Sunday, August 30, 2009

Baseball's Home Stretch

We are a week away from Labor Day. The major league baseball season runs through the first weekend in October, which means that a little more than a month is left.

I made my predictions back in late March, and, periodically, I've been checking to see how they were holding up. Well, this will be my last check before the playoffs begin in October.

Let's look at the National League first:
  • In the East, I picked the defending world champion Philadelphia Phillies to repeat as division champs, and I predicted they would have a record of 90–72. Today, the Phillies lead their division by seven games. To match the record I predicted, they wouldn't even need to win half of their remaining games. A 16–19 record would do it.

  • In the Central, I picked St. Louis to win the division with a record of 95–67. The Cardinals have surged to a 10–game lead, after trailing through much of the first half of the season, but they will need an 18–12 record the rest of the way to meet my prediction.

  • In the West, I predicted the Los Angeles Dodgers would prevail. They shot out to a big lead early in the season, and they have remained in control of their division, but they've lost a little ground since the All–Star break. Even so, they have a 5½–game lead.

    I predicted the Dodgers would finish the regular season with a record of 87–75, and, unless they experience a total meltdown in September, they should be able to meet that, if not exceed it. They've got the best record in the National League, and they only need to go 9–22 to match the record I forecast.
So my picks to win the division titles appear to be holding up, but my wild–card pick, the New York Mets, seems to be in trouble. The Mets are 13 games under .500.

Actually, the two top contenders for the NL wild card spot, Colorado and San Francisco, are playing each other today. As I write this, the Rockies have a 4–1 lead over the Giants in the sixth inning. With a month left in the season, that doesn't really mean much — except from the standpoint of momentum.

Now, let's take a look at the American League:
  • In the East, I predicted Boston would win the division with a record of 96–66. The Red Sox led their division early in the season, but they've been slumping this summer and the rival New York Yankees have taken a six–game lead. Boston would need a 20–12 record the rest of the way to match my prediction. Along the way, they would need the Yankees to do no better than go 13–19.

    It looks like the Sox will need some help from other teams if they're going to catch the Yanks. The two teams meet only three more times (in New York) the last weekend of September.

  • In the Central, I predicted that Minnesota would win the division with a record of 87–75. Currently, the Twins are second in their division, 4½ games behind Detroit.

    I predicted the Twins would go 87–75, but that's going to be a tall order. Minnesota would have to go 22–10 the rest of the way to accomplish that. It sounds like a longshot, but they've got six games left with the Tigers in September so winning the division still is possible.

  • In the West, I picked the Los Angeles Angels to win their division with a 98–64 record. The Angels stumbled early in the season, but they've seized control of the division in the last couple of months. Even so, they would need to go 21–12 to match my prediction. But they have a five–game lead. The West doesn't appear to be a lock for the Angels — not yet — but I like their chances.
The top two contenders for the wild card in the American League are Boston and Texas. They aren't scheduled to face each other again during the regular season so the Red Sox need to make their current 3½–game advantage over the Rangers hold up.

I picked the Yankees to win the wild card so if Boston takes it instead and the Yankees win the division, that's a reversal of my prediction but both teams will still qualify for the playoffs. If everything else remains the way it is right now, that would mean that six of the eight teams I predicted would be in the playoffs actually will be there.

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