Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Dog Days of August: Predictions and Observations

This is that glorious time of the season when baseball fanatics are in seventh heaven, basking in the glory of the pennant races. The clarity of the picture is more sharply focused, as the contenders, pretenders and also-rans distance themselves from each other. The teams vying for a playoff berth will all be dealing with injuries, consistency, sustainability and durability. To add to the mix, September call-ups, quality of opponents and home versus away games takes the chess match to another level. Some observations are rather straight forward, while others are bathed in fog. Let’s get right to the nitty-gritty and dive into the steeplechase in progress.

THE AMERICAN LEAGUE: EAST DIVISION

The toughest, and arguably most exciting, division in baseball has the two big thoroughbreds going neck-and-neck. The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees are deep in the trenches, gearing up for all-out warfare. Despite both teams’ erratic and (at times) questionable starting rotations, these two behemoths always find ways to gut it out and grind through the mayhem.

PREDICTION: The Beantowners and the Bronx Bombers will top the list, with one winning the division and the other taking the wild card. That may not be decided until the last weekend of the regular season.

OBSERVATIONS: The Tampa Bay Rays are in a scratch-your-head-and-wonder quagmire. The Toronto Blue Jays continue to progress forward with more pieces to the puzzle being filled. The Baltimore Orioles are the hapless birds who have flown the coup.

THE AMERICAN LEAGUE: CENTRAL DIVISION

This is an interesting three-team horse race between the Detroit Tigers, Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. All three teams are probably breathing a collective sigh of relief, considering they are all finished with Boston and New York. Detroit and Cleveland will go head-to-head twelve more times, giving the Indians a chance to gain ground on the team they’re chasing. Chicago face more quality opponents than both the Tigers and the Indians and trails both of them in the standings. The problem here is that only one of these three teams will advance to the playoffs. Expect a down-and-out dogfight to the finish line.

PREDICTION: The Detroit Tigers will prevail, when all is said and done. They are better positioned with starting pitching and an All-Star closer. Cleveland and Chicago will make a run, but will just fall short.

OBSERVATIONS: Everything that could have possibly gone wrong for the Minnesota Twins did, and then some. They’ve had a disastrous season and were the biggest disappointment in the American League. The Kansas City Royals remain the perennial cellar dwellers in this division.

THE AMERICAN LEAGUE: WEST DIVISION

This is the wildest, perhaps most unpredictable race in the derby, as the Texas Rangers hold a slight lead over the Los Angeles Angels heading into the stretch run. Statistically, the Rangers outshine the Angels in almost every offensive category. Texas’ schedule is far more grueling than the Angels, having two more series’ against both Boston and Tampa Bay. And if that’s not enough, the Rangers go head-to-head with the Angels 10 more times – including the final series of the season – with seven of those games being played in California.

PREDICTION: The dominant starting pitching of Weaver, Haren and Santana, coupled with Scott Downs and flamethrowing rookie closer Jordan Walden, will propel the Angels to the division title. It will be a wild and crazy ride down the stretch.

OBSERVATIONS: The Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics have both had seasons they would like to forget about and probably wish was over. Neither team posed any kind of a threat this season.

We may well have to wait until the very end of the regular season to see who moves on and who doesn’t. That’s part of the excitement and unpredictability of the pennant races. The dog days of August and beyond provide us with quite a thrill ride. Welcome aboard and enjoy the journey.

1 comment:

Rick Blechta said...

I cannot disagree with anything you've written, Larry.