The Weekly Reed: Highlighting the American League playoff teams 

Baltimore Orioles’ Adley Rutschman, front left, takes an at-bat as the pitch clock, right, winds down during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies, Aug. 26, 2023, in Baltimore. The average time of a nine-inning major league game dropped to 2 hours, 40 minutes in the first year of the pitch clock, a 24-minute decrease that reduced the time to its level in 1985. Terrance Williams/AP Photo

The MLB playoffs are upon us, and with that being said, I wanted to highlight the teams coming out of the American League. Of the two leagues for this postseason, I would argue that the American League (AL) looks to be a more competitive field with no clear winner out of the six. There is plenty of evidence to show for it as the AL West was decided on just the last day of the regular season, and the AL East is bringing in three teams from their division for the fourth straight postseason. Here are how these teams stack up. 

Baltimore Orioles (1) 

Behind a dominant bullpen and a prospect-filled lineup, the Orioles look to be one of the top contenders. Rookie Gunnar Henderson (125 OPS+) looks like the Rookie of the Year in the AL, Adley Rutschman (128 OPS+) had a great sophomore year and Kyle Bradish (146 ERA+) solidified himself as a starter. Despite a great start from Tampa Bay, Baltimore played great, consistent baseball to take over the number one spot in the AL East and, eventually, the entire AL. It was recently announced that all-star closer Felix Bautista (33 saves, 1.48 ERA) would miss the playoffs to get Tommy John surgery, which is a huge loss for the team. Starters and lack of playoff experience is the main concern for the Orioles, but anything is possible in October. 

Houston Astros (2) 

Essentially playoff regulars at this point, the reigning champions clawed their way back into another division title. Despite injuries and regression from many of their best players, Houston kept themselves afloat by adding back Justin Verlander from a trade with the Mets. Bryan Abreu and Hector Neris (241 and 246 ERA+, respectively) have been lights out of their bullpen, and Kyle Tucker continues to dominate, leading the team with a 5.4 bWAR. The Astros are coming in with momentum too, winning five of their last six games heading into the postseason. Houston is the most experienced team out of the bunch, and they’re here to win it all. 

Minnesota Twins (3) 

Coming from the least competitive division in the AL, the Minnesota Twins have the worst record out of the six AL teams. Sonny Gray put up a masterful year, amassing a 2.79 ERA in 184 innings, as he’ll be behind only Gerrit Cole in the Cy Young voting. Starter Pablo Lopez pitched solidly too, tying third in the entire MLB with 234 strikeouts on top of a 3.66 ERA in his first season in Minnesota. Injuries to Carlos Correa, Bryon Buxton and Royce Lewis are concerning, but the return of Brock Stewart provides Jhoan Duran and the bullpen another key arm to get through a tough AL. 

Tampa Bay Rays (4) 

Behind a massively talented and experienced roster, Tampa Bay enters their fifth straight playoff berth. Yandy Diaz had a career year for the Rays, claiming the AL batting title (.330, fourth best in MLB), making his first-ever all-star appearance while slashing an OPS of .932. This placed him eighth best in the MLB. Josh Lowe broke out in 2023, playing in 135 games, smacking 20 home runs while swiping 32 bags. But like with most other teams, injury concerns are taking over. Slugger Brandon Lowe suffered an injury when he fouled a ball off his knee a few weeks back; some say his season is over, while others are more optimistic. Pitchers Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs and Drew Rasmussen also went down with major injuries this year, depleting the Rays pitching staff. This and the potential last season of Wander Franco’s career looked like it would hold the Rays back, but the team was persistent and powered through to make the playoffs. With their experience from the years before, don’t be surprised to see this team deeper into October. 

Texas Rangers (5) 

In their first season under manager Burce Bochy, the Rangers made their first postseason since 2016. Led by their power-filled lineup, Texas clinched the second wild-card seed despite leading the AL West for the majority of the season. Injuries to Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom may have cost them the division, but the team still has strength in their rotation behind Nathan Eovaldi (3.63 ERA), Jordan Montgomery (2.79 ERA) and Dane Dunning (3.70 ERA). Corey Seager destroyed opposing pitchers this year (.327/.390/.623) and carried a 1.013 OPS through 112 games played. The weakness of the Rangers is their bullpen, even after adding Aroldis Chapman earlier in the season. Texas has blown 33 out of 63 save situations in 2023, converting just under half of their opportunities into actual saves. If the Rangers can figure out a way to close out close games, they can be a real threat against any of the other five teams in the AL. 

Toronto Blue Jays (6) 

The final spot in the American League belongs to the Toronto Blue Jays. Behind a great rotation, the Blue Jays made their third postseason in the last four years. Chris Bassitt, Jose Berrios, Kevin Gausman and Yusei Kikuchi headline the starting staff; all have made over 30 starts this season and earned ERAs under four. All-star Bo Bichette produced yet another remarkable year (.306 BA, .814 OPS) and rookie Davis Schneider provided energy for the team after his August call-up (35 games, 1.008 OPS and a .276 BA). The primary issue for the Blue Jays has been the strength of their division. As previously mentioned, Toronto is one of three AL East teams to make the postseason, and division play is where they struggled the most this season. The Blue Jays had the worst in-division record in the East at 21-31, including a 3-10 record against the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles. Even if they were to face Texas in the next round, they went just 1-6 against the Rangers this season. Toronto must find ways to beat these teams if they want their playoff run to last. 

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