In the midst of the long, marathon type season that occurs every summer in the MLB, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s going on with America’s past-time. Casual fans may hear something along the lines of “Yeah, the St. Louis Cardinals are good….again” or “There’s always next year for (insert team name)” and think that they understand how the season has played out. The MLB season has been much more intriguing, however, than these few simple assertions.
Yes, the Cardinals are good again. In fact, they are very good, owning baseball’s best record. Other teams like the Houston Astros have surprised to have great seasons. Then you have the Washington Nationals, who have maybe been the biggest disappointment in 2015. Players like Mike Trout have been spectacular (as per usual) and guys like Carlos Correa have led a great rookie class. We’ve seen no-hitters and three-home run games, cycles and pitchers striking out a bunch of hitters in a single game. With all of these intriguing story lines, there is still so much to be decided. Oh, and the playoffs begin in just a few short weeks.
Seeing as the postseason is around the corner, it’s important to understand those teams that are on the brink of playing in October and analyzing their potential to make a championship run. Thus, we present you with the top 3 “dark-horse” or “surprise” teams that can make a World Series run. These squads all have the players and create the match-up nightmares to scare the big boys, despite their mediocre World Series’ odd. With that, here are the teams:
3. Minnesota Twins
The Twins have come out of nowhere this season to cement themselves right in the middle of the American League wild card chase. The reason for their success is hard to identify; they rank 23rd out of 30 teams in team batting average and their pitching staff ranks 21st in team ERA. Doesn’t seem like a recipe for success, but here the Twins are with a 67-63 record, just 1 game back in the wild card standings. With current World Series odds at 50-1, this club is the perfect “dark-horse” candidate.
Second baseman Brian Dozier is one of the cogs that allows Minnesota to compete. He owns 26 home runs and 66 RBI on the season, along with several huge walk-off hits. His energy provides a jolt to his squad when things get tough, making him popular in the clubhouse. Aside from Dozier, closing pitcher Glen Perkins is an integral piece of the Twins’ puzzle. If this team finds its way into the postseason, they can give the Kansas City Royals and Toronto Bue Jays trouble because of their youth and their lack of expectations. Look out for the Twins.
2. Texas Rangers
There’s no way the Texas Rangers are supposed to be in the postseason this year: they didn’t have the talent, the pitching, or anything going for them before the season began. Yet, the Rangers currently hold the second wild card spot in the American League and are in great shape to be playing in October. With World Series odds at 25-to-1, Texas has a great opportunity to sneak up on some teams and make it to the Fall Classic.
Prince Fielder has led the offensive output for the Rangers in 2015, hitting for 17 home runs, 71 RBI, and a .316 average. His presence at he plate makes his teammates much more effective, as he takes so much focus away from the other batters. Pitcher Cole Hamels was the Rangers prized trade deadline acquisition and he is probably the most important player for Texas. He has a ton of postseason (and World Series) experience that will be huge for this club should they make the playoffs. The Rangers seem to have just enough offense and just enough pitching to make a team worry about them. Don’t be surprised if this team knocks off the best of the American League and winds up playing for a championship this fall.
1. Chicago Cubs
Now, don’t misunderstand the Cubs’ inclusion on this list. This team has been one of the best in baseball all season (as proven by their 4th best record in the majors). The moniker of “dark-horse” for the Cubs is earned by their history and the fact that they play in the NL Central with the Cardinals and Pittsburgh Pirates. At the top, the National League is daunting and it will be an absolute dogfight for the right to represent that league in the World Series. With championship odds at 14-to-1, the Cubs chances aren’t far fetched, but they still fall below 4 National League squads. Still, this a team that can surprise everyone and do something it hasn’t done in many, many decades.
Led by a great pitching staff, Chicago is a force to be reckoned with. Jake Arrieta has been magnificent on the mound, pitching to a tune of a 2.11 ERA and 17 wins. When he takes the mound, the Cubs realize they are probably going to win that night, which is a feeling you want when your pitcher is on the hill. Offensively, Anthony Rizzo has been the leader of a young group of talented hitters. Even though the club doesn’t excel offensively, the young talent and exceptional pitching will give this team as good of an opportunity has anyone to make the World Series. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.