We’re just over a week away from October baseball and playoff races are heating up in the bigs. Teams can slug their way into the postseason, but it’s pitching that always prevails come playoff time.
We take a look at four contenders for the postseason with playoff ready pitching staffs:
San Francisco Giants (6/1 to win World Series)
The Giants already clinched the NL West title and now Bruce Bochy gets a chance to set his rotation exactly how he wants it. The manager has said he plans to go with a four-man rotation in the playoffs, with fifth starter Barry Zito the most likely to be tabbed as the long man out of the pen.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain had a combined 6-1 record during the club’s unforgettable championship run in 2010 and they’ll be joined by Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong down the stretch this year. The bullpen will certainly miss the playoff experience and swagger of closer Brian Wilson, but the group still features some power arms in Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla that should be able to close out games.
St. Louis Cardinals (15/1 to win World Series)
The Cardinals are the defending World Series champs and boast a pitching staff that’s playoff proven. Chris Carpenter has rejoined the rotation just in time for the playoff run after finally dealing with a nerve ailment. The battle-tested veteran was untouchable in October last year, posting a perfect 4-0 record.
Adam Wainwright missed last year’s storybook run because of Tommy John surgery, but he isn’t a stranger to the postseason. Remember, he closed out Game 5 against the Tigers during the club’s 2006 title run. Kyle Lohse and up-and-comer Lance Lynn round out a rotation that can most certainly repeat as champions. Closer Jason Motte has already eclipsed the 40-save mark and proved last year he’s a playoff performer, closing out five games.
Detroit Tigers (10/1 to win World Series)
Much like the Cardinals, the Tigers still have some work to do in order to play October baseball. Playoff bound teams will be rooting against Detroit down the stretch because nobody wants to face 2011 MVP Justin Verlander multiple times in a short series. With AL strikeout leader Max Scherzer factoring into the equation and feeling good after a return from shoulder fatigue, the Tigers have a potent one-two punch.
Closer Jose Valderde and setup man Joaquin Benoit round out a hard-throwing bullpen that quickly racks up Ks. Valverde has converted all four of his career save opportunities in the postseason.
Cincinnati Reds (6/1 to win World Series)
The Reds are postseason bound and have been a very reliable under bet all season long (59-81-13 O/U as of Sept. 24). Cincinnati's pitching has ranked in the top five in ERA, WHIP and quality starts all season thanks in part to its killer bullpen. Closer Aroldis Chapman leads a group that boasts a league-best 2.62 ERA this season. Sure, the lefty needed a break to rest his fatigued throwing shoulder, but he’s still the most feared strikeout pitcher in the game.
The Reds’ starters aren’t too shabby either. Johnny Cueto and Mat Latos lack playoff experience, but Bronson Arroyo, who has 11 postseason appearances under his belt, will be filling them in on the challenges to come.
World Series odds courtesy of the LVH Superbook in Las Vegas.