Less than three weeks remain in the 2018 regular season. Teams are doubling down for those ten spots in the October games. Teams have an x-factor or two that can help a team remain dominating a division or spark a comeback and become a playoff contender.
Of course, several teams excel at different areas. But when hitting consistent strides, these x-factors can take over a game. For those who face a rougher road to October, x-factors in their respective camps can ignite a spark and help their playoff chances.
Let’s take a look at those x-factors that can spell out “victory,” and hopefully “playoffs”.
X-Factors: American League
The Boston Red Sox have already clinched a playoff berth this season. With so many things going well for them, it was impossible to select just one X-Factor. But the rest of the AL will need to swing harder for the fences than ever before for the remaining nine spots.
Houston Astros’ X-Factor(s): Pitching and Fielding
The Houston Astros’ biggest x-factor(s) can be seen outside of the batter’s box.
The Houston Astros boast the most lethal pitching staff in all of baseball. With a starting rotation that includes Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, the evidence more than supports that claim. Houston also houses the best fielding core in the American League, boasting highest fielding percentage and lowest amount of errors recorded.
It’s not that the Astros have a bad offense, far from it. They have just proven to be the hardest ball club to score runs against this season.
Cleveland Indians’ X-Factor: Batting
Arguably the best part of Cleveland’s success this season is their offense. Francisco Lindor, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Ramirez are huge parts of this well-oiled machine. As a unit, the Indians are closing in on 200 home runs hit this season, and have tallied over 700 RBI’s. Though their pitching and fielding stand more than solidly on their own, it’s their damage output from the batter’s box that has the whole league watching.
Wild Card X-Factors: Batter vs Pitcher
Most likely we will be seeing the New York Yankees and the Oakland Athletics in this year’s Wild Card Game. The X-Factors in play will be Oakland’s starting pitcher vs the New York Yankees’ stacked batting order. The Pinstripes house six different players with over 20 home runs and over 60 RBI’s this season. But for Oakland, putting in their best ace will be essential for victory. Between Lou Trivino, Ryan Buchter, and Mike Fiers, Oakland will have weapons to choose from.
X-Factors: National League
Chicago Cubs’ X-Factor: Joe Maddon
Once again, manager Joe Maddon has led the Chicago Cubs to playoff contention, despite their start to the season. Since taking the helm in 2015, Maddon has led the ballclub to the NL Championship Series every single season. If history has taught us anything, Chicago will most likely be seen the NLCS again at the very least.
The roster Maddon has to work with is also imposing, to say the least. But it takes a great manager to orchestrate winning formulas with this amount of star power. Maddon has consistently played his cards right and yielded winning hands for the franchise.
Atlanta Braves’ X-Factor: Youth
Holding the lead in the NL East is a rather young Atlanta Braves squad. The biggest x-factors for Atlanta are all of these young players hungry for victory, along with making a name for themselves. With names like Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Johan Camargo, and Sean Newcomb, the future of the Braves looks very bright. The fight in these young players has put distance between them and the rest of the division. Hopefully, this enthusiasm can take the team deep into the playoffs.
Colorado Rockies’ X-Factor: Offense
The NL West is a slugfest between Arizona, Colorado and the LA Dodgers. But for Colorado, their small lead over the pack is largely due to their offense. Along with four different players with over 20 home runs and over 60 RBI’s this season, the ball club leads the NL in RBI’s by a team. Not to mention they have won seven of their last ten games. The one-two punch of Nolan Arenado and Trevor has certainly done its fair share of damage. Their fielding defense is among the best in baseball as well. But if only one x-factor can be chosen, it would certainly be their offense production.
Featured image courtesy of CBS Houston
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