Baseball’s playoff teams have shown the strengths that got them to October. It’s now time to expose each squad’s fatal flaw, the glaring weakness that could end its World Series bid.
Whether it’s a key injury, a hole in the lineup, a struggling starting pitcher or a shaky bullpen, here are the most notable flaws for all of the contenders:
Odds of winning the World Series: 32 percent (per FanGraphs)
Fatal flaw: Closer
The Astros are the best-hitting team in the majors (batting .274 with an .848 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, creating runs at a rate that is 25 percent higher than average after accounting for league and park effects) and also boast a solid pitching staff (major league-leading 28 percent strikeout rate with the second-lowest ERA), making a fatal flaw tough to find. But their closer, Roberto Osuna, has been shaky at times.
July was Osuna’s worst month, a span in which line drives against him were more frequent (30 percent of batted balls in play) and his command wasn’t up to par (walking a season-high 9 percent of batters faced). He started to settle down, but his ERA ballooned to 5.00 over nine innings in August, causing some concern over which pitcher we will see in the playoffs.
New York Yankees
Odds of winning the World Series: 17 percent
Fatal flaw: The rotation
The Yankees’ starting rotation has allowed 11 more runs than expected after taking into account how many outs were left in the inning and how many men were on base at the time of each pitch. That’s the worst performance among American League playoff teams, with New York being the only one of the five with a negative number.
Teams with below-average rotations have been able to win championships, but the Yankees also are in line to have two starters, James Paxton and Domingo Germán, make their first career postseason starts. Since 2006, 129 pitchers have made their postseason debut, but less than half (63) turned in a quality start (six or more innings with three or fewer earned runs).
Los Angeles Dodgers
Odds of winning the World Series: 16 percent
Fatal flaw: Closer
Kenley Jansen hasn’t been reliable, and he called his 2019 campaign the most frustrating of his career. The closer had a career-worst 3.77 ERA and issued 2.3 walks per nine innings, his worst mark since 2014. His strikeout rate rebounded a little from last season but remains several percentage points lower than when he was at his peak, a concerning trend for a closer.
Odds of winning the World Series: 8 percent
Fatal flaw: Dependency on luck
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Source:: The Denver Post – Sports