What baseball teams will make the playoffs this year?
Sports predictions are notoriously shaky. In baseball, the situation can be even more challenging, considering certain teams’ penchant for going on win streaks late in the season and ruining all analyst’s insight. Think of the Houston Astros, whose late season heroics are legendary, or the Colorado Rockies’ “Rocktober” performance from last year. But now that we are at baseball’s halfway point, we can start to get a picture of what this year’s playoffs will look like.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
1) NEW YORK METS
Hitting: The Mets are hitting really well, and their offense could propel them into the playoffs.
Pitching: No one expected the Mets pitching staff to be performing this well. Can they keep it up?
Intangibles: The Mets seem determined to make up for the last two years. Mets fans have been tortured in recent years, and deserve a solid showing this season.
2) PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES (Wild Card)
Hitting: Okay, so the Phillies aren’t batting as well as they did during last year’s championship run. Can their pitching and defense make up for it?
Pitching: If Hamels can stay healthy, count the Phillies in for the Wild Card.
Intangibles: The fact that no World Series champion has repeated in the last nine years may be the Phillies curse.
3) ATLANTA BRAVES
Hitting: A young batch of players means the Braves lack the experience necessary to make a run very deep.
Pitching: While the hitters are young, the Braves pitching staff is, well, ancient.
Intangibles: The Braves manager, Bobby Cox, is the epitome of intangibles. Will he be a boon or a drag on the Braves? Time will tell.
4) FLORIDA MARLINS
Hitting: Solid hitting performance hasn’t done much to bolster this team’s record.
Pitching: Unlike the Braves ancient pitching staff, the Marlins are dealing with a crowd of young’uns that may not have the experience necessary.
Intangibles: The poor Marlins major intangible is their division — the NL East is simply packed with solid teams.
5) WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Hitting: An unknown roster and a lackluster performance means the Nat’s will stay in last place for a couple seasons to come.
Pitching: See “hitting” — no one knows who these guys are.
Intangibles: A lack of fan support means that Nationals play more often to empty seats — never good for any sports team
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) ST. LOUIS CARDINALS
Hitting: Powerful hitting as usual
Pitching: If Chris Carpenter can stay healthy, the Cards will make yet another playoff run
Intangibles: For the Card, the intangible is the fact that they seem to make the playoffs every year. Plus, their fans are loyal and loud.
2) CHICAGO CUBS (Wild card)
Hitting: Lots of lefties means the Cubs are keeping pitchers guessing
Pitching: Solid closers . . . questionable starters
Intangibles: For the Cubs, the intangible is the fact that they are in a major playoff drought
3) HOUSTON ASTROS
Hitting: Lots of power, lots of big numbers, lots of big names.
Pitching: Closers are making a huge splash
Intangibles: The Astros are one of those teams that always makes a late push. Pay attention to the end of their season . . .
4) CINCINNATI REDS
Hitting: Plenty of power hitting to support a lackluster pitching rotation
Pitching: Nada. Nothing. Zip. Zilch.
Intangibles: Dusty Baker as manager . . .
5) MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Hitting: Middle of the road.
Pitching: Besides Gallardo, who do they have?
Intangibles: Lack of defensive ability, and playing in a division that no one expected to be this competitive
6) PITTSBURGH PIRATES
Hitting: One good hitter does not an offense make
Pitching: Yet another NL Central team with lots of holes in the pitching staff
Intangibles: Manager trouble, lack of fan support
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
1) LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Hitting: The Dodgers are the most successful team in baseball at the All Star break. Plenty of hitting.
Pitching: A wounded pitching staff may not need to do much to support a powerful offense
Intangibles: Joe Torre, the manager, is a winner wherever he goes. Also, the performance of Manny Ramirez after his steroid suspension
2) COLORADO ROCKIES (Wild Card)
Hitting: Streaky but solid.
Pitching: Nothing to write home about.
Intangibles: Can the Rockies pull off another late season win streak?
3) ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Hitting: What was once an inexperienced squad has grown into a solid offensive force
Pitching: Plenty of solid starters with no one to support them. Middle relievers may as well phone it in.
Intangibles: If the Rockies start losing, or the Dodgers hit a bad streak, watch out for the D-backs to hit the Wild Card.
4) SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS
Hitting: Offense? What offense?
Pitching: Probably the best pitching rotation in baseball. Unfortunately, pitchers don’t win games.
Intangibles: If the Giants can make a good last minute trade, they may be able to contend. Otherwise, sleep on this sleepy team.
5) SAN DIEGO PADRES
Hitting: Besides Adrian Gonzalez, nobody.
Intangibles: Does being labelled the “worst team in the National League” have a big impact on morale? We shall see.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
1) BOSTON RED SOX
Hitting: A balanced offense that puts fear into the hearts of their opponents
Pitching: By adding some youth to their pitching staff, the Red Sox catapulted themselves into favorites in the American League
Intangibles: With the rise of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Sox now have two solid divisional contenders — not just the Yankees anymore.
2) TAMPA BAY RAYS (Wild Card)
Hitting: A surprising and varied offense that can kill you more than a couple ways.
Pitching: Solid if not remarkable.
Intangibles: Their incredible defensive ability, and the fact that they just plain know how to win, will push the Rays into the Wild Card spot
3) NEW YORK YANKEES
Hitting: $200 million roster, ten cent chemistry. Like an All Star team that doesn’t get along.
Intangibles: Like the Red Sox, the Yanks now have two teams to compete with
4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS
Hitting: Powerful but injured
Pitching: Middle of the road
Intangibles: When no one, including your fans, expect you to do well, what’s the incentive to compete?
5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES
Intangibles: If the Blue Jays, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox all die in a horrible plane crash, MAYBE the Orioles will find a playoff spot
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
1) CLEVELAND INDIANS
Hitting: Getting on in years.
Pitching: See “hitting”
Intangibles: The Indians, like the NL’s Astros, can put a hurting on their opponents after the All Star break. Also, they play in a terrible division.
2) MINNESOTA TWINS
Hitting: A veteran hitting squad that can score points
Pitching: A young pitching staff, but one that can go deep into games
Intangibles: The Twins are the best managed team in the American League — don’t forget, the AL Central is just plain awful
3) CHICAGO WHITE SOX
Hitting: Confusing moves by the management has left the offense flustered
Pitching: The top three starters are outstanding . . . move beyond that and its Loserville.
Intangibles: They’re the White Sox. Perennial chokers.
4) KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Hitting: A surprising offense that started the season as one of baseball’s biggest, well, surprises.
Pitching: Nothing to write home about.
Intangibles: Just about any team in the AL Central stands a chance of hitting a streak and earning a Wild Card.
5) DETROIT TIGERS
Hitting: Plenty of offense, unfortunately they get no support
Pitching: Maybe the worst in the American League?
Intangibles: Managerial troubles
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
1) LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Hitting: While the Angel’s bats will win the AL West, that’s not saying much. Look at the competition.
Pitching: A solid lineup that can beat just about any team on any given day.
Intangibles: The AL West is notoriously bad.
2) TEXAS RANGERS
Hitting: If the offense can stay healthy, they’ll earn the Wild Card
Pitching: Like the defense, better than expected.
Intangibles: How many runs can the offense score to keep up with division contenders?
3) SEATTLE MARINERS
Hitting: Too old.
Pitching: A joke
Intangibles: Some say they have too many ex Cubs on the roster (four) to go anywhere in the playoffs. The curse continues!
4) OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Hitting: Don’t even ask.
Pitching: Pitching staff written off before the season started.
Intangibles: Can being called the American League’s worst team spark a winning streak? Probably not.