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MLB Playoffs Coming Into Focus

MLB Playoffs Coming Into Focus

As the last week of the 2013 regular season winds down, the playoffs are just around the corner, and all but a few playoff teams are certain at this point. For the National League, all the participants are known; all that remains is where teams will be situated. The AL has a bit more uncertainty as of Thursday, though in a day or two, that will likely change.

National League

Here are your playoff teams from the NL.

NL East Champion: Atlanta Braves. The Braves seemed to be in control of the East virtually all year, having several extremely torrid stretches during the regular season. Certainly a team to contend with.

NL West Champion: LA Dodgers. After that historic August trade last year, the Dodgers are back in the playoffs. When you have a starter like Clayton Kershaw going for you, in October that helps. Can Puig get things going again on the October stage?
NL Central Champion: TBD. Technically, the Pirates are still clinging to long odds of winning the Central-to do that, they basically have to win out, and the Cardinals need to struggle these last few games. The challenge with that is, the Cardinals go up against the Cubs-a team playing for nothing, really. The Pirates? They tangle with the Reds. Both the Pirates and Reds are in the playoffs, but with the right to host the Wild Card game and a slim shot at the Central crown on the line here. In the end, I don’t see Pittsburgh closing the gap, so I expect St. Louis to win the Central. Which means that, after a weekend series, the Pirates and Reds once again will square off for Tuesday’s Wild Card game. Only question left to be answered? Whether it’s in Pittsburgh or Cincinnati.

Coming out of the NL right now, I am inclined to favor a team from the Central. Hedging my bets, you say? Well, OK, since 3 of the playoff participants come from that division, I will grant you that. But they have been evenly matched all year, and are in the playoffs for a reason. I really want to see the Pirates go deep into October, but my gut says that they are a young team still a year or so away from making a serious run. I like the Cardinals chances to represent the NL in this year’s World Series.

American League

For the AL, here are your playoff participants:

AL East Champion: Boston Red Sox. A year after that enormous August trade, both trading partners have made the playoffs. While their NL partner made it on a lot of high ticket superstars, the Sox took a different approach to the re-tooling effort and the bounceback has been tremendous. This will be a dangerous team in October.

AL West Champion: Oakland A’s. Quietly, yet another playoff season for the A’s. They have as much a chance as any other team to make it to the Fall Classic, but I still don’t think this is their year.

AL Central Champion: Detroit Tigers. Wait, wasn’t Verlander the stud of the staff? So now it’s Scherzer’s party? Max had been an emerging pitcher the past couple seasons, but he truly announced his presence in 2013. Cabrera had another impressive campaign, though he’s been hobbled of late. The Tigers have the pitching to make the run, but will Cabrera be enough of a threat, or get enough help from Prince Fielder and the rest of the Tigers offense?

AL Wild Cards: Odds are the two Wild Cards will be Tampa and Cleveland. The Rangers still have an outside shot of a spot, but they will need a lot of help. The AL had a number of teams in the hunt until very late in the season, and several of them would have been nice to have back in the playoffs-Kansas City, Cleveland and Baltimore in particular. Of the two likely Wild Cards, Tampa likely poses the bigger threat to go on a tear in October.

Right now, I really like the Red Sox or Tigers to represent the American League for the World Series. It’s hard not to like that Detroit one-two rotational punch, but there’s something about this year’s Boston squad, too.