The Tenth Inning – Week 21

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The Tenth Inning – Week 21 ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

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Again, apologies for the column delay. We’re going to analyze each division this week and the chances for each team to make the postseason, and we’ll have the final power rankings before the playoffs next week, likely delayed again because of the holiday. Without any more tinkering or adjusting, here we go with division chances as we play into the final month of the season.

NL East
Phillies – Should be division champs after taking 2 of 3 from Atlanta this past weekend.
Braves – Three back in WC, only 9 games remaining against .500 teams after Florida.
Marlins – Dropping games to Braves have cost them any division shot and likely WC too.
Mets – Postseason will consist of doctor’s offices and training rooms, not playoff games.
Nationals – Chances ended when pitchers and catchers reported and the pitchers forgot to report.

NL Central
Cardinals – Biggest division lead in baseball has St. Louis back in familiar territory – postseason.
Cubs – Year of disappointment once again, with playoff hopes all but gone.
Brewers – Pitching wasn’t deep enough to carry Brewers back to playoffs without Sabathia.
Astros – Post-All-Star break run made things interesting, but now 6 under .500 and done.
Reds – At least beating the Pirates prevents a once-promising year from ending in last place.
Pirates – Third week, say it with me now – “Thank God for the Penguins and Steelers.”

NL West
Dodgers – Recovering nicely after August swoon, now back to 5.5 up on Colorado, 6.5 on SF.
Rockies – Continue to lead WC, but going wrong way with lead at 1 over SF and 3 over Braves.
Giants – Tough week in Philly, but still appear to be the best team outside the division leaders.
Diamondbacks – Never recovered from losing Webb and never contended after 2 good years.
Padres – April Fool’s had Padres in first place, September reality has them barely above Wash.

AL East
Yankees – Still a losing record against Angels and Red Sox, but right now game’s best team.
Red Sox – Breathing room in dogfight with Texas, still second-best AL team and should play on.
Rays – Forced to deal Kazmir and relinquish division back to Yanks and Sox, ending shot in ’09.
Blue Jays – Simply not enough to contend in stacked division, offseason will focus on Doc.
Orioles – Only thing left is to stay ahead of KC in race for worst in AL.

AL Central
Tigers – Cycled back to top after three down years, should hold off Twins and fading ChiSox.
Twins – Coming on hard, now just 3 back. Trying for payback on painful end to ’08.
White Sox – Need huge momentum swing against Boston to avoid being next week’s dead team.
Indians – Script continues: underachieve, sell at deadline, start winning. Again, too little too late.
Royals – Still young, still talented, but still leaps and bounds behind other four teams.

AL West
Angels – Still 7 vs Tex; 4 vs NYY; 3 vs Bos; 3 vs ChiW; and 3 vs Sea – anything but over.
Rangers – Trail LA by 4.5 and Boston by 3, need to make move now to reach playoffs.
Mariners – Solid rebound year but still a player or two away from reaching Angels.
Athletics – Giambi experiment failed, need new stadium and new life to revitalize franchise.

With at least three games separating the one and two in every division, it’s hard to foresee any of the current leading teams failing to reach the postseason. Pencil the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals into your brackets right now, and if the lead is at least seven on Labor Day, throw the Phillies in there as well. The AL has some more enticing races, but I think the current format holds with Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles joining New York. The most likely change there could be Minnesota, who might be the hottest team in the majors right now. The NL wild card is also still wide open. The Marlins and Cubs are in the process of eliminating themselves, leaving a three-way fight for the spot to Colorado, San Francisco, and Atlanta. For my money, I like the Giants to take that spot, but I think the more interesting scenario would be the Braves snagging that spot, setting up Atlanta vs Los Angeles (Lowe returns to LA, Cox against Torre) and Philadelphia vs St. Louis (Howard playing at home, last two NL Series champions, and my personal favorite – Pujols vs Lidge).

So to sum in up, the chances for each team are as follows:

American League
1. New York Yankees
2. Los Angeles Angels
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Detroit Tigers
5. Minnesota Twins
6. Texas Rangers
7. Chicago White Sox
8. Seattle Mariners

National League
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
2. St. Louis Cardinals
3. Philadelphia Phillies
4. San Francisco Giants
5. Colorado Rockies
6. Atlanta Braves
7. Florida Marlins
8. Chicago Cubs

Trivia Question
The Pittsburgh Pirates became the 14th of 16 pre-expansion teams to reach 10,000 homeruns on Wednesday afternoon. Who are the two pre-expansions teams that have yet to reach the mark?

Last week’s answer: none.

2009 Playoff “Dead List”
May 25 – Washington Nationals
June 1 – Colorado Rockies
June 8 – Baltimore Orioles
June 15 – Arizona Diamondbacks
June 22 – Kansas City Royals
June 29 – Cleveland Indians
July 6 – Oakland Athletics
July 15 – San Diego Padres
July 27 – Pittsburgh Pirates
August 3 – Cincinnati Reds
August 10 – Toronto Blue Jays
August 17 – New York Mets
August 24 – Milwaukee Brewers
August 31 – Houston Astros
This elimination is retroactive to Monday. The Astros and Brewers both fell quickly from the Central race, especially as the Cardinals continued to improve throughout August. Now six games under .500 and 14.5 behind the Cards, the Astros season has officially been declared “dead.” This leaves me with only seven “non-dead” teams remaining in the National League, but it looks like a three-year run is getting closer to ending, as the Colorado Rockies maintain their lead in the Wild-Card. With no offense to the Rockies or their fans, it’s a bit of a shame that they’ll get in over the Giants, who I believe to be a better team. I simply don’t think the Rockies can play at the same level as Philadelphia, Los Angeles, or St. Louis.

This week, watch for…
1) Colored Sox Collide (Bos @ Chi, 9/4-6)
2) Rays Hopes Teetering (Det @ TB, 9/4-6)
3) West Separation Chance (LAA @ KC; Arz @ Col, SD @ LAD)

Look for my column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday for the UltimateCapper

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