[MLB] Playoff Race: Ranking the NL
The regular season is coming closer and closer to an end. Unlike the American League, the National League has somewhat solidified its post season contenders. The NL features some of the strongest, and some of the weakest, teams in all of baseball. Although there is still a few weeks left in the season, I don't predict the NL changing very much. Keep in mind, at this point in the year, predictions are all we have. So let's jump right into these rankings!
Dead In The Water: Teams most likely to not make the playoffs.
Colorado/Philly/Miami (15/14/13, 22.5 GB): These teams have the three worst records in all of baseball. They are also double the amount of games back from the playoffs, compared to the last place AL team. To keep it short and sweet, these teams have absolutely no shot at making the post season, and thus, we won't get into much detail here.
Cincinnati/Milwaukee/Atlanta (12/11/10, 20.5 GB): These three teams have the second worst record in all of baseball. That's right, between this group, and the one before, all the records are still worse than the last place AL team. This entire group is on a losing streak from two to nine games, and only prove to be going even more downhill than they already are. While they too have no shot at the playoffs, their odds are slightly better than our first group. As we've all seen, baseball can be crazy. And sometimes, the teams you forgot about sneak right past you into the playoffs.
Movers, Shakers, and Producers: Teams with a chance to extend baseball season.
San Diego (9th, 11.5 GB): So here's where the NL starts to get interesting. At only 11.5 games out of a playoff shot, the Padres are the first team up with a legitimate possibility to make a run to post season play. They're in the middle of the pack of runs and hits. They don't excel in the batter's box, hitting below the average, at .244. They're also not doing too exceptional from the hill. With a combined ERA of slightly under 4.0, the Padres are giving up almost the most homers in the NL. That being said, their 40-man pitching staff is stocked with some younger arms that may prove to be useful in the future. As for now, don't expect to see San Diego do too much.
Washington (8th, 10.0 GB): It truly is a shame that Washington hasn't been able to succeed this year. Their pitching staff has one of my personal favorite pitchers of all time, Max Scherzer. With an ERA of 2.79, Scherzer has been doing well this year. But at 30 years old, his best years are behind him. The Nationals also have one of my favorite closers this year, Drew Storen. Storen has 29 saves this year, and a WHIP over 1.000. He's truly an asset to the team, provided the batters can provide run support early in the game. Only 10 games back means the Nationals do have a chance to make a wild card run. All the cards would have to fall their way, but still possible.
Arizona (7th, 10.0 GB): Also sitting 10.0 games out of a playoff chance, AZ could potentially make a run at the post season. On a current four game win streak, they're giving it their all. Of any of the "middle of the pack" teams that could turn this year around, it's Arizona. First in runs, hits, triples, and second in stolen bases, the D-Back offense can put up the numbers to excel. On the hill, AZ struggles. With no starting pitcher having an ERA under 3.0, the D-Backs are just giving up too many runs. If they can lock down the pitching staff, they could really open up late n the season.
San Francisco (6th, 6.5 GB): Struggling to win multiple series early on has prevented the Giants from being closer to the Wild Card spot. They're currently in a series against the Pirates, and they're not going to come out on top. Facing one of the tougher NL teams has shown us that the Giants just can't get it done. Third most runs, second most hits, and the highest average in the NL hasn't gotten San Francisco very far this year. They are the poster team for why success early on is just as important as success after the All-Star break. One of the best pitchers to pitch in our time, Madison Bumgarner, leads the team in ERA. And he has many, many more years left to pitch. Although the pitching stat line isn't great as far as the whole team is concerned, it isn't the worst in the league. The Giants have pitched the most complete games in the NL, really conserving the arms of their bullpen. The team just carries too much baggage. Lincecum, Peavy, and Vogelsong are all on the downward trend.
Sitting Sweet: Teams that are currently getting Wild Card tickets.
Chicago Cubs (5th, +/- 0 GB): The Cubs are out for blood this year. In some miraculous feat, they've managed to field an extremely young squad, and find success with them. I'm truly impressed with the Cubs this season. We're going to set stats aside on this team. Watching them play is beautiful. They're young, full of energy, and coming into their own. They play with the same passion that a lot of players have early on. It's almost as if they're still motivated by the love of the game, and not by the big payouts. It's almost poetic. The truest baseball fans can understand this. There's just something about baseball, in its truest form, that makes you feel the most intense passion one could ever feel. These boys have it. And they're going to ride that feeling as far as they can.
Pittsburgh (4th, +2.5 GB): Pittsburgh has put together a solid squad this season. They sit in the upper-tier in runs, hits, average, and on base percentage. They make contact, push their runners home, and don't leave many men on base. The Pirates are finding success on the hill as well. They have the upper-tier stats in ERA, homers allowed, runs, and successful saves. All of these points have connected, pushing them well into the Wild Card race. I don't foresee the Pirates falling out of the post season.
Cloud Niners: Teams that are currently going to the playoffs.
LA Dodgers (3rd): The dodgers are currently going to make the playoffs. However, they are on a five game losing streak. Should this continue, they'll find themselves in the same spot as the Yankees, fighting and struggling to get back in. They have pulled off some amazing wins this year, but are starting to lose their magic. They are currently facing the Houston Astros, one of the best teams the AL has to offer. After proving they can't handle this inter-league matchup, they may fall down the ladder. The Dodgers are slamming the most homers in the NL this season. And who could talk Dodgers baseball and not bring up Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke? Two wonderful pitchers, both with impressive ERAs, at 2.29 and 1.67 respectively. The league is starting to discount Greinke, as he nears the end of a wondrous career. Kershaw has a few more good years left, and the Dodgers will depend on him to keep up their success.
New York Mets (2nd): The Mets are on a mini win streak, further solidifying their top spot. With one of the best records in all of baseball. Let's cut right to the elephant in the room. How in the heck does Bartolo Colon still play professional baseball? He's 42 years old. 42! And, as expected from someone his age, he isn't producing. He has a losing record, a 4.90 ERA, given up the most runs out of all SPs, and the most home runs. How does a team still put him on the field with that stat line, and at that age?! Colon is, luckily, offset by a young and upcoming star for the Mets. Noah Syndergaard, at 22 years old, has been quite an impressive player to watch. He's throwing about average for ERA and hits, and has allowed the second fewest runs. This is a man we'll be talking about a lot in the near future.
Número Uno: My pick to represent the NL in the World Series.
St. Louis (1st): If you are looking for an amazing team to watch play ball, you've found them. With the best record in ALL of baseball, the Cards are clicking this season. A future series against the Pirates could make or break the Pittsburgh playoff season, and let all of the baseball world see if St Louis is the real deal. What are the St. Louis highlights? Pitching. Five starting pitchers, and five ERAs below 3.00. It's a good year for a pitcher to stay below 3.00. It's a fantastic year when ALL five starters are under 3.00. Looking at the team pitching stat line is like reading something out of the matrix; there are ones everywhere! Number one in ERA, wins, saves, runs, homers allowed, and all while sporting a 1.210 WHIP. Lackey has had a stellar year, but like others we've discussed, his time is coming to a close. But have no fear Cards fans, your other four SPs are all under 30, and two of those are under 25! This is pitching domination for years to come. The only concern I have for the Cards is the position players. Holliday is back on the DL, Peralta and Carpenter aren't hitting where they should be, and the team as a whole isn't getting many home runs. While their offense may not be the most exciting, I'm a bigger fan of the battle that comes from the hill. And I believe that the Cards owns that battle. Look for them to do great things in the playoffs, and represent the NL in the World Series.
It's no secret that the AL is tough. But these top NL teams can hold their own. While I don't see the bottom ranks shifting up too far, the upper battle for a Wild Card spot could prove to be interesting. I look forward to seeing if the Mets decline or rise above the rest. I hope to see a fantastic battle from the Cards wonderful pitching staff. And I most definitely look forward to seeing an incredible matchup in the the World Series, featuring two of the best teams in all of baseball.
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