We're finally here. Only one day left in the marathon that is the baseball regular season. In what was the most exciting conclusion to a regular season in baseball's history exactly one year ago, it is not out of the question to expect similar results this week. Not only is it possible that we may have multiple tie-breaking matchups on Thursday, but Friday will hold two one-game Wild Card playoff matchups — the first of their kind.
But we all know that for any team to make a World Series run, they need to be hot at the right time. Don't be distracted by the heroics that will play out in the coming days. Here are my MLB playoff power rankings, a list of teams in chronological order that I think have the best shot at winning the 2012 World Series.
1. Detroit Tigers (87-74) AL Central Champion
–Doug Fister is one of the most under-rated pitchers in baseball. Since the break, he's notched a 0.99 WHIP.
–Reports are saying that Max Scherzer — despite his recent ankle 'celebratory' injury — is ready to pitch again and should be ready for the ALDS. He has a sub 3.00 ERA post All-Star break since his shoulder injury.
Any team with Cy Young winner Justin Verlander always has a shot. You toss in possible Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and this team looks dynamite down the stretch. They have a worse record than what the Wild Card will have, which makes me like them even more. I picked the Tigers over the Braves for my World Series prediction early this spring, I'm not backing down now.
#2 Atlanta Braves (93-68) Wild Card
–They can be clutch with the sticks. They have scored 265 runs this season with 2 outs and runners on — tied for 2nd in baseball. –Kris Medlen has been baseball's best starter in the 2nd half, throwing a 0.94 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. Batters are only hitting .189 against him.
–What's scary; guess who's been the second best pitcher in baseball? Teammate Mike Minor, who's tossed a 2.16 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and a .187 average against — which is actually lower than Medlen's.
–Paul Maholm has come out of nowhere with a 2.84 ERA since the break as well.
–The Braves are 19-8 in September and have a ridiculous ERA of 2.39.
It's Chipper Jones' last season and they're still embarrassed after coughing up the division on the final night of the season last year. They literally have a chip on their shoulder. Again, sticking with my pre-season pick on this one.
#3 Washington Nationals (97-64) NL East Champion
–They have scored 265 runs this season with 2 outs and runners on — tied for 2nd in baseball.
–Gio Gonzalez has a 1.15 WHIP.
–They've scored 145 runs in September, best in the NL.
–Their .823 OPS during September is best in all of baseball.
What's crazy is that while their pitching has been arguably the best in baseball all year behind Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg (who is now shut down for the year) and Jordan Zimmerman, their lineup has only started playing to their potential since the All-Star break. Remember how bad Ryan Zimmerman was this summer? Or how Jayson Werth couldn't buy a hit? How about Michael Morse's injury bug constantly biting? Ya, hard for me to remember as well. This is a different team. They're on a roll and everyone knows it. The first post-season appearance from a D.C. team since the 30's and the city has already planned their World Series parade (no joke).
#4 San Francisco Giants (94-67) NL West Champion
–Batting .280 since the All-Star break, better than any playoff team.
–They've scored 583 runs this season with men in scoring position, which leads the majors.
–Who's been the hottest hitter in baseball in the past month? Mr. Marco Scutaro. No, this isn't a joke. Scoot is hitting .416 in the past 30 days, best in the Bigs.
–The Giants are 20-8 in September, tied for best in the NL.
–Their .297 average in September is best in all of baseball.
Even though he will be eligible to come back during the playoffs, the Giants have already told Melky Cabrera that he is not welcome back following his drug suspension. Add to the fact the Giants have actually played better as a team since the at-one-time MVP candidate left the team really tells me something more is going on here. The Giants have been here before. If Timmy Jim can find some kind of rhythm, this is possibly the most dangerous team in the game.
#5 Texas Rangers (93-68) Plays for division title against Oakland Wednesday
–Yu Darvish may have finally found his footing. In the past 30 days, the Japanese import has thrown a 0.74 WHIP while batters are only hitting .160 against him.
–While Josh Hamilton likes to step up in critical games, Adrian Beltre has been a monster. In the past 30 days he's nailed 10 home runs while hitting .316.
–The Rangers are only 15-14 in September, so they need to turn the heat back on very soon. A win against Oakland on Wednesday to seal the division will help; blowing it this late would be a tragedy considering they've led the AL West since the third day of the season.
It can't be easy trying to rebound from losing the World Series two years in a row, one in which you were one strike away, twice. They're lineup is as dangerous as any, they have a lights-out closer in Joe Nathan and their starting rotation is very good for an AL team. The only thing that can hold this team back are themselves, which very well could come into fruition for the third straight year.
#6 New York Yankees (94-67) One game up on Baltimore with one game remaining
–Although their ERA in September has been over 4.00, they've scored 146 runs during that time, which is No. 2 in baseball, only trailing the Orioles.
Hiroki Kuroda and A.J. Burnett have been very good since the All-Star break, but will it be enough? Having a guy named C.C. Sabathia will help. Ichiro has been great since coming over from Seattle and Derek Jeter continues to rake. If their pitching holds up in a tough AL, the Yanks have a shot.
#7 Baltimore Orioles (93-68) One game behind NYY for division title with one game remaining.
–They're clutch. They've won an incredible 16 extra-inning games in a row – a feat that's only been done one other time in the history of the sport.
–They have an ERA of 2.20 during late, close games — which is the best in baseball.
–Adam Jones has scored the most runs in all of baseball in the past month with 25.
–The Orioles are 19-9 in September, best in the AL.
–They've scored 154 runs in September, best in baseball.
For the casual fan they're a bunch of no-names, but they've been winning close games all season and have a terrific manager. This team could pose a real threat. They always find a way to win.
#8 Oakland Athletics (93-68) Plays for division title against Texas Wednesday
–The A's are 8-3 in their last 11 games.
–Since June 10, they have the best record in all of baseball at 67-33.
–They have scored 382 runs since the All-Star break, best of any playoff team.
–They have a 2.25 ERA during late, close games – which is No. 2 in all of baseball. They also have a 1.04 WHIP during late, close games — which is best in baseball.
–Their OPS with 2 outs and runners on is tops of any playoff team as well at .779.
–They also have speed. Coco Crisp is tied for first in stolen bases in the past 30 days with 9.
'Money ball' at it's finest. A bunch of misfits acquired during free-agency, through trade and off waivers is making some real noise. They will be fun to watch, but I'm not calling Vegas. That being said, I always love to root for an under dog. They definitely have the most intriguing stats.
#9 Cincinnati Reds (97-64) NL Central Champion
–Have scored 106 runs during late games that are also close this season, which leads all of baseball.
–Aroldis Chapman, with 26 saves and a 0.63 WHIP since the break, is the best closer in the game.
–Matt Latos has been spectacular, posting a 2.89 ERA since the break.
–The Reds have a 2.91 ERA in September, which ranks No. 3 in baseball.
They have a great mix of youth and veteran leadership. Although they have the talent, something about their management leaves me feeling uneasy.
#10 St.Louis Cardinals (87-74) Wild Card
–They've scored 578 runs this season with men in scoring position, which is 2nd in all of baseball.
–Kyle Lohse has really carried this team, posting a 2.95 ERA since the break.
If Chris Carpenter can regain his form from this time last year, which will be tough considering he's been sidelined almost all season, the Cardinals have a slim chance. This team has persevered through so much in 2012. Every time you think the Cardinals can't handle any more injuries, they still find ways to win. They had the most magical of runs in 2011, but given their long list of injuries — along with players battling lingering issues — a run as magical as last year would be even more impressive.
Photo Credit: Getty
Note: Some stats were compiled on Tuesday, October 2 before the start of the games played that day.