Wednesday, January 18, 2012

NL Playoff Picture by cebola

At the break, here's how things are shaping up...

The NL North features the best four-team division in the league. The River Rats, with a 3 game lead, are liking their new digs in New Britain, as their park change coincides nicely with the fruits of their rebuild. Lew Evans doesn't seemed fazed by the more spacious grounds, as he's bidding for back-back MVP awards with 30 HR and 70 RBI. International fire-balling phenom Clarence "Nat-King" Coleman is 7-1 with a 2.19 era and 1.10 WHIP in his first half of United States ball. SP Luther Baker is having a strong sophomore season as a follow up to his 12-6 rookie campaign.

Chicago and Milwaukee are banging on the door at 3 games back, and Tacoma is laying in wait, 5 games behind.

The East has Burlington in front of Scranton by 6 games. Dante Zoltan seems to be fully recovered from his career threatening injury a couple seasons back, and is making a strong bid for the Cy Young award with a 13-2 record, 2.04 era and 1.05 WHIP. All 5 starting Booya pitchers boast era's of 2.58 or less. Graham Oliver is having his standard spectacular year, and may in fact, top his career high 26 HR, as he has 15 at the break. Spark plug Sandy Fielder combines speed, power and defense to help lead the attack with another great season so far.

In the South, Tampa currently has a 3 game lead over Iowa in what's been a see-saw race all year. Newly acquired 2B Eduardo Melendez is having a nice season, combining speed and power at the top of the order. Vet Jamie "The Fire" Byrne is having a solid season in the middle of the line-up, hitting .309 with 16 HR and 66 RBI. A deep pitching staff, including new acquisition Rob Cormier (9-4), and solid defense is keeping Tampa in games.

In the West, St. Louis is again leading by a healthy 9 game margin over 'Couv. The middle of the line-up features the potent 1-2 punch of former MVP Louie Santiago and Rip Anderson, who's having his best season since his rookie-of-the-year campaign in 17. Stud Alex Torres is looking to add to his healthy collection of hardware with another Cy-worthy campaign, at 9-2, 3.23 era and 1.23 WHIP. SP Ruben Calderon has been a nice signing, as he boasts a solid 8-3 record with a 3.76 era and 1.23 WHIP.

The top Wildcard spot would go to Iowa. Emmanuel Aquino doesn't seem to be slowing down any, and John Ueno is having another solid season. How in the world of A.Rod is Gio Hernandez only 5-9!? He has a 3.08 era and 1.10 WHIP. Vet SP's Sam Wilson and Elrod Coke (2.77 era/1.15 WHIP) are having solid seasons at 9-5 and 6-3 respectively.

The Blagos share a lead for the second Wildcard spot. Sluggers Benito Rijo, Ray Brock and Les Callaway keep cranking out the run production. The starting pitching staff is aging and the window is closing, but they're all solid and all have proven track records. If closer Carlos "Exxon" Valdes (or a knockin' Cesar Julio?) can right the ship and be a stopper, this is a very dangerous team.

Milwaukee is the other team tied for the second spot. This is a team with a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation, and a nicely structured line-up. Miguel Cruz and Geraldo Valdes have done a great job as table setters at the top. Juan Alarcon is having a career year at age 32 with 28 HR and 61 RBI from the clean-up spot. Last season's ROY SP Juan Bennett is a serious contender for the Cy Young, going 10-4 with a 2.73 era and 1.09. Very impressive for pitching in a hitters' park. Another second-year SP, Stu McCurry is 10-5. Another vet having a career year is closer Chief "Hit Me" LeCroy, who is 33/35 in save opps, with a miniscule 0.93 WHIP.

Tacoma and Vancouver are 2 games in back of Chicago/Milwaukee; Scranton 3 GB; Vegas 4 GB, and New Orleans 5 GB.

There's been lots of movement to this point, and there's lots of ball to still be played! Good luck to all!

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