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.....

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