Can you believe that it's nearly October? We've had countless memories throughout the MLB season, coupled with future changes that'll shape the landscape for good. Time flies when you're having fun.
That's especially true since this has been one of the best baseball seasons to date. Aaron Judge is chasing history. The Los Angeles Dodgers are making a statement in baseball. The Seattle Mariners (!) are on the cusp of their first playoff berth since 2001. What a world we live in.
Speaking of which, the Mariners are one of my sleeper teams in baseball. There's no better rotation for a short series sans the Dodgers, Braves, and Yankees than the M's. Robbie Ray's slider has been lights out, with 61% of sliders resulting in strikes and opponents batting .192 against the pitch.
Adding Luis Castillo helps, specifically with his diverse repertoire. He balances his four-seam fastball (.130 BA, .183 wOBA, 66.9% strike rate) with his slider ( .189 BA, .250 wOBA, 66.4% strike rate). Having these two with an emerging Logan Gilbert and George Kirby will be the keys to making a deep postseason run for Seattle.
Let's not forget this is the second-best fielding team in baseball (.988 fielding percentage). They've committed the fewest errors in the game (58), with stars such as J.P. Crawford and Julio Rodriguez making spectacular plays. Throw in an awesome bullpen and you have a team that'll be tough to score on.
On the National League side, everyone and their mother's picking the Dodgers to win the World Series. The reasons are obvious: they're a well-rounded team that can beat you multiple ways.
Well, almost. They've had concerns with Craig Kimbrel in the closer role and Clayton Kershaw's had his share of postseason struggles. So why not go with the defending World Series champs as a sleeper pick to repeat?
A common theme for this post is pitching. It goes back to how far your arms can carry you in the postseason. I've mentioned how Seattle has the potential to do this, but Atlanta does, too. Both teams have stellar ERA's (Seattle is fifth with a team ERA of 3.44, while Atlanta has a team ERA of 3.50, good for sixth).
The Braves have an excellent rotation in their own right, led by the young Spencer Strider. His four-seamer (.208 BA, .266 wOBA, 68.9% strike rate) has dominated opposing batters. He's accompanied by Max Fried, who has a diverse pitch set. Whether it's a four-seamer, curveball (.183 BA, .195 wOBA, .303 BABIP), or a slider, Fried will get you.
You can't forget that Atlanta has strong hitters such as Ronald Acuna, Austin Riley, and Dansby Swanson. This team is well-rounded in its lineup and its rotation, bringing back vivid memories of the 90s-2000s Braves.
Both teams also have Rookie of the Year front runners, with Strider and Rodriguez leading the way. Rodriguez has made his mark in the league, hitting 25 homers and stealing 25 bases, making him the third rookie in MLB history to do this. As mentioned, both squads have young talent that can make plenty of noise.
Experts are going to delve into picking the Dodgers, Yankees, and Astros to win the World Series. Some will even go with the Mets because of their magic. Why not take a flyer on the aforementioned squads? Both the M's and the Braves have the potential to make things difficult for other teams.