Ranking top 10 lineups among MLB playoff contenders

By Michael Dixon

Of course, we don’t know who will win the 2018 World Series. But we recent postseasons have given us a pretty good clue as to what MLB teams need to win in October in this era. You need a potent offense and a strong bullpen.

We know which contenders have the best bullpens. Now it’s time to take a look at which ones have the best offenses.

The voids left by injured stars like Aaron Judge, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Kris Bryant is certainly significant. It certainly hurts where their respective teams stand. But how much?

Teams like the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers certainly have dangerous offenses. That said, they can each be slightly one-dimensional, which certainly hurts their rankings. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s hard to figure out just how opposing pitchers will go after teams like the Cleveland Indians and Boston Red Sox.

Among the MLB playoff contenders, these have the best offenses.

10. Atlanta Braves

With guys like Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Ozzie Albies, this lineup has a very old school feel to it. The Braves don’t hit a lot of home runs (though they’re not bad) and they put the ball in play a lot. It’s a model of success that worked well in the playoffs for teams like the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals in the first half of the decade. More recently, we’ve seen power teams do well in the playoffs. So, it’s hard to rank Atlanta any higher. But if this turns into a postseason where home runs are more scarce and putting the ball in play is rewarded, the Braves are well equipped.

9. Colorado Rockies

No doubt, fans in Colorado are tired of hearing the Coors Field argument to downgrade their players. But whether it’s Nolan Arenado (.354/.434/.670 vs. .265/.354/.511), Charlie Blackmon (.323/.386/.516 vs. .230/.304/.430), Trevor Story (.316/.379/.670 vs. .268/.316/.444), Carlos Gonzalez (.333/.394/.633 vs. .255/.303/.385), the numbers at altitude almost always come out significantly better. Now, regardless of where the game is being played, no opposing pitcher relishes the idea of facing this team. But the home/road splits keep the Rockies from being any higher.

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Los Angeles leads the National League in home runs, and it’s not particularly close. So, why aren’t the Dodgers higher? Well, this team has an all-or-nothing feeling to it and too often, it provides the latter. Since scoring 21 runs on August 2 against the Brewers, Los Angeles has scored a total of 34 runs over its last 12 games. Now, bad stretches happen. But we’re firmly into the dog days, a time when offenses have a distinct advantage. That makes this much harder to dismiss as a typical rough patch. We can’t put a team with this kind of power in a worse spot. But with the troubling trends, we also can’t go any higher.

7. Milwaukee Brewers

Statistically, this team shouldn’t be in the top 10. Milwaukee ranks in the middle-of-the pack in runs scored, batting average, OBP, and slugging. But with Jesus Aguilar, Travis Shaw, Eric Thames, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain, Ryan Braun, and Mike Moustakas, this lineup has a great deal of thump. In all, the Brewers and Dodgers are fairly similar. Each has left a feeling disappointment this seasons. But at the same time, each has too much talent to not be considered one of the best offenses in baseball.

6. New York Yankees

How much do the Yankees miss Judge? Well, in the 20 games before his injury, they averaged 5.35 runs a game. In the 20 games since, New York has averaged 4.75. That’s more than one-half run per game. When he’s in there, it’s a potentially historically great lineup. When he’s out, it’s still good, but there’s definitely significant room for improvement. Judge’s return is still very much up in the air. For the Yankee offense, it can’t come fast enough.

5. Houston Astros

The bad news for the Astros is that, since the All-Star break, they’ve scored the sixth-fewest runs in baseball. The good news? Carlos Correa is already back and more help should be on the way. Altuve and Springer will eventually return, and when they do this offense will get much better. But if there are any setbacks — or if either struggles some upon returning — then Houston looks to be in some trouble. There’s significant room to improve and reason to believe it will happen. But we need to see this team healthy before we can move it closer to the top.

4. Oakland Athletics

Ranking 16th in batting average and 13th in OBP, there’s a definite sense that the A’s could be better. They already score a lot of runs. How much better would things be if more men were on base? That offers a sliver of good news for opposing pitchers. Here’s the problem. Khris Davis is well on his way to a third straight 40 home run season. Matt Olson will likely finish the year close to 30. Jed Lowrie, Matt Chapman, Stephen Piscotty, and Mark Canha are all well on pace to hit 20 or more. Oakland may rely a bit too much on the solo home run. But plenty of people in that lineup are more than capable of hitting them.

3. Chicago Cubs 

If a playoff series against a team like Los Angeles or Milwaukee turns into a home run derby, the Cubs could be in trouble. A healthy Kris Bryant will help that somewhat. But even then, Chicago doesn’t quite have the power to compete in a series like that. That said, the Cubs are first in the majors in OBP and second in batting average. They’re also 11th in slugging and sixth in runs scored. So, even if the hits don’t go over the fence, they do plenty of damage. So, while this offense may not be the most powerful in the NL, it is the most dangerous overall.

2. Cleveland Indians

If you’re looking for power, the Indians have got you covered. They rank third in the league in home runs and fourth in extra-base hits. Jose Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Edwin Encarnacion, and Yonder Alonso are all well in range to exceed 30 home runs. Ramirez, in fact, already has, and could push 50. Lindor, meanwhile could well top 40. If that doesn’t impress you, Cleveland’s offense is fourth in both average and OBP, and third in slugging. The Indians have definitely benefited from playing in a weak AL Central. But regardless of the opponent, this is a dangerous offense.

1. Boston Red Sox

J.D. Martinez leads baseball in both home runs and RBI. At .333, a Triple Crown is still in range. It only feels a tad unrealistic because teammate Mookie Betts is hitting .352. If the power isn’t quite there, Boston is better than most at small ball. Both Betts and Andrew Benintendi have already stolen 20 bases. Containing this offense might not be impossible. But it will take a fantastic effort from an already good pitching staff to do so. That will likely prove much easier said than done.