Sunday, September 19, 2010

Handicapping the NL West and Wild Card

In the AL, we know our four playoff teams. In the NL, the Reds and Phillies are locks. However, that leaves two playoff spots and four teams: the Braves, the Giants, the Padres, and the Rockies. The three NL West teams will all attempt to take the only division in baseball that isn’t locked down, with the two teams that lose out attempting to overtake Atlanta for the Wild Card. 

Atlanta’s currently got a 2.5 game lead on the Padres and Giants, while the Rockies sit a half-game back in the West and 3 back in the Wild Card. PECOTA currently gives the Braves a 75% chance of October baseball, with the Giants, Padres, and Rockies at 46%, 39%, and 39% respectively. 

The Braves will end the season with four series against NL East opponents. Their upcoming series against division leaders Philadelphia will provide a tough test, as will Philly’s visit to Atlanta to end the season. However, these series bracket a series in Washington and one in which the Marlins will visit Turner Field. 

The Giants will head out for a six-game road trip against the Cubs and Rockies. They will then finish their season with six games at home against the Diamondbacks and Padres. To an extent, they control their own destiny, as the results of their series in Colorado and against San Diego will likely decide this race. A series win at home against the Padres to close out the season could be what it takes to book the Giants’ tickets to October baseball. 

The Pads will play a three-game series in Los Angeles against the Dodgers this week before starting a seven-game homestand against the NL Central. The division-leading Reds will come to Chavez Ravine for three games, and then they’ll play four against the Cubs. Finally, they’ll end the series with the aforementioned set in San Francisco.

The Rockies will take on the DBacks in Arizona. They’ll then play six games at home, with San Francisco and Los Angeles coming to town. Finally, they’ll go to St. Louis to close the season out with four games against a very strong Cardinals’ squad.

I’m going to take the Giants to win the West (predictable, eh?). Despite their early-season struggles against the NL West, they’re still at the top of the division, and have been much better against their division rivals of late. Tim Lincecum is back to form and Matt Cain has been as good as any pitcher in the big leagues since the all-star break. The pitching will carry them into the postseason.

I think the Rockies overtake the Padres and Braves to win the Wild Card and take the second remaining playoff spot. Colorado has gone 13-5 in September, including a 10-game win streak in which they swept the Padres, Reds, and DBacks. Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki have been the hottest baseball players on earth this month, and I think they’ll stay strong and carry the Rox to a Wild Card berth.

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