Monday, August 18, 2014

MLB Wildcards – Don’t call this race just yet

For the better part of this season the division races haven’t been in doubt, a couple have been two horse races, but if you give any credence to ESPN’s POFF category then all but one is sealed and delivered. However some of the leaders at the mid-point have began to fade down the stretch, some of the older horses are showing their age, and the colts are hitting their stride, so this one may not end up how you think at the wire so don’t tear up that ticket just yet. In the AL you gotta’ love what Buck Showalter has done in Baltimore, coming out of the broadcast booth to almost get it done last year but creating a canyon of space (7games) between themselves and the Yanks, Jays, and Rays to coast to the division crown. Not only that but suddenly are only two games back of the Angles and A’s for the best record in baseball after it looked they those two had a monopoly on home field advantage throughout the playoffs and Series after the AL’s All-Star game win. Then they they’re bats seemed to go cold and the Angels lost 4 straight, the A’s 5, each going 5-5 and 3-7 respectively, which was enough for the Angels to take over 1st by .001 but also got the Orioles and perhaps the Royals involved in the chase. Speaking of the Royals how great is that story? Holding the division lead this late in the season for the first time in a decade, Kansas City is the hottest team in the AL, winners of 8 of their last 10. Now before we start getting all nostalgic for George Brett let’s not forget that if they don’t hold off the Tigers who are just 1.5 games back then they may be in a dog fight for the 2nd and final wild card spot. Why, because the first spot was given out long ago as the California consolation prize. With 72/73 wins already in their pocket the top seed and 1st wildcard the A’s and Angels have those seats reserved. That leaves one seat left for the Mariners (and King Felix, how would you like to draw them in a 1-game playoff?) Royals/Tigers runner-up -.5, Yankees -4, Jays -5, and Indians -5. So despite having the best record in the MLB for most of the year the loser of the AL West could find themselves needing to beat King Felix in a one-game or go home, seems like a very poor ROI for a solid 162 games worth of work. In the NL all eyes have been on the central which finally has a front runner as the Brewers are coming off a 3-game sweep of the Dodgers who prior to that series had the best record in the NL. Now they each have 70 wins each and Milwaukee has a 3-game lead in the division, their largest since the opening couple of weeks. This was done at the expense of the perpetual challengers, St. Louis and the other really “feel good” story the Pittsburgh Pirates. Now this division is far from over and the top 3 have been trading places for most of the year, but the young Brewers are peaking at the right time and after their summer vacation in LA they don’t have any doubts that they have talent necessary to get to the show for the first time since 1982. However much like the Pirates they don’t have the pedigree for winning that the club 3 games behind them does, and the Cardinals will have 7 chances head-to-head to make up those 3 games. As good a story as Ol’ Milwaukee is this year I’m not ready to hand over the Central to em’ just yet as the Cards are still the Cards and something tells me we haven’t heard the last of them. “The Lumber Company”, “The Family”, “Pops”, all of those images of the 79’ Pirates were being replayed earlier in the year as it looked like Pittsburgh finally had the depth to get them back to the post season but a 3-7 stretch including 5 straight losses over the last 10 has dropped them 5.5 back and scrambling to get back in the picture. The schedule will present the opportunities but being that they’ve barley been a .500 club all season and they’ll need to be closer to .700 the rest of the way out, it looks like Stargel and company will have dibs on baseball in the steel city for another year. The West has long been decided, and much like the AL West, it’s a California thang, with either the Dodgers or the Giants (-3.5) taking the flag and the other the top wild card. LA went on a roll and took over the best record before being swept at home by the Brew Crew, couple that with injuries to Ryu their number 3 starter, Juan Uribe, Hanley Rameriz, and “The Untouchables” looking touchable in their last two starts, all of the sudden the team that seemed destined to go one step further than they went last year when they lost in the NLCS, seems to looking a little old compared to the rest of the field. But all the Dodgers need to do is win the West. Then they avoid the possibility of losing a one game “fluke” series and teams will have to deal with the Untouchables Kershaw and Greinke in a 7-game series and that will be tough to do. Get all of the scores, schedules, highlights, and everything about the playoff races here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

MLB - Post Break evaluations

It may be called the ‘mid-way point’ of the MLB season but the fact is that most clubs have played 100 games already and the old baseball adage is that you’re going to win 60, lose 60, and what you do with the rest determines who is still playing in November. That said, it’s time to take a look at who is still going to be playing ball when the seasons change. Starting with the craziest division the NL Central, where four of the five teams have taken turns leading the pack and right now they’re only separated by 2.5 games. It might be pointless to write who is actually leading the division (Cardinals and Brewers) because it will probably be different next week and that’s what has made every game worth watching for those fans who think a 162 game season is too long please put an asterisk next this division and this season in particular as there will certainly be one or two of the four teams looking back come September at a games that were played way back in July that they let get away that they would love to have back if they’re a couple of games back coming down the stretch. St. Louis come out to the break the hottest, winners of 7 of 10 to tie for the lead with Brewers who took the foot off the pedal going into the All-Star break and haven’t regained their stride going 2-8 over their last ten games to fall into a tie for the lead. If St. Louis can get through the first two weeks of August they should be near the top going into the final turn but it won’t be easy as their fist four series in August are with those same Brewers, followed by the Red Sox, Orioles, and Marlins. The mother ship has the red birds with a 54% chance of winning the division. Milwaukee needs to get it’s mojo back as the current losing steak followed a 15-6 run that had the league talking. Unfortunately the schedule doesn’t look cohesive for getting healthy as over the next 20 games are all against teams over .500 except the Mets who are tied for the best record in baseball over the last 8 games. The stretch includes the Reds, Mets, Rays, Cards, Giants, and Dodgers. Cincinnati looks to be healthy and in a good position to come out of the show position and win this at the wire but will need their starting pitching to hold up. Meanwhile the “Feel good” story of the year continues in Pittsburgh but the pessimist are starting to rear their ugly heads as this has all the makings for what has become a typical Pirate fade, as the finish lines becomes in focus. Facing the toughest schedule of the contenders down the stretch Pittsburgh needs get back on top in the first 3 weeks of August and feast ton the bottom have of the NL west as 9 games with the Rockies, DBacks, and Padres could provide them with the boost they need. Despite being right in the hunt with their compeers ESPN only gives the Pirates a 32% chance of taking the division and that could be directly related to difficulty of their path to the division tile. In the 1960’s the Men’s NCAA Basketball Tournament was only 22 teams and each conference was only allowed to send their champion. There were many seasons where the team playing the best basketball in the country wasn’t able to compete for the National Championship. Some of us are old enough to remember 1993, when there were only two divisions in each league, 7 teams each, and if you waited to the All-Star break to get into form it was too little too late. Now there are six divisions, two wild cards, and five teams in the playoffs and the best clubs are always without the excuse of being shutout for a slow start. This year the two best clubs may reside in the same division the AL West as Oakland and Anaheim continue to exchange haymakers at the top of MLB. With 61 and 59 wins respectively they’re 7 and 5 games clear of the rest of the league. Each have over a 92% chance of reaching the playoffs according to ESPN, and should settle their dispute over the best in the league over a 7 game playoff series and it would be justified if it were the ALCS. It could be another sad year for Seattle as they’re playing some the best baseball they’ve played since before ARod left them for a quarter-billion dollar greener pasture, and they will have to struggle to grab one of those top five spots. The other two NL divisions have become two-team races for the remaining 60 games of the season with the NL West becoming the California civil war with the Northern California being represented by the Giants and So.Cal by the Dodgers. These two were going toe-to-toe last year as well with the Giants having the Dodgers on the ropes, pounding their mid-section, and seeing Don Mattingly administered a standing 8 count seemingly days away from losing his job. Then a comeback so statistically improbable that Vegas took the bet off the board and unbelievable that it wouldn’t even be accepted by one of the Rocky Balboa films. The Dodgers got fire and went on a winning streak that would go down in history and it took them all the way to the NLCS and left the Giants smoldering behind them. Very similar to last year the Giants started hot got out to a ten game lead and looked like they had a strangle hold on the division only have the Dodgers repeat the feat, go on another roll, and take over the division lead just before the all-star break. The question is who has the fortitude to outlast the other over the final 59 games of the season? The dodger arms are healthy and that gives them an added plus but the big bats have been dormant other than AGong, while the Giants continue to find ways to win by manufacturing runs and getting great relief pitching. In either case this is an ‘old school’ street fight between two long-time rivals from the hood in New York and this year it’s going the distance starting with a three game set this week. Next Up.........AL East View the complete schedule, odds, and game previews here.....

Monday, July 7, 2014

MLB All Star Game - All About The Arms

American League American League Starters C: Salvador Perez^, Royals 1B: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers 2B: Robinson Cano, Mariners SS: Derek Jeter, Yankees 3B: Josh Donaldson, A's OF: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays OF: Mike Trout, Angels OF: Adam Jones, Orioles DH: Nelson Cruz, Orioles Pitchers RHP: Dellin Betances ^, Yankees LHP: Mark Buehrle ^, Blue Jays RHP: Yu Darvish ^, Rangers LHP: Sean Doolittle ^, A's RHP: Felix Hernandez ^, Mariners RHP: Greg Holland ^, Royals LHP: Scott Kazmir ^, A's LHP: Jon Lester *, Red Sox LHP: Glen Perkins *, Twins LHP: David Price *, Rays RHP: Max Scherzer *, Tigers RHP: Masahiro Tanaka ^, Yankees Reserves C: Derek Norris *, A's C: Matt Wieters, Orioles C: Kurt Suzuki *, Twins 1B: Jose Abreu ^, White Sox 1B: Edwin Encarnacion *, Blue Jays 1B: Brandon Moss *, A's 2B: Jose Altuve ^, Astros 3B: Adrian Beltre ^, Rangers SS: Alexei Ramirez ^, White Sox OF: Michael Brantley ^, Indians OF: Yoenis Cespedes ^, A's OF: Alex Gordon ^, Royals DH: Victor Martinez ^, Tigers Final Vote candidates LHP: Dallas Keuchel, Astros RHP: Corey Kluber, Indians RHP: Rick Porcello, Tigers RHP: Garrett Richards, Angels LHP: Chris Sale, White Sox National League National League Starters C: Yadier Molina, Cardinals 1B: Paul Goldschmidt, D-backs 2B: Chase Utley, Phillies SS: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies 3B: Aramis Ramirez, Brewers OF: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates OF: Carlos Gomez, Brewers OF: Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Pitchers LHP: Madison Bumgarner ^, Giants LHP: Aroldis Chapman ^, Reds RHP: Johnny Cueto ^, Reds RHP: Zack Greinke *, Dodgers LHP: Clayton Kershaw ^, Dodgers RHP: Craig Kimbrel ^, Braves RHP: Pat Neshek *, Cardinals RHP: Francisco Rodriguez ^, Brewers RHP: Tyson Ross *, Padres RHP: Jeff Samardzija ^$, Cubs/A's RHP: Julio Teheran *, Braves RHP: Adam Wainwright ^, Cardinals LHP: Tony Watson *, Pirates RHP: Jordan Zimmermann ^, Nationals Reserves C: Jonathan Lucroy ^, Brewers C: Devin Mesoraco *, Reds 1B: Freddie Freeman ^, Braves 2B: Dee Gordon ^, Dodgers 2B: Daniel Murphy *, Mets SS: Starlin Castro ^, Cubs 3B: Matt Carpenter *, Cardinals 3B: Todd Frazier ^, Reds OF: Charlie Blackmon ^, Rockies OF: Josh Harrison *, Pirates OF: Hunter Pence ^, Giants OF: Giancarlo Stanton ^, Marlins Final Vote candidates 1B: Justin Morneau, Rockies 2B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals 1B: Anthony Rizzo, Cubs 3B: Casey McGehee, Marlins OF: Justin Upton, Braves NOTES ^ Player ballot-elected * Choice of manager/MLB $ Jeff Samardzija, who was dealt to the A's, was named to the NL team as a Cub. He will receive All-Star honors, but will be inactive for the All-Star Game.
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