of their final nine games, so they've seen plenty of each other of late. The pitching matchup will be Francisco Liriano vs. Johnny Cueto, and Pittsburgh's surprise ace continues his impressive season in leading the Pirates to victory.

    Game Prediction: Pirates 4, Reds 2

ALDS/NLDS Predictions

24 of 26

    SP Max Scherzer
    SP Max ScherzerLeon Halip/Getty Images

    ALDS: (1) Boston Red Sox vs. (WC) Cleveland Indians

    The Indians are rolling right now, and I think that will continue through the Wild Card Round, but their lack of premier pitching will be their undoing against the Red Sox's loaded lineup. They've managed to surprise everyone this year with the way they've pitched, but Boston just has too many weapons. A big series from Mike Napoli paces the Red Sox attack.

    Series Predictions: Red Sox 3, Indians 1


    ALDS: (2) Oakland Athletics vs. (3) Detroit Tigers

    On paper, these two teams are polar opposites, as the Tigers are loaded with star power while the A's are a relatively unheralded group. My guess is this series will be an absolute dog fight, but at the end of the day, a pair of terrific starts from Max Scherzer proves to be the difference for Detroit.

    Series Prediction: Tigers 3, A's 2


    NLDS: (1) St. Louis Cardinals vs. (WC) Pittsburgh Pirates

    The Pirates took the season series between these two teams, 10-9, but the Cardinals swept them in St. Louis the last time the two met up, and the Cardinals finished off the season with the best record in the NL. With the Pirates forced to use Liriano in the Wild Card Round, Adam Wainwright leads the Cardinals to the NLCS with a pair of victories in the series.

    Series Prediction: Cardinals 3, Pirates 2


    NLDS: (2) Atlanta Braves vs. (3) Los Angeles Dodgers

    The Braves are 56-25 at home this season, compared to 40-41 on the road, so having home-field advantage here is significant. However, in the end, the duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke atop the rotation is too much for the Braves' streaky lineup.

    Series Prediction: Dodgers 3, Braves 1

ALCS/NLCS Predictions

25 of 26

    SP Zack Greinke
    SP Zack GreinkeJayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    ALCS: (1) Boston Red Sox vs. (3) Detroit Tigers

    In a matchup of the top two offenses in baseball, there would, no doubt, be plenty of fireworks in this series, as the Red Sox look to continue their turnaround season and the Tigers look to get back to the World Series. Clay Buchholz is my pick for ALCS MVP, and two dazzling starts out of him prove to be the difference. 

    Series Prediction: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3


    NLCS: (1) St. Louis Cardinals vs. (3) Los Angeles Dodgers

    It's hard to bet against the Cardinals and their terrific clutch hitting, but the Dodgers have the horses in the rotation and at the back-end of the bullpen to slow them down and the offense to back that terrific pitching. While Clayton Kershaw is the unquestioned ace of the staff, I think it's Zack Greinke who shines in the postseason, and a gem in the clinching Game 6 gets him NLCS MVP honors.

    Series Prediction: Dodgers 4, Cardinals 2

World Series Prediction

26 of 26

    2B Dustin Pedroia
    2B Dustin PedroiaBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Matchup: (1) Boston Red Sox vs. (3) Los Angeles Dodgers

    In a matchup of, arguably, the best offense in baseball (Red Sox) against, perhaps, the deepest rotation in the game (Dodgers), this would have all the makings of a terrific battle.

    Boston would have home-field advantage, thanks to the AL winning the All-Star Game. While Boston's veteran rotation is not as hyped up as the Dodgers', the Red Sox have four quality starters who will get plenty of run support and a legitimate ace in Clay Buchholz.

    Boston's starting pitching would likely be the X-factor here, but my pick for World Series MVP is Dustin Pedroia, as he remains the heart and soul of the Boston roster and seems like as good a pick as any to perform on the biggest stage.

    Series Prediction: Red Sox 4, Dodgers 3