Kudos to the many presidents of baseball operations, general managers, assistant general managers, special assistants to the general manager, analysts, quants and support staff who orchestrated an active and generally entertaining trade deadline. Your efforts are appreciated.
Yet for all the wheeling and dealing and heavy lifting completed, there are certain factors that can’t be flipped by a few big transactions during Major League Baseball’s annual transaction bazaar. Like real estate, contending for a World Series can have as much to do with location and luck as effort.
So after franchise icons were uprooted and money laundered and hugs dispensed, which clubs emerged with the straightest line to the World Series? Let’s break down the eight clubs in primest position to reach the Fall Classic:
A team that already led the majors in runs scored and was third in the AL in ERA knew exactly who it was and what it wanted to do: Fortify the bullpen.
Enter Kendall Graveman and Yimi Garcia, giving Houston three closers along with incumbent Ryan Pressly, with reliable Phil Maton imported from Cleveland for good measure. It’s tough on opponents to shorten the game when they’re already trying to suppress an offense that rolls seven deep once Alex Bregman returns from injury.
More important, the Astros already have a 5 ½-game lead in the AL West and a favorable schedule. The path to the best record in the AL is clear.
Oh, you figured one of those transaction-crazy, star-studded sexy NL squads out west would occupy this spot? Better to lay low in Dairyland, nurse a seven-game lead and rely on a dominant starting pitcher punch of Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta backed by the deepest bullpen in the NL.
The Brewers will be even better off if they don’t catch San Francisco for the league’s best record. Better to let the West champ slug it out with a loaded wild card survivor while the Brewers play host to a flawed NL East champ.
Yep, it may not look like it, but the road to the World Series runs through Milwaukee.
Even before they added Kris Bryant, it’s impossible to ignore how well-constructed this team is. They’ve beaten back the advances of the more celebrated Dodgers and Padres and played with numbing consistency.
Notice how the Giants were one of the few contenders not to add a significant relief arm at the deadline? That’s because their bullpen leads the majors in WHIP (1.11) and ranks second in batting average allowed (.217). They catch the ball. They command the strike zone on both sides of the equation.
And they have 19 games remaining with the Diamondbacks and Rockies, more than any other contender. Oh, and now they’ll trot out Bryant anywhere he’s needed – truly a dream for club president Farhan Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler.