ESPN’s standings currently have the Red Sox sitting at a 99.9% chance of making the playoffs. So is it a lock that Boston will once against be dancing in October? Of course not! But just how close are they to winning the AL East?

Yeah, that close. So (after everyone goes and quickly knocks on wood) let’s take a look at eight potential American League Playoff opponents ranked by how much I would want to encounter them in an October series.

Cleveland Indians

Jason Kipnis
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 1

Division: 5.5 games behind Detroit

Wild Card: 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the 2nd Wild Card

Run Differential: +33

vs. Boston in 2013: 1-6

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • The Indians are 20th in ERA in the majors, the only team still in playoff contention that is worse is the Orioles.
  • Cleveland draws the number one spot on this list over New York because of Justin Masterson’s injury. If your playoff hopes fall on the shoulders of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Corey Kluber, you might as well rename your team the Cleveland We’re Just Happy to Be Heres.
  • Chris Perez closes games for them. If he was on the mound in the 9th inning of a 2-1 playoff game, Indians fans would be far more afraid than Red Sox fans.
  • Boston dominated them in their regular season contents.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • The certain to be obnoxious Terry Francona vs. the Red Sox narrative and story lines.
  • Jason Kipnis.
  • Having to see Jason Giambi make that face in the batter’s box like he just smelled the worst fart ever.

New York Yankees

Robinson Cano
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 2

Division: 10.5 games behind Boston

Wild Card: 1 game behind Tampa Bay for the 2nd Wild Card

Run Differential: -1

vs. Boston in 2013: 6-10

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • They are the only team in either league that is still reasonably in the playoff chase despite a negative run differential. Translation: They aren’t a very good team.
  • Their Pythagorean W-L record shows that their Win/Loss record outpaces their expected output based on their run differential by five wins.
  • The lineup consists of one guy you need to be afraid of, Robinson Cano, one guy you have to respect, Brett Gardner, one guy that you can’t figure out, Alfonso Soriano, and a bunch of replacement level players.
  • Their rotation isn’t the strength that we thought it would be. CC Sabathia looks nothing like their ace of old, and Ivan Nova and Andy Pettitte don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of opposing batters. Hiroki Kuroda has been excellent this season, but if he had to pitch for the Yankees in the Wild Card game, they wouldn’t be able to throw him twice in a five game series.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • They’re the Yankees. Losing to them would be a devastating end to a fantastic season.
  • While it isn’t statically probable that this would happen, facing them makes this a real possibility and therefore scares the crap out of me.
  • The Mariano Rivera Retirement factor. I would like to stay far, far away from that.

Baltimore Orioles

Adam Jones
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 3

Division: 11 games behind Boston

Wild Card: 1.5 games behind Tampa Bay for the 2nd Wild Card

Run Differential: +44

vs. Boston in 2013: 7-6

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • The Orioles are 24th in the majors in Team ERA. There are not any pitchers on this team that you would be worried about facing twice in a short series. Chris Tillman has been very solid (but not as good as his 16-5 record would lead you to believe) but again he would likely be needed to get Baltimore out of the Wild Card round and into the ALDS.
  • Closer Jim Johnson has seven losses and nine blown saves.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • I’m morbidly afraid of Chris Davis and Adam Jones. I’m generally terrified of Manny Machado and Matt Wieters as well, but not nearly as much as the other two guys.
  • I don’t want people to go back and see the things I said about the Orioles in my prediction columns this spring.
  • They don’t give away extra outs — committing only 42 errors on the season.
  • Any time in life that you can avoid seeing Buck Showalter’s face, it’s a good thing to do.

Kansas City Royals

Jarrod Dyson
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 4

Division: 6.5 games behind Detroit

Wild Card: 2 games behind Tampa Bay for the 2nd Wild Card

Run Differential: +39

vs. Boston in 2013: 5-2

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • They’re the Royals, duh. The last time they were in the playoffs Ronald Reagan was President and gas was $1.20/gallon.
  • Led by Jarrod Dyson, they have an inordinate amount of fast players on the base paths, and that’s not something that generally turns out well for our catchers.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • James Shields and Ervin Santana could actually be a pretty decent playoff rotation.
  • Greg Holland has absolutely filthy stuff.
  • Billy Butler hits Boston pitching like he has a personal vendetta against the team.
  • The Red Sox have really struggled against them this year.
  • They fit the hot team playing well at the right time profile, like several recent World Series Champs, going 33-20 since the All Star break.

Oakland A’s

Josh Donaldson
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 5

Division: 3 games ahead of Texas

Wild Card: N/A

Run Differential: +102

vs. Boston in 2013: 3-3

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • Oakland makes the playoffs quite a bit, but they rarely go anywhere once they get there. Five of their last six playoff appearances ended in the ALDS.
  • Their pitching rotation doesn’t lack talent as evidenced by their 3.59 ERA, but it does lack a high-end starter. They remind me of the Twins teams that made a habit of getting their butts kicked in October.
  • They have pretty substantial lineup holes at second base, catcher, right field, and designated hitter.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • Despite that fact that their names don’t scare you, this team wins a lot of baseball games. They posted 94 wins last year and have spent all of 2013 proving that it wasn’t a fluke.
  • Josh Donaldson has been outstanding all year long.
  • Jed Lowrie has defied all odds by staying healthy for an entire season. Everyone had always speculated that if he could do this he would have a solid season — and he has.
  • Grant Balfour and Ryan Cook lead a really solid bullpen.
  • It would be embarrassing to lose a series to a team comprised almost exclusively out of your team’s castoffs.

Tampa Bay Rays

Evan Longoria
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 6

Division: 9.5 games behind Boston

Wild Card: 1 game ahead of New York for the 2nd Wild Card

Run Differential: +32

vs. Boston in 2013: 6-12

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • Their run differential is indicative of a decidedly mediocre team.
  • They are 14-22 since August 1st, streaking in the wrong way at the worst time.
  • Boston has fared very well against them, winning the season series for the first time since 2007.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • I don’t want any part of their pitching in a playoff series. Even if they pitched David Price in the Wild Card game you would still likely be looking at a brutal playoff rotation including two starts by Matt Moore.
  • Evan Longoria, big at bats, and the Red Sox can go ahead and stay as far away from each other as possible.
  • Jose Molina is strangely always really good against the Red Sox.
  • We would have to suffer through even more “Guess what crazy Joe Maddon did in the clubhouse now!” stories.
  • The thought of losing to these morons makes me sick to my stomach. They’re already cocky enough and they’ve never won anything — imagine what they would be like if they actually had a reason.

Texas Rangers

Adrian Beltre
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 7

Division: 3 games behind Oakland

Wild Card: 2.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay for the 1st Wild Card, 3.5 games ahead of New York for the 2nd Wild Card.

Run Differential: +72

vs. Boston in 2013: 4-2

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • Without Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Napoli their lineup is significantly less intimidating than it has been during their recent October runs.
  • Their run differential of +72 suggests a team who isn’t quite as dominant as they have been the last few seasons (+101 in 2012, +178 in 2011, +100 in 2010).

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • Yu Darvish. He is by far the biggest reason I am rooting for the A’s to stay in front of the Rangers. If the Rangers win the AL West and can pitch Darvish twice in a five game series they are a significantly bigger challenge than if they can’t.
  • Adrian Beltre would rob me of significant amounts of sleep over the course of a series against the Red Sox.
  • Like the Royals, they are another team with a lot of base stealing speed led by Elvis Andrus and Leonys Martin.
  • After making the playoffs the last three seasons, and making the World Series in two of those years, they continue to feel poised to be a team that takes that next step.
  • Does it feel like Texas has had Boston’s number for a while? They have. The Red Sox are 14-29 against the Rangers since 2009.

Detroit Tigers

Miguel Cabrera
(Keith Allison/Flickr)

Rank: 8

Division: 6.5 games up on Cleveland

Wild Card: N/A

Run Differential: +166

vs. Boston in 2013: 4-3

Why I Would Want to Face Them:

  • Given the records, if we are facing them it is very likely that Boston has advanced to the ALCS.
  • That’s all I’ve got.

Why I Wouldn’t:

  • Miguel Cabrera. Good night, I can’t properly explain how much I wouldn’t not want to face him in a playoff series. I could give myself an ulcer just thinking about it.
  • I really don’t want to watch Jose Iglesias make ten breathtaking plays over the course of seven games either.
  • There isn’t a pitcher I would rather face less than Justin Verlander, whether or not he has struggled this season. Throw in Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, and Anibal Sanchez and you have a beast of an October rotation.
  • They are second in the majors in runs, and ninth in ERA. Their lineup and their rotation are both as good on the field as they look on paper.
  • At some point in October, for Boston or another team, they are going to be a really hard out or win the title, but they aren’t going away quietly.

Categories: Adam Jones Adrian Beltre Alfonso Soriano Andy Pettitte Anibal Sanchez Baltimore Orioles Billy Butler Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Buck Showalter C.C. Sabathia Chris Davis Chris Perez Chris Tillman Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber Detroit Tigers Doug Fister Elvis Andrus Ervin Santana Evan Longoria Grant Balfour Greg Holland Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova James Shields Jarrod Dyson Jason Giambi Jason Kipnis Jim Johnson Joe Maddon Jose Iglesias Jose Molina Josh Donaldson Josh Hamilton Justin Verlander Kansas City Royals Leonys Martin Manny Machado Mariano Rivera Matt Moore Matt Wieters Max Scherzer Miguel Cabrera Mike Napoli Nelson Cruz New York Yankees Oakland A's Oakland Athletics Robinson Cano Ryan Cook Scott Kazmir Tampa Bay Rays Terry Francona Texas Rangers Ubaldo Jimenez Yu Darvish

I'm a native Mainer and life-long Red Sox fan living among way too many Yankees fans in New York. I spent most of my childhood convinced that Spike Owen was going to be awesome, sooner or later. The last time I punched a wall was October 16, 2003. My bucket list included personally thanking a Red Sox player for 2004, something I was finally able to check off when I met Trot Nixon. Follow @JK7_

6 Responses to “Ranking Possible Playoff Opponents” Subscribe

  1. Hunter Golden September 12, 2013 at 12:08 PM #

    The only team I’d say I’ve got genuine fear of would be Detroit just because of the lineup and the deep rotation. That being said, its a weird dichotomy. I’d hate facing them in a short series but in a longer series, I feel like we might have the advantage. One of the unwritten aspects of this team has been it’s depth and its ability to match up so well in late inning situations off the bench. I feel like in a longer series, we have more depth and it’d come out more in those scenarios.
    Oakland scares me, too because they’re basically a poor-man’s us. Lots of platoons, lots of match-up playing and no real knock-out guy in the rotation, but solid pitching throughout. Their bullpen is also really underrated, especially the Balfour/Doolittle combination at the back end. They’re one of those teamsI feel like could beat us at our strengths…
    Texas I just don’t see as nearly as imposing if they end up with the wild card and have to throw Darvish. If we can avoid even one start with him, I’m pretty confident. Their offense simply isn’t what it was and Ron Washington is an out machine as manager.
    The Yankees are terrible. If we lost more than a game to them in a series, i’d kill myself. Cleveland and Tampa seem like wounded animals, and Baltimore seems to really be crashing back to earth. We haven’t played particularly well against Kansas City this year, so I dunno how I feel about them. I guess It’d fall in ‘love to face them in a long series, probably not as much in a short series.’ kinda thing…

  2. JK7_ September 12, 2013 at 2:21 PM #

    Hunter Golden Yeah, Texas loses so much of their punch if they have to go through the Wild Card round. If we ended up #2 and Texas #3, that isn’t great. Unless they had to play a tiebreaker to get there you would see Darvish in Games 1 & 5. But if we’re #1 and Texas and Tampa have to throw Darvish vs. Price in the Wild Card game suddenly both of those teams are significantly less imposing on the mound.

  3. Mike Pendleton September 13, 2013 at 11:09 AM #

    “The thought of losing to these morons makes me sick to my stomach. They’re already cocky enough and they’ve never won anything — imagine what they would be like if they actually had a reason.”
    I live down here and couldn’t concur more…I went to last night’s game with my kids.  My 3 year old son asked, “Why do they keep ringing those bell things?”  I told him “That doesn’t happen at real baseball stadiums.”  There is a constant hum of white noise from distracted fans, cowbells, air conditioning and hollowness that makes it like watching a 2010 World Cup game in South Africa…hey, is that Uruguay!?!

  4. New Lyndsay September 14, 2013 at 6:52 PM #

    JK7_ Hunter Golden Wow, it didn’t occur to me until I read this that the teams that have to play that one-game wild card will likely throw in their ace for that game and thus effectively take him out of starting off the division series. This one game has the potential to exhaust the team that ends up moving on to the playoffs. All the better for the Sox that they are sailing into the playoffs in first, and not using the ol’ “division place doesn’t matter, as long as we’ve got the wild card”.  It really motivates teams to play it out until the end to avoid being in that game. It must be kind of fun for the Sox to look down from their perch at these teams all scrambling and playing desperately to get in and just mow them down in the process and increase their lead. They have to be enjoying this.

  5. New Lyndsay September 14, 2013 at 6:59 PM #

    I just do not want any part of Scherzer, Darvish or Price. I would take the sad empty carcasses of the Yankees any day of the week. There’s too much of a mess going on in that clubhouse for them to be any serious threat.  Their bullpen…I mean, Jesus Christ.  They don’t even look like they want to be there. Even with A-Rod playing well the word “resurgent” does not come to mind at all. And kicking them when they’re down is always fun.  Bring em on.

  6. New Lyndsay September 14, 2013 at 7:04 PM #

    Any of the big bad threats are beatable if you can get past their one or two ace starters.  And with the way they are pulling runs out of their *sses in those ace starting, low-scoring games, you throw Koji in there against any of their closers and you can pull it off. We’re all thinking starting rotations now but if they keep it close, Koji is the key here and there’s no better closer in the league right now.