MLB SEASON OFFICIALLY IN THE HOMESTRETCH

11Aug13

Now that we’re in the final quarter of the regular season, let’s take a look at the teams that are still in the hunt for playoff spots.  I know that mathematically, all of the teams are still in the race, but I’m going to stick with reality for now.

First I’ll take a look at the National League, and then I’ll review the American League.  I’ll list the teams in their current order, along with their record as of the end of the day yesterday (8/10/13) and then discuss the reason why they will make the playoffs and why they will not make the playoffs.

National League

Braves

Atlanta Braves – 71-46

Why they will make the playoffs – In order for the Washington Nationals, currently in second place in the East, to catch the Braves, Atlanta would have to completely collapse while the Nats played better ball than they have ever played in franchise history.  Even if Atlanta were to finish at 23-22, Washington would need to finish 39-7 to win the division title.  I just don’t see that happening, do you?

Why they will not make the playoffs – A meteor will crash into the earth and devastate the entire eastern seaboard!  Otherwise, I think they’re a safe bet to bring home the division title.

Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates – 70-46

Why they will make the playoffs – They currently lead St. Louis by four games and Cincinnati by six games for the Central Division title.  They also lead Arizona by 10 ½ games for the final wildcard spot.  Even if they melted down enough to blow the division, the D-Backs would need a miracle to catch them for the wildcard spot.

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they have the same collapse as last year AND Arizona somehow becomes consistent enough to win 72% or more of their remaining games, then they will fall short of the post season party.

Dodgers

Los Angeles Dodgers – 66-50

Why they will make the playoffs – They have been rolling for the past month and a half, jumping up from the third worst record in the NL to the third best.  Meanwhile, the rest of the West Division have gone to sleep.

Why they will not make the playoffs – They have to cool off eventually, right?  If they do come back down to Earth AND Arizona catches fire, they could come up short for the division title.

Cards

St. Louis Cardinals – 66-50

Why they will make the playoffs – They are currently playing their worst baseball of the season and are still only four games behind the Pirates.  They have too solid of a lineup to continue at this pace.  They will be in the division battle until the end, grabbing a wildcard berth if they don’t catch Pittsburgh.

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they don’t snap out of their current funk, Cincinnati will pass them up and Arizona just might do the same.

Reds

Cincinnati Reds – 64-52

Why they will make the playoffs – Similar to the Cards, the Reds have too strong of a lineup to continue playing at this level.  They probably will not win the Central Division title, but should hang on to a wildcard spot.

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they continue to play at an average level, as they have been doing for the past two months, the D-Backs may very well pass them up for the final wildcard spot.

D-Backs

Arizona Diamondbacks – 59-56

Why they will make the playoffs – They are overdue to snap out of their six-week funk.  If they get back to playing like they did in June, they will either catch the Dodgers for the West Division title or the Reds for the final wildcard berth.

Why they will not make the playoffs – All of the teams that are currently ahead of them are too talented and too deep to allow the D-Backs to catch them.  Arizona needs the Dodgers or the Reds to completely collapse AND they need to find a bullpen that doesn’t blow half of the available saves that come their way.

Teams that need a miracle – All remaining teams except Miami.  Even a miracle wouldn’t help them!

American League

Tigers-2

Detroit Tigers – 69-46

Why they will make the playoffs – The Tigers just completed a good old fashioned beat down on the Cleveland Indians, stretching a close race in the Central Division to an eight game lead.  They have arguably the best lineup in baseball, when the hitting, fielding and pitching are all considered.  They not only will not collapse, they will win this division by at least twelve games, probably more!

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they completely collapse AND Cleveland or Kansas City get extremely hot down the stretch AND Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Oakland and Texas all play .600 ball for the remainder of the season, then the Tigers will miss the playoffs.  Yeah, yeah, that’s it.  That’s the ticket!  (A little Tommy Flanagan humor, there!)

Tommy Flanagan

Red Sox

Boston Red Sox – 71-48

Why they will make the playoffs – They are at the top of the best division in baseball (how many other division have four teams over .500?).  Let’s be real, if they were in any other division, they would have at least 78 wins by now.  They aren’t going to disappear now.

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they collapse AND Tampa Bay or Baltimore gets hot AND Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Oakland, and Texas …. never mind.  They’re not missing the playoffs!

Rangers-2

Texas Rangers – 67-50

Why they will make the playoffs – After spending July in a horrible slump, they are finally playing top-notch baseball again and have reclaimed the West Division lead once more.  It will be a dog fight to the end, but they should be able to hold off Oakland for the division title.  At the very least, they will finish ahead of Tampa Bay and/or Baltimore for a wildcard spot.

Why they will not make the playoffs – If they falter down the stretch and resemble the Rangers of July, they will find themselves on the outside looking in.

Rays

Tampa Bay Rays – 66-49

Why they will make the playoffs – They have too solid of a lineup to crash and burn.  They may not catch the Red Sox for the division title, but they will hold off Baltimore and/or Texas/Oakland for a wildcard spot.

Why they will not make the playoffs – They played the best baseball of their life in July and still find themselves in second place in the East.  If they fall back to average, they will come up short in the playoff race.

Athletics

Oakland Athletics – 65-50

Why they will make the playoffs – Every time they’ve been counted out, they got hot and came soaring back, beating the good teams along the way.  They took over the West Division lead for several weeks and are currently only one game behind the red-hot Rangers.  They are ahead of Baltimore by 1 ½ games and get to play the Angels, Mariners and Astros, while the O’s have to deal with the East Division.

Why they will not make the playoffs – Similar to Tampa Bay.  They have played great ball in July and still find themselves in second place in their division and #5 in the league.  Any more cooling off and they will find themselves out the playoff race in a hurry.

Orioles

Baltimore Orioles – 64-52

Why they will make the playoffs – They control their own destiny, since they have several games remaining against the teams above them.  All they need to do is catch Tampa Bay, Texas or Oakland to grab a wildcard spot.

Why they will not make the playoffs – They have been losing too many games to lesser teams.  If they continue to lose to teams they should beat, they will not have a prayer to catch the good teams that are currently above them in the standings.

Teams that need a miracle – Cleveland Indians (62-55), Kansas City Royals (60-54) and New York Yankees (58-57).  They all need multiple teams to completely fall apart, while catching fire for the remaining seven weeks of the season.  Not likely to happen!

Now that we’ve reviewed the teams current status and their respective chances of making the playoffs, who are the clear favorites for playoff success?  The answer is simple.  There are no clear favorites.

Both leagues have several teams that are fully capable of getting hot at the right time to make a run through the playoffs.  The National League has Atlanta and Los Angeles playing the best right now, with St. Louis always dangerous come playoff time.  Pittsburgh cannot be ignored.

The American League has Detroit and Texas blazing the base paths right now, with the Red Sox as scary an opponent as there is.  Oakland and Tampa Bay cannot be overlooked.

Having said that, here is my gut shot projection (okay, guess) for the playoff winners:

Atlanta beats Los Angeles for the National League title, while Detroit beats Boston for the American League title.

The Tigers will outplay the Braves to win the World Series.  (Take it for what it’s worth, since I picked St. Louis over Texas back in May!)

We’ll talk again when the playoffs begin!

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