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If the season ended today: Dreaming of an underdog World Series

By Dayn Perry | Baseball Writer

How does this not-inconceivable World Series match-up strike you?  (USATSI)
How does this not-inconceivable World Series match-up strike you? (USATSI)

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It's Friday, and in this space that means it's time to ponder the hypotheticals. Specifically, it's this day each week that we take a look at what things would look like if the 2013 season ended today. This is really a harmless thought experience, but by all means don't let that stop you from getting super-pissed in the comments section ...

AL playoff matchups

•ALDS 1: Rangers vs. wild-card winner
•ALDS 2: Red Sox vs. Tigers
•Wild-card game: Rays vs. Athletics

The Rangers nip the A's by 3.0 in the West, the Red Sox top the rays by 2.5 in the East, and the wild-card fray concludes with three teams -- the Orioles, Indians and Yankees -- within no more than five games of the lead. As for seeding, it was tight. The Rangers came out on top, but we had to go to the third winning-percentage decimal point to decide it among Texas, Boston and Detroit.

NL playoff matchups

•NLDS 1: Braves vs. wild-card winner
•NLDS 2: Dodgers vs. Cardinals
•Wild-card game: Pirates vs. Reds

The Braves end our abbreviated season with the best record in all of baseball (three-game cushion for top seed in the NL), and the largest division lead in all of baseball. There was demonstrably less intrigue in the senior circuit, as the Diamondbacks, at six games back in the wild-card chase, are the closest team to shaking up the established order. In terms of staying out of the wild-card round, however, the Cards' margin over the Pirates and Reds was just one game and 3.5 games, respectively.

Most intriguing playoff matchup

•Dodgers vs. Cardinals

This is all opinion of course -- and you can certainly make a compelling case for, say, Red Sox-Tigers -- but I'll take the NLDS clash of titans that features eye-grabbing talents like Yasiel Puig, Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter and Hanley Ramirez. Also, a game-one encounter between Adam Wainwright and Clayton Kershaw sounds quite nifty.

Most intriguing potential World Series matchup

•A's-Pirates

These two teams never met in a World Series in the 1970s, but it certainly feels like they should've. Two old-school franchises, two low-payroll underdogs, the grimmest nightmares of coastal TV execs -- sign us up. We'll sign on to this only if the A's agree to wear their "Fort Knox Gold" uniform tops for at least one game of the series.

Best non-playoff teams

•AL: Orioles
•NL: Nationals

In the AL, this cold comfort again goes to the Orioles by a small margin. The Indians have a half-game edge in the standings, but the O's boast a slightly better run differential and have played a modestly tougher schedule.

It's another tough call over in the NL, where the Diamondbacks have a half-game edge over the Nats and a better run differential. But I'm going with the hot hand and taking a Nats team that's won eight of their last nine. ¡Viva la Beltway!

Stat races

AL batting champ: Miguel Cabrera (.359) by a wide margin over Mike Trout (.331).
NL batting champ: Yadier Molina (.333) nips Chris Johnson (.329).
AL ERA champ: Anibal Sanchez (2.61) over Yu Darvish (2.68)
NL ERA champ: Clayton Kershaw (1.72) by a mile over Matt Harvey (2.27).
AL position player WAR champ: Mike Trout (7.8) over Miguel Cabrera (7.0). Remember that WAR takes into account estimations of defense and base-running, which is why Trout tops Cabrera despite the latter's superior batting numbers.
NL position player WAR champ: Andrew McCutchen (7.0) over Carlos Gomez (6.5).
AL pitcher WAR champ: Chris Sale (6.3) over Max Scherzer (5.7).
NL pitcher WAR champ: Clayton Kershaw (7.1) over Jhoulys Chacin (5.9).

Miscellany

Pedro Alvarez leads the NL with 32 homers. That's the lowest full-season, NL-leading total since Ralph Kiner's 23 in 1946. Yes, I realize Alvarez is going to end the actual season with more than 32.
•Kershaw's 1.72 ERA is the lowest in Los Angeles Dodgers history.
•Molina becomes just the fifth catcher ever to win a batting title. He joins Bubbles Hargrave, Ernie Lombardi, Joe Mauer and Buster Posey.
•The Giants achieve the "feat" of winning the World Series one season and then slipping to last place the very next year. And they did it absent any kind of Marlins-style, post-championship sell-off.

 
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