2014 MLB Preview: Early Playoff Projection

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The MLB season is ready to start and the long trek towards the World Series will begin with every team looking to get their chance at standing on top of the league. The MLB season is a long one with 162 games until the regular season is over and often it is more about the team that can last than the team that is the best. At the start of the season teams are judged based on their rosters and their potential. The regular season is the true test of how good a team actually is as there is no guarantee that their improvements made any impact. General Managers use their offseason to try to give their team the best chance to win the World Series. They go out to sign the best players available or to trade for the best players and fill the holes that they have exposed in the previous season. It is a delicate balance for these general managers as they need to find the right set of players that can provide the perfect match to make it to the postseason. If the right set of players can come together on a team they can surprise everyone and have a great year. That is what would happen to the Boston Red Sox last year as they signed a number of good players but did not have the great roster they were used to for the last few years. The roster was not overly impressive and after a year spent at the bottom of the league many believed they would be better but not good enough to make the playoffs. Then the Red Sox would have a great season and would win one of the toughest divisions in the MLB and would take their team all the way to a World Series Championship. The Red Sox would show exactly what can be done when a team puts all of the right players together on a team. The opposite side of that would be seen in the same division as the Toronto Blue Jays would go about creating an entirely new roster. They would have one of the biggest rebuilds in the MLB replacing the majority of their pitching rotation and a number of other players. They would add some of the biggest names in baseball at the time including Cy Young Award winner RA Dickey and one of the best shortstops in the game in Jose Reyes. The Blue Jays clearly had the best team in the league on paper but when they put it on the field it fell apart. Their top players would struggle and injuries would show the weakness they created by trading away minor leaguers. In the end they would end up at the bottom of the division and would provide the perfect example of what happens when a team cannot put the right people together despite their big numbers. Both the Red Sox and the Blue Jays are examples that the rest of the teams in the MLB have looked to this year in the hopes that they can be more like Boston than Toronto. There is only one way to figure out what these teams have though and that is the regular season where games get real and mistakes are magnified from Spring Training. Every team is hoping that whatever they did in the offseason and any improvements made throughout Spring Training will work as the marathon 182 game season begins with all teams looking to get their chance at October baseball.

 

American League

American-League

Last year the American League would break a three-year streak of losing in the World Series when the Boston Red Sox made a run to become the World Champions. Three seasons before the National League had taken the World Series as the game began to shift to more of the pitching and defence strategy that the NL is known for. In 2014 the power hitting ways of the American League would stand on top of the MLB once again and despite the game still falling to another dead ball era the Boston Red Sox would show that there is still a place for offensive baseball. The Red Sox lost a few good players in the offseason but they have kept much of the same squad together that won the World Series last year. That with a few new additions has made the Red Sox a strong contender for the World Series for another year and will likely end up at the top of the league again. Right behind them will be another returnee to the postseason as the Detroit Tigers still look strong. They may have lost some key players but the Tigers would replace them with some strong people who make them a strong team for another year. Without a lot of challenge in their division the Tigers will win again and will earn a good spot in the postseason with another strong performance that they may not see much of as teams are coming to unseat them in their division. Rounding out the division leaders will be a reworked team that is hoping to extend their time as one of the best teams in the MLB. The Texas Rangers will fend off their challengers in the West to win the division again but the fight will see them seeded in the last spot but that could be deceiving for how good they may be. The Wild card spot will see some familiar faces as well with the West and the East sending teams to the game. The New York Yankees are not good with losing and they would make some big changes in the offseason to ensure their return to the postseason. They will do just that and although they will not win the division they will come close and end up in the top wild card spot. The Oakland Athletics will also have a big battle for their division against the Texas Rangers and although they will not win their fight will be enough to earn them the last wild card spot and will travel to New York for the Wild Card game. There will be a lot of familiar teams in the American League postseason this year and they all know how to play in the postseason which could make the battle for a berth in the World Series a good one in the hopes that the AL will remain on top of the league.

 

Conference Prediction
Division Leaders:
1. Boston Red Sox
2. Detroit Tigers
3. Texas Rangers
Wild Card:
4. New York Yankees
5. Oakland Athletics

 

Wild Card:
New York Yankees 4 – 2 Oakland Athletics
– The Athletics and Yankees will both be coming off of a big battle for their division titles but with the new season it will be the team that has that experience and the inspiration of playing for their team captain that will come out on top

ALDS:
New York Yankees 3 – 2 Boston Red Sox
– The division battle will translate to the Division Series as Boston and New York face off again in a bitter rivalry that will see the resurging Yankees take home the series in 5 games in what should be a good series

Texas Rangers 3 – 1 Detroit Tigers
– The Tigers are not the team that they used to be and although they are a very scary and very good team the loss of a few players will hurt them at the most important time as the depth is not there while the Rangers will be a better team than most expect

ALCS:
Texas Rangers 4 – 3 New York Yankees
– The Yankees will have a comeback year and go far but the Rangers are also not used to losing anymore and their mini-rebuild in the offseason will pay off as they return to the World Series with a few new arrivals leading the way

 

National League

National-League

The National League would drop the World Series for the first time in three years but that has just fed the fire. With the debut of what is becoming another dead ball era National League baseball is becoming more important. The pitching first strategy has worked in three of the last four years when the National League came out on top of the MLB. There have been plenty of changes in that time but the some of the teams remain in the hunt and remain strong contenders in the World Series race. The St. Louis Cardinals are just that team as they would go to the World Series last year but would come up just short of getting another title. They remain one of the strongest teams in the MLB and will once again be in the postseason with a very strong team. It is rare to see a team this strong continue to produce great players but the Cardinals continue to do it with one of the best farm systems in the league. The Cards will once again be strong but they may not take the top spot this year as a legendary team is trying to take back their legend. The Los Angeles Dodgers had a resurgence last year and that should continue as they will likely take their division and the top spot in the National League. It won’t be easy though as the Cardinals will be on their tails trying to take the top spot and guarantee themselves the home field advantage. Meanwhile the Washington Nationals will finally take their potential to the top of their division and make the postseason. A year after their destiny was to win the World Series there are a lot of questions with the Nats and they hope to put those questions to bed this year. They will win their division but will not end up very high in the rankings staying in the bottom of the division winners. The wild card will see a number of promising teams as well with one powerhouse relegated to the wild card and an up and coming team. The Atlanta Braves will fall to the nationals for the division but they still remain a good team and will fight for the division for a long time. The Nationals will win the battle but the Braves will get the wild card and end up hosting the wild card game. They will look to earn a spot in the Division Series when they host the up and coming Pittsburgh Pirates. Despite being in a division with one of the best teams in baseball the Pirates will be able to finish just behind the Cardinals earning a spot in the World Series. The National League will bring a number of other promising teams as they look to take the title back to the NL and many of these teams have a chance to do just that.

 

Conference Prediction
Division Leaders:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Washington Nationals
Wild Card:
4. Atlanta Braves
5. Pittsburgh Pirates

 

Wild Card:
Pittsburgh Pirates 3 – 1 Atlanta Braves
– The Braves will be coming off of a rare division title loss and try to get back up to host the Pirates but the Bucs are a different team and they are becoming better and better every year as they win the wild card game and move into the Division Series

NLDS:
Los Angeles Dodgers 3 – 1 Pittsburgh Pirates
– The Pirates are a much better team than they used to be as they are hoping to be true contenders for years to come but the Dodgers are a good team and will be a force in the postseason that the Pirates will not be able to beat

St. Louis Cardinals 3 – 2 Washington Nationals
– The Nationals will finally make their way to the postseason beating the Atlanta Braves for the division but their reward will be to take on the very strong Cardinals and as much of a fight as they will put up they will still drop the series in five games

NLCS:
St. Louis Cardinals 4 – 3 Los Angeles Dodgers
– The Cards and Dodgers are both looking strong this year but despite the Dodgers finishing in first in the league they will fall to a team that is deeper than them and will be able to take the league in 7 games

 

World Series:

stl_cardinals.fw
St Louis Cardinals 4 – 2 Texas Rangers
– The Rangers and their mini-rebuild take on the best run team in the MLB and despite the rangers successful season there is something about the Cardinals that make them hard to bet against when the games get important

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