Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Emerging 2014 American League Playoff Picture

We're heading into the final stretch! It's been an exciting year for baseball with several playoff spots still up in the air. The next two weeks should be quite interesting.

The Orioles have emerged as the dominant force in their division and should win the East over Toronto unless something shocking happens. The Blue Jays have been hot lately thanks to a late power surge by Jose Bautista, but a recent injury to Melky Cabrera will almost certainly hurt the club. The Yankees, who have been on the cusp all year, don't have the guns to make it to the postseason. Only two of their regular players are hitting above .270. Carlos Beltran and Brett Gardner are hurt (though Gardner is day-to-day). Rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka is still out of action as well.

The Royals and Tigers are currently in a dogfight for the Central lead. Kansas City has been losing steam lately, dropping 4 of 6 games from Sept. 6-Sept. 11. Among the Royals most reliable hitters, Alex Gordon is in a September funk. In the previously mentioned span, he struck out 13 times and hit below the .100-mark. The Detroit offense is driven by sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who are both having excellent seasons. Max Scherzer is a dependable starter with a 16-5 record, but Justin Verlander is sporting a 4.82 ERA (what's up with that?) and Rick Porcello is in a downward spiral, losing 6 of 8 decisions between Aug. 7 and Sept. 10. Good news for fans in Detroit: The Tigers have compiled an 11-5 record against Kansas City so far this year with three games still left to play against them. The Indians are within striking distance of the Central lead, but need to push harder. Left fielder Michael Brantley and first baseman Carlos Santana have propelled the offense and right-hander Corey Kluber is a Cy Young candidate (15-9/ 2.45 ERA through Sept. 11). But games against the division leaders are few at this point and the Indians have been mediocre so far in September. They're 5-5 in their last ten games.

The Angels are currently in the midst of a 10-game winning streak and should take the West easily over the slumping A's. After trading outfielder Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox on July 31, Oakland went into a tailspin. They have won just 3 of their last 10 and have been unable to generate consistent offense. Meanwhile, the Angels have enjoyed major offensive contributions from superstars Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. Things looked bleak when pitcher Garrett Richards (13-4/ 2.61 ERA) was shelved with an injury in early September, but the rest of the staff has stepped up.  Right now, the West seems like a foregone conclusion.

Wild Card Picture
 The Mariners have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs via a Wild Card berth. Robinson Cano is having another fine offensive season in Seattle while third baseman Kyle Seager has supplied plenty of punch as well. "King Felix" Hernandez continues to be a dominant presence on the mound with a miniscule 2.12 ERA through Sept. 11. The Mariners have seven games left against the surging Angels and this could be a good or a bad thing. The Blue Jays, Indians and Yankees are all in the hunt, but all three seem like a long shot to me at this point. 

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