Opinion Sports Columns

MLB Playoff Race is in Full Swing

Vincent Gallo

Staff Writer

Baseball is a difficult sport to predict. Sports Illustrated picked the Cleveland Indians to win it all during sSpring tTraining, a. And yet every year, we writers numerously challenge such a puzzle in attempt to achieve the perfect bracket. With that being said, here are the teams who will be in the hunt come as well as the final results when October concludes, and the final pitch is thrown.

American League East Division Champion: Toronto Blue Jays
Heading into sSpring tTraining, analysts expected the Blue Jays to be the same mediocre team, a role they have been playing since the conclusion of their golden era between 1992 and 1993, when they were back to backback-to-back world champions. Come the All-Star Break? The same team. The Trade Deadline? David Price. Troy Tulowitzki. Whoa. Now they are cooking with gas. They are resurrecting the beast that once roamed the Roger Centre. Toronto is fifth best in team ERA (Earned Run Average) at 3.78. They lead baseball with 756 runs scored, 88 more runs than the second place New York Yankees.
The heart of the Blue Jays order consists of Tulowitzki, Jose Bautista, Josh Donaldson, and Edwin Encarnacion. Donaldson has emerged as an MVP candidate, slashing .305/.372/.964 while belting 37 home runs. The pitching rotation now has a leader in Price who has posted a 2.15 ERA. Yep, Canada loves baseball again.

American League Central Division Champion: Kansas City Royals
All they do is win. There may be some Royals fans who see the team as a trusty flashlight to poke around in the woods known as the MLB Postseason , but are worried they will flicker away. That is sort of the comparison to describe the Royals’ pitching staff. Below are the individual starter ERAs:
Johnny Cueto – 4.86 Danny Duffy – 4.17 Jeremy Guthrie – 5.73 Yordano Ventura – 4.34 Edison Volquez – 3.49
Yet their team ERA is an AL second best, 3.67. They are 83-55, which is the American League’s best record. Regardless of the yellow flags, Kansas City fans seem ready for another epic playoff campaign. If you do not believe it, just type “Straight Outta Kauffman” into Google.

American League West Division Champion: Houston Astros
The newest challenger from the American League. After a sweep at the hands of the White Sox in the 2005 World Series, the Astros began their free fall into obscurity. They lost 416 games from 2011-2014. Writers predicted a slow ascent back into contention. It was more of a dramatic spike in 2015.
They own an AL best 3.40 ERA. They have hit 188 home runs as a team while plating 605 runs. Houston is led by ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel (17-6, 2.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP), second baseman Jose Altuve (.310/.352/.775), and rookie shortstop Carlos Correa. The Astros are a team on a mission, attempting to prove that their next championship will be before their original ETA of 2017.

Wild Card # 1: New York Yankees
Even if the Yankees are not emptying their wallets in the offseason, and Yankee haters insist that they cannot win without spending,; the Yankees are still in the playoff race. Take their beloved captain Derek Jeter out of the equation, hand CC Sabathia a 5.27 ERA, give Alex Rodriguez yet another chance,; it does not matter. With 668 runs scored and a 77-61 record , the Yankees would need to endure a colossal collapse in order to miss the playoffs.

Wild Card #2: Tampa Bay Rays
When looking at the second wild card spot, the Texas Rangers are currently the favorite to slip into October , as they are attempting to spin another lengthy winning streak. The Rangers have two issues, however. There are still 25 games left in the season, and their teampitching’s ERA is 4.32.
The Rays on the other hand, are steadily keeping pace with the rest of the pack. They are playing .500 baseball in their last 10 games. Place Chris Archer atop their rotation and record a 3.72 ERA for the team (60 points lower than the Rangers) and the Rays can ignite a dangerous hot streak.

National League East Division Champion: New York Mets
Currently the word on the street in Flushing is all about Matt Harvey’s pitching limit and the inevitable doom if they press on without the Dark Knight. Nevertheless, it has been a special year for the New York Mets. Citi Field is finally developing the roar that was once in Shea Stadium a. And Mets fans have a right to be excited again. Even if Harvey does not appear in October, the trio of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz is still daunting for their opposition to face.
Their batting lineup was the concern of the Tri-State before the acquisition of Yoenis Cespedes with ten minutes remaining until the trade deadline back on July 31. Cespedes has made his case for the 2015 NL MVP, as the Mets run production has jumped from 3.54 runs per game pre-Cespedes to 6.14 runs per game after the trade.
While looking at their progress from the past month, it is difficult to pick the Mets to go out with a whimper come crunch time. One can only imagine what this team can accomplish if the front office decides to invest in the current team.

National League Central Division Champion: St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are a scary team. Period. Losing Adam Wainwright and Matt Adams for the year has not fazed them one bit Cards. They are 11eleventh in the National League when it comes to runs scored (560), but their pitching staff suffocates foes (the team ERA is 2.81), which. This allows them to pull out even the closest nail-biters.
Their offense has been led by Jason Heyward (.287/.349/.782), Jhonny Peralta (.275/.334/.753), Kolten Wong (.264/.325/.716) and Matt Carpenter (.260/.359/.824). First year players have also made a contribution in Randal ‘Bam Bam’ Grichuk (.281/.330/.893) and Stephen Piscotty (.329/.363/.890). Many contenders on this list are new to October and are enjoying feel-good-story seasons. St. Louis can obliterate those fairy tales with a swing of their iron fist.

National League West Division Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers
Thanks to their duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke, the Dodgers are running away with the NL West, leaving their archrivals and 2014 champion San Francisco Giants in the dust. Greinke leads baseball with a 1.68 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP, while Kershaw owns a 2.15 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP. Their hitting has proven a cause for concern, but with their starting pitching and closer Kenly Jansen (31 saves), they should be just fine.

Wild Card #1: Pittsburgh Pirates
Over the past few years, teams have figured out that it is not fun to play the Pirates when they are on a winning streak. This year, they showed their potential the week prior to the All-Star Break, capping the first half off with being placed first overall in the power rankings.
Gerrit Cole has established himself as the Pirates ace with a season line of 16-8, 2.54 ERA, 175 strikeouts. A.J. Burnett, at the twilight of his career, has given the Pirates a substantial season performance that replicates a perfect number two caliber starter (8-5, 3.14 ERA, 117 strikeouts). Backing Burnett is ten yearten-year veteran Francisco Liriano, owner of a 3.28 ERA.
Pittsburgh’s batting lineup can hold its own as well as it is complete with Pedro Alvarez (22 home runs), Francisco Cervelli (.303 batting average), Jung Ho Kang (.288, 15 home runs), Starling Marte (.281, 26 stolen bases), Gregory Polanco (.261 average, 24 stolen bases), and Andrew McCutchen (.299, 22 HRs, 90 RBI, .914 OPS). The Bucs may be primed to upset any opponent that comes their way, if they enter the playoffs with momentum.

Wild Card #2: Chicago Cubs
Welcome to the new era of hope for the Cubs. Joe Maddon knows it, we all know Anthony Rizzo knows it, after his bold sSpring tTraining predictions, and the Chicago faithful is ready for some late season intensity. The Cubs pitching staff, led by Cy Young candidate Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, have preserved an NL third best team ERA. The young guns have powered their lineup in Kyle Schwarber and Kris Bryant, who have combined for 36 home runs on the season. We are seeing a team who can break the hundred year cCurse of the bBilly gGoat grow up before our very eyes.

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