So it’s August 29th. With a month left to play, I thought I’d give my thoughts on how I see the playoff matchups looking.
AL East: New York Yankees. Baseball’s best team is 6 up on Boston and 10.5 up on Tampa. They’re the only team in baseball with a winning percentage over .600 (.625). They have a talented rotation, one of the best bullpens in baseball, arguably baseball’s best lineup, a fine defense, two MVP candidates (Jeter and Teixeira), and the best clubhouse chemistry they’ve had since 2001. The Yanks seem to play every game to the fullest, and it seems like they got a walkoff win every week. Is there any doubt we’ll see October baseball in the Bronx?
AL Central: Detroit Tigers. Sure, the Twins have traded for Orlando Cabrera, Jon Rauch, Carl Pavano, and Ron Mahay, but I still don’t think they’ll make it to October. The Tigers rotation includes Justin Verlander (3.38 ERA), Jarrod Washburn (3.23 ERA), Edwin Jackson (2.96 ERA), and the young Rick Porcello (4.27 ERA). They aren’t going to lose their division lead when they trot Verlander, Washburn, and Jackson out there 3 of every 5 games. Fernando Rodney, Brandon Lyon, Bobby Seay, Fu-Te Ni, and Ryan Perry have been more than effective in the ‘pen. I worry about their lineup, as Curtis Granderson, Carlos Guillen, Aubrey Huff, and Magglio Ordonez have all underperformed this year. Still with their pitching, they aren’t going to lose their division lead.
AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Always believe in Mike Scioscia. Sure the pitching has been subpar in LA this year, but Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu have been huge bargains, Tori Hunter and Chone Figgins are big parts of the offense, and Kendry Morales and Mike Napoli are having great years. This team is going to the playoffs on their offense. I said earlier, pitching is more important, which is true, but the Angels are going because of their offense. They have some fine pitchers on their staff like Ervin Santana, John Lackey, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver, but all four of them haven’t played to their potential .It’s the same case with recent acquisition Scott Kazmir. Pitching coach Mike Butcher needs to make sure these guys finish the season strong, because they can’t go anywhere in October without good pitching.
AL Wildcard: Boston Red Sox. They’ve got a 2.5 game lead, and I just don’t think Texas can beat Boston out for the wildcard spot. The only offensive forces in Arlington are Michael Young and Nelson Cruz right now, and they have a good staff, but not strong enough to put them past Boston. The Red Sox need Wakefield, Bucholz, and Tazawa to pitch effectively if they want to keep their wildcard lead. Wake and Bucholz can do so, while Tazawa I worry about. He just doesn’t seem to have the “stuff” yet to make it in the bigs. Obviously, aces Beckett and Lester need to pitch like themselves to keep Boston going strong, but that shouldn’t be much of a worry. The ‘pen is solid with Papelbon, Billy Wagner, Manny Delcarmen, Takashi Saito, and Hideki Okajima. The Boston offense obviously has flaws (like Varitek and Ortiz), but Victor Martinez, Jason Bay, JD Drew, and Kevin Youkilis are all threats to get on base, and threats to hit the longball. Mike Lowell isn’t too shabby either. Dustin Pedroia is having a good year, but its nothing compared to his MVP campaign last year. None the less, the Red Sox have the talent to make it to October, and they should do so.