Tagged: Jay Bruce

Down to the wire

Way back on Tuesday, the number of teams who had clinched playoff spots went from 3 to 6–including going from 4 to 6 in under a minute, as Jay Bruce’s walkoff home run gave the Reds the NL Central just seconds before Lyle Overbay grounded out to Alex Rodriguez to end the Yankees’ 6-1 win over Toronto, clinching a playoff spot for the Yanks. Flash forward to the final day of the season, and…it’s still 6 teams that have clinched playoff spots, and only four that have clinched divisions, and only three know their exact seed. Pretty much the same as it was on Tuesday. The only difference is that the Twins still had a chance at being the top seed in the AL then, and now they don’t because they trail the Yankees and Rays by one game and lost the season series to both teams so regardless of which one wins the division, they wouldn’t have home field against them in the second round. (Actually, the season series against the Yanks is a moot point, because with the one game difference now they’d only have the same record as the AL East champion if both the Yankees and Rays lost, in which case the Rays would be division champions.) Actually, never mind–the Reds lost the season series to both the Giants and the Padres, so they also know that they’ll be starting the postseason on the road as the NL 3-seed. So, that’s also changed from Tuesday.

What we still don’t know: The AL East champion and wild card and the NL West champion and NL wild card. It seems like there was something wrong with that last sentence, but there wasn’t, because we do know that the AL wild card is coming from the AL East, while we don’t know which division the NL wild card is coming from. The scenarios:

The Yankees and Rays have identical records at 95-66. If the Yankees win and the Rays lose, the Yankees will have the best record in the American League and will start at home against the Rangers, while the Rays will start the playoffs in Minnesota as the AL wild card. If the Rays win or the Yankees lose, the Rays will win the AL East and the top seed in the American League and will host Texas to start the playoffs.

San Francisco is 91-70, and San Diego and Atlanta are both 90-71. (Cincinnati is also 90-71, but that’s irrelevant as they are the NL Central champion and lost the season series to both potential NL West champions.) San Francisco and San Diego are playing each other. If the Giants and Braves both win, the Giants are NL West champions and the Braves are the NL Wild Card, and as a result they will play each other in the NLDS. If the Giants and the Braves both lose, the Padres are the NL West champions by virtue of a 13-5 advantage in the season series over the NL wild card Giants, and the Padres will host the Reds to start the playoffs while the Giants travel to Philadelphia. If the Padres and Braves both lose, the Giants will be the NL West champions, and the Braves would host the Padres for a one-game playoff to determine the NL wild card, with the Braves facing the Giants in the NLDS if they win and the Padres facing the Phillies if they win. If the Padres and Braves both win, the Padres would host the Giants for a one-game playoff to determine the NL West champion, with the loser then going to Atlanta for a one-game playoff to determine the NL wild card. Oh, by the way…the current series between the Padres and Giants is in San Francisco, while the one-game playoff would be in San Diego. Furthermore, this year the NL is the league where the team with the best record gets to choose which series they want, the one that starts Wednesday or the one that starts Thursday. And they don’t have to make that choice until they know who their opponent will be. Which, if the Braves and Padres both win today, would take until Tuesday. You’ve got to figure that if the NL West runner-up wins that game, the Phillies would have to take the Wednesday start, thereby making the NL West runner-up play four games in four cities in four days. This would no doubt break the record held by, well, probably a number of teams, most recently the Phillies who stopped in Colorado on September 2 for a make-up game in between a series in Los Angeles and the start of a home stand (first series was against the Brewers). However, that was at least all in the same direction. Granted, this four-city tour would only have one trip that crossed time zones, which would make it probably less hectic than the trip the Angels made in 2005, when there was no off-day scheduled between games 4 and 5 of the ALDS and a rainout pushed Game 4 back a day. The Angels and Yankees played Game 4 in New York, then (as always) had to head to Anaheim for Game 5 the next day after the Yankees tied the series at 2-2 with the Game 4 win, and then because of the rain, Game 1 of the ALCS in Chicago was the very next day. New York to Anaheim to Chicago. Quite the trip. San Francisco to San Diego to Atlanta to Philadelphia wouldn’t quite be the same, even if it is more cities, because two of the three trips don’t involve a change in time zone and one of them doesn’t even involve a change in state California’s a f***ing long state and San Diego is right at the southern border; it’s a pretty long distance. Not quite as long as Atlanta to Philadelphia, but over two-thirds the length (453 miles vs. 656 miles). Also, does the fact that San Francisco would need to win a Game 163 to win the NL West if they lost today make the Cincinnati-San Francisco season series also a moot point? Technically, the NL West champion would have a better record than Cincinnati by half a game if they won it in a playoff (assuming Cincy wins today). The only way the NL West champion and Cincinnati have identical records is if San Diego beats San Francisco Cincinnati wins, and Atlanta loses, leaving San Diego, San Francisco, and Cincinnati at 91-71 and Atlanta at 90-72. So, the overall draft order for next year will look like…

1. Pittsburgh
2. Seattle
3. Probably Arizona. How do they determine draft order when teams in opposite leagues finish with identical records, anyway? Arizona is 1 game worse than Baltimore right now.
4. Baltimore, unless it’s Arizona
5. Kansas City, because they won the season series with Baltimore and have a 1-game edge. Season series is the tiebreaker in draft order, right?
6. Washington, because they took 2 of 3 from KC (who they’re 1 game better than) and lost 2 of 3 to Cleveland (who they’re 1 game worse than. Or should that be “whom”?)
7. Cleveland
8. and 9. The loser and winner of today’s Cubs-Astros game, respectively
10. Milwaukee
11-16. Florida, the Mets, both Los Angeles teams, Oakland, and Detroit. The Tigers and A’s are one game better than the other four, and none of the teams play each other so that doesn’t help. On the AL side, Detroit and Oakland split their season series, while the Angels were 10-8 against Oakland and 4-6 against Detroit. (Would a three-way tie then see Oakland pick first, then Los Angeles and then Detroit?) The NL is much clearer, as Los Angeles lost the season series to both Florida and New York and Florida handily took the series against New York. In interleague, Detroit lost 2 of 3 to both the Mets and the Dodgers and didn’t play the Marlins; the Angels took 5 of 6 from the Dodgers and didn’t play the Mets or Marlins, and the A’s didn’t play any of those three teams. So it’s anyone’s guess who ends up where.
17. Most likely Colorado, who are one game worse than Toronto
18. Most likely Toronto, but they were swept by Colorado in interleague so they could move up a spot
19. St. Louis, because they took 2 of 3 from Toronto
20. Chicago (AL)…probably.
21. Boston, unless they lose and the White Sox win, because the White Sox were 6-1 against them.
22-26. San Francisco, San Diego, Cincinnati, Texas, and Atlanta. As mentioned before, Cincy, Atlanta, and San Diego have identical records, with San Francisco one game better. Texas has the same record as Cincinnati/Atlanta/San Diego. However, it is quite obvious that the Gia
nts can end up in the #22 slot, because if they miss the playoffs entirely they will have to have lost today’s game, the one-game playoff against the Padres for the division, and the one-game playoff against the Braves for the wild card, at which point they’d be 91-73 and would have the worst record of the five even if Texas and/or Cincinnati lost today (90-72=.556; 91-73=.555) Funny how that works out, isn’t it? I don’t think Cincinnati can fall to #26, though, because they lost the season series with all three of the other NL teams. At best (worst?) they could be #25, if they’re the only one of the four 90-71 teams to win today (or possibly if Texas won as well–the Rangers didn’t play any of those four teams in interleague).
27. Minnesota
28. The AL Wild Card
29. The AL East Champion
30. Philadelphia

The woeful state of the American League

If it wasn’t such a pressing issue that the AL is horrible this year,
the title of this entry would probably be a reference to the scorching
start that Jay Bruce has had in the major leagues. Thought I should
mention him before things get depressing.

I am one hundred percent certain that a team that doesn’t deserve to
make the postseason will make it anyway. Why should that be so? They
give out four postseason berths per league. The AL doesn’t have
four worthy teams. Before the season started, I wouldn’t have been
surprised to hear that Ozzie Guillen was in a state of constant
foul-mouthed frustration by the time Memorial Day came around. However,
that’s because the place that I expected them to be trying to hold off
the Twins for was fourth, not first. Okay, maybe third–Royals, White
Sox, no difference to me. The Royals have shown their true colors once
more, as evidenced by their recent twelve-game losing streak, but the
Indians and Tigers…well, the Indians at least still have a chance. If
everyone gets healthy, they could become a worthy fourth. The West, on
the other hand, has already been won…almost. Seattle, my preseason
pick to edge out Los Angeles for the division, is mired in last place,
the worst record in the American League. The rebuilding Athletics won’t
hold up long, which leaves the Angels’ only threat…Texas. I’d say
that this was crazy, but they’ve got the offense to do it…and their
pitching has improved…and in this season, anything is
possible. The AL East champion and the wild card are playing each other
right now, though I’m not sure which one is which. This is because the
Central is clearly no threat, with only one decent team that happens to
be in third place right now, and, well…Texas. This is also because
the Orioles have taken to their “rebuilding” tag much more readily than
Minnesota or Oakland. The Yankees, whose starting pitching was expected
to be a question mark at best, has been infinitely worse. The highly
hyped first start by Joba Chamberlain (They held out until June. Guess
I was wrong about them making the desperation move by the end of May)
was nothing short of…well, it wasn’t abominable. He only gave up two
runs, one of them both unearned and scored after he left. The problem?
That was in the third inning. In the first, he walked the leadoff
batter, who then ended up on third following a balk and a passed ball
and scored on a groundout, the second out. The passed ball, though not
Joba’s fault, did not make the run unearned, as he then proceeded to
give up a single and walk the bases loaded. He was then pulled after a
one-out walk, and the runner on first then stole second and went to
third on a throwing error by the catcher on the steal, scoring on a
groundout. No hits followed and the bases weren’t loaded, so that was
unearned…but two-and-a-third innings? Toronto has the potential to be
decent if they ever get healthy, but they haven’t had a healthy team in
Toronto since the nineties. I think that both of these teams can make
it through the LDS round to face each other. The Rays match up well
with the Angels, I think, and if they face the Central champion
instead, it means that they’re the AL East champion and have home field
advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Boston, like Tampa Bay, is all
but unbeatable at home and is good enough to handle the Angels–aren’t
they always good enough to handle the Angels in October? However, if
home-field advantage runs out when the ALCS is over, I have my doubts
that even those two titans could take the NL champion in the World
Series. Chicago or Arizona, I think? While as a Red Sox fan I of course
want Boston to repeat, I think the funniest possible scenario would be
the Cubs finally making it back to the World Series and losing to the
Tampa Bay Rays. You know, it’s theoretically possible for the Cubs to
go all the way to the World Series and play a trio of teams with less
combined seasons in the majors than the length of time since the Cubs
last played in the World Series. It wouldn’t happen as the standings
are now, but it wasn’t long ago that the Marlins were the ones in line
to play the Cubs in round one (instead of the Phillies)…actually, the
problem is that the Marlins were almost destined to fall, and it would
have to be a trio of teams that were founded in the LCS era. Extend it
to the length of time since they last won a World Series, though, and
you could get away with Mets–>D-Backs–>Rays (still unlikely, I
think, but it could happen–especially because I’m not convinced the
Cardinals will hold up as the wild card). Actually, come to think of
it, you wouldn’t be off by much with Mets–>D-Backs–>Angels. Now
that’s funny.