As you've probably noted, the site has been on hiatus for most of the last two months, as I've been in the process of relocating to Long Beach, CA, as well as dealing with a particularly busy summer, personally and professionally. This hiatus has no doubt resulted in the loss of a substantial portion of the loyal readership I've fostered over the last few years, and for that I'm certainly sorry. However, this does give me an opportunity to perform a moderate redesign and refocus. Although a continued hectic schedule will probably prevent me from maintaining the posting frequency which preceded this hiatus, I will be covering the pennant races and postseason in some detail, as well as the hot stove and fantasy preseason, as in the past. Again, I apologize for the delay and thank all those who emailed me to voice their concern. Now, a few observations on the time I missed...
I've been waiting all season for a freefall from the Braves and Padres, two teams who I doubted going into the season and saw cause for calling "flukish" throughout the first half. As both are certainly headed for 85-90 win seasons, clearly I have cause to alter that estimation, however, we are finally seeing the chinks in their armor.
San Diego, clearly the most surprising franchise of the 2010 season, not long ago looked like the sure-fire NL West champs, but an eight-game losing streak has brought them back within three games of the Giants and they now face a particularly grueling schedule. The Friars have only one series left against a losing franchise (four games against the Cubs at the end of September), while they have twelve games against the two teams closest on their heels (Giants & Rockies) and seven against other contenders (Reds & Cardinals). Their vaunted young rotation, clearly the reason for their unexpected run this season, may also end up being the cause of their demise. Clayton Richard and Mat Latos are already well beyond their career highs in innings and Wade LeBlanc will soon join them. The wear and tear is starting to show. The team's ERA has risen in every month to a high of 3.71 in August. With a mediocre lineup, even after the infusion of Miguel Tejada and Ryan Ludwick, the Padres cannot afford to give up four runs a game, especially against teams like the Giants, Cardinals, and Rockies. Unfortunately for San Diego's faithful, I think the selling of postseason tickets may have been a little premature.
In Atlanta, the issue is not so much that the Braves are diving (they still won eighteen games in August), as that the two-time NL champion Phillies are finally healthy and appear to be starting their annual September streak. They've won seven of their last eight, now sit just one game back of Atlanta, and are looking forward to a fairly soft September, as their only remaining games against contenders two series against the Braves. If the Braves do get caught (and I think they inevitably will), they are still very much alive in the Wild Card. A serious cause for concern, however, is the Braves 29-38 record on the road, which is where they will be spending most of the next month.
In the American League we may be seeing one of the most anticlimactic pennant races in recent memory, as Boston, despite being on pace for 92 wins, is now seven games back of Tampa Bay in the Wild Card, and Texas long ago wrapped up the AL West. Our only hope for late-season drama comes in the Central, where the Manny-infused White Sox are four games back of the Twins. With Justin Morneau still out indefinitely with concussion issues and Kevin Slowey also shelves, Minnesota does have some chinks in its armor. Since the All-Star Break, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Denard Span all of OPSs well under 800. J. J. Hardy has been in and out of the lineup. On the other hand, Minnesota's front four - Francisco Liriano, Carl Pavano, Brian Duensing, and Scott Baker - have combined to go 21-6 since the break, so modest run-scoring has usually been more than enough. The three-game set in Chicago in the middle of September could prove crucial.
Here are my postseason seeding predictions:
Minnesota Twins vs. New York Yankees
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
San Francisco Giants vs. Cincinnati Reds
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies