<
>
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
Get ESPN+

Ranking the 10 postseason teams by pressure they're under to win right now

play
A's vs. Rays is a wild-card matchup for baseball nerds (2:21)

Jeff Passan details the extraordinary wild-card matchup between the A's and the Rays, explaining why it's the most old-school baseball matchup anyone could hope for. (2:21)

Baseball's postseason is a monthlong drama where the stakes grow higher with each passing day. The pressure builds as the finish line nears. But the forces behind that pressure aren't the same for every team.

We did this exercise last year, too. The idea is to quantify the urgency every 2019 playoff team carries with it into October. I didn't change anything in the system, so I'll recap the methodology here:

Baseball historian and stats guru Bill James has a system he developed that he called Happy Years. The idea is to figure out which team "deserves" to win the title most in a given year. It's based on things you'd expect ... how long it has been since a team won the World Series, how long since it has won a pennant. And there is a "knocking on the door" factor that looks at how many good seasons a club has had recently without winning it all.

The system is a positive one. It's called Happy Years, after all. It's about helping us appreciate certain teams and deciding whom we might root for if our primary team is out of the running. The system I present today is not a positive one. It's cynical. This system is a "you'd better win the damn thing already" kind of deal.

Mostly, I'm borrowing James' system as is, only viewing it through the more cynical prism. But I've added another factor, which is impending free agents. I've calculated how much WAR a team's potential free agents are worth, leaving aside those who have contract options yet to be decided. This is meant to approximate a "closing window" effect, the kind of which can heighten the urgency of a club to win in a given season.

Here is a ranking of this year's playoff combatants by "pressure points."