In recent years, baseball’s World Series Champions have seemed to follow a similar pattern. Aside from last year’s Kansas City Royals, the seven of the last eight champions featured a dynamic duo that included at least one dominant pitcher and one outstanding hitter, complemented by a tremendous supporting cast. Here are those duos dating back to 2008:
2015: Kansas City Royals
The Royals did not have a truly dominant duo; rather, they buried the Mets with clutch hitting and aggressive baserunning.
2014: San Francisco Giants
Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner (3 wins)
Hitter: Pablo Sandoval (.429 average)
Supporting Cast: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Travis Ishikawa, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo
2013: Boston Red Sox
Pitcher: Jon Lester (2 wins, 0.59 ERA)
Hitter: David Ortiz (.688 average, 2 homers)
Supporting Cast: Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli, Dustin Pedroia, John Lackey, Koji Uehara
2012: San Francisco Giants
Pitcher: Sergio Romo (3 saves)
Hitter: Pablo Sandoval (.500 average, 3 homers)
Supporting Cast: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain
2011: St. Louis Cardinals
Pitcher: Chris Carpenter (2 wins, 2.84 ERA)
Hitter: David Freese (.348 average, Game 6 tying and winning hits)
Supporting Cast: Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Albert Pujols, Jaime Garcia
2010: San Francisco Giants
Pitcher: Tim Lincecum (2 wins, 3.92 ERA)
Hitter: Edgar Renteria (.412 average, 2 homers)
Supporting Cast: Buster Posey, Aubrey Huff, Travis Ishikawa, Juan Uribe, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner
2009: New York Yankees
Pitcher: Mariano Rivera (2 saves, 0.00 ERA)
Hitter: Hideki Matsui (.615 average, 3 homers, 8 RBI)
Supporting Cast: Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettite
2008: Philadelphia Phillies
Pitcher: Cole Hamels (2 starts, 1 win, 2.77 ERA)
Hitter: Ryan Howard (.286 average, 3 homers, 6 RBI)
Supporting Cast: Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Pedro Feliz, Carlos Ruiz, Joe Blanton, Brad Lidge
Based on this formula, here are my rankings of the current postseason rosters:
Toronto Blue Jays
Pitcher: J.A. Happ
Hitter: Josh Donaldson
Supporting Cast: Roberto Osuna, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Justin Smoak, Aaron Sanchez
What the Jays lack in pitching they almost certainly make up for with their high-powered lineup. Their starters have been relatively successful this year, but between Marcus Stroman, J.A. Happ, and Aaron Sanchez, there is not much promise of postseason dominance. Their bullpen, aside from closer Roberto Osuna who has been fantastic, leaves a lot to be desired. Just as was the case last year, I do not believe their offense will be able to make up for their gaping holes on the other side of the ball, and thus, they have little chance to make a run at a title.
Pitcher: Chris Tillman
Hitter: Manny Machado
Supporting Cast: Mark Trumbo, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Kevin Gausman, Brad Brach, Zach Britton
The Orioles are an interesting team. Their offense has the ability to take over games despite their below-average starting pitching, and their bullpen is arguably the most dominant in all of baseball. Given their lack of ability within the rotation, should they be able to make a run at the World Series, they will be forced to take the same route as the 2015 Royals. The one issue with this, however, is that they do not have the aggressive, in-your-face style of play that last year’s champs did.
Pitcher: Noah Sydergaard
Hitter: Yoenis Cespedes
Supporting Cast: Asdrubal Cabrera, James Loney, Jay Bruce, Curtis Granderson, Bartolo Colon, Jeurys Familia
While they are only a shell of the team that won the NL pennant a year ago, the Mets still have a bit of hope left to do some damage in the postseason. There starting rotation, although without Matt Harvey and Jacob Degrom, is still very talented. Noah Syndergaard, one of the NL’s most dominant pitchers, has shown an ability to perform in the playoffs. He will be complemented by Robert Gsellman, who has impressed since coming up, and the wily veteran, Bartolo Colon. Their offense, although by no means dominant, may be able to do enough to complement their pitching staff and make a surprise run at a title once again.
Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner
Hitter: Buster Posey
Supporting Cast: Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence, Eduardo Nunez Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore
Despite their second-half collapse, the Giants remain a scary playoff team for one reason above all others: MADISON BUMGARNER. Already one of baseball’s all-time great postseason performers, he has shown the ability to completely change the dynamic of any series. Pair him with an imposing offense, and the Giants have a legitimate chance at a World Series should they squeak past the Wild Card game.
Pitcher: Corey Kluber
Hitter: Francisco Lindor
Supporting Cast: Mike Napoli, Jose Ramirez, Jason Kipnis, Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, Andrew Miller
A team that many have seemed to overlook heading into the playoffs, the Indians have had an impressive 2016 season. Young talent in players like Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar have given Cleveland fans a newfound sense of hope for their team in the present and the future. However, while the raw ability that the Indians possess is certainly noteworthy, they may still be a year or two away from a legitimate World Series run. This group as a whole, aside from veterans like Mike Napoli and Andrew Miller, has never played under the bright lights of the postseason. Although come playoff time, anything can happen, I doubt that they will be able to make it out of the American League gauntlet.
Boston Red Sox
Pitcher: Rick Porcello
Hitter: David Ortiz
Supporting Cast: Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Dustin Pedroia, Craig Kimbrel
The Sox, at least on paper, seem to have the perfect mix of talent necessary to compete for this year’s crown. They have young, exciting players like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts to complement veterans like Hanley Ramirez, Dustin Pedroia, and the former World Series MVP, David Ortiz. Two gaping holes exist, however, in their starting rotation and their bullpen. Steven Wright, the knuckleballer who was on the fast-track to a Cy Young this season, will be out for at least the division series with a shoulder injury. David Price, who has underperformed this year as it is, has yet to win a postseason start in his career despite eight opportunities. Even Rick Porcello, one of few frontrunners to win this year’s AL Cy Young, has made only two playoff starts in his career, neither of which ended in victory. The Red Sox, bullpen, although statistically one of the best during the latter portion of the season, leaves plenty to be desired. Aside from Craig Kimbrel and an improving Koji Uehara, there is not much to trust in the later-innings. Their hitting, especially with David Ortiz (whose 2013 postseason was one for the history books), promises to be productive, but there is a lot of doubt as to whether they can carry their weight on the opposite side of the ball.
Pitcher: Max Scherzer
Hitter: Daniel Murphy
Supporting Cast: Tanner Roark, Mark Melancon, Danny Espinosa, Trea Turner, Bryce Harper
Will it finally be the Nats’ year? They have done little except to disappoint in recent years, but this season’s dominant duo is certainly a point of strength. If Daniel Murphy can repeat half of what he accomplished last postseason with the Mets, and Scherzer can continue his unbelievable year, the Nationals should be in great shape to make a deep playoff run. Their supporting cast, however, may not be as good as it looks on paper. Bryce Harper, obviously one of the biggest bats in their lineup, has hit a mediocre .243 this season while contributors like Trea Turner and Tanner Roark have yet to be tested in playoff competition. Not that they cannot make a real bid for a championship this season, but they have plenty of question marks heading into the divisional round.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Pitcher: Clayton Kershaw
Hitter: Adrian Gonzalez
Supporting Cast: Cory Seager, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, Yasmani Grandal, Rich Hill, Kenley Jansen
Simply put, there is little not to like about this year’s LA Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw is back from the Disabled List and, although probably not eligible, he is putting together Cy Young-type season. After debunking the idea that he could not perform in the playoffs during last season’s NLDS, he promises to headline a pitching staff that includes Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, and a dominant complimentary bullpen. On the offensive side of things, bombers like Adrian Gonzalez, Justin Turner, Cory Seager, and Yasiel Puig have the potential to take over a series. All things considered, this year may be the one the Dodgers fans have longed for since 1988, as they undoubtedly have the ability to make a deep postseason run.
Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
Hitter: Kris Bryant
Supporting Cast: Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Dexter Fowler, Addison Russell, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, Aroldis Chapman
In the 108th year since the Cubs last won a World Series, will the curse finally be broken? After putting up a 103 win season, Chicago is leaving no reason to think 2016 will not be the year of the Cubs. While Jake Arrieta headlines their rotation, any member of their staff, from Jon Lester, to John Lackey, to Kyle Hendricks, could certainly become their dominant pitcher. Although Kris Bryant has had the most outstanding season of the Cubs hitters, that does not mean that players like Anthony Rizzo, Addison Russell, Ben Zobrist, or Dexter Fowler cannot take over a series by themselves. They even filled the only hole on their depth chart two months back when they acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Yankees. This team has begun to make me believe that if they cannot break the longest-running championship drought in baseball history, it may never be broken.
1. Texas Rangers
Pitcher: Cole Hamels
Hitter: Carlos Beltran
Supporting Cast: Rougned Odor, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Jonathan Lucroy, Ian Desmond, Yu Darvish
Very quietly, the Texas Rangers have had one of the most impressive seasons of any team this year. Two enormous trades and 95 wins later, the team from Arlington is possibly the scariest playoff team this season. Cole Hamels, a former World Series MVP with the Phillies, finds himself paired with Japanese sensation Yu Darvish as they headline the Rangers’ 2016 rotation. Meanwhile, their offense in not only one of the most exciting I have seen in recent history, but they also have the experience to complement it. Carlos Beltran, one of the best all-time postseason hitters (.332 average), leads a veteran group that includes Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Jonathan Lucroy, Rougned Odor, and Ian Desmond. Despite their subpar bullpen, they certainly possess the talent necessary to win this year’s World Series crown.