Thursday, August 30, 2012

MLB Season Coming Down to the Wire

With one month left, the MLB regular season is coming to an end very quickly. Many teams are still fighting for the chance to make the playoffs and some teams have thrown in the towel and began playing for next year. The most exciting month in baseball is September, and leads to many close games and playoff vibes before the playoffs get started. There are many stories coming into this last month of the season, from the Stephen Strasburg inning limit to whether any team will have a Red Sox/Braves type collapse like last year. There is also the new addition of two extra wild card teams that will make the races even tighter as the season gets close to the end. I want to take a look at each division, as well as the wild card picture going into the last month.

AL East:

The Yankees have a three game lead over the Orioles and a four game lead over the Rays in the division with 32 games left for each team. The Yankees have two series left against both teams. This division is very likely to come down to the wire and the bad news for the Yankees is they end with a series against the Red Sox that could determine their fate. While the Red Sox may be done this season and having a fire sale with all their players, it is still a rivalry and the Sox would love to keep their arch rivals from winning the division or even keep them out of the playoffs for good. The Rays and Orioles both still have a strong chance of making a wild card spot if they are unable to win the division, if they continue to play well down the stretch. I believe the Rays win this division and the Orioles and Yankees fight it out for one of the wild card spots.

AL Central:

This division race is separated by 2.5 games between the White Sox and Tigers, with the White Sox leading the division right now. Both teams have a Cy Young Candidate, the White Sox with Chris Sale and Tigers with Justin Verlander, and both teams have pretty potent offenses that could make this race very interesting. The two teams play each other twice in the early part of September. This race could come down to the last series of the season, in which the White Sox play Cleveland and the Tigers play Kansas City. I believe the Tigers with their playoff experience find a way to win the division for the second year in a row.

AL West:

As a Rangers fan this race is a little to close for me right now. The Rangers have a four game lead over the Oakland A's. The A's have been one of the best teams in baseball since the all-star break and everyone continues to wait for them to stumble, but so far they continue to prove everyone wrong. These two teams have two series left against each other and they are both in the last two weeks of the season, with the last being in Oakland the last weekend of the season. The Angels who were supposed to battle the Rangers for the division are too far out, and their only chance is a wild card spot in which they are still four games out of the second spot. I believe with the Rangers' potent offense they are still able to pull it out and win the division.

AL Wild Card:

The wild card race will not be as fun as some of the division races, but the fun part will be the one game between these two teams to start the playoffs. I believe the two wild card spots will be filled by the second place teams in the AL East and AL West.

NL East:

The Nationals have had a lock on this division for awhile now, but with Stephen Strasburg being benched once he reaches his innings limit the division could get interesting again real quick. Right now the Braves are five games back of the Nats, but they have still have a chance. The Braves only have one more series against the Nats so they will need help from the other teams in their division. The good news for the Braves may be that the Nats have been struggling lately and are losing their star pitcher in the middle of a pennant race. I do believe that the Nationals will get it together and win the division, but they may have a short stay in the playoffs without Strasburg.

NL Central:

This may be the only race that is pretty much over going into September, barring a major collapse by the Reds in the final month. The Reds have the best record in baseball, and an eight game lead over the defending world champion Cardinals. The Reds are already good, and get their best player, Joey Votto, back going into September.

NL West:

The Giants and Dodgers are going to make the NL West race very interesting going down the stretch. The two teams have two more series against each other, with one being the last weekend of the season. The two teams have moved in the opposite direction over the last few weeks and could affect the teams dramatically in the last month of the season. The Giants lost their main source of offense when Melky Cabrera was suspended for 50 games for using PEDs. The Giants offense is already abysmal, so they will have to depend on their pitching to get them to October. The Dodgers on the other hand have added some reinforcements to their team going down the stretch. They added a big bat in Adrian Gonzalez, who can help out Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Ethier in the middle of the lineup. They also added Josh Beckett, who may be able to add depth to a weak rotation. The Giants currently lead the Dodgers by 3.5 games going into September. I believe the Dodgers will take the division because of their depth and additions.

NL Wild Card:

The NL wild card race is very close with four teams vying for the two wild card spots. The contenders are the Braves, Cardinals, Pirates, and whoever is second in the NL West. These 4 teams are separated by a game and a half for the two spots. I believe with the strength of the Braves bullpen, that they will get in. The Pirates are the other team I believe will get in. They are young enough not to care about the standings and have enough veterans to get there. They also have a pretty easy schedule down the stretch to help them out.

September is a fun time of the year that gives baseball fans all over the country chills. It is filled with excitement and heartbreak with just about every pitch and is as close as some teams will get to the playoffs this year. There is something about this time of year that just makes the other five months of the season worth while. While some teams are out of the hunt, there are still many teams that still have a horse in this race. Good luck to all the teams and fans battling for these ten spots and enjoy!

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