With September upon us, the World Series is already creeping into the avid baseball fan's mind. I'm going to take a look at the 2 teams with the most wins in their respective leagues. Will it be the Cincinnati Red's with Triple Crown threat Joey Votto?. Or can the Braves make it in Bobby Cox's last year?
On to the AL, where the two team's with the best record in all of baseball are in the same division, the DEEP east. The reigning World Series Champs New York Yankees are looking like they will make a serious run at defending their title, but the pitching heavy Rays are right behind them.
Needless to say, this last full month of baseball should end up being an exciting one.
When you have a possible Triple Crown contender on your team, you probably have a darn good offense, and that is exactly the case with the Cincinnati Red's. However, more often than not, your starting pitching isn't always great when you do have such a great offense.
If the Big Red Machine's offense is one of the best, its pitching staff is one of the worst. It ranks higher than 15 in only one main category, saves. Francisco Cordero is the main reason for that. He has the third most saves in the National League with 35. Though he has a high ERA for a closer (3.52), he has been very good for the Red's; and compiled with Aurthur Rhodes (23 holds), its a very good 1-2 punch. But back to their pitching staff, they are 16th in ERA (4.08), and 18th in runs given up (572). Not very impressive if you ask me.
The Red's offense ranks in the top 10 in batting average, home runs, RBIs and hits, excellent numbers. With Joey Votto leading the way, the Red's are running away with the central. But, Votto is the main cause of these numbers. He leads his team in average, HR, RBIs, and OPS. Only Brandon Phillips has bested him in an offense category (runs). What would happen, if, oh, I don't know, Votto was out for the season with an injury. What happens to Cincinnati's offense then? Or, facing lots of strong pitchers in the playoffs, someone finally finds a way to get him out? However, most of this is just "what ifs", but they do arise questions.
Prediction: They'll make the playoffs, but everyone knows that the postseason is about pitching, something the Red's just aren't good enough at.
The Braves need to ride Tim Hudson and their starting pitching if they want to win the World Series for the first time since 1995.
The Braves haven't won a championship since 1995 where great pitching carried them. That is exactly what they currently need to do. With Tim Hudson leading the staff as well as having a Cy Young type season, the Braves have great starting pitching as always. One underrated part of the Braves is there offense. In runs scored it is currently ranked 2nd in the National League and 7th in all of baseball.
The Braves pitching is equally impressive, being ranked second in all of baseball for runs allowed and third in ERA. Pretty lofty stats, aren't they? Last time the Braves went to the playoffs, the year was 2005. They have a few players with playoff experience, but for the most part, most of them are inexperienced players.
Atlanta has been hit by some bad injuries to key players (but not like the Red Sox). Chipper Jones, their third baseman and catalyst, was beset by a torn ACL in his left knee, and is out for the season. Derek Lowe, a good pitcher with playoff experience and a World Series ring, (whom also threw a no-hitter against the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2002) has recently went down with elbow pain. Hopefully, he can return, as he would definitely help Atlanta in the postseason.
Overall, I see the Braves making a serious run at the World Series, and having the second best record (behind Cincinnati by a half game) in your league doesn't hurt your chances either.
Prediction: World Series: they have the perfect mixture of offense and pitching, making them perfect contenders for the Fall Classic.
In any other division, the Rays would be leading by a good margin. They would be ahead of the Twins by 4.5, and 8 games up on the AL West leading Rangers. If they were in the NL, they would be up by 4.5 games in the East, 4 games up on the powerhouse Reds over in the central, and 6.5 games over the NL West leaders, the San Diego Padres. That just shows you how tough their division, the AL East, actually is.
Tampa's pitching staff is one of the best in the league; they are 6th in the league in ERA (3.68), 4th in runs given up (517), and 1st in saves. This is in large because of Rafael Soriano, who has converted 40 of 42 save opportunities, and has a great 2.75 ERA. The Rays pitching staff is led by young starter, David Price. Price is a Cy Young contender with a 16-6 record and a 2.92 ERA as well as 161 strikeouts.
Unlike the Rays pitching, their offense isn't exactly stellar. They rank 15th in home runs (125), 23rd in batting average (.250), 27th in hits (1123), and 4th (where did that come from?) in RBIs (637). The most home runs a single player has hit on their team this year is Carlos Pena with only 26. The next most is Evan Longoria with 19. That pretty much explains why they're ranked 15th in MLB for home runs. If Pena were to get hurt again or Longoria, the Rays would probably get shut down offensively because Pena/Longoria would get walked; and leave the rest of the lineup to get devoured by postseason starters.
Prediction: Come playoff time, facing against tough starters will hurt the Rays offense and thus the Rays chance of going to the World Series.
The 27 time world champions are always a threat for the playoffs as well as the World Series, so its no surprise that they are in contention for it yet again this year. Nevertheless, the Yankees rotation is full of question marks, and the only constant is C.C. Sabathia.
As I said, New York's starting rotation is definitely the weak point of the team. They rank 9th in ERA (3.85) which isn't terrible. 6th in hits (1107), 10th in runs allowed (548), but they rank 15th in innings pitched. Now I know that most of this sound fine. Sure, they're not going 7 innings every start and only giving up 2 runs, but good enough for the regular season. That's the main word in the sentence, regular. And we all know how big starting pitching is in the playoffs. There is one bright spot for the pitching, however; the bullpen has the lowest ERA in all of baseball since July 26th with a 1.55 earned run average. This is in large part due to the trading deadline acquisition of Kerry Wood. Wood has only given up 1 run since he came to New York, and has looked like he has gotten back to the Kerry Wood that was on the Cubs back in 1998.
New York's offense is the best in baseball, which is why they have the best record in baseball. They have the 6th highest batting average in the MLB (.270), they have scored the most runs in all of baseball with 733, and have hit the third most home runs in the AL (as well as all of baseball) with 171 long balls.
Prediction: They need to fix their starting pitchers (especially A.J. Burnett) but have the offense to carry their pitching, which is why they can make it to the World Series.