The boys of summer have reached
mid-August and let’s see which teams are playoff contenders, which are World
Series contenders, and which are dark horses entering the final six weeks of
the regular season. With two playoff berths, the playoff atmosphere at some
ballparksis under way.
The San Francisco Giants were
fast becoming the consensus to not just win the National League West, but to
win the NL pennant and compete in the World Series. On the same day that
Seattle’s Felix Hernandez threw a perfect game, the Giants offense took a big
blow when Melky Cabrera was banned 50 days for testing positive for high levels
of testosterone. He was having a career season and was set for a very big pay
day next season as a free agent. Most important, is that he has severely
damaged his team’s chances of reaching the playoffs. As Charles Dickens said,
‘It was the best of days and the worst of days”.
On the same day, the Giants lost
while their division rival Dodgers had won their fourth straight game. The
Dodgers now lead the Giants by one game in the NL West. However, the betting
odds have not reflected that as of yet with the Giants lined at +450 to win the
NL pennant and the Dodgers lined at +600. I strongly believe these lines will
converge over the next several weeks and it is quite possible that both the
Dodgers and Giants could be lined at +500 to win the NL pennant.
In the NL Central, the Reds
continue to play incredible baseball and have started a new winning streak
after winning 22-of-25 games recently. They now have won five straight games, are
8-2 over their last 10 and they now lead the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St.
Louis Cardinals by seven games. The Reds and Washington Nationals are
essentially tied on top of the NL pennant with wagering lines at +330 and +320
respectively. It is beginning to look increasingly likely that the Pirates will
have their first winning season since 1992, but fail to make the playoffs.
Still, fantastic for a small media franchise.
I have touted the surge and
potential for the St. Louis Cardinals in recent articles. They are arguably the
best offense in the NL and one of the best in MLB. They rank fourth scoring 576
runs, first with a .275 team batting average, first with a .342
on-base-percentage, and fourth with a .436 slugging-percentage. They also rank
third best in MLB with 74 quality starts. I am fully expecting the Cardinals to
make a run similar to last season and close the gap on the Reds and at least
earn one of the two wild card berths.
The National League East sees the
Nationals holding on to a 4 ½ game lead over the Atlanta Braves. However, they
will be without Stephen Strasburg, who has reached his doctor prescribed
pitching limit of 165 innings. This fact has created immense debate and
discussion among National fans and baseball fans alike. I have to agree, at the
pro level, when any team has a chance to get to and win the World Series after
decades of disappointing seasons, they should embrace the opportunity and go
for it. The World Series is very difficult to get to and all I need to do is
reference the Philadelphia Phillies as the top example. I have consistently
stated that I felt strongly that the Atlanta Braves would win the NL East and I
continue to believe that even more with the shelving of Strasburg.
American League Playoff
The wagering odds to win the
pennant come down to two teams, Texas at +215 and New York at +210. No other
team in the AL East is even lined to win the pennant and World Series odds show
the Tampa Bay Rays at +2000 and the Baltimore Orioles at +5000. The Yankees are
leading the Orioles by six games and the Rays by seven games. The Orioles
continue to have far more doubters than believers despite winning eight of
their last 10 games. Might be a good dark horse bet to take the Orioles to
catch the Yankees.
The AL Central is a two-team race
with the detroit Tigers trailing the Chicago White Sox by two games. I believe
that the White Sox will pull away from the Tigers and win the division crown.
However, Detroit is very much in the thick of the wild card race and are
trailing Baltimore, who has the first wild card berth by 1 ½ games and Tampa
bay by just a ½ game for the second wild card berth.
The Texas Rangers went through
their slump and have held off the surging Oakland A’s and Los Angeles Angels.
The Rangers enjoy a six game lead over both teams and barring season ending
injury to a marquee player, I don’t see Texas relinquishing that lead. A month
ago, there were eight teams within two games of one another competing for the
two wild card berths in the AL. Now, the AL shows five teams competing for
those last two spots. As part of this week's MLB Picks, I believe that Baltimore and Tampa Bay will earn those
two wild spots. More to come next week.