10 MLB Teams Already Thankful for the Second Wild Card
Major League Baseball's decision to introduce a second wild-card team marked the first change to the game's playoff structure since 1995. This season the two wild-card winners will face each other in a one-game playoff.
October may be five months away, but already many teams will be grateful for the rule change.
Boston Red Sox
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The Boston Red Sox are not an awful team. However, despite seven consecutive quality starts, the Red Sox's pitching is still among the worst in baseball. Also, their offence has gone through long slumps, and the clubhouse culture verges on the destructive.
It is the first time since 1934 the Sox have been in last place for each of the first 38 games.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
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The Angels were this offseason's biggest spenders, signing starting pitcher C.J. Wilson and first baseman Albert Pujols to mega-deals that totalled a third of a billion dollars. However, the team has drastically underachieved.
A struggling offence has let down a great pitching staff, and the team is already seven games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West.
New York Yankees
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The New York Yankees will be fine. They have one of the league's most dominant pitchers and a hugely powerful lineup.
Despite that, the team is fourth in the AL East, only two games above .500 and has seen both their closer and his replacement land on the disabled list.
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The Phillies have gone from World Series winners in 2008 to an ageing, struggling team who have gotten off to a disappointing start in 2012. They're sitting in last place in the NL East, four games out of first.
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With a new name, logo, uniform, manager and stadium, there hasn't been this much excitement about the Marlins since they won the World Series in 2003.
However, results on the field have not lived up to expectations. While they're above .500, they're fourth in the competitive NL East. They should be better and appear to have become too complacent with themselves.
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While the division rival St Louis Cardinals seem to have coped well with the loss of their power-hitting first baseman Albert Pujols, the Brewers are reeling from the departure of theirs.
Prince Fielder joined the Detroit Tigers in the winter, and the defending NL Central champions are clearly missing the slugger, sitting fourth in the division with the third-lowest batting average (.235) in the league. However, with Ryan Braun and Corey Hart, the Brewers have managed to make up for some of the loss in power.
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For the last few years, the D-Backs have shown good offensive potential, but their woeful pitching let them down until they won the NL West crown in 2011.
Their defence of the division hasn't started well. They're middle of the road in almost every offensive category and are already 8.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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In terms of starting pitching, the Nats have gotten off to one of the greatest starts in baseball history. They are 23-15, good for a .605 winning percentage, but not even that is good enough to lead the NL East.
Washington is a half-game behind the Atlanta Braves, in a division where every team is better than .500. With the additional wild-card berth, it's now possible for a division to have three teams make the postseason, and with the East being as competitive as it is, it's easy for a short losing streak to drop you from first to third.
Any AL Central Team
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The Cleveland Indians have got off to a good start, leading AL Central by four games, but Detroit is still the best team, with a fearsome lineup, solid rotation and the best pitcher in the game. If the Tigers get on the sort of roll of which they're capable, no team in the division will be able to keep up with them, and that second wild card could come in handy.
Any NL West Team
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A similar situation exists in the NL West, where the Dodgers have gotten off to a blistering start. At 25-13, they have the best record in baseball, and with Matt Kemp leading the lineup and Clayton Kershaw atop the rotation, there's no reason to doubt they can keep it up.
Add in the great start from all five NL East teams, and it will be difficult for anyone else to make it out of the NL West.