If the season were to end today…

With only 150 games left in the season, I thought I’d share the playoff picture as it stands today. In the NL we have the East leader Marlins taking on the wild card Padres, and the West leader Dodgers taking on the Cubs. In the AL, the East leading Blue Jays taking on the wildcard white sox, and the central leading Royals taking on the west leading Mariners. Aah, if only baseball were 12 games long for some of these franchises.

Could you just picture the playoffs without the Red Sox and Yankees, or for that matter, even the Rays? Could you see the defending champions sitting at home with the amazin’s as the Fish took the field? Could you see the Angels finally giving up their strangle hold on the division to the team that lost 101 games, the most in the AL last year? And these teams are all replaced by the Royals, Marlins, Blue Jays, Mariners and Padres?! It’s moments like these when we take a quick breath and reality sets in, it’s only been two weeks in a long grueling season. But which of these teams really has the best chance to make the playoffs? Let’s take a look…

The Florida Marlins are here to stay. Emilio Bonifacio came a bit to earth this week after his ridiculous start, Inside the park homerbut he is still the epitome of a leadoff hitter. Have you seen the guy run? If you haven’t, you need to see him leg out that inside the park homer. He has blazing speed, I’d say one of the fastest players in the game. He’s hitting for average, he’s scored 13 runs in 12 games and he’s allowed Hanley Ramirez to take the three spot. Speaking of Ramirez, he hasn’t been off to the best start, only batting .245, but just think of what this team will be once he starts going off. He has all the tools necessary to become a top 10 player in the game, and it’s only a matter of time until he steps his game up this season. One last reason to watch out for the Marlins, the pitching staff. This may be the best young staff in the league, and they’re only going to get better as they gain experience. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and company pose major threats to everyone in the NL East. Nolasco of course, with his abundance of pitches and different looks that completely fool a hitter and Johnson with his length.

The Blue Jays have maybe the best pitcher in the entire league in Roy Halladay, but can they handle the loss of A.J. Burnett to another division rival? I’d have to say no. Sooner or later their inexperienced 2-5 pitchers will get to them. They’re missing 3/5 of their starting rotation (2 on the DL) from a year ago, a task that may be too difficult to overcome. They will still be an above average team as they’ve been the past few years now, but they just can’t get over the hump. If the likes of Vernon Wells and Scott Rolen somehow stay healthy, I’d feel a bit more at ease, but that’s a bit IF. The play of the middle infielders, Scutaro and Hill has been amazing so far. Will they be able to keep it up? Well, history and the law of averages is not on their side, Hill is batting 80 points higher than his career average, while Scutaro (who still makes me smile after hitting that walk-off homer against Mariano Rivera two years ago) is batting 21 points higher.

The Royals are interesting. They’re an upcoming team without a doubt. The young talent on the team compares to that of the Marlins, but they do have one thing going for them the Marlins don’t – they play in a very weak division. All the so-called experts were picking anyone from the Twins, to the White Sox, to the hip Indians pick, to the very disappointing shefless Tigers to make a comeback, and well, even some had the Royals! With all things considered, it starts with an ace, do the Royals have one? Well, yes, Zach Greinke is establishing himself as an earlier leader to win the Cy Young. He’s off to a 3-0 start with a 0.00 ERA, and 26 strikeouts. Even the best players in the league can’t hit that 70 mph curveball. And the 55-million-dollar man still lurks as a very solid starter too. The one thing that scares me though is Sidney Ponson ‘solidifying’ the backend of the rotation. I know he did well in world baseball exhibition baseball and all, but seriously?
Ponson uh-ohSIDNEY PONSON? Let’s not even take into account that 260 pound frame… or that career 4.94 ERA… or the fact that former Royal Brett Bumko has a lower career ERA… SIDNEY PONSON = many, many runs for the opposing team.

Finally, to the San Diego “Super” Padres. The signing of David Eckstein is just a microcosm of what this team has now turned into – a scrappy, blue-collar team that plays hard until the bitter end. Scattered with all the blue-collar players are Adrian Gonzalez and Jake Peavy, two of the best in the game. They need a great and healthy year from Chris Young if they have any chance whatsoever, and Heath Bell has stepped in admirably at the closer role saving 7 games in 7 attempts. Unfortunately for him and the Padres, the one game he rested, the Padres blew a save, so he might need to turn into an iron man. When it comes down to it, they just don’t have the firepower to match the Dodgers, or any pitching after Peavy and Young. With that said, I think they can stay competitive, something no one thought they could do.

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