|Projections at the Break|
Written by Tony Meale (Contact & Archive) on July 13, 2009
All right, ladies and gentlemen, it's halftime. More or less.
If the season ended today, the following teams would make the playoffs: Boston, New York (Yankees), Detroit, Los Angeles (Angels), Philadelphia, St. Louis, Los Angeles (Dodgers) and San Francisco.
But as we all know, the season doesn't end today; there's still a solid three months of baseball to go. Here's a look at which first-place teams will -- and won't -- be atop the standings after 162 games.
Right Now: Red Sox
Right Now: Tigers
The Skinny: The Tigers have a sick, sick offense, but they'll need Justin Verlander to be lights out the rest of the way to make the playoffs. The White Sox, meanwhile, have a pretty potent offense themselves. Besides, Chicago is the only team in the division that has a winning record on the road (23-22). It's only by one game, but sometimes one game can make the difference.
Right Now: Angels
The Skinny: It seems like the Angels always find a way to keep it together, but losing Vladimir Guerrero (strained knee) and Torii Hunter (strained abductor) at the same time hurts; most teams can't lose their Nos. 3 and 4 hitters and not miss a beat. Neither injury appears serious, but both could be out up to a month. The Rangers' offense is absolutely loaded and Kevin Millwood has provided consistency at the top of the rotation. But if Texas, which trails the Angels by just a game and a half, plans on making a run, now is the time to do so.
AL Wild Card
Right Now: Yankees
The Skinny: New York couldn't miss the playoffs two years in a row, could they? Getting rid of Joe Torre was the most asinine thing the Yankees could have done. Anybody else think it's just a coincidence that the Torre-led Dodgers made the playoffs last year and currently have the best record in baseball in 2009? Meanwhile, the Yankees are playing second fiddle to the Red Sox. Really, even if New York wins the Wild Card -- or even if it wins the division -- does it really matter? This team is not built for October, and Boston will make that point abundantly clear in the playoffs.
Right Now: Phillies
The Skinny: Rather than passing the Mets with a late-season surge yet again, the Phillies should win the division fairly easily with little resistance from Florida or Atlanta. Cole Hamels hasn't been the Cole Hamels of 2008; that we know. But the Phillies have enough pitching to get the job done, and with that offense, they're never out of a game. New York, for its part, has the most talented DL in all of baseball. Sure, the Mets have been down on their luck with injuries this year, but maybe they're just tossing in the towel early to rid themselves of the choking stigma. In the words of Bob Uecker a la Major League: "Personally, I just think he's trying to get out of the lineup."
Right Now: Cardinals
Right Now: Dodgers
The Skinny: Did I mention the Dodgers have Joe Torre? Did I mention they have the best record in baseball? Oh, and they also have Manny Ramirez back in the three-spot of the best top-to-bottom offense in the NL. The pitching could be a bit better, but with Broxton and Billingsley, that's more than enough.
NL Wild Card
Right Now: Giants
The Skinny: I never though the Giants would be above .500 at this point season -- much less 10 games over. But with Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Randy Johnson and recent no-no man Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco has an extremely solid foursome in its rotation. The offense, of course, doesn't exactly scare you; after all, Pablo Sandoval -- not exactly a household name just yet -- leads the team in average (.333), homers (15) and RBI (55). But pitching tends to win out West, and the Giants certainly have that.
As for the playoffs, I'll keep my prediction simple at this point:
AL Champion: Red Sox
NL Champion: Dodgers
World Series Champion: Red Sox in seven
The Skinny: Boston remains a thorn in Joe Torre's side, and the fans at Fenway boo Manny mercilessly. Make that three championships in six years for the Sox.