Race(s) for the Red(?) October

Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies

The only other division with a close division race is the AL East’s counterpart. The Braves sit 3 games ahead of the Phillies with 31 games left, and Philadelphia is only 1.5 games ahead of San Francisco with St. Louis, and to a lesser extent Colorado (it’s really hard to leapfrog 3 teams at this point in the season), a little farther back. Philadelphia might actually be in a better position, despite their 3 game deficit in the standings. All their stars are back, and a rotation with Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels could easily see a team run off a seven game winning streak. Atlanta, on the other hand, is hoping Omar Infante can keep up his dream season and that Derrek Lee could be helpful again, neither of which gives me confidence. Regardless, the division should come down to the wire with the schedules being fairly similar (the Braves get the Pirates but also the Cardinals while the Phillies get the Brewers, a game against the Rockies, and a few more against the Dodgers), and luckily for the fans, the Phillies and Braves matchup 6 times in the last 12 games, including the very last three games of the season. To top it all off, there will be all sorts of things written about the Braves trying to win it for Bobby Cox in his last season. Makes it all that more important.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Cincinnati Reds

Brandon Phillips called the Cardinals something that was neither gender(ally?) or familial(ly?) correct. Then, the two teams got in an epic battle on the field complete with kicking, concussions, and bad feelings. Should be fun, right? Well, not really. The Reds and Cardinals only play 3 more times the rest of the season, and those games are this weekend. Also, the Cardinals are currently doing their best to lose the division and have fallen six games back. So, the only thing to see here is the Triple Crown race between Joey Votto and Albert Pujols, but Infante’s doing his best to make that moot. Still, that race is more important than that of the AL East as it will determine the NL MVP.

San Diego Padres vs. San Francisco Giants

Well, the Giants are only 5 games back, but without an effective Tim Lincecum and with Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean’s insistence on placing Doric columns in the outfield, I have little faith in the Giants’ ability to get back into the division. But should the Giants decide to climb back, they have 7 games left against the Padres, culminating in the last three games of the season when the Padres come to the Bay Area. My guess is that it won’t matter, but keep an eye on it because I’ve been wrong before.

NL Wild Card

Philadelphia/Atlanta, San Francisco/San Diego, St. Louis/Cincinnati, and Colorado are all still within striking distance of the Wild Card, but Colorado would have to climb 4.5 games and 6 other teams to win (a shame because the Cardinals and Rockies play the last four games of the season against each other). The other teams don’t really play each other all that much or late in the month, so there are no more potential match-ups there. However, only three games separate the top 3 Wild Card teams (PHI, STL, and SF), so there’s a lot of potential for some melee. If we’re handicapping, San Francisco is the first off the list despite the fact that they’re second right now for the reasons stated above. That leaves Philadelphia and St. Louis. Before the season, I would’ve taken Philadelphia over St. Louis, and considering the Phillies added Oswalt and the Cardinals added Jake Westbrook while dealing Ryan Ludwick, I have no reason to go back on that thinking here. Philadelphia has the 3 game lead and the better team. Too bad, I think the playoffs would be better with St. Louis than either Cincinnati or San Diego, but that’s not how the cookie crumbles.

Minnesota Twins vs. Chicago White Sox

Yeah, the White Sox just got Manny, but even if he could make two games worth of a difference, the Sox are still 2.5 games back. I’d feel better about this if Justin Morneau were going to come back and be effective, but I’m willing to declare this division dead because Minnesota has the easier schedule (like by far—Minnesota gets 6 games against Cleveland, 3 against Oakland, and 6 against the Royals while Chicago gets 7 against Boston, 3 against LAA, and 7 against Detroit). Still, any potential for an Ozzie explosion is worth waiting around for.

Texas Rangers vs … ??

Um, yeah, just no. You could watch and wish that Cliff Lee were occupying the spots held by the rotting corpses of AJ Burnett, Javy Vazquez, Sergio Mitre, Dustin Moseley (really?), or whoever else (Ivan Nova obviously gets a pass) the Yankees throw out there to the limit the hemorrhaging wound. So, there’s that.

I’m actually somewhat disappointed by this month. There’s nothing particularly interesting happening in baseball. The only division really in jeopardy is the NL East, and the NL Wild Card is the only other playoff race worth paying attention to. Other than that here are some other headlines:

The Triple Crown

What’s makes this even cooler is that it’s an actual race for the Triple Crown. It’s not just one guy trying to climb up there. It’s two. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Mark McGwire-Sammy Sosa HR race in the passion it could create. I could go on about how it’s ultimately meaningless and arbitrary, but if it creates some enthusiasm for the sport and its history, I’m all for it. Just remember two things for me—one, it is arbitrary and trivial, and two, Omar Infante is going to screw it up just like he did the All-Star Game. I even bet Charlie Manuel tells his pitchers to throw it down the middle to Infante just to quiet everyone talking about how much better Votto is than Howard, dadgummit.

Aroldis Chapman

Yeah, Strasburg’s gone for the year, but he’s not the only guy who can throw hard. Chapman threw 105 mph in Louisville last week, and while the stadium gun (I’ve been there, lived there actually, and know that the gun has to be 2-3 mph fast) is definitely fast and was probably made faster to generate some enthusiasm, he still throws incredibly hard. Any appearance should be a nice shot of adrenaline to the baseball season.

Trevor Hoffman and 600

I’m not sure if ESPN will cover this like ARod’s quest for 600, and it’s a shame Hoffman hasn’t been more effective this season. But it’s still a cool (though, yes, trivial) achievement. We all like nice round numbers, and while 600 isn’t really any more important than 178, it’s a good time to go back and appreciate a player who has by all accounts been a great pitcher and teammate.

14 thoughts on “Race(s) for the Red(?) October

  1. I would never take the wild card out of baseball now that it's there.  It's essential for the good of the game to keep more fan bases invested, and to allow for a three-round postseason, which is thrilling.

    So I'm not proposing a change.  But man.  I'm allowed to feel a little nostalgic for the old days whenever the two best teams in baseball are in the same division and not gunning for each other down the stretch, right?

    I almost feel like a tool for spending money on tickets to this Saturday's game because there's so little at stake.

  2. Larry@IIATMS

    What is WITH you people?  Do I have to say it?  No, I won't say it directly, but try taking the year 2005 and subtracting one.  This thing is not over.  Not over.  Not by a long shot.  Anything can happen, and when it comes to the Red Sox, it usually does.

     

    Here is when you know that the Red Sox are finished:  when you drive a wooden stake through their undead heart.

  3. Jason@IIATMS

    The RedSox aren't dead until they are, really, really dead.  Although, if you read Big Red Shaughnessy today, they are really, really dead. I debated commenting on that Lupica-like crapfest but I chose not to stir the gods. But Mark has.  Dumb Braves fan, he.

    Though, he does get a +1 for the Red October picture, one of my favorite movies.

  4. Larry@IIATMS

    Memo to baseball gods: Mark didn’t know what he was saying.  Of course the Red Sox are still in it.  Want to take a look at the Yankees’ schedule for September? It’s not a place for the faint of heart.
     
    Baseball gods, pay no attention to Mark.
     
    Do baseball gods read the comments?  Probably not.  Now I have to post something to appease them.  Damn.

  5. Mark Smith

    Oh come on. Boston’s schedule isn’t really that much easier. They get an extra series against Seattle (NYY gets TEX), but the Red Sox also get 7 against the White Sox (offset by NYY’s extra series against TB). They both get to beat up on BAL and OAK while tangling with each other (BOS actually has a worse match-up there considering NYY is better than they are) and TOR. No complaining. Play like a champion.
     
    And I guess that could have been a jinx, but I didn’t mean it to be. And if it is, things will at least be more interesting. :)

  6. Jeff

    Carlos Gonzalez is kind of hanging around in the triple crown too. 1st in average 3 in rbi’s and only 3 back of Votto in homers. Why isn’t he getting any attention?

  7. Mark Smith

    Because he’s a Rockie and didn’t get all the attention from the All-Star Game (who said that wasn’t good for Votto), and Colorado always gets lost in the media. Oh, and people don’t want Rockies to do special offensive things because they play in that ballpark and wouldn’t “deserve” it.
     
    With that said, he’s also 6 back of Pujols in HR, which is kind of a lot unless Pujols gets hurt.

  8. Jason@IIATMS

    By the way, BOS is just .500 against both BAL and OAK, 4-3 vs SEA, though they are 11-4 against TOR

  9. Permission to enjoy Saturday’s game: noted.

    Thanks, gentlemen.

  10. Mark Smith

    I also enjoy the movie.
     
    And yeah, I get the “it can happen” argument. But here’s my counterargument. You remember the situation because it was both traumatic and extraordinary. With the event being extraordinary, that makes the event rare. That makes it highly unlikely that it will repeat itself so soon. Yes, it could happen and it’s a good idea to remind yourself of such in order to aid in preventing it again, but it is unlikely for a reason.
     
    There’s also a danger in making loose correlations. Boston was down 3.5 at this point in 2004 and 4 with a couple weeks left. They’re down 7 now. Boston was also a team streaking into that final month. Beware of being afraid of an entity, lest it change into something less frightening.

  11. adam

    Book > movie.
     
    Just hadda say it.
     
    WRT Boston – their roster is decimated.  There’s nothing about Boston aura that is going to get their minor league outfield in good position to make up 6+ games.  John Sterling (of all people) had a great point last night that if the Yankees and Rays went .400 the rest of the season, they’d wind up around 93 wins.  The Sawx would have to burn out at around 20-10 to get there… pretty far out there.
     
    Sportsclubstats.com has them at 2.9%, and that’s probably stretching it.

  12. jon

    "Could you IMAGINE the yelling and hand-wringing if Lee was putting up those numbers as a Yankee?"

     

    I don't even want to. ;)  Plus, if the trade had been made, likely Montero would be tearing it up, and hitting over .400.

     

    I saw the ESPN numbers; I find them hard to believe; but I sure hope they're right.

  13. jon

    I’m sure glad that all of you experts are positive the Yankees are in the post season. (and, by the sound of it, already in the ticker tape parade.)
     
    All I know is that the team I watch, follow, and root for has one ace and no one else in the rotation – so don’t go telling me about Boston’s injury problems.  Any month that Moseley can get more wins than our #2 starter, or inwhich a Triple-A callup can have a better ERA than our ace – sure, right – we’re a leadpipe lock of a cinch.  (and I’m not even going to comment on our 2-30 septagenerian shortstop.) Get real, stay off the Kool-Aid.  The Yankees are looking at an uphill struggle.  Good luck to em.

  14. Larry@IIATMS

    Jon, I don’t think anyone here is talking about the post-season.  All you can say for certain about the post-season is that every potential post-season team has cause for concern.  It’s a long way to October.
     
    If we can get most everyone reasonably healthy, get A.J. back to his usual form (lights out one game, awful the next), get Hughes enough rest so he has something in the tank for the post-season, etc., etc., then we’ll make the post-season and have our usual 25% chance for tickertape.
     
    That is, assuming we make the post-season.  ESPN says there’s a 98.2% chance we make the post-season, the best odds in baseball (better even than the Rangers).  I do not trust that statistic.
     
    Too much can happen.  This game is not predictable.  For example, what IF the Yankees had made the trade for Cliff Lee?  Have you seen his numbers at Texas: 2-5, 4.69 ERA in 11 starts.  Granted, he’s probably pitched better than those numbers suggest, but I think the Moseley/Nova/Mitre combination has probably been about as effective.  Could you IMAGINE the yelling and hand-wringing if Lee was putting up those numbers as a Yankee?

Comments are closed.