Which teams will get to celebrate a playoff spot this fall?
The season is only 10 percent over, give or take depending on the the number of games each team has played. Hardly a milestone moment that allows early returns to hold any significance.
But it does offer a little more of a view than preseason predictions, does it not? Predictions that I did not make.
Thus, in election night coverage style, I will look at the early returns and make projections. These are the teams I forecast as winning the races for the eight playoff spots in order of record:
- Philadelphia Phillies: An experienced team with dangerous hitting and what looks to be a great pitching staff thanks to an outstanding starting rotation. Even with both the Florida Marlins and Atlanta Braves both challenging them within the division, they can afford to upgrade before August if they cannot bank on winning the East—which would only further separate them from the other division leaders.
- New York Yankees: The only team in the American League widely predicted to be where it is right now. The Evil Empire has pitching and hitting, and even with key players aging, they should be able to retain their early lead. Do not expect Brian Cashman to be shown up at the trade deadline like he has the last two years unless they have their position well in hand.
- San Francisco Giants: for more on this team, visit a companion piece on Sports Haze Bay Area.
- Milwaukee Brewers: The True Blue Brew Crew possesses a top tier pitching staff with what should be almost as good a starting rotation as the Giants and Phillies. They have enough punch in the middle of their lineup to win a deep but unspectacular division.
- Colorado Rockies: Their early season success is no fluke, as the Rockies are having their best success outside of Colorado (7-1)—they were picked by many to battle with the Giants for the West because they have a combination of pitching, hitting, and big-game experience.
- Detroit Tigers: The boldest pick in this grouping because the early troubles of Minnesota look like they will continue well into the season and someone has to pick up the slack. The Tigers have enough pieces, enough payroll to fill in gaps once they are in the hunt, and a manager who can get them the rest of the way—no other rival has all three of those qualities.
- Oakland Athletics: This team has a pitching staff that can match up against any other and will be playing in a competitive division, but one lacking a team that is clearly better. Do not expect this to be another year in which they sell at the deadline, though they likely cannot afford to buy either.
- Boston Red Sox: The Red Sox look so bad and there are enough teams competing for the playoff spot that the preseason World Series champions are in real trouble. No team has ever started 0-6 (or 2-10) and made the playoffs, but this would not be the first time a recent Red Sox team pioneered something in the oldest of major American sports. Boston would do well to dump David Ortiz before his obvious decline makes him no longer in demand, but they can unlikely get someone to adequately replace him in the lineup or upgrade the pitching staff at some point.