So here we are. The last six days in the 2008 MLB season. And what a season it has been. Big trades, unexpected teams surge, others plunge. So with less than a week left, lets take a look at what is to be expected as teams push for a playoff spot.
There's been some great story lines in the East this year. Mainly dealing with, of course, the Rays. Maybe a name change was all they needed. Maybe it was the injection of youth and beefing up the pitching a little bit. Kazmir has been on fire this year, and Shields right behind him. Everyone said that they would fizzle out but in the home stretch they have only gotten hotter. Their most valuable weapon: Carlos Pena. Yes, he had a better year in 2007, but he is hitting when he needs to. His OPS is .882 right now. Definitely one of Tampa's most prized weapons. They got the playoff berth, and they will definitely clinch the East title. How far will they go in September? Expect to see them playing for the pennant.
The Red Sox probably won't win the division, but after one more win or Yankee loss they will have the wildcard, which is what will hurt them. Going up against the Angels in ALDS for any team is daunting, but the Red Sox have some huge problems with them. LA has beaten them in all but one outing. Expect the same in the post-season. They lost a bat with Ramirez, but they will be better for it in the long run. They'll finish strong, but they won't last far into the playoffs.
The Angels and White Sox are definite locks for the postseason. Of course the Angels play in an incredibly weak division, but that doesn't ignore the fact that they are scary good. Great rotation, solid bullpen, and dangerous bats. The White Sox? Another big fish in a small pond. Cleveland was a worry-in May-but they are the every other year team. Thome and Eldred are solid bats, but will have to battle with the Rays in the playoffs. White Sox get the division.
What a battle in the Central. The Brewers had the wildcard, maybe even a division win. But Philly took care of that, and Yost's job. They suffered what the Mets suffered last year - a collapse of offense and pitching with Philly capitalizing. The only real star is Sabathia. Expect this team to just continue to fall. The Cubs got the berth, and will tough to beat in the post-season. Marquis, Zambrano, and Demptster are buzz saws, and will mow through any lineup. They will be in the pennant game.
The West - talk about disappointing. This was Diamondback country. Remember way back in April, how good this rotation is with Harren, Webb, Johnson at the heart? Everyone saying that they will be at the top? Well, the pitching delivered in a big way. But on the other side - not so much. The bats go silent when they need to shouting. That, along with the acquisition of ManRam gave the Dodgers the opening they needed. Arizona will be sitting at home during the playoffs.
Now to where the real action has been - the East. The Marlins had a good year, a real good year. But the big battles were between the Phillies and Mets. The Phils started hot, but a new manager fired the Mets back into first and held it. Until Wagner went down. That and the Brewers sweep gave Philly what it needed. The Phils are not a great team, they have problems. They are too homer dependant. The Mets have different problems - the bullpen. This bullpen has cost New York important games, which but them in for a wildcard versus division win. It really is a toss up to who will get what. September is the Phillies month. They play hard when they need to. However it goes, both will be in September. These could be the two playing for the NL title, but it is unlikely. The Cubs will take down one of these teams.