bill-swift - September 18, 2012
With less than three weeks to go there are an unbelievable number of teams that are still mathematically in the hunt for a spot in the 2012 MLB postseason. Some might frown and call that parity. I like to smile and just think about it as good 'ole fashioned competition.
Since there are still 15-17 games left for most of the teams in the league there are eight teams still vying for one of five playoff spots (three division winners and two wild cards) in the American League. The following is a break down of each division along with the wild card race:
This is still the toughest division in baseball; it just might have a new leader at the top when the season ends in a few weeks. The Baltimore Orioles have finished last in the division for the last four seasons and haven't made the postseason since '97. New York has been the team to beat, but it appears as if age might finally be catching up with the Bronx Bombers. Even though the Rays are five games back they could get hot and make a run.
This division will come down to the wire between the Yankees and Orioles. The Yankees are old, but with age comes wisdom and aching bones. Should they get hot they will be unstoppable, but of late they have appeared to be more tired than anything else. The Orioles have played well enough to be in a position to win the division, but they have just been 'okay' all season (18th, pitching; 20th batting). They will need to pick it up if they are going to end their playoff drought.
Prediction: Time has come for there to be some change in the East. The Orioles bats are nice and hot right now (.270) while the Yankees are ice-cold (.235) so far in September. Yankee pitching has not been as dominant of late either. The scene is set for the Orioles to go from worst to first in the AL East.
The AL Central has been a two team race for most of the season between the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers. The White Sox have a two game lead over the Tigers, but with games remaining against the Angels and Rays they have a tougher road ahead then the Tigers who have 10 games against the Royals and Twins.
Detroit has the better pitching staff and a more potent line-up, but the White Sox have managed to make more out of what run production they have had. Can they keep playing smarter ball and hold the Tigers off?
Prediction: The answer is a resounding no. Both teams are doing a decent job at the plate right now, but the difference will be in the pitching--who they face more so than their own. So far in September the Angels and Rays are the No. 1 and No. 4 pitching staffs in the AL. Chicago's bats will likely be very quiet down the stretch as the Tigers take over and win the division.
The West has become a race in recent weeks as the Oakland A's have gotten red-hot and closed the gap between them and the Texas Rangers to three games. The Angels are technically still in it (7.5 back), but they would need both of the aforementioned to go through meltdowns for them to have a shot.
Oakland has been pitching lights out in September winning 10 of 15 games. Their bats have been a little quiet though (.230). Texas has had the best offensive team in the league all season, but has struggled to keep pitchers safe.
Prediction: Both have 10 tough games ahead of themselves; Oakland has Detroit and the Angels coming up as well as the Rangers while Texas also has to face the Angels. Oakland's pitching will keep it interesting, but the Rangers are not going to be denied an opportunity to play in the World Series for a third time.
This season there will be two wild-card teams that will play in a one-game playoff to see who goes to the divisional round. The A's are pitching way too good not to be one of those two teams; look for the second one to be the Angels. Both will put forth their best pitcher, making the team with the best offense the winner; in this case that will be the Angels.
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