Led by Dodgers and Indians, 2017 survivors have very few flaws
By David Adler and Manny Randhawa
The 10 teams that will comprise the field for the 2017 MLB postseason are set, and what a collection of talent it is. The Dodgers and Indians, two clubs that went on incredible runs this season to finish with more than 100 victories apiece, lead the way with home-field advantage throughout their respective League Championship Series rounds, should they advance that far. They're followed by an exciting group of clubs with budding young stars, many of whom will taste postseason play for the first time in a while.
Here's a breakdown of all the clubs that have reached the postseason, in order of win-loss record, which is even more meaningful this October since home-field advantage in the World Series will be determined by which pennant winner has the better record, regardless of whether it is a division winner or Wild Card team:
Opponent: NL Wild Card winner (D-backs or Rockies) in NLDS (Game 1 Friday on TBS)
HFA: Will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Ace:Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has lowered his career ERA for nine straight seasons. The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and former NL MVP is set to be on the mound for Game 1 of the NLDS. He leads the NL in both ERA+ (189) and strikeouts per walk (6.67) in an injury-shortened 2017 campaign.
Young stars:Cody Bellinger (21 years old) and Corey Seager (23). Bellinger just set the NL rookie record for home runs (39), and that after being called up in May. Last year Seager became the youngest shortstop to hit three homers in one game, eventually winning the NL Rookie of the Year.
Fantastic fact: From May 16 to Aug. 25, the Dodgers went 69-18, helping the club reach 103 victories, the most since it moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in 1958.
INDIANS (American League Central champs)
Opponent: AL Wild Card winner (Yankees or Twins) in ALDS (Game 1 Thursday on FS1 / MLB Network).
HFA: Will have home-field advantage through ALCS.
Ace:Corey Kluber. Kluber has a 1.62 ERA and 224 strikeouts in 166 1/3 innings since returning to the Indians' rotation at the beginning of June. He's 18-4 this season, leads the AL with a 2.25 ERA and ranks second with 265 strikeouts. Last year he led the Tribe to within a game of a World Series championship, with a 1.83 ERA in his six postseason starts.
Young stars:Francisco Lindor (23 years old) and Jose Ramirez (25). Ramirez has broken out as a potential AL MVP candidate, leading the league with 90 extra-base hits. Lindor might be the face of the Indians, and the exciting young shortstop has set a career high with 33 home runs this season.
Fantastic fact: The Indians set an AL record with their 22-game win streak (Aug. 24-Sept. 14). The Tribe also lost just once in 28 games (Aug. 24-Sept. 21) and twice in 31 games (Aug. 24-Sept. 24).
ASTROS (AL West champs)
Opponent: Red Sox (NL East Champs) in ALDS (Game 1 Thursday on FS1 / MLB Network).
HFA: Will have home field at least through ALDS.
Ace:Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel. The Astros have two strong options to spearhead their postseason effort: the power pitcher Verlander and the command artist Keuchel. Verlander, the Tigers' longtime ace, has been lights-out since joining Houston at the end of August -- he's 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA and 43 strikeouts. Keuchel, who led the Astros to the postseason with a Cy Young campaign in 2015, is 14-5 with a 2.90 ERA this season.
Young stars:Carlos Correa (22 years old), Jose Altuve (27) and George Springer (28). Altuve is an MVP frontrunner thanks to his Major League-leading .347 batting average and a fourth straight season of 200-plus hits, as well as a career-high-tying 24 homers and 32 steals. Springer, who just turned 28, leads the team with 34 homers. Correa, who returned from injury, is hitting .315 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs.
Fantastic fact: The Astros have an impressive combination of power, contact and discipline at the plate. They've struck out the fewest times of any team, 1,076, and also rank second in home runs, with 238. Houston also leads baseball with a .282 team batting average.
NATIONALS (NL East champs)
Opponent: Cubs (NL Central winner) in NLDS (Game 1 Friday on TBS).
HFA: Will have home-field advantage for NLDS.
Ace:Max Scherzer. Scherzer is a frontrunner for the NL Cy Young Award after winning the honor in 2016 (he also won the AL Cy Young Award in 2013 while with the Tigers). The 33-year-old right-hander posted a career-best 2.51 ERA in 2017 and led the National League with 268 strikeouts. Scherzer left his final regular-season start on Saturday in the fourth inning due to a hamstring cramp, but the Nationals said it was precautionary and he is expected to start on his regular schedule in the postseason.
Young stars: Bryce Harper (24 years old), Trea Turner (24), Anthony Rendon (27). Though a knee injury sidelined him for six weeks, Harper has posted the second-highest OPS of his career (1.007) behind his 2015 NL MVP campaign (1.109), and was an All-Star for the fifth time in six Major League seasons. Turner also missed time due to injury but has been hot in the second half of the season, posting a .918 OPS. He also stole 45 bases and was caught just eight times this year. Rendon had a career season in 2017, hitting 24 homers and posting a .932 OPS.
Fantastic fact: Washington has arguably the best trio of starters of any team in the playoffs. Scherzer (2.51), Stephen Strasburg (2.52), and Gio Gonzalez (2.75) are second, third, and fourth in the NL in ERA. Kershaw is the only other qualified starter in the NL with an ERA below 3.00.
RED SOX (AL East champs)
Opponent: Astros in ALDS (Game 1 Thursday on FS1 / MLB Network).
HFA: Astros have home-field advantage over Red Sox in ALDS.
Ace:Chris Sale. Sale has been dominant in his first season in Boston. He's 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He's pitched a Major League-leading 214 1/3 innings.
Young stars:Mookie Betts (24 years old), Xander Bogaerts (25), Andrew Benintendi (23) and Rafael Devers (20). Betts and Bogaerts are part of the core of the Red Sox and will look to make noise in the playoffs. Rookies Benintendi and Devers are elite prospects making their mark. Benintendi joined the 20-20 club on Saturday, which Betts has also reached. Devers has already proven what he can do in the biggest spots -- look no further than his game-tying ninth-inning homer off a 102.8 mph Aroldis Chapman fastball in August.
Fantastic fact: Sale is the American League's first 300-strikeout pitcher in this millennium. The last? A Red Sox legend: Pedro Martinez, who fanned 313 batters in 1999, his second Cy Young season and first with the Sox.
CUBS (NL Central champs)
Opponent: Nationals in NLDS (Game 1 Friday on TBS).
HFA: Nationals have home-field advantage over Cubs in NLDS.
Ace: Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta. Lester was co-MVP of the 2016 NLCS, and has 133 2/3 postseason innings under his belt. Despite giving up seven runs in a pair of starts on Aug. 17 and Sept. 20, Lester tossed six strong innings, allowing one run, against the Cardinals on Monday. Arrieta was stellar in the second half of the season, posting a 2.28 ERA in 12 starts following the All-Star break.
Young stars:Ian Happ (22 years old), Javier Baez (24), Kyle Schwarber (24), Kris Bryant (25), Willson Contreras (25). Happ, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect per MLBPipeline.com when he was called up in May, has had a strong debut season in the Majors, slashing .254/.330/.517 with 24 homers, including a homer in his MLB debut on May 13. Baez is one of the most exciting young players in the game in all facets -- hitting, fielding or baserunning. He's upped his OPS from 2016 by nearly 60 points, to .794. Schwarber was a World Series hero last October, returning from a knee injury that cost him most of the season to hit .412 in the Fall Classic. He hit seven postseason homers in 2015, a franchise record for career postseason home runs. Bryant has had another fantastic season after winning the NL MVP award in 2016, posting a .949 OPS (it was .939 in his MVP campaign last year) with 29 homers. In his first full MLB season, Contreras missed some time due to injury but was consistent nonetheless, hitting 21 homers with an .850 OPS while displaying strong defense behind the plate.
Fantastic fact: Despite a sluggish first half of the season, the defending World Series champions surged in the second half, including 16 wins in their last 19 games to win the NL Central for the second consecutive year.
D-BACKS (NL Wild Card 1)
Opponent: Rockies (winner of 2nd NL Wild Card spot) in NL Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET Wednesday on TBS)
HFA: Will have home-field advantage over Rockies in NL Wild Card Game.
Ace:Zack Greinke. Following a subpar (by Greinke's standards) season in 2016 -- his first with Arizona -- Greinke returned to form this season, going 17-7 with a 3.20 ERA in his fourth All-Star season. In nine career postseason starts, Greinke has a 3.55 ERA.
Young stars:Taijuan Walker (24 years old), Robbie Ray (25), Jake Lamb (26). Walker posted a 3.49 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings in 2017. Ray had a breakout season, with a 2.86 ERA and an NL-leading 12.2 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate. Like Ray, Lamb earned his first career All-Star selection, hitting 30 homers -- including a Statcast-projected 481-foot shot on April 29 at Chase Field -- with a .488 slugging percentage in 2017.
Fantastic fact:The D-backs reeled off 28 victories in 38 games from May 15 to June 27. Then, from Aug. 21 to Sept. 6, Arizona won 14 of 15, powered by trade acquisition JD Martinez, who hit nine homers in that span, including four in one game against the Dodgers on Sept. 4.
YANKEES (AL Wild Card 1)
Opponent: Twins in the AL Wild Card Game (Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN).
HFA: Will have home-field advantage for Wild Card Game.
Ace:Luis Severino. Severino has been the best starting pitcher in the AL this season not named "Sale" or "Kluber." The flame-throwing right-hander finished the regular season 14-6 with a 2.98 ERA and 230 strikeouts, tied for the third-most ever by a Yankee with teammate CC Sabathia, who fanned 230 back in 2011.
Young stars: Severino (23 years old), Aaron Judge (25) and Gary Sanchez (24). Severino leads the way for the Yankees on the mound, Judge and Sanchez at the plate. Judge is deadlocked with Altuve in the AL MVP race and the surefire Rookie of the Year, thanks to a monster season in which he led the AL with 52 home runs, hit .284/.422/.627, walked 126 times, drove in 114 runs and scored 128 times. He and Sanchez form one of baseball's most dangerous duos at the plate. Sanchez has 33 home runs of his own this season, the most by a catcher since Javy Lopez's 43 in 2003.
Fantastic fact: Judge and Sanchez have combined for 85 home runs this year, the most by any pair of Yankees teammates in a single season since franchise legends Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle in 1961, when Maris hit a record 61 and Mantle added 54.
ROCKIES (NL Wild Card 2)
Opponent: D-backs (winner of 1st NL Wild Card spot) in NL Wild Card Game (8 p.m. ET Wednesday on TBS).
HFA: D-backs have home-field advantage over Rockies in NL Wild Card Game.
Ace:Jon Gray. Gray's ERA at home this season is 3.13, nearly a run better than his road mark of 4.06. The hard-throwing right-hander has struck out 112 and walked just 30 in 110 1/3 innings this season (he missed time due to a foot injury), including a 10-strikeout, 0-walk performance against the D-backs at Chase Field on Sept. 22.
Young stars:Trevor Story (24 years old), Gray (25), Nolan Arenado (26). Story set the baseball world on fire with a home run surge to begin his career, belting 10 homers in his first month in the Majors (April 2016). He got off to a slow start in '17, but has 36 extra-base hits in the second half, including 13 homers. Arenado has become a perennial MVP candidate, leading the NL in home runs and RBIs in 2015 and '16, while winning four Gold Gloves in his first four big league seasons, making tremendous plays at third base on a regular basis.
Fantastic fact: Between Arenado and center fielder Charlie Blackmon, the Rockies have two NL MVP candidates in the lineup, along with a combined 74 home runs and 233 RBIs.
TWINS (AL Wild Card 2)
Opponent: Yankees in the AL Wild Card Game (Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
HFA: Will not have home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Ace:Ervin Santana. The 34-year-old veteran has put together his best season in years for the Twins. Santana is 16-8 with a 3.28 ERA, his lowest since 2013, and has eclipsed the 200-inning mark for the first time since that season. Santana leads the Majors with five complete games and three shutouts this season.
Young stars:Byron Buxton (23 years old) and Miguel Sano (24). Buxton has emerged as a true defensive superstar in center field, and he's been hitting recently, too, with a .297/.342/.545 slash line, 11 home runs and 12 stolen bases since August. Sano has just returned to the lineup after missing more than a month due to injury, and has 28 home runs and 77 RBIs this season.
Fantastic fact: Need proof of Buxton's elite defense aside from the highlight-reel plays? He leads all Major League outfielders with 24 Outs Above Average, Statcast™'s newest metric for outfield defense. The Twins, as a team, lead all MLB outfields with 30 Outs Above Average.
David Adler and Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyRsports. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.