Monday, January 23, 2012

AL Playoff Picture by cebola

The AL North has been the scene of one of the more dramatic turn-a rounds in A.Rod in several seasons. If Cincinnati maintains its current pace, they'll finish 20-something games better than they did last season. They currently hold a two game lead on Augusta, who has had the division lead for most of the season to date. The Sextons are 3rd in runs scored, which makes sense playing in their bandbox of a park. But they are 4th in runs against as well, while making the 2nd fewest errors in the league. Their staff is led by Richard Lennon (11-6) and Craig Jones (12-6). The primary components of their closer-by-committee are 21 for 25 in save opportunities. They also added vet Stu Magee for the stretch run. For the offense, newcomer Burt McCartin has been a huge difference maker with his speed/power/defense combination. Cutter Darr is doing his usual thing, hitting 20 HR, knocking in 71 and swiping 12, all while manning the SS position. Emmanuel Estrada has pitched in as well, with 16 HR and 62 RBI.

In the East, Jacksonville has nursed their early season 12 game winning streak to maintain a 4 game lead over Trenton. Syracuse is still in the mix at 6 back. Jacksonville has a solid front three in their rotation, with Kip Lincoln starting to show the promise that has been expected of him. He's 7-4 with a 3.01 era. He's backed by Ronald "Third Degree" Byrne (9-5, 4.15) and Dario Caldwell (10-6, 3.87). Solid closer Ronnie Roberts is 18/21 in save opportunities. There's plenty of balance in the line-up, as 6 guys have at least 10 HR, and 4 have at least 55 RBI, led by Ariel Rosa with 16 and 62. There's plenty of speed to go around, with Rosa's 21/22 in stolen base attempts, and Mark Kojima stealing 39 and scoring 58 from the lead-off spot.

In the South, it's clear that Charlotte intends to bash their way to the title. They currentlly hold a 6 game lead over defending champ Jackson. The Minute Men are on pace to smash over 300 long balls for the season! They lead the AL in runs scored, led by Carlos Valdes, having an MVP type season with a line of .318/40/103. Santos Torres is .300/26/75 and Dennis Lawson has a season's worth of runs scored after 106 games (he has 95), while going 40/41 in SB attempts. They acquired Phillip Bryant and Pat Combs to bolster their rotation for the stretch run. Combs has been impressive winning his first 3 starts with his new club.

If the South intends to be won with offense, how the West was Won was with pitching and defense. And I say "was" only because the Dodgers hold a 24 game division lead. LA has the best team era and fewest runs allowed in the league. They also boast the best fielding % and best ratio of + to - plays. Their staff's ace is Cy Young candidate Morris James, who's 13-3 with a 2.03 era. Rick Poppel backs him up at 12-5/3.89, and closer Travis Jones is a perfect 35 for 35 in saves. All 5 SP's have a WHIP of 1.22 or lower. Their slightly above average offense is led by Pedro "Hack" Bonilla, who doesn't seem to care in what park (or on what planet) he hits. The perrenial MVP candidate has 31 HR, 82 RBI and an obscene 1.008 OPS. Andrew Gipson has 38 HR and 84 RBI, and the versitile Tony Bennett (who boasts the best MTV Unplugged CD ever, in my opinion) gives steady production with 68 runs scored with 23 HR and 68 knocked in.

In the Wild Card race, Augusta would hold the top spot. They're steady, unrelenting attack has been led by Javy Alvarez hitting .277 with 30 HR 86 RBI. Peter "Crazy Ole Building & Loan" Bailey has been ringing bells and giving out wings with his line of .292/24/69, and Marvin Crabtree is hitting .347 with 13 HR, 56 RBI and 64 runs scored.

Jackson would be the 2nd wild card entry as their solid line-up and deep pitching staff has kept them in the hunt. They're 4th in runs scored, and 2nd in both era and runs against. The big difference from their dynamo performance from last season seems to be their dip into the middle of the pack defensively, and perhaps the regression of last season's rookie-of-the-year, Grant Mercedes, who currently resides in Triple-A. All 5 SP's have at least 9 wins, with Reese "Smokin'" Hemphill leading the way at 10-5/3.40 and Roy "Purple" Hayes at 12-4/2.96 6 players in the line-up have at least 62 RBI, led by Dan Blair's 78. Ralph Kydd has scored 85 runs while hitting .330 with a .904 OPS.

Sante Fe has gone on a hot streak to get into striking distance. They get on base at the highest rate in the league, and steal a bunch of bases (tops in the league). That strategy has made them second in the league in runs scored. Vet RJ Ordonez is having a tremendous season, hitting .329 with 30 HR and 85 RBI, and fellow slugger Marc Clark is hitting .316/27/81. Sante Fe has given up the 3rd most runs in the league, however. They do have a solid closer in Sammy Guevara, who is 21/23 in save opportunities.

Trenton is still in the hunt in both the division and WC races. Nick Jacquez leads a deep line-up with a .337 average with 16 HR and 83 RBI. 5 other players have at least 10 HR. Former CY Young winner Karl Hurst is having a hard-luck season, as he's only 5-8, but has been his usual outstanding self, boasting a 1.09 WHIP and 3.65 era. Trenton's staff has given up the most HR in the league, which is an alarming stat for playing in a neutral park.

Good luck to all contenders as we head down the stretch!

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