Monday, September 5, 2016

Signor Baseball's Well Past Midseason, Hell, Let's Call It The Stretch Run, MLB Update

"And down the stretch they come!"

See what I've done there? Used the horse race metaphor!

Even though I'm pretty sure that none of the baseball teams trying to make the playoffs have tiny little men sitting on their backs whipping them.

Then again, who knows?

The thing about the one game MLB Wild Card playoff is that you usually have two flawed teams going at it. And while that may be fun for the fans in those cities, it doesn't often make much difference for the remainder of the playoffs. The winner will probably use their best pitcher, which kinda screws them for the next round. Not always--but often enough.

Anyway, as I write this, there are 7 teams still in contention for the two AL Wildcards and 5 for the NL.

In the AL, the Orioles, Red Sox, Yankees, Mariners, Tigers, Astros and Royals are all within 7 games of each other. And Toronto is only a game up in the East, so they should probably be considered, too.

Throw out the Yankees, because they just aren't as good as the Orioles, Red Sox, or Blue Jays. They have just one dependable starter, and Gary Sanchez is probably not the second coming of Babe Ruth.  The Mariners aren't any better. That leaves Detroit, Kansas City and Houston trying to catch Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto.

If you go by pitching, KC and Houston have the edge over both the Orioles and Red Sox.  Add in the East teams all playing each other the last month and it gets much harder for Boston and Baltimore. They do score a lot of runs, but will that be enough to overcome their pitching shortcomings? The defending champion Royals have muddled along all season and still find themselves in the race. One strong month could put them back in the post season. In fact, that could apply to any of these teams. A good winning streak and they're in. But which teams are capable of that? It looks like a last day of the season scenario, once again.

So you make the Wild Card. So you win the Wild Card. To move on, you need at least two top flight starters, a consistent bull pen, and some clutch bats. This is shocking to say, but other than Cleveland, who has that? It's a muddle, I tells ya. A muddle.

The NL is only slightly clearer. San Francisco has had such an awful couple of months that it's time for them to play well again. They'll either catch LA for the West or take one of the Wild Cards. That leaves the Cardinals, Mets, Pirates and Marlins battling for the second Wild Card.

The Cardinals are the strongest all around. The Mets have the best starters--when healthy. The Pirates have a very good every day lineup and no dependable starters. Not a one. And I have no idea how the Marlins have stayed this close. Maybe Barry Bonds' Magic Beans. So, sorry Pittsburgh. Sorry Miami.

If New York can somehow recapture last season's magic, and figure out a way to score a few runs, they can catch St. Louis. After that, who knows? The Cubs look unbeatable at times, but they fell apart in last year's playoffs, so...San Francisco and Washington have the 2 Aces needed to go deep, and the Giants have a history of playoff success. The Dodgers have the "best pitcher in baseball", but the "best pitcher in baseball" has proven to be very human in the post season. He's also coming off an injury. And the rest of their staff is hit or miss.

To use an old William Goldman quote in another context, "nobody knows anything."

All in all, it makes for a very interesting few weeks of baseball.

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