MLB Team Standings, Upon further review, the success of the amazing Oakland Athletics might not be as surprising as it seems. Among this season’s playoff teams, the A’s rank in the top three in lineup, defense and bench-even though many consider their rotation and bullpen to be their top strengths.
The best three playoff teams (and the worst team) in a handful of key categories:
1. Detroit Tigers. Justin Verlander is the No. 1 starter in the postseason, Max Scherzer is coming off his best season, and Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez both pitched shutouts in the final two weeks of the regular season.
2. San Francisco Giants. Because of Tim Lincecum’s off year and Ryan Vogelsong’s second-half struggles, the Giants’ rotation isn’t quite as strong as billed. But no other playoff team had three 14-game winners with sub-3.50 ERAs.
3. Cincinnati Reds. Homer Bailey pitched a no-hitter last week, and he might not start in the Division Series. That is how good Johnny Cueto, Mat Latos and Bronson Arroyo have been.
Baltimore Orioles. How they won 93 games with only one pitcher posting a double-digit win total remains one of 2012′s unsolved mysteries.
1. Atlanta Braves. Closer Craig Kimbrel is the main reason they are ranked ahead of the Reds. He struck out 116 batters and allowed only 27 hits in 62 2/3 innings-an amazing ratio of better than four Ks per hit allowed.
2. Reds. Aroldis Chapman’s recent rest has paid off. He was throwing 102 mph Tuesday night in St. Louis when he earned 38th save. Cincinnati has plenty of power arms around him, led by lefthander Sean Marshall and righthander Jonathan Broxton.
3. Orioles. You don’t go 29-9 in one-run games or 74-0 when leading after seven innings without a strong bullpen. Jim Johnson is the key, setting a club record with 51 saves.
Washington Nationals. Tyler Clippard lost his closer job in September to Drew Storen who, like many Nationals, has no postseason experience.
1. New York Yankees. They are one of only three clubs in history to have nine players hit at least 15 homers. And a 10th, Andruw Jones, finished with 14.
2. Texas Rangers. They led the majors in scoring and are the only team that will open the postseason with the same lineup that finished last year’s playoffs. Of course, that might not be all good considering how they fell apart in the past two weeks.
3. Athletics. You might not know much about them, but they led the majors in runs and homers after the All-Star break.
Reds. Since Sept. 1, they have hit .225 and scored the fewest runs of any team in the majors.
1. Reds. They are at least solid at every position, and better than that with second baseman Brandon Phillips, third baseman Scott Rolen, first baseman Joey Votto and center fielder Drew Stubbs.
2. Nationals. Left fielder Mike Morse is best-suited to be a DH, and shortstop Ian Desmond still is developing. Everywhere else, Washington is already gold or close to it.
3. Athletics. There is no better outfield in the playoffs than Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes, and the trade for shortstop Stephen Drew solidified middle infield.
Tigers. They are OK up the middle with catcher Alex Avila, second baseman Omar Infante and center fielder Austin Jackson. Everywhere else, not so much.
1. Athletics. Bob Melvin employs so many platoons that it is almost like Oakland has two lineups of regulars. Now that’s depth.
2. Nationals. When utilityman Steve Lombardozzi was filling in-he played in 126 games-Washington didn’t miss a beat. Mark DeRosa is the most valuable .188-hitting backup in the game because of his experience and leadership.
3. St. Louis Cardinals. They might not have the flashiest tools but, as a scout says, “They have a lot of baseball players.” Versatile ones, at that, with the likes of Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker.
Rangers. One reason they had seven regulars play in more than 145 games was a lack of confidence in the guys behind them.