We’re virtually at the midway point of the 2010 Major League Baseball season, so there’s no better time to assess the divisional races as they’re currently stacked up.
It’s already clear that barring something completely unforeseen, we’re in for at least a few divisional battles destined to go right to the wire.
But I’m also of the belief that there are three races that have a decent shot at turning into runaways where there won’t be a great deal of suspense come September. Here’s my rundown of what I expect to take place between now and the end of the regular season.
The Red Sox have managed to overcome a terrible start and have gotten themselves right into the thick of an outstanding three-team scrap. But when the dust settles, much to my chagrin as a Boston fan, I still have the Red Sox coming up a bit short and missing the playoffs.
The injuries plaguing the Sox are definitely a concern. Beyond that, I see the Yankees and Rays in a dogfight with the New Yorkers finishing on top by about four games. The Rays have loads of depth and could get a significant boost from a couple of prospects who seem about ready.
But the Yankees are still the team most likely to add the key player if needed, and they also have a couple of notorious second-half studs who figure to put up serious numbers. The Blue Jays are a solid squad, but they’re simply not good enough to hang with the Big Three, and the Orioles are simply hopeless.
The Twins and Tigers are basically in a dead heat right now, and the recent tear by the White Sox indicates a possible three-team duel. Don’t expect that to be the case much longer.
Minnesota is the only team in this sector with a positive run differential, and that’s the key indicator that tells me they will eventually pull away and win this division convincingly. The Tigers will be a respectable second and should hold off the Chisox for runner-up honors.
Ironically, the double digit win streak by the White Sox may actually be bad news for them in the long run. I was quite sure they would be dealing some quality veterans for needed prospects, but they’re now in the race and not as likely to be in a dealing mode. The Royals should avoid the cellar, as aside from hapless Baltimore, the Indians are the worst team in the league.
Mike Scioscia is a great manager and he might find a way to keep the Angels in the hunt. But on paper, I give a substantial edge to Texas and I’m more of the belief that the Rangers could actually pull away and win this division in somewhat of a romp. The Halos just have too many holes in the lineup and I don’t like their bullpen at all.
Oakland is capable of finishing right around .500 and while I have them finishing third, I would not be shocked if they sneak past the Angels. Forget about the Mariners. They were a fraud last season, and reality has reared its ugly head for them this season.
Dynamite race on tap here. The Phillies are the two-time defending NL Champs, but I’ll go out on a limb and call them on the outside looking in at the finish line. I really liked the Braves coming into the season, and that opinion has been substantiated.
I believe Atlanta will win the division, and it’s not just on the obvious intangibles with the pending retirements of Bobby Cox, Billy Wagner, and perhaps Chipper Jones. A deep and talented rotation, a solid bullpen, and an offense that is better than most thought it would be are all key factors.
The surprise team to me is the Mets. I thought their pitching would be a killer prior to the season. But it’s not that bad and I’m still of the thought that Johan Santana will get stronger in the second half. If Carlos Beltran can contribute anything meaningful upon his return, I’m calling for the Mets to sneak past Philly and claim the Wild Card.
The Marlins are okay despite their upper management issues, but they’re likely fourth best in this group. The Nationals are still full of holes, but at least their future is brightening.
The Cardinals are getting some heat from the Reds, but I don’t see that continuing. The Redbirds are clearly the class of the division, and I like them to win this race by close to double digits. The Reds, however, should at least manage to post a winning record and there are some real positive signs for 2011. I have the Brewers edging the Cubs for third place, with the Astros and Pirates both way back.
Toughest division to call for me. But at the finish line, I like the Rockies to get the job done. Don’t underestimate the significance of their high altitude home field advantage. That thin air is hell on tired legs late in the season, and it’s no coincidence that Colorado has been a big second half producer in each of their two recent playoff runs.
I don’t think the Padres are going away, and they remain an underrated entry. In fact, I would not be shocked to see them as the Wild Card, and I’m only picking against them because they lack big game experience. But that pitching staff is terrific, most notably the lock down bullpen.
The Giants ought to be right there as well when looking at their roster. But there’s just something missing on this team. It’s called fire. They don’t have any. More than almost any team, the Giants need to acquire a sparkplug who can get this team’s engine revved up. But as they stack up right now, I have the Giants just missing.
I see the Dodgers fading to a fourth-place finish that’s very real. Arizona will be way back in the basement, and from what I can see, the Diamondbacks will be residing there for quite some time.
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