Look at the top of the standings and you find the better teams. Look at the top of the leaderboards and you find simple explanations for why the better teams have been successful.
The Boston Red Sox have been successful in part because Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez rank first and third in baseball in wRC+. The New York Yankees have been successful in part because they lead the majors in home runs. The Houston Astros have been successful in part because their pitching staff leads the majors in strikeouts. The Chicago Cubs have been successful in part because they lead the majors in OBP.
You usually don't have to dig very deep to find positive statistics for baseball's contending teams. We're all familiar with the usual, well-known numbers, and the better a team is, the better it's likely to look in the major categories.
But we also know a couple of other things. One, baseball teams are complicated, and there are plenty of ways to find and make use of value. And two, variety is the spice of life. If we're going to spend the next several weeks focusing on the same assortment of teams in the playoff races, the least we could do is try to talk about them and their strengths in ways we usually don't.
In that light, I've put together a list of 10 key factors for postseason contenders. It's technically a countdown list, but from my perspective, I like them all. These are 10 somewhat under-the-radar factors that have contributed to a given team being as competitive as it is. These aren't necessarily the biggest reasons why any of the following teams have been successful, but I wanted to identify hidden advantages -- interesting advantages that don't get talked about very much.
Some of these focus on entire teams. Others focus on individuals. Also, I haven't included every single team in the hunt, in part because there are more than 10 contenders. Anyway, let's get started with secret success factor No. 10.