Ranking the 5 Most Dangerous Spoiler Teams for MLB's Final Months
As the baseball season winds down and the playoff picture becomes progressively more clear, some teams that are not playoff bound tend to emerge as spoilers. By spoilers, I mean those pesky teams that have no reason to win, yet they continue to steal victories from teams that have playoff aspirations.
Last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers took on that role. They had a record of 27-12 to finish off the season, dating back to Aug. 18. That includes going 9-6 against the San Francisco Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks down the stretch, when both teams were duking it out to see who would win the NL West.
When ranking the most dangerous spoiler teams in 2012, I will take into account which teams are logically out of playoff contention, which teams have been playing the best baseball of late and which teams are lined up to play the most games against teams that are still in the thick of things.
San Diego Padres
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The San Diego Padres aren't necessarily going to intimidate many of the teams that are still in the playoff hunt, but they have the opportunity to play a crucial role in deciding who wins the NL West this year.
Of their 42 remaining games, 15 are against the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers, and nine are against the Arizona Diamondbacks (who are still technically in contention).
The Padres have also been playing exceptional baseball recently, as they hold an 18-14 record since the All-Star break.
Toronto Blue Jays
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Despite the fact that the Toronto Blue Jays are fifth in the AL East, they haven't been playing like a last-place team this season.
Their offense will strike fear into any opponent it faces, especially with the fantastic season that Edwin Encarnacion is having.
Pitching has been a huge disappointment, however, as Ricky Romero—the supposed ace of the staff—currently owns a 5.47 ERA.
But because of their offense alone, the Blue Jays have the potential to play spoiler for the rest of the season. And the fact that 32 of their remaining 44 games are against teams in playoff contention certainly helps their chances.
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Before the season even started, I predicted that the Miami Marlins were going to finally turn the corner and return to legitimacy.
Everyone thought they would. They made huge splashes in the offseason when they signed Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle. They also moved to Miami and opened a brand-new stadium.
On paper, at least, the Marlins are a very solid team. But in the standings, that just isn't the case. They currently sit in last place in the NL East and could be considered the biggest underachieving team in the NL.
But now, with Giancarlo Stanton back in the lineup, the Marlins could do some damage down the stretch.
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After the Seattle Mariners traded Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees, they have gone 13-8, including a respectable seven-game winning streak that began in the final week of July.
But what makes the Mariners a dangerous spoiler team is that they have 21 games remaining against the AL West—a division that harbors three playoff contenders.
Every one of those games is going to mean a lot to the Oakland Athletics and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Mariners just happen to be playing their best baseball of the season at the moment.
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Don't look now, but the Philadelphia Phillies are playing decent baseball.
Unfortunately for the Phillies, it's a little too late. They are in fourth place in the NL East, and the Washington Nationals aren't looking back.
But since the All-Star break, the Phillies are 17-13 and have won seven of the 10 series during that span. They also have Roy Halladay, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley back from injury.
It's important for teams to never underestimate an opponent, especially one that has nothing to lose like the Phillies. Combine that with one of the best starting rotations in baseball and a respectable, but inconsistent offense, and the Phillies have the potential to drastically change the playoff picture without even reaching the postseason.