The National League this regular season has essentially been the steady Braves and Dodgers in a class of their own, waiting to see who they’ll meet in the arena come October.
Atlanta’s home run record-setting lineup has had a double-digit lead in the NL East for almost the entirety of the season as the Mets have pivoted toward… a 2026 window.
The Dodgers, despite preseason skepticism that this was one of their weakest rosters in recent memory, were that same great white shark all along as they’re now cruising to their NL West title with a hefty lead again. What was once thought to be an unpredictable finish between them, the Giants, the Padres, and even the surprise Diamondbacks should never have been a conversation when you have Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and one of the best-run organizations in baseball.
However, postseason baseball is entirely different. The management of pitching staffs in potentially a three-man rotation, bullpen strategies, energy of the crowd, and playing the same team consecutively with so much at stake highlights that baseball is also so heavily mental. Some rosters are better built for that setup as opposed to the marathon.
With that being said, maybe that means that the set-in-stone teams awaiting the competition would prefer to play certain teams as opposed to someone else.
The 7th and final wild card spot has made it a WWE cage match that has ebbed and flowed between the Giants, the Phillies, the Marlins, the Reds, the Cubs, and the Padres as the season is winding down. All are separated by a maximum of five and a half games, with half a game of separation to get the final spot. It’s going to be a blood bath.
The records might mean nothing in the postseason, with upsets that have occurred in recent memory. The beauty of baseball is that a wild card team could be just as terrifying as a juggernaut, given the circumstances and format.
Who would the leaders of the pack be most afraid of?
Who should they be hoping falls out of the final spots, as the season is just under two months away from finishing?
These are the tiers of teams you should be afraid of or not come postseason time- by monsters.
Cyclops Tier // Miami Marlins, Cincinnati Reds
While a Cyclops is a terrifying mythical giant, it has a glaring weakness: all you have to do is poke it in the eye.
The same could be said about the level of terror when it comes to the Reds and Marlins: they both have a glaring weakness that, when exposed and figured out in the postseason, is going to be their downfall in a playoff series format.
For Miami, it hasn’t relatively mattered that they have Luis Arraez, the hit king that was once pursuing batting .400, or that they’re third in the league in batting average. They simply can’t score runs. Their offensive firepower, slugging in that odd spaceship of a South Beach stadium, has been their weak spot- 26th in runs and 28th in home runs, failing to capitalize on their high on-base %.
They made some moves for some big beefy power at the deadline by adding Josh Bell and Jake Burger, who has been instant-impact adds, but the moment another team in the NL forces them to get into an offensive shootout in a series, they’re toast.
Miami knows its bread and butter is its starting rotation, and the moment it gets exposed, there tends to be a lack of threat or fear from the opposition with that lineup.
The Reds are the complete opposite end of that spectrum- they have a lineup full of Joey Votto leading Elly De La Cruz and his platoon of electrifying youthful bats throughout the lineup. Still, they have a pitching staff that is essentially bottom-five in every single statistical category. No pitching in the postseason is just not going to last if you get into a boat race with a lineup better than yours.
The magic of Cincinnati’s bats is incredibly fun, but a rotation with Graham Aschraft leading with a 4,95 is not winning baseball.
Goblin Tier // Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants
A goblin in itself is a monster that you’d not want to have to face off with, but let’s be real- you’re probably able to punt the little guy or gal despite your initial alert reaction.
This trio of teams all have that aura around them in a variety of ways- they’ve caught magic at some point in the year that’s springboarded them into this wild card-threatening position, but have also shown vital flaws.
The Diamondbacks have been the darlings all year, getting off to a blistering start with Zac Gallen striking out entire lineups as he started the All-Star Game and Corbin Carroll likely to win the NL Rookie of the Year, but they’ve slid from NL West leader to being 3 games back of the wild card with a 1-9 start to August and 8-16 record in July.
Their big move was to add a closer in Paul Sewald, only for him to accumulate an ERA of 13.50 in four appearances. They’re a product of getting cold at the wrong time currently, and the lack of experience going in doesn’t help either.
San Francisco Giants
Finally, the Giants, plain and simple, are a crockpot of Gabe Kapler trying to cook up a recipe like an episode of Chopped to win every single night. They have a two-man rotation and a hodgepodge of opening relievers with a lineup that doesn’t have the superstar bat that’s a household name. They just have a plethora of guys on the roster, like Wilmer Flores, defensive superstar rookie catcher Patrick Bailey, and JD Davis!
It’s certainly fun to see them continue their success with a bunch of “deep cut fan favorites” in their lineup, but the Kapler voodoo magic of running out Sean Manaea or Ross Stripling on the bump might not be feared by the likes of the NL juggernauts.
Werewolf Tier // San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres
Aside from the billion-dollar Mets, you could argue that the Padres have been the most disappointing team in the Major League this season after extending Fernando Tatis Jr., and Manny Machado, signing Xander Bogaerts, and trading for Juan Soto and Josh Hader last season. They’ve hovered at or below .500 all season long and are in the midst of possibly the unluckiest season in the history of baseball- they have a 6-18 record in one-run games, which should be 8 games better than their actual record, according to the Pythagorean formula, and still have the 13th-best offense and 4th-best runs allowed per game while looking MISERABLE in the process.
However, if the Padres sneak in and it’s a full moon when the bats are, in fact, lucky rather than unlucky, the bullpen is not blowing one-run games, and you have to face a lineup that might be on-paper one of the deepest in the major leagues, you’ve just run into a werewolf.
The Cubs were a team that was planning on selling a prized Cody Bellinger and Marcus Stroman, who they took fliers on with short-term deals in the post-2016 era, but went on an 8-2 game stretch that allowed them to talk into building around for a postseason run. Justin Steele looks like a Cy Young candidate, Bellinger has massively overperformed on the year, but the reality is that they had a hot July and now will have an injured Stroman.
The jury is out on what he’ll look like in his return, but the rate at which they were winning during that July stretch with a +24 run differential is not sustainable with a team so top-heavy. That Wrigley magic is certainly something, though, dating back to 2016!
After adding at the deadline, maybe they’re riding it out and will prove that they’re more than their preseason reputation precedes and that it isn’t just a brief full moon.
Zombie Tier // Philadelphia Phillies
For the second year in a row, the Phillies just can’t die. And they’re not the slow, undead zombies just meandering around aimlessly. They’re the ones that have the sprint speed of a gazelle ready to take you down.
We know what the ceiling is with this Philadelphia team in that they brought back the majority of their roster after going on a magical wild card-to-World Series run last season. On top of that, they added Trea Turner this offseason, Taijuan Walker in the rotation, and a newfound member of the no-hitter club in acquiring Michael Lorenzen at the trade deadline.
Even with the Braves off to a historic start, the preseason killer injuries with Bryce Harper and Rhys Hoskins, and Trea Turner having a .218 average in the month of July, the vibes around this team and the city are of one with World Series aspirations and a team that you’d be terrified of playing in October. I mean, the BRUTAL Philly fans that would have wrecked the Eagles or Sixers gave Turner an ovation during his struggles, and since then, he’s been on a tear due to their support.
This team is 17-13 since the All-Star Break, and that’s even with a struggling Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto in the lineup and Schwarber being one of the worst hitters in baseball aside from hitting a ball to the moon occasionally. They’re 8th in slugging with a pitching staff tinkering around the top 10 in most major statistics, Lorenzen has been nails since his acquisition, Christopher Sanchez as a bullpen arm has been nails, and you’re still facing a rotation of Wheeler and Nola despite their relatively average year.
They mash. They rally around one another. They love the highest stakes. The reigning NL champ is the zombie you wouldn’t want to play in October.