Which Major League ball club will surprise the masses and sneak into October?
The following five teams have an opportunity to make their fan base extremely proud. For some clubs, winning the World Series would be great but cracking the postseason is just fine.
This is a list of five clubs who have a realistic shot at making the postseason in 2011.
The Chicago White Sox have been disgustingly horrible at times this season. With Alex Rios, Juan Pierre, and Adam Dunn struggling mightily, no wonder the White Sox are sitting in third place in the AL Central.
The starting rotation has had its up's and down's. It still remains to be seen whether or not Jake Peavy can stay healthy. John Danks himself is currently on the disabled list. Gavin Floyd has struggled but Phil Humber has maintained an effective status quo.
The White Sox are lacking the ability to score runs due to inefficient hitting. Dunn and Pierre have been disappointing while Rios continues to relapse into a mediocre slugger. Carlos Quentin is aging but he is dependable.
On the other hand, Paul Konerko is one of the best first basemen in all of baseball. Alexei Ramirez is holding his own as well.
If the White Sox can cure the ills that have plagued the starting rotation and put the bat on the ball in a more respectful fashion, look out. The bullpen woes might then appear to be more minuscule. Sergio Santos might not be the long-term solution at closer but word out of Chicago is that they are in the market for more bullpen help. Ryan Madson or Heath Bell anybody?
The last time Arizona has put together a good starting rotation was when Brandon Webb won the NL Cy Young Award. Now, they have two legitimate studs at the apex of their rotation in Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson.
The bats have come along for the Diamondbacks as well.
Chris Young, Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew are swinging the bat well. Kelly Johnson is providing some pop while Ryan Roberts has somewhat overachieved.
The Diamondbacks are currently sitting three games out of first in the NL West. If closer J.J. Putz can continue to do well and come close to mirroring what he did in his final healthy season with the Seattle Mariners, the Dbacks will be in the race all season long.
The Tampa Bay Rays play in the toughest division in any of the major professional sports. The AL East is brutal, thanks in part to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. One can't shrug their shoulders at Jose Bautista, Ricky Romero, and the Toronto Blue Jays either.
The Rays are doing extremely well. They are sitting at third in the AL East but are just 3 games out of first.
The rotation, led by David Price, is about as good as any in the American League. James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson are potential 15-plus game winners. Kyle Farnsworth has locked up the bullpen since Rafael Soriano departed to the Bronx over the winter.
Johnny Damon is seeing a resurgence in his career, helping establish himself as a potential Hall of Famer. Evan Longoria is doing alright but he will improve at the plate. Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton aren't anything to sneeze at either. If Matt Joyce can become a more consistent hitter, he will provide another powerful bat for the Rays' impressive lineup.
The Colorado Rockies are a sleeping giant. As usual, they won't wake up until August. Currently 6.5 games out of first place in the NL West, the Rockies will eventually string together a couple of streaks and put themselves in the conversation for the division title or the wild card.
Troy Tulowitzki is the best shortstop in baseball. He is having another incredible season where he is not only contributing at the plate but is a candidate for ESPN Baseball Tonight's Web Gems on a nightly basis.
Carlos Gonzalez is finally back in form. With Seth Smith providing power against right-handed pitching and Todd Helton looking like he found the fountain of youth, the Rockies could supplant one of the competitors in the National League.
The question marks remain with the pitching staff. Ubaldo Jimenez, record aside, is still a dominant pitcher. Jhoulys Chacin is looking like a viable number two. The rest of the staff still has a lot to prove. Fortunately, Huston Street is healthy and turning the lights off in the ninth inning.
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple of months, the Pittsburgh Pirates are on the verge of ending a humiliating streak. This organization has had a losing season each of the last 18 years. Right now though, they are two games above .500 and in third place in the NL Central, just three games back of the first place Milwaukee Brewers.
This resurgence can be attributed to skipper Clint Hurdle. The young hitters for the Pirates are doing well plus the pitching staff is doing a decent job. Closer Joel Hanrahan might be having the best season among relievers in the National League.
The Pirates took two of three from both the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies thus far. We can only wonder how long this pitching staff will continue to thrive. From the starters to the bullpen, some think they have overachieved. Others say they are due. All I am saying is that this could be a great story come October.
Let's see if Clint Hurdle has any of that magic he had in Colorado left in him to share with the city of Pittsburgh.