Saturday, February 4, 2012

NL Playoff Picture

The NL West has St. Louis in front by a comfortable margin. Their magic number to clinch is 9. They've gotten a typical award-caliber seasons from slugger Louie Santiago and SP Alex "Toquino" Torres. Chuck Merrick has become an unlikely candidate for gold-glove at catcher in the latter stages of his career, as he continues to maintain his prowess at the plate.

In the South, Tampa's hot streak has widened their division lead. Their magic number to clinch is 5. Jamie"The Fire" Byrne has emerged as a serious contender for MVP, and when Harry "Met Sal" Lee recently won his 15th game, he was thrust into the mix for Cy Young. Midseason pick-up SP Cody Sanders has provided a lift with a 5-0 record and 1.88 era since joining the club.

Burlington maintains a healthy lead in the East, as their magic number to clinch is 11. Donte Zoltan is 17-5 with a 2.61 and a 1.08 WHIP to lead a star-studded rotation. Sandy "Center" Fielder's production has dipped slightly this season, but is still the premier all-around CF in the league.

In the North, 2 games separate the top 3 teams, and the last place club, New Britain, is only 6 out. These teams will all play each other for one more series before season's end. so this will be fun to watch! It's probably pointless to list the current standinds, as they'll probably change before this gets published, but steady Milwaukee has the lead over unrelenting Chicago (1 back) and red-hot Tacoma (2 back.) New Britain has played solidly all year, save for a horrible 6-week midseason stretch which saw them lose 7 in a row, followed by losing 19 of 21. At a quick glance, it appears Chicago has the easiest remaining schedule, as there is no opponent over .500 except their division foe-match-ups. Milwaukee adds a series against Tampa, while Tacoma has series against St. Louis and Iowa.
Milwaukee has put themselves in good position by getting Cy Young worthy seasons to-date from both "Don" Juan Bennett (17-6, 2.78/1.04) and "Hit Me" Chief Lecroy (48 saves.) Geraldo Valdes and Miguel Cruz continue to get on base for Edge Edwards and Juan Alarcon.
In Chicago, MVP candidate Raymond "Magic" Brock went down for the season with an injury, but the team has rallied and are still playing great ball. Word on the street has it that Brock may be in a position to return for the first round of the playoffs, should they make it. Benito "Bam Bam" Rijo has been slugging from the SS position, and the resurgence of embattled closer Carlos "Exxon" Valdes (who had converted 16 straight before blowing one yesterday) has kept the Blagos in good position.
Tacoma has a Cy Young contender in vet closer Howard Taylor, who has buckled down 33 of 35 save opportunities. A couple of young sluggers have contributed nicely, including ROY candidate Andy Jacobs (25 HR/19 SB) and 2nd year slugger Art Krauss (36 bombs.)

Like the North Division race, the wild card race is going to be a dogfight. The entire North division is in that mix, but since they're all playing each other, it'll be tough to get two additional North teams into the playoffs. Chicago leads the wild card pack with Tacoma in the second spot. Iowa is 3 games back of Tacoma for that second spot, while Vancouver and New Britain are 4 back. Scranton is still in the mix, 6 behind, but must outperform 4 other teams to make it. If Vancouver can get through a very tough stretch of schedule, where they play Scranton twice, and a series each against St. Louis and Burligton, they'll end the season with series against Vegas and Helena. Iowa has a tough remaining schedule too, with Tacoma, New Britain, Burlington and Tampa still on tap. New Britain must face Iowa in addition to all 3 division opponents. Scranton has the 2 series against Vancouver and a season ending series with Burlington still on their schedule.
It's strange not to see Iowa with Cy Young contender at this point in the season, but if not for a hard-luck 10-12 record, Gio "The Hybrid" Hernandez would be partof the pack. Hank Roberts has been a sparkplug, getting on base at a .354 clip and stealing 39 bases. John Ueno has seen his production slip slightly, but the good news is that his protection in the line-up and superstar in his own right, "Lil E" Emmanuel Aquino is back for the stretch run!
Vancouver has a sparkplug of their own in Alvin "The Run" Logan, who has scored 100 and stolen 60 bases, all due to fact that he gets on base at a .362 clip. He gives Vincente Bennett (20 HR/92 RBI) and Joaquin James (.907 OPS) plenty of chances to drive him in. Danny Tazawa has led the staff with a 12-4 record, and 23 year-old reliever, Ronn Aumont has siezed the closer's job by going 8 for 8.
New Britain has gotten plenty of production from "Skip to my" Lew Evans, Kid Flair and Pablo Marques, who all have at least 30 homers, led by Evans's 42. They have two ROY candidates in SP's Clarence Clemens and Placido Balentien who each have 9 wins. Ken Priest has 35 saves, and Miguel Santana may well win the gold-glove in CF.
Scanton's Pat "The Baker" Dougherty has been insane while posting a 1.049 OPS! He's hitting .333 with 46 HR and 115 RBI. They also have three others with at least 29 HR in Carlos Blanco, RA Tucker and Alfredo Alcantara (.916 OPS.) Super longman Dan Lane is 12-1 with a 2.09 era in relief.

The two teams that would qualify for the first round byes are Tampa and St. Louis. These two teams have another series left with other, which could help determine who gets the time off. Burlington is right behind, just 4 games out of the second seed. Milwuakee is 7 back.

Good luck to the multitude of teams still fighting!

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