Sunday, September 02, 2007

MLB Hot Stove: AL Playoff Chase is on!

Even though football, via college and the professionals, have been recently dominant the current of sport’s talk these days…MLB pennant races are hotter than ever.

Actually, as many as eighteen teams remain in contention for a playoff birth this season (whether it be via divisional or wild-card means).

While some (Boston) seem more likely than others (Colorado), there remains a little under a month of baseball until we are given our ‘dirty dozen’ of playoff entrants.

With that being said, it’s time to take a look at the final stretch, as best as we can attempt to. With most teams staring at around twenty-five games remaining, there’s plenty of drama left to unfold.

Let’s take a dive…

American League
AL East

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Division Leader – (82-55) Boston Red Sox [6 game lead]
2nd Place – (73-59) New York Yankees [trail by 6 games]
No other viable division contenders.

Comments: The Yanks swept the series in the Bronx against their hated rivals; however, Boston has maintained a rather comfortable lead, easily the largest in baseball, for quite some time now. However, this is the Yanks and the Sox. With 3 more games remaining head-to-head, the Bronx Bombers have to be thinking a road-sweep at Fenway to have any chance at closing this formidable gap. Boston (with a pair of series with Tor, Bal, and TB each), a game up for the best record in baseball, seems as close as a mortal lock as anyone to return to the playoffs this year (after missing out last season).

AL Central

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Division leader – (78-58) Cleveland Indians [5 game lead]
2nd Place – (73-63) Detroit Tigers [trail by 5 games]
No other viable division contenders.

Comments: Despite fading miserably in September in the past two seasons, Cleveland appears much more stable in their rotation and bullpen this season. Detroit, impressively rebounding by taking 3 of 4 from the Yanks at home two weekends ago, seems as volatile as anyone this season (especially after losing the first two of three against Kansas City earlier this week). As for the Twins, getting beat down by Cleveland pretty much ruined any and all legit playoff chances for them this season. The Tigers can’t be ruled out of the division race just yet; especially with Kenny Rogers slated to return mid-week. Both the Indians and Tigers will be circling their calendars for their mid-September pivotal series; however, Cleveland may make their playoff beds with their performance against the AL West in the month of September.

AL West

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Division Leader – (80-55) Anaheim Angels [7 game lead]
2nd Place – (73-62) Seattle Mariners [trail by 7 games]
No other viable division contenders.

Comments: You blinked over the week and this divisional race seemed to get turned upside down. On an unrelated note, surprise surprise, Oakland was nowhere to be found in the second-half this season (they can blame their anemic offense for that more than anything). In their place, the major’s biggest surprise by far, are the Seattle Mariners. That may soon be a forgotten cause though, at least out West, as the Mariners have tanked recently to the tune of 9 straight losses. Most damaging was a terrible trip to Anaheim, which included losing a game they lead 5-0 after just 2 innings. An important make-up game this Thursday against Cleveland didn’t help either, only bunking up the Mariner travel schedule with another loss. Despite losing all three in Toronto, instant rejuvenation can come against the Yanks (more below) With remaining series against the aforementioned Yankees, as well as the Tigers, Indians, and those Angels (yet again), the Mariners will have to continue to prove to their detractors, and perhaps themselves, that they are a legit playoff team. As for the Angels, outside of eight games against the Indians and Mariners (all at home), they appear to have the smoothest waters remaining in their schedule, perhaps in all of baseball. That may be important, for better or worse, in dictating whether they match up, as of today, against the wild-card leader (Yankees) or AL Central’s best (Cleveland).

Predictions and Prognostications
1) Boston should be able to lock up the AL East and avoid a late-season meltdown without too much anxiety.
2) Cleveland should hold off Detroit, if only by a game or two down the stretch, and secure the division title.
3) Anaheim, due to a lighter schedule, will widen their gap, if only by another game or two, and secure the AL West.

But wait, there’s still one spot left!

AL Wild Card

Credit: Yahoo! Sports

Current Leader – (76-61) New York Yankees [2 game lead]
2nd Place – (73-62) Seattle Mariners [trail by 2 games]
3rd Place – (73-63) Detroit Tigers [trail by 2.5 games]
4th Place – (70-66) Toronto Blue Jays [trail by 5.5 games]
No other viable wild-card contenders. [Sorry Toronto.]

Comments: First off, the Twins should be all but crossed off of “being neglected” from this list before the end of Labor Day weekend (they are 7.5 back). The real nitty gritty comes in the form of one team from the AL East (Yanks), two from the Central (Indians & Tigers), and one from the AL West (Mariners). While Boston or Anaheim could slide, as we said before…it isn’t likely. Ditto goes for the Blue Jays making a legit run at the wild-card lead, although they could play a pretty important role as a spoiler (with several games against most of these playoff contenders lingering). Then again, with so many key games, perhaps they do merit at least brief consideration (especially after the Seattle sweep). But in reality, that leaves three teams, as of now, who trail division leaders. Seattle, interestingly enough, controls their destiny more than you may suppose, despite losing 9 in a row. Starting tomorrow, they travel to the Bronx for three games (Sept. 3 through 5) and then return home, with an off-day sandwiched in-between, to host the Tigers for three (Sept. 7 through 9). Pivotal series continue for Seattle’s finest as they are locked up in crucial sets with Anaheim and Cleveland late. The waters appear to be a little easier for the Yankees, or so you might think. Three more games against the major’s best Red Sox and three hosting the aforementioned Mariners make up a tough playoff-laden stretch. However, there is a chance to beat up on AL East foes (Tor, TB, and Balt.) as the Yanks see the teams a collective nineteen times. Unfortunately though, they lost the first two of those three – at home no less – to the lowly Devil Rays. Added to that are their struggles against the Orioles this year, 30-3 losers withstanding. Their inconsistency may catch up with the Bronx Bombers, especially with a suspect back-half of the rotation (Hughes/Mussina/etc.) whether against the top tier (Boston/Seattle) of the AL or the bottom (KC/Baltimore). Finally, we have the Tigers. An enigma to end all enigmas as of late, Detroit, to nobody’s surprise, gets a heavy dose of the AL Central down the stretch. Only visiting Cleveland 3 more times, Detroit must recapture its Yankee-beat down momentum and not simply rely on sneaking into the wild-card race. Two pivotal series against AL West has-beens (Oakland, which they took two of three, and Texas) may go a long way into letting us know if Detroit will make a serious push, or attempt to limp or sneak into, the playoffs (division or wild-card).

If you think the AL is a little crazy, then, my friends, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In a little under 48 hours, the National League (aka the Senior Circuit) will get its due. By the way, this is where the majority of the eighteen “competitive” playoff teams can be found.

They’ve even had people in Cincinnati, if only for a day or two, talking pennant chase.

Who’d have ever thunk that one???

Until next time…

1 comment:

Omar Cruz said...

These articles are fantastic; the information you show us is interesting for everybody and is really good written. It’s just great!! Do you want to know something more? Read it...: The best place for
2007 mlb spring training
, mlb schedule, mlb all star game. For more information visit: