Friday, May 21, 2010

Who will pass the interleague litmus test ?

With a quarter of the year over it’s not too much of a stretch to state that the Rays, Reds, and even the Nats will be in the mix when things get decided, and one can argue that you may have two division winners in that mix. Unfortunately the Rays are the only team that’s getting any love from that group as the others are written off because of the strength on their division and this is exactly what makes interleague play so great. Set up as way to both bolster attendance and matchup teams that will never get an opportunity to face each other, also has an application for being the equivalent of sodium pentothal in regards to exposing the quality of each division/league for what it really is. Since the inception of interleague play the AL holds a slight edge in winning percentage at .522 with the best team being the Yankees at .583, so not quite as dominant as you would think at first glance, however the overwhelming trend is that the AL has won the battle for six years running. This year in addition to the Subway, I-5, Bay Bridge, and other city rivalries, we get to see the classics like the Dodgers/Yankees and the second round matchups are better than the first at least on paper, but then again that’s exactly my point. If the last place Astros could win the series with the afore mentioned A’s or conversely, if the Indians can win the battle of Ohio with the surprising Reds that will certainly shed some light on which really are the power divisions and who is the benefactor of playing weak teams 50% of their schedule. The series I most want to see are the 2 vs. 3’s like LA/Detroit, NY/NY, Cards/Angels, and A’s Giants, where there’s no clear cut favorite, all should be close, and if there some city fervor or history behind it, then it adds more flavor to the mix. This is like a playoff weekend that makes be want to spend all day in the sports bar/book, as even the out-of-market games will certainly hold my interest simply because of the history of the clubs or games in recent years. I was bitter when the schedule came out in 08 that I would have to wait two more years for to see a rematch of the 78’ series but these will do just fine to hold me off until June. Which interleague matchup do you most want to see, and which one is the most significant? Let us know here and in any of the quick links.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rays lead the pack of suprise clubs to start the season

AL Central
With Mauer back in the lineup the Twins look to extend their lead as they are consistent both on the road and at home. If the pitching can hold up they can extend the lead, but a they’ve got a touch stretch coming up including series with the Yankees, Jays, and Red Sox so they’ll be tested.

The sad part is that Blue Jays and Red Sox are not playing poorly, yet still find themselves 4 and 6 ½ back respectively. This will not be a division for the faint of heart again this year. In case you were one of the doubters the Rays are for real and ready to challenge the evil empire right now. The Yanks have gotten out of the blocks much faster than last year and they’ll need to keep the pace if they are going to going in as the division winners and not the Wild Cards. Meanwhile everyone is getting nervous in Beantown about now, as the Sox had to work to avoid getting swept by the Empire, and everyone’s wondering where all that pitching from last year went?

AL West
These teams will continue to shuffle the deck as they each go though the tough parts of their schedule. The division where .500 might be good enough to keep you in contention, suddenly has an unfamiliar leader. The Rangers sit in first place for the first time since I can remember, as “Big Daddy Valdi” has rejuvenated his swing hitting .339 with six jacks providing the added pop the Rangers needed. If the A’s want to stay in the hunt they’ll need to learn how to win on the road as .300 won’t get it done.

NL Central
The Cards look good again to start the season as the surprising Reds are a trying to keep them in striking distance which may be tough to do as the Cards are soon to begin a long home stand but an upcoming 3 game set with the Reds will be the litmus test to see if Cincy has any staying power. It could be all smoke and mirrors right now as the Reds actually have a negative run differential (-21) but still manage to keep the ship afloat with duct tape. Right now the rest of the division doesn’t look as if it’s ready to challenge the establishment but the good thing is it’s early and plenty of moves can be made.

NL East
We stated at the beginning of the season that this division race is going to be great to follow all year, and the defending NL champs are going to have their hands full. So far so good for the Phils but the Mets despite injuries and the Nats despite themselves are only two games back. Even though their fans may not have noticed, the Nats can contend this year, and if they can stay afloat long enough to get “the Sensational Stasburg” into the starting rotation, they could be the sleeper team in the NL. I know, we’re getting way ahead of ourselves just 31 games into the season but it’s nice to talk about.

NL West
How about the Priest?? Picked to finish dead last they’ve lived off a strong offense (+43 run differential) and timely pitching to hold a slight lead in the division. The third team to take the reigns already this year, this will be a war a attrition and staying healthy. The two-time division champions LA had a terrible off season in regards to moves as the team got caught up in the divorce of the owners, and how much of a difference will Manny coming back actually make? Probably quite a bit as the Dodger bats are quiet with a -16 RD for the first time since Joe came to town. The aces of the Giant staff have been getting an unexpected lift from Barry Zito, who if can remain consistent, will create the best 3 man pitching stretch in baseball.
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