ESPN's Olney: Rays "most dangerous" team
ESPN's Buster Olney wrote Monday that the Rays are shaping up as the team no one would want to play in the postseason, putting them atop a new ranking of baseball's "most dangerous" teams.
Olney, in his ESPN.com Insider column, writes:
Who is the team nobody wants to play in the postseason?
In the American League, that team may well be the Tampa Bay Rays, who have six straight wins, all after the return of Evan Longoria to their lineup. CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are on the disabled list, the Rangers' rotation has been hammered by injuries and is looking for improvement out of Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, and the Angels' bullpen has become a serious problem.
Meanwhile, the Rays' pitching -- so dangerous all along -- has come together.
He writes about how good the starting rotation has been, and then adds:
The Tampa Bay bullpen has been spectacular, quietly, with Fernando Rodney having the type of year that even Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman would brag about; Rodney has allowed only 33 hits and eight walks in 54 innings. Tampa Bay's staff ERA is three-quarters of a run better than any other team's since the All-Star break.
We are about 6½ weeks away from a brand of postseason we've never seen before, in which teams could repeatedly face one-game, winner-take-all situations by having to play wild-card and division tiebreakers before the actual wild-card games. It's possible that a team could face four or five elimination games in the span of those 10 days, and since pitching matchups are always the most important factor in a short series, the Rays hold an advantage because, right now, they have the best pitching.
Then Olney suggests coming up with "a second power ranking of the most dangerous teams" and lists his current top five:
1. Tampa Bay: The Rays' rotation depth is the best in the majors.
2. Atlanta Braves: The Braves have an underrated rotation and an extraordinary bullpen. In any tie game in late innings, their bullpen of Kimbrel, Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Kris Medlen should give them a major advantage.
3. Texas: The Rangers could have a great October bullpen, and their postseason experience can be a major weapon -- but only if Darvish or Holland get better.
4. San Francisco Giants: Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner are capable of winning a short series by themselves, and Buster Posey has been baseball's best position player in the second half.
5. Cincinnati Reds: Johnny Cueto is arguably the best pitcher in the NL, and if Mat Latos -- the linchpin guy for this team -- can respond in a big moment, this is a team capable of winning it all.