After a long and exhausting six months, the MLB season has finally reached its conclusion. We’ve seen some teams put together very nice campaigns (Baltimore, Oakland and Washington come to mind) while others underwhelmed and failed to meet their lofty expectations (I’m looking at you, Boston, Miami and Philadelphia). It’s been a fun year and after watching baseball for hundreds of hours, I’m a little sad to see it go. But before we bid adieu, we’ve got the playoffs to discuss. Will the Yankees go deep into the playoffs? How will the Nationals fare without their 15-game winner Stephen Strasburg? Keep reading and I’ll clear things up for you.
The Yankees and Orioles are still tied for the division lead at press time, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the last game of the season determined the victor. While the winner won’t have to play in that dreadful do-or-die wildcard game, the runner-up will most likely go on to face either the Athletics or Rangers (my guess would be the A’s). Baltimore has been as tough as nails—their 28-9 record in one-run games clearly indicates that—while the Bronx Bombers have been floundering since early July due to a rash of injuries. New York will be relying on a banged up Mark Teixeira, a shaky rotation, and Ichiro to hit like he did in September (.385) to advance. The Orioles, on the other hand, need to keep grinding out victories and hope their young starters can survive postseason jitters.
Detroit is potentially the most dangerous team in the American League. Clubs will have to take on Justin Verlander multiple times, throw against a stacked lineup, and face the scorching duo of Max Scherzer and Doug Fister in addition to the 2011 MVP/Cy Young winner. They feature a dominating closer in Jose Valverde, the likely 2012 MVP Miguel Cabrera, and two-time Manager Of The Year Jim Leyland. They started out the season rather shaky but these Tigers are now ready to roar.
Boasting undoubtedly the best lineup in the majors, the Texas Rangers need their rotation to click on all cylinders to go deep into the playoffs. Yu Darvish and Matt Harrison have been leading the charge but they’ll need Derek Holland and Ryan Dempster to throw like studs. The Rangers have scored the most runs in the league this year and if their pitching can complement their hitting, Texas will win the AL pennant for the third straight year. Oakland, on the other hand, has had a surprising season, but I just can’t see them advancing past the wildcard game nevertheless the ALDS.
After dominating the NL East, the Washington Nationals shocked us all by nearly pulling off a 100-win year. The reason for their success has been their stellar pitching but after mistakenly shutting down number 37, I can’t trust them in the playoffs. If they would’ve thrown out Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg in a series, they’d be the favorites to go deep into October. With no batter hitting over .300 in 2012, despite their remarkable young arms, it’s going to be difficult to make a splash. I don’t think anyone would bet on Washington to win it all minus Strasburg.
Back in spring training, I thought it was possible the Cincinnati Reds could win the NL Central—but I never would’ve pegged them to finish roughly 35 games over .500. They came together as a team and went on a solid run when star first baseman Joey Votto got injured, and they’ve been rallying ever since. Their biggest question mark right now is the health of manager Dusty Baker, who was recently hospitalized with both an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke. Dusty is one of baseball’s good guys and I wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully he can continue managing and be there for his squad.
My San Francisco Giants have dealt with the Melky Cabrera suspension, Tim Lincecum pitching like a shell of his former self and Pablo Sandoval dealing with a broken wrist, yet after all these hits, San Fran easily won the West. Melky didn’t deserve to be on the postseason roster by any means, but I’m pretty sure he can hit better post-juicing than Gregor Blanco. I also find it hypocritical that Guillermo Mota—who has tested positive twice for PED’s—will be on the roster and not Cabrera. Still, with the possible 2012 NL MVP Buster Posey behind the dish, the Giants will be a threat to win their second World Series in three years. You bet I’ll be watching Ashkon’s version of “Don’t Stop Believing”—just like I did in 2010—in hopes of another championship run.
And finally, the NL wildcard game will most likely be decided by the Cardinals and Braves. Atlanta’s enjoyed a phenomenal year and if they win this game, they may go the distance. With a young core of Jason Heyward, Freddie Freeman and the best closer in the game, Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta could win it all if they get past St. Louis.
Depending on matchups, I like the Rangers and Tigers to come out of the ALDS (so long as they don’t face each other). My NL picks include the Giants and Braves. What are you looking forward to seeing in the playoffs? Shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Photo credit: Frank Victores, US Presswire)