Thursday, August 30, 2007

And Down the Stretch They Come...

Before we all bask in the glow that is college football, I invite you to take one last look at the mlb playoff picture heading into this final month of the season. Of course all the talk is about the YANKS and SOX, but unlike our friends at ESPN, we know that real baseball races are far away from the northeast...

Without further ado, here's the AL playoff predictions division-by-division:
AL East - Boston - This, to much dismay of mass media, will be a snoozer to the end. Not to say that the Yanks won't cut into the lead to four games or so and the whole of New York will wet themselves, but there is no way that Boston gets overtaken by New York in this one. Pitching, defense, hitting, intangibles -- all four categories go to the Sox, with a balanced rotation mixing dynamo youths with ace veterans, a stacked lineup (we all know the names, and no Julio Lugo jokes here... yet), and one of the best managers in baseball in Francona. So enjoy this most recent series win, Yanks fans, but the Sox won't be down for long.

AL Central - Cleveland - I know, I know. Cleveland. Unfortunately the folks down south are going to have something more to cheer about -- with a balanced and consistent lineup, mixed with effective starting pitching(Fausto Carmona!? Really?!?), the Indians are doing what it takes to win. While the Tigers are still in it, the nod has to go to the Indians because the Indians are not only the hot hand, but also have a 34-20 record against divisional opponents while the Tigers are a woeful 25-28. With both teams having six of their last nine opponents within the division, Cleveland has to be the pick. But we'll see if Leyland and the boys can pull something out.

AL West - Angels - While the Mariners were making a run based around average hitting and average pitching, the most recent sweep by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of Orange County of America of Planet Earth of the Milky Way reminded everyone of what the Mariners are: average. The Mariners leading home run hitter Sexson has been flirting with the Mendoza Line all season (currently batting .208, and certainly not bringing Sexy back), and they have to rely on a slumping 20 year old kid in Feliz Hernandez to be the staff ace and bring them to the postseason. By comparison, the Angels have a balanced and battle-tested team with a solid bullpen and enough power hitting to take advantage of their high on-base-percentage. Oh, and Vladdy's heating up. Good luck with that.

AL Wild Card - Tigers - Thinking about this race seriously made me consider renaming this post to "And Down the Stretch They Limp...", because looking across the field-- the average Mariners, the hopelessly streaky Yanks, and the scuffling Tigers, I can't see one that will come into the playoffs with a flourish. The only team that I could potentially see coming into the playoffs with authority are the Yankees, for the fact that the lineup is SO good for certain streaks that they can overcome their pitching woes. It's important that everyone see what the Yankees are-- not a bad team, not a great team, but just a streaky team. But inconsistent hitting, inconsistent defense, and unpredictable pitching (yes, even big Mo) tells me that this year the Bombers will be sitting at home. The Tigers do have a schedule that plays to their weaknesses down the stretch, but with the exceptional starting pitching and run-producers on the Tigers roster, one has to think that of these three the Tigers have the best shot of pulling it out.

And tomorrow, we'll get to the NL-- that's where the real fun begins.

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