Ranking the Second Place Teams Most Likely to Make the Playoffs
With about 100 games to go in the regular season, there is plenty of time for shake-ups atop each division. In this brief slide show, I rank each second place team on their chances to reach the top at season's end.
There is something compelling about a season with 100 games left. Anything can happen, and your guess is as good as mine.
San Francisco Giants
Randy Johnson's career 300th win is one of the best stories of the 2009 season so far. As good as that individual story is, the Giants' surprising success is equally as compelling.
The Giants are six games over .500 entering Monday's game, but still trail the mighty Dodgers by seven games. Matt Cain has been solid, and has combined with Tim Lincecum to be the best duo in the majors at a combined 15-2.
However, their young offense has been unable to produce consistently, and the Dodgers will only get better with Manny back in early July. The Dodgers are the safe bet to win the division.
In a division that many are calling a complete toss-up, especially with the Indians charging back into the mix, I think the Tigers are in good shape.
Justin Verlander has been red hot, the starting and relief pitching as been solid, and there is enough depth in the offense to carry a mediocre division.
However, the Twins have one of the best one-two punches in the league with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Both could be considered MVP candidates at this point.
The trio of Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker may not exactly inspire confidence, but they are all emerging starters and have been reliable for the most part.
In the end, I'll stick with the Tigers, ranking the Twins as the second most unlikely second place team to prevail.
Los Angeles Angels
I have thought since March that this would be the Rangers' year, and I'm certainly not going to back off of that prediction at this point. The lead is only two over the Angels, but in the end I think the Rangers will come out on top.
With an aging offense and disappointing pitching, I think we are witnessing a changing of the guard in the American League West.
Torii Hunter is on pace to have the best offensive numbers of his stellar career and Jared Weaver has been outstanding. However, I just don't see enough pop to overtake the Rangers.
New York Mets
Trailing the Phillies by four games, the Mets have recently been in the news for Johan Santana's worst outing of his career. Jose Reyes has struggled with a gimpy calf muscle, David Wright has lost his power stroke, and Carlos Delgado is nursing a hip until who knows when.
The strength of the Mets, and the reason they were a favorite for the World Series, is their pitching. Despite Santana's recent rough start against the Yankees, Mets fans have to feel good about their rotation one-to-four.
Additionally, the bullpen has been solid and Francisco Rodriguez has been as advertised. I still like the Mets.
As they get healthy, I expect the team to overtake the Phillies and reverse their past misfortunes.
St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are a team I trust because they have a solid manager, defense, pitching, and the best player in the game today, Albert Pujols.
The Brewers are a fun team to watch, and I think that this race will go down to the very end. Chris Carpenter's health will be the key. Look forward to the final series of the year, in St. Louis, against the Brewers.
New York Yankees
The Yankees have been gaining momentum and getting healthier as the Red Sox have hit some speed bumps while incurring some key injuries.
New York has its holes—notably at the number five starting slot—but with a talented offense and Alfredo Aceves proving he can be the set-up man to bridge the starters to Mariano Rivera, the Yankees look to be in good position.
Add the fact that the Yankees will add anyone necessary at the trade deadline, and I think they are the surest bet to win their division.