Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Baseball Playoffs – All about the Wild Wild West

Just a couple of months ago we ran post elaborating on how five of the six division races were up for grabs and how the team on top ‘right now’ will probably not be the one raising the pennant in October. Well for all intent and purposes all but one of those races has been decided and the one that’s left could do down in history as the best ever in the wild card era.
The Astros had lead the division for most almost the entire season with a brief exception in July when the Angles took over for about a week but other than that aberration, Houston sat on top and were the talk of the league. Then heading into the home stretch the Rangers took over the lead in mid-September looked to cruse their way in. Now at the wire all three are neck-n-neck, and the Rangers are fading near the tape, losers of 3 straight, 5 of their last 10, and still have to face the Tigers for two more then of course the 4-game series with the Angels that will decide the division title in one way or anther. Speaking of the Angels, of the three horses they appear to be peaking at the right time. Winners of 8 of their last 10, more importantly 10-0 in one-run games the Angels have not only won games they had to win but done it against good competition (taking 2/3 from Texas, 3/4 Twins, sweeping Seattle, and 2/3 Houston) and for all intent and purposes have been playing playoff games for the last three weeks. Now they sit two games back of the division and .5 out of the wild card. That brings us to the perpetual division leaders Houston, the feel good story of the league this year, looked like they were a shoe-in for a worst-to-first story a month ago now are not only fighting to win the division they had won but for their playoff lives. Fortunately for the Stros they don’t have a dog in the TX/SoCal fight will surely benefit if they beat each other up and split the series. Six games vs. two non-playoff clubs in Seattle and Arizona even though they’re on the road should help the Astros at least get the wild card if they don’t get the division. One thing that needs to be noted is that second place may not get you a gold star and a champagne party to start October but it may give you a golden ticket to the promised land as we have seen plenty of teams come out of the WC game to go on to the World Series and it seems like the big hurdle is that one game playoff game on the road. But considering the way these three clubs have had to play for the last month they should hit the playoffs running and with a ton of momentum and they won’t be someone the Jays, Royals, or Yankees will want to face.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MLB Pennant Races - 50 games to go

With only, yes I said only, about 50 games left to play in the season we are beginning to see how the second season might unfold, as many questions as there are still left to answer one thing is certain, that one of the top clubs of the season to date is going to be left out of the playoff picture in both the NL and AL. In the National League the catbird seat will be held by perpetual top-seeds from St. Louis, the Patriots of baseball. The Cards have a five game lead over the Pirates for the NL Central, a four game lead over the Royals for the overall best record. Of course that doesn’t mean much now that we’ve gone to the All-Star Game method, but it still sends a message that the road to riches still travels through the arch. Because of the dominance of the NL Central winner, the silver medalist will also be first wild card so that means there is only one more seat on the last life raft to be fought for by the Mets, Nats, Cubs, Dodgers, and defending champion Giants. Once again the division winner will survive and advance and the runner up will go home. The Dodgers may have a 3 game lead over the Giants in the West but despite a plethora of moves ahead of the trade deadline they don’t look any closer to shoring up that short starting rotation or retched bullpen. Kershaw and Grinke have been carrying the club all season and the addition of Latos and Wood so far haven’t made much of a difference. LA has two golden starters and a closer that’s subject to giving up at least a run in most of his save opportunities. That may be enough to get through a 7-game series if Zach and Clayton don’t lose but much like the NLDS last year, once Kershaw lost game 1 the Dodgers were done. What they do have going for them is that over the next 22 games the Giants will play nothing but clubs that are fighting for playoff spots. All of their opponents have been previously mentioned except the Astros who are currently in first place in the AL East. Astros, Nats, Cards, Pirates, Cubs, Cards, and Dodgers. Look it up, it’s the toughest stretch any club will face all season and it will be the reason why LA will take down its second consecutive NL West flag, but unless something changes right away that will about as far as the Dodgers go. In the NL East, the Nats have been calling their shot the entire year about how they’re the best in the league and how everyone expects them to win the NL, well now that prediction is in serious jeopardy. The Nats currently find themselves a game and a half out of first place which usually doesn’t mean anything with two months to play but the Mets are the hottest team in the NL right now along with the Cubs and that’s who they’re chasing. It would behoove them to come out of a 7-game roadie with the Dodgers and Giants with a winning record because if they fall too far behind the Mets they may not catch up. Meanwhile the Mets are a far cry for the “Mighty Mets” of the eighties but they are playing with a ton of enthusiasm have just taken 2 of 3 from the Nats to take the division lead but have a tough road to finish out the season so they had better continue their winning ways. With all of the talk about global warming and freaky summer weather nation wide it’s no wonder they are talking about the drought ending in Chicago. The Cubs trying to break the curse find themselves 3.5 games ahead of the Giants for the final Wild Card seat that would leave the Nationals out in the cold. The hottest team in baseball at 9-1 over their last 10 the Cubbies finally are giving fans something else to cheer for except the start of football season but a though schedule with series at the Giants, Dodgers, Cards, and Pirates have many thinking that it is perpetual death for Chi Town and come September things will be back to normal with the Cubs on the outside looking in. Next up………………The AL races.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

11th Hour Moves Shape the MLB Race to the Finish

Firstly, apologies are in order for those of you whom lambasted us back in June when we went on record stating that strange names on the top of the divisions like the Astros, Twins, and Mets were here to stay. Well, here we are in August and three of the four clubs we highlighted are on top of their respective divisions. Moreover, they look like they have their sights set on taking the flag not just the division crown. However it’s not just the young guns that are making strides to the top, the clubs that have become synonymous with fall baseball the Cardinals, Dodgers, and Giants have all made big moves. Ironically, everyone but the Yankees, who seem to always be wheeling and dealing, have made moves but the Bombers seem content with their club that currently holds a five-game lead in the East and believes they have all the components to make another glory run. The Cards, who seem to perpetually have the league’s best record only have to fear peaking too early and to prevent a repeat of falling short in the NLCS like last year, GM John Mozeliak reconfigured the roster with the additions of first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss and relievers Steve Cishek and Jonathon Broxton. Moss will hopefully be the bat Cardinal fans were hoping for, though naysayers think the team overpaid by sending single-A lefty and former first rounder Rob Kaminsky to Cleveland. The Dodgers whom have the second best record in the National League made a ton of moves to not only get them over the hump and back to the world series for the first time in over two decades but justify that massive payroll. The first thing they needed to do was acquire anyone else that can throw the ball over 50 mph to help Greinke and Kershaw and fill in the gaps until they can take the bump again. They countered by making only one move, but a massive one, a three-team, 13-player blockbuster that added four above-average pitchers to a staff desperate for reinforcements. Having lost Hyun-jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy to season-ending arm surgeries early in the year, the Dodgers finally landed replacements in Mat Latos and Alex Wood, the latter of whom has four team-controlled years remaining, and to a bullpen that has been shaky all year, they added rejuvenated former closer Jim Johnson and lefty Luis Avilan. In addition to all of that, they brought in highly-regarded 21-year-old infield prospect Jose Pereza, who could be starting in the middle of the diamond for L.A. next year, and the best player they gave up was a 30-year-old Cuban defector with a sketchy injury history who has never played a game in the major leagues Hector Olivera, that they paid handsomely for the rights to in the off-season. Meanwhile the Mets added Yoenis Cespedes, Juan Uribe, Kelly Johnson and Tyler Clippard. That’s an impressive haul for a team that has been paralyzed by financial concerns in recent seasons and developed a reputation for never making the big move it needed to make to get better. The Mets desperately needed a bat, and they got three, led by All-Star slugger Cespedes, whose Home Run Derby win in 2013 stands as one of a limited number of memorable moments from Citi Field’s first seven seasons. Uribe and Johnson may not appear in the lineup together very often, but both veterans have been swinging hot bats this season and represent upgrades for a Mets lineup that was last in the majors in run scored prior to their acquisition. cespedes Following a 92-loss season last year and three straight last-place finishes before that, the Astros slipped behind the Angels into second place in the American League West on July 12, marking the first time since mid-April that they didn’t occupy the top spot in their division. Their confidence did not waiver. The Astros struck the first blow of the deadline period by acquiring Houston native Scott Kazmir from the A’s late last Thursday, and promptly swept the Angels to take over first place in the AL West for the first time in franchise history. The Astros completed a second deal, bringing centerfielder Carlos Gomez and starter Mike Fiers to Houston, the former representing a significant upgrade from the slumping Jake Marisnick. With Kazmir and Gomez in place, the Astros are in excellent position to reach the postseason for the first time since 2005. These are the teams in the spotlight but the slipping under the radar are the Blue Jays whom may be 7 games out of first place but are only two back in the wild card race and I guarantee you are a club nobody wants to see in the post-season. Toronto arguably landed the best pitcher and position player to be dealt at this deadline in David Price and Troy Tulowitzki, the latter of whom is under contract for six more seasons. In adding set-up men La Troy Hawkins (acquired in the Tulowitzki deal) and Mark Lowe, they drastically improved their bullpen. And they upgraded their fourth outfielder slot by acquiring Ben Revere (who has two team-controlled years remaining) to boot. All of this adds up to a stretch run that should have a number of clubs fighting for those final playoff spots and making another case for how great the world is since the Wild Card came into play. So now we’ve seen the river card and now it’s a matter to see who was drawing dead and who has a shot to still be playing when the season turns.
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