Burning Questions for Every World Series Contender

Holes in every roster that may lead to each team's October downfall

For the first time in Major League history, there are 12 playoff spots. With more teams involved, there are more chances for each team’s vulnerabilities to be exposed. Below, in order of Fangraphs’ “Win World Series” odds, are breakdowns of each team’s liabilities and how they could ultimately lead to their demise.


The Contenders


1. Houston Astros

20.5% Chance to Win World Series

Set for their sixth consecutive postseason berth, there is little reason to believe that the Houston Astros will not reach their sixth successive ALCS, as well. Although Houston has fewer wins than the Dodgers, one must look closer to find holes in its roster than one would with Los Angeles’.

It is easier to replace production in the regular season than in the postseason. In his time with the Astros, Carlos Correa hit 18 home runs and knocked in 59 RBI during the postseason. Through his last season with Houston, the shortstop was repeatedly connecting for big hits in the playoffs.

The Astros are now without that presence entering the 2022 postseason. Jose Altuve poses a significant threat to opposing pitchers, but Alex Bregman has regressed since his MVP-caliber 2018 and 2019 seasons. It is yet to be seen which hitters will step up alongside the 2021 ALCS MVP, Yordan Alvarez, and power Houston through another postseason.


2. Atlanta

18.7% Chance to Win World Series

After a rocky start to the 2022 season, the reigning champions rocketed themselves back into contention and won the NL East. Nearly everything appears to work out for Atlanta. Even with Ronald Acuña Jr. still battling health problems, the team has not batted an eye in large part due to the significant contributions of several rookies.

The questions for Atlanta heading into the postseason are found in its starting rotation. Since his debut, Spencer Strider has been the constant recipient of Jacob deGrom comparisons. The righty has become one of Atlanta’s pitching staff’s most valuable assets. However, on September 24th, Atlanta announced that Strider was headed to the injured list with an oblique issue. The team expects him back at some point in the postseason, but oblique injuries can be tricky. This places a large question mark on if Strider will contribute in the postseason and if he does, whether he will be in full health.

Another question mark is Charlie Morton. The righty had a slow start to the season then picked it up when the summer hit. In the season’s final month, however, Morton has allowed 19 earned runs and 32 hits over 31.2 innings and has been hit hard at his highest rate ever in the Statcast era. Over 170 innings into his age 38 season, Morton may be running out of gas. It may be a simple explanation, but it is also a complex problem for Atlanta to remedy.


3. Los Angeles Dodgers

12.3% Chance to Win World Series

With their +334 run differential, the Dodgers have been the best regular season team in 2022. A traditional 162-game baseball season usually consists of ebbs and flows, even for the best teams. There is, however, nothing traditional about the season that the Dodgers are having.

Offense is, however, only half of the game of baseball. The Dodgers possess a stellar group of pitchers, but with the injury bug going around the staff and the closer spot in flux, there are plenty of reasons for concern regarding a deep playoff run for the Dodgers.

After months of struggles, Craig Kimbrel was removed from the closer role. Simultaneously, his backup, Daniel Hudson, went down with a season-ending injury. Blake Treinen, another high-leverage arm, has been with shoulder issues and sits on the injured list heading into the postseason. As baseball gets deeper into the postseason and the pitchers are throwing on short rest, these problems are bound to catch up to the Dodgers.


4. New York Mets

8.7% Chance to Win World Series

The Mets spent big during the offseason and have been rewarded for doing so: at least during the regular season. Although the Mets failed to finish atop the NL East, they held that position for nearly all of the season and finished with 101 victories.

As anticipated, the Mets finally have a healthy pitching staff headlined by deGrom and Max Scherzer heading into their first October since 2016. Nonetheless, facing off against offenses like the Dodgers’ and Atlanta’s, a strong pitching staff will not suffice.

Recently, New York’s offense has had trouble hitting extra-base hits and consequentially knocking in runs against good pitching. This was exhibited for an entire weekend in Atlanta in the second-to-last series prior to the postseason. The seldom extra-base hit seemed to always come with the bases empty and the other hits were mostly singles. This habit will send the Mets packing if they get so far as to face a team like Atlanta or Los Angeles.


5. New York Yankees

8.0% Chance to Win World Series

All parts of New York’s roster were working perfectly throughout the first half. Since then, the pitching staff has taken its hits and the lineup has had its hardships as well.

The summer began with Chad Green and Michael King both suffering season-ending injuries. Clay Holmes has not been the same since shoulder troubles popped up mid-summer, Aroldis Chapman may not have a spot on the playoff roster, and Ron Marinaccio just landed himself on the injured list.

New York’s ace, Gerrit Cole, has had his fair share of troubles too. He leads the American League with 33 home runs allowed. That statistic seems all too likely to catch up to the righty in October, particularly when facing teams like the Astros or Blue Jays.


6. Philadelphia Phillies

7.3% Chance to Win World Series

If one were to find where the Phillies rank among all 30 MLB clubs in ERA since the all-star break, they would be found surrounded by teams that will not sniff October in 2022. At the trading deadline, President of Baseball Operations Dave Dombrowski put most of his chips in the basket of Noah Syndergaard and David Robertson. Syndergaard had a rough August and Robertson has made the last month of the season into his worst of 2022.

The offense, powered by Bryce Harper and Kyle Schwarber, has its moments and is largely responsible for the position the team is in now. However, a playoff run based mainly on offensive ability is unsustainable. The Phillies may very well go on to win a game or two this postseason, but it is hard to envision much more than that.


7. San Diego Padres

6.1% Chance to Win World Series

Their strong first half, deadline acquisitions, and the expected return of Fernando Tatis Jr. had everything looking bright for the Padres down the stretch in 2022. Nevertheless, as those deadline acquisitions have underperformed and its star shortstop was busted for PEDs, San Diego’s strong first half was the main thing that kept them afloat to earn a postseason berth.

The burning question for the Padres is plain and simple: can Juan Soto and the other additions made by AJ Preller prior to the trade deadline snap out of the funks they have been in since arriving in San Diego? The roster may have just not melded well together, with or without the deadline additions. As the wild card series begins, the Padres must find their spark if they want to get anywhere.


8. Toronto Blue Jays

5.9% Chance to Win World Series

The Blue Jays have gotten hot at just the right time. If most of the regular season is a marathon, then September and the postseason are a sprint. With Bo Bichette finally snapping out of his year-long slump, fans are beginning to see flashes of the 2021 Blue Jays’ offense. That, with Alek Manoah, Kevin Gausman, and Ross Stripling all having stellar years, builds a great foundation for a Blue Jays playoff run.

The problems begin to pop up when Toronto needs to go with a fourth starter. José Berríos has struggled mightily for the entire year and Mitch White is not much better. Furthermore, if one of the two were to start a game and begin to struggle, that would seemingly burn much of Toronto’s bullpen which already lacks depth.


9. Seattle Mariners

3.6% Chance to Win World Series

It is finally the Mariners’ time. Management went out and improved their pitching and lineup over the offseason and went even further to trade for Luis Castillo in July. In the grand scheme of things, those acquisitions have worked out.

After struggling at the beginning of the season, Seattle went on an extended winning streak before the all-star break to get itself right back into the mix for the wild card. Heading into September, it looked as though the team would eventually earn the first wild-card seed. Unfortunately, despite an easy September schedule, the Mariners could not keep up the consistency they played with over the summer.

The Mariners finished the season with 90 wins after barely having a winning record over the last month of the season. This poses the worry that the Mariners may have gotten hot at the wrong time. They accomplished what they had not done for over two decades, but the momentum needs to shift for them to get much farther.


10. St. Louis Cardinals

3.3% Chance to Win World Series

With the addition of Jordan Montgomery at the trading deadline, Albert Pujols‘ home run chase, and the Brewers’ regression, the Cardinals secured themselves the NL Central crown. Additionally, with the strong second half, their rookie manager, Oliver Marmol, has landed himself into the Manager of the Year conversation.

The holes in St. Louis’ play can be found in its lineup’s depth or lack thereof. Remove Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt from the equation, and the Cardinals’ issues are exposed. Pujols is the only significantly above-average hitter aside from Arenado and Goldschmidt and his success is mainly due to him being platooned to mostly face left-handed pitching. In a 162-game season, a shallow lineup will not kill a team. However, if the two or three batters around whom the Cardinals’ lineup revolves were to underperform in a playoff series, there would be few options on which the team could fall back.


11. Tampa Bay Rays

3.2% Chance to Win World Series

The Rays have proven themselves to be a team that can win during the regular season. They have one of, if not, the best pitching labs in the game. That combined with the uncanny ability of someone on the offense to almost always step up at the right moment has done multitudes for the team.

Tampa’s model, however, has yet to prove itself in postseason play. It was arguably responsible for the loss to the Dodgers in the 2020 World Series, and it failed to prove effective against the Red Sox in the 2021 ALDS.

The Rays will have Shane McClanahan, Drew Rasmussen, and Jeffrey Springs, who have all had impressive runs in 2022, headlining their playoff rotation. Tampa will also have Tyler Glasnow somewhere in the bullpen and available to take on some high-leverage innings. Nevertheless, when lacking some of the big-name power that other teams possess, it will be an uphill battle to bypass some of those teams.


12. Cleveland Guardians

2.4% Chance to Win World Series

It would be nothing less than an outrage if Guardians’ manager, Terry Francona, were not to win 2022’s AL Manager of the Year award. The future Hall of Famer led the youngest roster in baseball to Cleveland’s first division championship since 2018.

All that said, the Guardians have benefited from playing dozens of their games against the weaker teams that make up four-fifths of their division. Furthermore, the roster is inexperienced. There are only three players on Cleveland’s roster over the age of 30 and only three players with five or more years of Major League experience, per Spotrac. A manager’s effect can only go so far, and it is hard to see Francona’s influence lead to a deep playoff run with such a roster.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

Gabe Goralnick

A senior at Yeshiva University studying political science and a diehard baseball lover from the Big Apple. He's either watching baseball, writing about baseball, or cooking some awesome food.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login