MLB Season Headed Towards Monumental Showdown
By David A. Lane of Predictem.com
2009 MLB Playoff Predictions
Though I don’t often write about it and despite repeated pleas to my editor, there is a Major League Baseball season going on and it’s headed towards what looks like one heck of a great finish. Sure, the mundane day to day goings-on in the game can be tedious and as fast moving as grass growing- although here in the desert, grass might even grow a bit too slow even for baseball- until the season winds down and the playoffs arrive “seemingly overnight” the game becomes dramatic and tension filled. Usually, unless you’re a fantasy geek or a year round gambler- of which I am both- the sport can be hard for all but the most avid of fans to watch on a day to day basis.
For the rest of you, the time is here to tune in and get caught up, because the regular season is nearing it’s end and you just might miss some of the action.
We couldn’t talk baseball without first mentioning the New York Yankees. Yes, they’re back again which is good for drama because who except Yanks fans doesn’t love to watch the overpriced juggernaut fall on its face every October (or sooner)? This year might be different though, as the tidal wave GM Brian Cashman made in the free agency pool in hiring 1B Mark Teixeira (.282 AVG, 35 HR, 106 RBI, $180 Million), SP C.C. Sabathia (16 W, 3.40 ERA, 177K, $161Million), and SP A.J. Burnett (11W, 4.19 ERA, 163K, $82.5 Million), has made quite a splash in helping the Bronx Bombers attain the best record in baseball at 90-50.
Hence, the AL East race is all but over as the Boston Red Sox are way too far behind in the rear view mirror- back by nine games with 20 games to go- to challenge them and last year’s surprise Tampa Bay Rays done for the season.
The AL Central leading Detroit Tigers (75-62) overachieved all season and have done so without much help from perennial all-star OF Magglio Ordonez (.285AVG, 7 HR, 40RBI). They are winning as a team, largely on the backs of heavy hitting 1B Miguel Cabrera (.338AVG, 28HR, 84RBI) and CY Young Award contender Justin Verlander (16W, 3.29ERA, 222K) who’ve both had outstanding years.
The Minnesota Twins (69-69) and Chicago White Sox (69-71) are both looking towards next season at 6.5 and 7.5 games back respectively.
The AL West (as usual) is being led by the always consistent Los Angeles Angels (82-55) who lead the division and the league in amount of games over the total (76-55-5), 2nd in runs scored (5.58 a game), 1st in batting average (.286), and are 2nd in stolen bases (132); they’re an offensive machine but lack solid pitching (25th in ERA 4.66), although newly acquired southpaw Scott Kazmir will surely help.
Behind them, the team leading the league in amount of games that have gone “under the total” (47-84-7), are team President Nolan Ryan’s revitalized Texas Rangers (78-60) who have brushed aside years of futility to land in the wild card race and still COULD possibly overtake the Angels…though Anaheim has the advantage of having three more home games down the stretch.
If the Rangers can’t win the division, they’d better catch Boston who at this time has a two game lead in that department and who also has the advantage of having two extra games at home than Texas.
For wagering purposes, the Rangers are in a three way tie for the best run line record at 76-62 whereas the Angels are right there with them at 74-62. Both are amongst the top five in that department.
The National League race begins in the east with the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies (78-58) who look like they’re perched for success again this season, walking away with their division, leading the Florida Marlins (73-65) by six games and the Atlanta Braves (71-67) by eight.
Though tough, this year’s Phillies have lost 10 games by blown save thanks to ineffective Closer Brad Lidge (0-7, 7.11 ERA) and that isn’t going to help them when the pressure’s really on in October unless he finds his stuff again real quick.
The central division is being ruled by the St. Louis Cardinals (83-57) who have run away with it, leaving the Chicago Cubs (70-67) in the dust. They own the majors 3rd best ERA (3.62), have given away the second least amount of gopher balls in the league (107), have what will likely be a repeat MVP winner in 1B Albert Pujols (.328 AVG, 45HR, 121 RBI) and also have previous Cy Young Award winning SP Chris Carpenter (16-3 with a 2.16ERA) as well as Adam Wainwright who has a bucket full of wins!
You can pretty much say that skipper Tony La Russa has them hitting on all cylinders. They’re going to be tough to knock off in October because they’ve “been there” and done that. Experience goes a long way on the big stage that is the MLB playoffs.
This leaves the west, home to ‘Mannywood’ and the Los Angeles Dodgers (83-57) and the best race left. The Dodgers have a 3.5 game lead over the Colorado Rockies (79-60) and 6.5 over San Francisco Giants. Though the Dodgers and the Giants are in a virtual tie for best ERA in the majors (3.47 and 3.46 respectively), the Rockies - surprise- are hot again at the end of the season. The Rocks are in the top 10 in ERA (4.19) and batting average (.263) but what matters most is that they’re at it again and at the right time- at the end of the regular season- the best time to get hot winning 12 of their last 13 games.
For wagering purposes, the top five overall bread winners this season- meaning number of times they hit the money line times what it paid out for selecting it are from 1st to 5th: Texas (78 times), Angels (82), Colorado (79), St. Louis (83), and the L.A. Dodgers (83).
On the road, these teams were best at winning/hitting money line: Phillies 42-27, Angels 42-29, and the Yanks at 42-30.
Winning is a precious thing and the fun of betting on baseball is that anything can happen at any time so use the numbers to your advantage and make your bets wisely- playoff baseball’s one of the most fulfilling and satisfying events to wager on- games can turn on each and every pitch.
The AL playoffs look to pit the Tigers against the Yanks and the Red Sox against the Angels unless Texas gets hot- and they really could but are most likely one year away. The Angels will beat the Red Sox but then fall to the Yanks who will take care of Detroit in the first round. The Yanks will be the AL representative in the World Series, sorry to say it but, whom will they be playing?
The NL playoffs will consist of the hot Rockies who take out the defending champion Phillies in the first round but will have to go the distance to do it.
The Cards will defeat the Dodgers in short order. The Cardinals however will knock the Rockies out in the NLCS in six games leaving us with one heck of a ‘series.
The Yankees against the Cardinals will be a great show. Though the Cards are underrated, they’ll give the Yanks all they can handle. In fact, more than they can handle as once again those in pin stripes will be throttled once more, only this time it’s extra painful for them and their fans as they’ll have to endure such oddities as Tony LaRussa betting his pitchers 8th at times and bringing Cy Young Award winning pitchers out of the bullpen if necessary, at any given time in order to secure a “W”.
It’s very true that no sport goes from being so anti-climatic to being so interesting from the regular season to the playoffs like the sport of baseball does.
When the season rides on every pitch, this truly is a time for heroes. Like the tag line says, “There’s only one October!”