The breaking out of the brooms was the story that dominated MLB this week as the 2012 MLB season passes the 60% threshold.
There was no bigger favorite in MLB to win their division in 2012 than the Detroit Tigers. Playing in a division regarded as weak, the Tigers added Prince Fielder to the roster in the offseason and looked as sure as death and taxes to win the AL Central.
The Tigers had been sluggish all year, but it never felt anything but inevitable to me that eventually they’d pass the Indians and White Sox. The Tigers sweep of the White Sox finally puts them where virtually every writer and fan thought they’d be when the season began. Miguel Cabrera hit his 300th career home run to lead the way on Sunday.
Though the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central is only 1 1/2 games, the bottom line is that the Tigers are much more likely to pass the Yankees and Rangers for the first or second playoff seed than they are to lose the Central and that’s where their focus is.
Despite losing star first baseman Joey Votto, the Reds swept their division rival to maintain a slim lead on the Pirates while all but ending the Brewers playoff hopes.
No matter which team you are a fan of, its pretty hard not to like the story of the 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates. It was exactly 20 years ago that the Pirates last made the playoffs. After concluding their sweep of the Marlins, the Pirates now have the third best record in the National League with only 68 games left to play. A.J. Burnett ran his record to 11-3 with another fantastic start. Burnett looms as a legitimate Cy Young contender, his 2012 performance mocking those foolish enough to have called his trade by the Yankees for two inconsequential minor league prospects a good one. Andrew McCutcheon is on fire, now leading MLB with a .372 batting average along with 22 home runs and a 1.070 OPS. The Pirates are a legitimate team and the time to stop doubting them has arrived. Sometimes something is as good as it seems, regardless of how unlikely that something is.
As far as the Marlins go, it is very hard to believe that they are now 44-51 when you look at who is on their roster. Their offseason additions looked to have made them a serious contender, but Marlins fans must feel like a guy at a train station whose looking down the tracks for a train that never left its station. If it wasn’t already assumed that the Marlins won’t make the playoffs, it is now.
The Mets were a feel good surprise for most of this season, outperforming their odds and the talent on their roster. The Mets are now below .500 and while their playoff chances look very remote, they have nothing to be ashamed of while still leading the much higher payroll division rivals Marlins and Phillies.
Blue Jays-Red Sox
Just when everyone had buried the Blue Jays’ 2012 season, they sweep the Red Sox to remain in wild card contention in the AL. Crushed in 2012 by injury after injury, the Blue Jays sweep put them back over .500 and only 3 games behind the last wildcard spot in the AL.
The Red Sox season of mediocrity and inconsistency continues, with Jon Lester getting hammered on Sunday representing the low point of their season. Adrian Gonzalez has heated up, but injured David Ortiz has been the only reliable player on the roster in 2012. The Red Sox are now at 48-48 and are last in the AL East.
The good news for the Cardinals is that they swept their weekend series. The bad news for the Cardinals is that the two teams that they are chasing in the NL Central did also. The Cardinals remain 5 and 4 1/2 games behind the Reds and Pirates respectively in their division. For the Cubs, it’s another hapless season devoid of any hope.
The Diamondbacks were a very popular pick to repeat in the NL West in 2012. Unable to get into high gear and rip off a big winning streak, the Diamondbacks are still clinging to life in the NL playoff race after a sweep of the Astros. The Diamondbacks now trail the division leading Giants by 6 games and the last wildcard slot by 5 games. The Astros now have the worst record in MLB at 34-62.
For quite a while now the Orioles have been hanging around or in second place in the AL East. While pundit after pundit declares the Rays or Red Sox ready to make a run, the Orioles just keep on winning and clinging to the lead in the race for the last wild card slot in the AL.
Despite their rivals outscoring them by 44 runs so far in the 2012 season, the Orioles are 51-44 on the strength of their amazing record in one-run games and extra inning games. To those of us who consider a team’s record in those “coin flip” games to be a product of a good manager much more so than luck, there is no question who the manager of the year in the AL has been in 2012. Orioles skipper Buck Showalter is now 19-6 in games decided by one run this year and 10-2 in extra inning games. Showalter is making all the right moves.
The Indians have been in contention since the 2012 season started but are fading fast, now one game below .500 after going 3-7 in their last ten games.
The A’s have made a huge run into playoff contention and this weekend’s four-game sweep of the Yankees cemented that.
A sluggish Yankee offense was on the losing end of four straight one run losses. Manager Joe Girardi continues to feed his critics plenty of ammunition while frustrating his supporters.
While the Yankees continue to lead the AL East, that lead is now down to six games. The Yankees have the best record in the AL, but are only 13-13 in games decided by one run, which is only tied for 9th best(with the Twins)in the AL. Managers don’t decide every game, but earn their stripes in the close ones. Girardi isn’t earning his stripes in close games and that is a serious issue for the Yankees.
If The Playoffs Started Today….
In the AL:
The Orioles and A’s would have a one game playoff to determine who faced the Angels in Anaheim in another one game playoff to determine who faced the Yankees. Got that?
The Rangers would have home field advantage over the Tigers in the other series.
In the NL:
The Pirates would host the Braves in a one game playoff to determine who played the Nationals.
The Reds would have home field advantage over the Giants in the other series.
Tweet Of The Week
“No, I love home runs :) I just find that when we play some close games, Girardi gets out managed & we fail to score when needed.”@melonsports after Girardi’s Yankees blew their 4th consecutive one run game with some help from Girardi’s bizarre decision-making.