Welcome back to the MLB playoffs! The postseason gets under way Friday with a pair of wild-card contests, and then a lot more games over the weekend, so we're getting you ready with our annual rankings for playoff pools. This season things are clearly different, though, because there are now 10 teams to include in the rankings, two more than last season. As a result, the list has grown quite a bit to reflect depth. Also, by Saturday morning, two teams will already have been eliminated. So when you peruse these rankings and wonder how Josh Hamilton can be ranked lower than Mat Latos, I get it. That does look odd.
However, it also makes sense. It's certainly possible the Texas Rangers lose Friday night to the Baltimore Orioles. I don't expect that will happen, but if you make Hamilton your first-round pick and he gets all of five at-bats before heading to his offseason, your team could be in some trouble. Nick Swisher could play in more games. Or Hamilton could win Friday and take his team to the World Series again! Anything is possible.
That brings us to the second part of the rankings: They're subjective. In order to win a postseason league, you need a little luck and to go with your gut on predicting teams that will advance. The owner who chose St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese in the eighth round of his draft last October got a steal! Freese's Cardinals not only upset the favored Philadelphia Phillies in the first round, but went all the way to the title in seven games, and Freese, certainly not one of the team's stars when the playoffs began, played the largest role in the final games.
Also note that in general, using the scoring you'll see below, ace starting pitchers and busy closers tend to do exceedingly well, as opposed to normal hitters. We're not using the final 2012 results from the ESPN Player Rater here, because they are irrelevant based on potential games played, and it's different scoring. If Latos wins a few games, he's really valuable. Last year the Cardinals' Chris Carpenter won four October games and Jason Motte saved five. Albert Pujols hit five home runs in 18 games, but those Cardinals pitchers were more valuable here, as was the surprising Freese.
For the record, I'm predicting the Rangers and Atlanta Braves will advance by winning Friday, then those teams will advance again by beating the New York Yankees and Washington Nationals, respectively. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers will top the upstart Oakland Athletics, and the San Francisco Giants will edge the Cincinnati Reds. So my rankings reflect that. If you think the Yankees are going all the way, as my colleague Tristan H. Cockcroft surely believes, by all means, move their players up. Today, nobody is wrong!
Thanks to Tristan for providing the scoring system we show here (and for running our office pool). The scoring rules we use: 1 point for a single, 2 for a double, 3 for a triple, 4 for a home run, 1 for an RBI, 1 for a run scored, 1 for a walk, 1 for a hit by pitch (batter), 2 for a stolen base, 4 for a win, 8 for a save, 1 per pitching out (so 3 per inning), minus-1 for each hit allowed, minus-1 for each walk allowed, minus-1 for a hit by pitch (pitcher), minus-3 for an earned run, and 2 for a pitcher strikeout. Got all that? Here we go!
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers: It is worth noting that in his previous five playoff series, his ERA has never been on the good side of 5.
2. Matt Cain, SP, Giants: He'll start Game 1 for San Fran, and should start plenty more.
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers: Playoff MVP? I actually like the Tigers to go far now that they made the playoffs.
4. Buster Posey, C/1B, Giants: I've got the G-men in the World Series, but also consider that he is a catcher. Not a lot of great catchers in the playoffs.
6. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: He isn't missing games anymore.
7. Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees
8. Prince Fielder, 1B, Tigers
9. Madison Bumgarner, SP, Giants
10. Jordan Zimmermann, SP, Nationals
11. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals: Look at his season numbers and you might not believe just how good they were. No reason to think he stops hitting or running now.
12. Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals
13. Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: The singles he will hit can add up quickly.
14. Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees: Luckily, hitter strikeouts are not a factor in this pool.
15. Bryce Harper, OF, Nationals: Age not a factor here. The kid can play.
16. Yu Darvish, SP, Rangers: Could be one and done for him! But I expect he'll pitch great on Friday, and beyond.
17. Jay Bruce, OF, Reds
18. Aroldis Chapman, RP, Reds: Eight points for saves! And he strikes people out, too!
19. Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds
20. Adam LaRoche, 1B, Nationals: Quietest 33-homer, 100-RBI season I've seen in years. Good corner guy here.
21. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers
22. Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds
24. Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees
26. Sergio Romo, RP, Giants: Really underrated closer who should see work in tight games.
27. Michael Morse, OF, Nationals: Season numbers don't show his true value.
28. Hunter Pence, OF, Giants
29. CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees: Worth noting that, like Verlander, CC was terrible in last year's playoffs, and his career postseason ERA is 4.81.
30. Mat Latos, SP, Reds
31. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Risky because he could play only one game, but has huge upside if Rangers get hot again. Owners must weigh the positives and negatives.
32. Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals: Walks count, and he's a leadoff hitter who takes walks.
33. Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers
34. Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Yankees
35. Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers
36. Grant Balfour, RP, Athletics: Gotta think his arm is a bit tired, no? Regardless, closers are valuable.
37. Yoenis Cespedes, OF, Athletics
38. Doug Fister, SP, Tigers
39. Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics
40. Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees
41. Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees
42. Josh Reddick, OF, Athletics: When would you ever think Reddick would catch Teixeira? Incredible.
43. Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Yankees: Don't forget the potential for steals; a single and stolen base are worth more than a double.
44. Jason Heyward, OF, Braves: Something to note is even if the Braves win Friday, their hitters would have to face excellent Washington pitching.
45. Matt Harrison, SP, Rangers: At least Hamilton and Heyward will play Friday. What if the Orioles win and Harrison doesn't pitch at all this postseason?
46. Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: Gotta think he continues to pitch well Friday night.
47. Kyle Lohse, SP, Cardinals: Or this guy could. One of them is advancing at the other's expense.
48. Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers
49. Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers
50. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants
51. Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals: Didn't do much in two of last season's three playoff series.
52. Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants
53. Omar Infante, 2B, Tigers: Seems ranked a bit too high, but he can get hits, and I think the Tigers will play 10 or more games.
54. Michael Bourn, OF, Braves
55. Carlos Beltran, OF, Cardinals
56. Allen Craig, 1B/OF, Cardinals
57. Bronson Arroyo, SP, Reds: Getting the second-game start over the aforementioned Latos, apparently.
58. Adam Wainwright, SP, Cardinals: Could end up in relief Friday night as well.
59. Angel Pagan, OF, Giants
60. Tim Hudson, SP, Braves
61. Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers
62. Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees: One of the greatest postseason pitchers ever!
63. Joe Nathan, RP, Rangers
64. Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves: Ranked behind Nathan simply because, let's be honest, the Rangers have a better chance to win Friday. Nothing against the Orioles. Cards-Braves, on the other hand, could go either way.
65. Jason Motte, RP, Cardinals
66. Jim Johnson, RP, Orioles
67. Martin Prado, 2B/SS/3B/OF, Braves: Take advantage of his versatility and use him at shortstop! By the way, eligibility is generally what a player ended the 2012 season with. So Miguel Cabrera can still play first base, etc.
68. Delmon Young, OF, Tigers
69. Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers
70. Ryan Dempster, SP, Rangers
71. Anibal Sanchez, SP, Tigers
72. Ryan Ludwick, OF, Reds
73. Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
74. Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves
75. Derek Holland, SP, Rangers
76. Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics
77. Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees
78. Edwin Jackson, SP, Nationals
79. Danny Espinosa, 2B/SS, Nationals
80. Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS/3B, Giants
81. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves
82. Lance Lynn, SP, Cardinals
83. Barry Zito, SP, Giants
84. Brandon Moss, 1B/OF, Athletics
85. Homer Bailey, SP, Reds
86. Jhonny Peralta, SS, Tigers
87. Jonny Gomes, OF, Athletics
88. Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees
89. Adam Jones, OF, Orioles
90. Mike Minor, SP, Braves
91. Chris Carpenter, SP, Cardinals
92. David Murphy, OF, Rangers
93. David Freese, 3B, Cardinals
94. Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants
95. Brett Anderson, SP, Athletics
96. Dan Uggla, 2B, Braves
97. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants
98. Russell Martin, C, Yankees
99. Jon Jay, OF, Cardinals
100. Alex Avila, C, Tigers
101. Mike Napoli, C/1B, Rangers
102. A.J. Griffin, SP, Athletics
103. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics
104. Todd Frazier, 1B/3B, Reds
105. Steve Johnson, SP, Orioles
106. Ross Detwiler, SP, Nationals
107. Chris Davis, 1B/3B/OF, Orioles
108. Mitch Moreland, 1B, Rangers
109. Michael Young, 1B/2B/3B, Rangers
110. Chris Tillman, SP, Orioles
111. Paul Maholm, SP, Braves
112. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles
113. Jason Hammel, SP, Orioles
114. Seth Smith, OF, Athletics
115. Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds
116. Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Orioles
117. David Robertson, RP, Yankees
118. Stephen Drew, SS, Athletics
119. Brian McCann, C, Braves
120. Matt Wieters, C, Orioles
121. Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Orioles
122. Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers
123. Sean Marshall, RP, Reds
124. Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals
125. Tommy Milone, SP, Athletics
126. Zack Cozart, SS, Reds
127. Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds
128. Quintin Berry, OF, Tigers
129. Matt Carpenter, 1B/3B/OF, Cardinals
130. J.J. Hardy, SS, Orioles
131. Joe Saunders, SP, Orioles
132. Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees
133. Eric Chavez, 1B/3B, Yankees
134. Daniel Descalso, 2B/SS/3B, Cardinals
135. Brennan Boesch, OF, Tigers
136. Kurt Suzuki, C, Nationals
137. Manny Machado, SS/3B, Orioles
138. Ryan Hanigan, C, Reds
139. Derek Norris, C, Athletics
140. Chris Carter, 1B, Athletics
141. Josh Donaldson, C/3B, Athletics
142. Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles
143. Jim Thome, DH, Orioles
144. Casey McGehee, 1B/3B, Yankees
145. Andruw Jones, OF, Yankees
146. Andrelton Simmons, SS, Braves
147. Jonathan Broxton, RP, Reds
148. Joaquin Benoit, RP, Tigers
149. Cliff Pennington, 2B/SS, Athletics
150. Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B, Yankees
151. Chris Heisey, OF, Reds
152. Brandon Crawford, SS, Giants
153. Tyler Clippard, RP, Nationals
154. Ryan Flaherty, 2B/3B/OF, Orioles
155. Gregor Blanco, OF, Giants
156. Santiago Casilla, RP, Giants
157. Tyler Moore, 1B/OF, Nationals
158. Javier Lopez, RP, Giants
159. Eric O'Flaherty, RP, Braves
160. Jonny Venters, RP, Braves
161. David Ross, C, Braves
162. Devin Mesoraco, C, Reds
163. Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS, Giants
164. Stephen Lombardozzi, 2B/3B/OF, Nationals
165. Reed Johnson, OF, Braves