The Daily Gamecock

Predicting the AL playoffs

AL East: Toronto Blue Jays

Toronto’s trade deadline acquisitions of David Price and Troy Tulowitzki have evidently fueled the Blue Jays to manifest into a perennial World Series Contender. The team has surged atop the AL East, winning over 20 of their 27 games in the month of August. Adding Price solidified a somewhat shaky pitching rotation, as the ace has showcased his talents with five brilliant outings in August. Toronto’s pitching still isn’t perfect, ranking just 12th in team ERA, but it continues to dominate on the offensive end, leading the MLB in total runs, homeruns, doubles, RBIs and OPS. Barring a massive collapse, the New York Yankees simply are not built to eclipse the Jays for the AL East title.

AL Central: Kansas City Royals

The Kansas City Royals are the epitome of team baseball. In a sport of wildly overpaid superstars with long contracts, the Royals have managed to remain relevant without paying a single player excess of $10 million per year. Kansas City has built from within, while much of the competition makes a concerted effort to buy its talent via free agency. A major issue with the Royals, though, is their starting pitching rotation, which has been decimated by a season-ending injury to Jason Vargas and a massive productivity drop-off from expected ace Johnny Cueto. Despite its middle-of-the-pack rotation, Kansas City boasts arguably the league’s strongest bullpen, which ranks second in the MLB in ERA.

AL West: Houston Astros

The Houston Astros deserve a tremendous amount of respect for evolving into a bona fide powerhouse after serving four years as the league’s punching bag. Houston is still a year or two away from serious contention, but its top-three pitching staff is no joke. From top to bottom, the Astros pitching is frightening for any opponent. It just trails the St. Louis Cardinals in team ERA and WAR, while headlining two of the winningest pitchers in the MLB in Dallas Keuchel (15 wins) and Collin McHugh (14 wins). Management must address the team’s most glaring issue this offseason though, and what will ultimately sink the Astros in the postseason: hitting.

AL Wild Cards: New York Yankees, Texas Rangers

Can the Yankees find some consistency in their play as the regular season dwindles down? The sample size says no, but this combination of seasoned veterans and inexperienced youngsters has slowly meshed into a potentially dangerous first-round matchup. Inconsistency, however, has prevented New York from gaining any real momentum from injuries (CC Sabathia and Mark Teixeira) to Alex Rodriguez’s recent hitting slump. When the Yankees are fulfilling their full potential, they can compete among the best.

Choosing between the Rangers and the Minnesota Twins for the final Wild Card spot was a tough decision until factoring in each club’s remaining schedule and record on the road. Each team has a relatively easy schedule, but Minnesota’s inability to win consistently away from home will ultimately doom them, especially with a three-game series at Kansas City approaching.

World Series Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Toronto Blue Jays