Friday, August 31, 2007

MLB AL Playoff Race Odds

With Boston, short of a cataclysmic collapse, in the playoffs, it's time to evaluate who else will be joining them in the chase for the World Series. I might be short-changing the National League, especially considering the reigning champs are the St. Louis Cardinals, but if the American League plays the bridesmaid for a second consecutive season, I think everyone will be a bit surprised.
Seattle Mariners

What to like: The bullpen. Everyone knows about J.J. Putz's dominance, but what about the rest of the unheralded pen? George Sherrill is the best middle reliever no one has hear of, and Brandon Morrow, Sean Green, and Eric O'Flaherty have been brilliant.

What not to like: The starters. Aside from Felix Hernandez, the rest of the starting staff is iffy at best. Jeff Weaver has been better of late, but Miguel Batista, Jarrod Washburn, and Horacio Ramirez hardly strike fear into opposing lineups.

Really? Starting August 17th, the Mariners play 44 games in 45 days. And considering the enormous distance they must cover when playing any road game, it could really wear out the team. That and the brutal schedule they face over the remainder of the season.

Verdict: They still have hopes of the division, but the wildcard is much more realistic, and even that is going to be tough. 40/60 to make the playoffs.
Cleveland Indians

What to like: The pitching. C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona lead a surprisingly strong staff that has been bolstered by Paul Byrd and Jake Westbrook. Their bullpen has also been rock steady. Aaron Fultz, Rafael Betancourt, and Rafael Perez have been reliable, and although he's nerve-wracking, Joe Borowski has been getting the job done as the closer.

What not to like: The schedule. Eight games in Los Angeles and Seattle, as well plenty of road games against divisional foes will make for a long September.

Really? Due to the inclement weather at the beginning of the season, the Indians lose a home game to the Mariners that they will make up in Seattle.

Verdict: The whole season might boil down to three games in September, when the Tribe host the Tigers for what will likely be the division decider. 30/70 to make the playoffs.
Detroit Tigers

What to like: The lineup. They mash, even without Gary Sheffield.

What not to like: Starting depth. They are chasing Cleveland, and every game game counts. Andrew Miller and Chad Durbin have been serviceable, but they need a healthy Kenny Rogers to solidify their staff.

Really? They have a total of six games remaining against teams still in the playoff hunt.

Verdict: Now that their bullpen is getting healthy again, and with their frontline starters (Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson), as well as their thunderous lineup, they should still possess the firepower to pull ahead of the Indians for the division. 70/30 to make the playoffs.
Los Angeles Angels

What to like: Mike Scioscia. In addition to having the most well-balanced team in the American League, the Angels are also lucky enough to have the best manager, as well. He always puts his team in the best position possible to win.

What not to like: The offense. They are one of the best at manufacturing runs, but as we've seen in some of their recent postseasons, their hitters come up a little short when the opposition can stifle their running game.

Really? Usually reliable Scot Shields has been awful in the second half of the season, causing a bit of upheaval in their bullpen.

Verdict: They are almost a lock to make the playoffs. The question in Anaheim is, can they make it to the World Series. 90/10 to make the playoffs.
New York Yankees

What to like: The talent. At some point, everyone will probably get on the same page to make another big run like they did in the middle of the season.

What not to like: Joe Torre. His loyalty to fading stars like Johnny Damon and Jason Giambi, combined with his refusal to allow young players to emerge, have made for an interesting campaign. He was largely criticized in last year's playoffs for abandoning the team that won the Yankees the division and instead opting for a lineup that resembled the one that got the Yankees off to a slow start in 2006.

Really? Roger Clemens and Phil Hughes have struggled throughout August, and their effectiveness is something the Yankees will rely on.

Verdict: There is a lot of panic in the Bronx, but it's tough not to see the Yankees playing in October. Based on Seattle's schedule and the tight AL Central divisional race, the Yankees should be lucky enough to sneak into the wild card. 60/40 to make the playoffs.

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