Justin Bishop ’24
San Francisco Giants
The best team in Major League Baseball is, without a doubt, the San Francisco Giants. The Giants were the best team in the regular season, which concluded this past Sunday with a dominant record of 107 – 55. The Giants’ +210 run differential is second in the league to their rival division opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have a +269 differential. Finishing second in the league in Team Earned Run Average (ERA) 3.24 and Team Home Runs (HR) 241, it is clear that the San Francisco pitching staff is more than capable of handling its own and that the players can hit the long ball with ease. Throughout the second half of the year, the team put together winning streaks of 6+ four times, and their longest losing streak was four and only occurred once. Being able to string along winning streaks of that stature is a necessity in the postseason, and avoiding losing streaks is equally important.
Sitting at (+450) odds to win it all, the Giants are the second in betting favorite, just behind the Dodgers at (+350), according to oddshark.com. San Francisco has no “star player” who carries the team; instead, they rely on the entire team to produce. One could raise the argument that shortstop Brandon Crawford is the “star player,” seeing that he leads the team in every offensive category other than home runs, and he is still third on that list. Brandon Belt leads the team with 29 HR and nine other players have 10+ HR, which ties none other than the Dodgers for most players with 10+ HR. Having this type of offensive production out of so many players is key to having prolonged success in the playoffs.
However, one cannot only rely on offense. Even though putting up almost five runs per game is key, pitching and fielding are also aspects of the game San Francisco have down. The team has seven pitchers on the team that have 50+ innings pitched with an ERA less than 3.00. The pitching staff holds opponents to batting a measly 0.229 average, and only allowing three runs per game will stifle almost any opposing offense. The Giants are clean and efficient in fielding, ranking second amongst playoff teams in fielding percentage. Specifically, outfielder Mike Yastrzemski ranks third in the league in fielding percentage as an outfielder, and Brandon Crawford ranks fourth amongst shortstops in the league in the same category.
Statistics are all great measurements of where a team ranks and how much they produce compared to the rest of the league; however, the only statistic that matters is how many games they win. The San Francisco Giants are the winningest team in baseball, and they will carry that momentum into the National League Division Series and eventually through to the World Series. They will take on the winner of the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals.
Stephen Foster ’22
Los Angeles Dodgers
When looking at the group of talented teams assembled this year in the Major League Baseball playoffs, there are several with superior pitching, hitting, and defense. However, one team stands out from the rest: the Los Angeles Dodgers, the 2020 World Series Champions.
The Dodgers started the 2021 season as the favorite to go back-to-back and win it all again. Since then, their President of Baseball Operations, Andrew Friedman, has improved the team even further, making several significant moves at the trade deadline. They added starting pitcher Max Scherzer (15 Wins, 2.46 Earned Run Average) and middle infielder Trea Turner (27 Home Runs, 32 Steals, .328 Batting Average) from the Washington Nationals. Both have formed an integral part of the Dodgers’ success down the stretch. Having starting pitchers who go deep into games and keep runs off the board is essential for winning playoff games.
The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the MLB in earned run average and earned runs allowed with a 3.02 ERA and 486 earned runs, allowing a significant 38 runs fewer than the next best team. This feat is primarily achieved by the work of their outstanding starting rotation, which is arguably the best in the league. Led by Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler (15 W, 2.49 ERA), Julio Urias (20 W, 2.96 ERA), and Clayton Kershaw (10 W, 3.55 ERA), the Dodgers’ pitching rotation strikes fear into the eyes of any hitter. Furthermore, their bullpen led by Kenley Jansen (2.22 ERA in 69 games, 38 Saves) and Blake Treinen (1.99 ERA in 72 games) is equally as strong as their starting pitching. The Dodgers are ready to ride the arms of their aces all the way to The Commissioner’s Trophy. If that is not enough, their lineup is stacked with power hitters and players who excel at getting on base. The Dodgers are fourth in both home runs and on base percentage in the MLB with 237 HR and a .330 OBP.
Moreover, Los Angeles is a team known for sparing no amount of money in order to get to the World Series. Their monetary flexibility allows them to go big on many players that other small market teams cannot afford to sign. They lead the MLB with the highest payroll in 2021, which is an astounding $194,839,000. Their ability to sign the best players in the league is a huge advantage that will pay off in the postseason. Small market teams can only hope to compete with the prowess of the 2021 Los Angeles Dodgers. Their financial ability combined with their spot near the top of almost every statistics category will bode well for the Dodgers. At the end of the MLB postseason, The Commissioner’s Trophy will once again find its way to Los Angeles.