This week I will do an NL Playoff Race Special. I will cover all the teams who would make the playoffs if the season stopped right now in the NL. I think those four teams are the only ones that are really in contention for the playoffs, as I believe all of the races are currently locked up, outside of finding out between the Dodgers and Rockies who will be the NL West winner and who will be the NL Wild Card winner.
1. Philadelphia (80-59, +6): Philly is in 1st place in the East and 21 games over .500 because they can score runs in bunches, and their pitching is good enough to win with that kind of run support. They have scored 700 runs this year, which is 2nd in the NL (behind the Rockies), and 6th in all of baseball (behind the Rockies, Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, and Rays). But their pitching is why I don’t like them in the playoffs. They are 6th in the NL in runs allowed, which is sufficient to win you games in the regular season, but in the playoffs, they won’t be able to get that much run support, since they will only be facing the best pitchers. Also, Brad Lidge has blown 10 saves this season, and saved only 28, which means he blows the save 26.3% of the time that he gets the opportunity. That is just not a good playoff team, in my opinion.
2. Florida (75-66, -6 of div., -6.5 of WC)
3. Atlanta (73-68, -8 of div., -8.5 of WC)
4. New York (62-79, -19 of div., -19.5 of WC)
5. Washington (49-92, -32 of div., -32.5 of WC)
1. St. Louis (84-58, +10.5): St. Louis is like the exact opposite of Philadelphia (which is why I like them to do well in the playoffs). The Cardinals are 6th in the AL in runs scored, although it’s been much better than that since they traded for Matt Holliday. But then there is the fact that they’ve allowed the 3rd least amount of runs in the NL, behind only the Giants and the Dodgers (I don’t know how the Dodgers haven’t allowed more runs than that). And that will only get better in the playoffs with a 3-man rotation, when they throw out MLB ERA Leader Chris Carpenter, MLB Wins Leader (and also 4th in MLB ERA) Adam Wainwright, and 14-10, 3.21 ERA Joel Pineiro. That is going to be incredibly hard to beat. The three pitchers have a combined record of 48-20. That’s got to be the best playoff rotation in baseball. Another position where they are opposite from Philly is their closer. Ryan Franklin has converted 37 of 40 save opportunities, much unlike Brad Lidge of the Phillies. And if you need big hits in a close game (like a home run, maybe), they have Albert Pujols (47 HR’s), Matt Holliday (23 HR’s), Mark DeRosa (21 HR’s), Ryan Ludwick (20 HR’s), and Colby Rasmus (14 HR’s in only 406 AB’s). That’s a pretty good team.
2. Chicago (72-67, -10.5 of div., -8.5 of WC)
3. Houston (69-72, -14.5 of div., -12.5 of WC)
4. Milwaukee (67-73, -16 of div., -14 of WC)
5. Cincinnati (63-78, -20.5 of div., -18.5 of WC)
6. Pittsburgh (54-85, -28.5 of div., -26.5 of WC)
1. Los Angeles (84-58, +2): Even though the Dodgers have allowed the 2nd least amount of runs in the NL, I’m going to say the same thing that I did at the beginning of the season. They don’t have enough pitching. Chad Billingsley is wearing down. He has seen his ERA go up in each of his last four starts. Randy Wolf has his first ERA under 4.20 since 2002, so you can’t count on him to keep it up. Hiroki Kuroda has an ERA of 4.00, and is just coming off a concussion from a line drive going off his head, so you don’t know how he’s going to recover. And, finally, Clayton Kershaw is 22 years old and in his 2nd major league season, so you don’t know how he’ll handle the playoff pressure. That’s their playoff rotation. There’s a question mark for all of them. That’s not a good rotation, in my opinion. I don’t care what the stats say, I just don’t see any way they can go deep in the playoffs with that rotation, no matter what the offense does (which probably won’t be much).
2. Colorado (82-60, -2 of div., +5.5 of WC): Colorado has been amazing since Clint Hurdle left and Jim Tracy took over as manager. They were so far out of it. Their season was pretty much over in mid-May. Then Tracy took over, and now they are five and a half games up on the Giants for the Wild Card, and have gotten all the way back to only two games back of the Dodgers in the division. That is incredible. They have scored the most runs in the National League, and are the hottest team in all of baseball. If they can keep their hot streak up (like they did in 2007), they have a chance to go all the way.
3. San Francisco (76-65, -7.5 of div., -5.5 of WC)
4. San Diego (63-79, -21 of div., -19 of WC)
5. Arizona (62-80, -22 of div., -20 of WC)
Come back next week for an AL Playoff Race Special.