Opinion of Kingman's Performance

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Detailed Look at the Final 14

That’s final 14 games and not teams, though it may seem that there are 14 teams vying for the final wild card position.  The Standings for the final Wild Card spot are as follows:

St. Louis 77 70
Los Angeles 76 71 1.0
Milwaukee 74 72 2.5
Pittsburgh 74 72 2.5
Philadelphia 74 74 3.5

The favorite:

St. Louis
Remaining home games:  Houston (3), Washington (3), Atlanta (3)
Remaining away games: Chicago (3), Houston (3)

Chris Carpenter to return to the Cardinals rotation for the stretch run.

They are a team that is 14 games over .500 at home, second best in the National League.  They face Houston and Chicago nine more times and they are getting Chris Carpenter back.  Had the Cardinals lost Sunday’s game, I’d say they were in trouble, but the red Birds serve in Los Angeles and finished an awful road trip on a positive note.

As far as their remaining opponents, it should be noted that Houston and Chicago are playing good ball.  Houston at a .600 clip and Chicago having won 7 of 10.  It’s the nature of the beast, playing teams like the Astros and Cubs that have nothing to lose during the pennant stretch drive.  The additional games remaining for the Cardinals are against pennant contenders Washington and Atlanta.  By the time they play each, (Sept. 28-30 for Washington and Oct. 1-3 for Atlanta)  it is likely that they’ll have clinched playoff spots, so those contests most likely won’ be hotly contested by those teams that will be giving considerable portions of their lineup some pre-post season matchup rest.

The Runner Ups:
Los Angeles

Remaining away games: Washington (3), Cincinnati (3), San Diego (2)
Remaining home games: Colorado (3), San Francisco (3)

The Dodgers are in trouble.  It starts with pitching.  Clayton Kershaw is out, most likely requiring season ending hip surgery.  Their starting staff lacks an ace and is down to Beckett, Harang, Capuano, and Fife,  none of whom raises eyebrows.  The relief corps has lost Elbert and Jansen (who is scheduled to return, but will certainly need to work himself back into the mix without the advantage of a minor league rehab assignment).

Adrian Gonzalez needs to make an offensive impact for the Dodgers to advance.

Then there is the absent offense.  Matt Kemp isn’t right since crashing into the Colorado wall.  Off speed stuff has him off balance, he’s lunging at stuff out of the zone, popping up pitches he used to hit out, grounding other pitches to third that he was lacing line drives on earlier in the season.  Gonzalez, Ramirez, Victorino and to some extent, Ethier, are not performing up to par.  What many thought would be a feared row of hitters has been unable to score runs at all.  The offense has been dependent on the likes of Luis Cruz, Mark and A.J. Ellis.

As far as the remaining schedule.  Unlike St. Louis, for the Dodgers the games remaining with pennant contenders happen to occur as they attempt to wrap up and clinch post season spots.  Washington and Cincinnati are playing hard in an attempt to clinch, and that’s right now.  San Diego has been playing out of their minds in September.  The one thing the Dodgers have going for them is if they somehow survive this 8 game road trip and return home within a game of St. Louis, they should be in good shape because the final 6 at home most likely will be meaningless contests for their opponents.  I can counter that argument though with the fact that the final three against San Francisco could mean something to the Giants who would have the pleasure of eliminating their arch rivals from play off contention.


Remaining away games: Pittsburgh (3), Washington (3), Cincinnati (3)
Remaining home games: Houston (3), San Diego (3)

Playing .700 ball over their last ten games, the Brewers are still in it and with a good run, may be the sleeper team of those remaining in the race.  Sellers at the trade deadline, the Brew Crew has held their own and picked up four games on the Cardinals in a weeks time.  Continuing at that pace will put them ahead by season’s end.

Corey Hart provides the Brewers some offensive punch.

With offensive thumpers Ryan Braun (40 homers, .387 OBP) Corey Hart (27 homers), Aramis Ramirez (24 homers), they’re always a threat to score a ton of runs, something that they’ll need because beyond Yovani Gallardo (15-8, 3.72 ERA) the starting pitching is highly suspect. Randy Wolf and Zack Greinke are gone and Marcum, Estrada and Fiers don’t really strike fear in opposition.

They have a tough road ahead with the Pirates, Nationals and Reds to play on the road.  All most likely will be games with a lot of meaning as the Nats and Reds try to wrap up their division titles and jockey for home field advantage.  The home games against inferior competition shouldn’t be over looked as both the Astros and Padres are playing good ball now.


Remaining home games: Milwaukee (3), Cincinnati (3), Atlanta (3)
Remaining away games: Houston (3), New York (4)

Going 2-8 over their last ten contests, the Pirates have been in free fall for a while.  Their next three games will tell us a lot.  If the Pirates are able to sweep the Brewers at home, they’ll be right back in this thing as they’ll head to Houston where they can make up some ground on the pack.  By the time the Pirates play playoff teams like the Reds and Braves, those teams will have clinched, so it is crucial that the Bucs rebound and get back in this thing right now.
Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutcheon continues to be a NL MVP candidate.

The heat of the race has been tough on this team, that has very few players with pennant race experience.  Pittsburgh may have learned something this year that will serve valuably for them in years to come.  They have unraveled against the likes of the Cubs, Padres, Brewers and Astros.  Pittsburgh has lost 18 out of 24 games this month.


Remaining away games: New York (2), Miami (3), Washington (3)
Remaining home games: Atlanta (3), Washington (3)

The Phillies, a team that became sellers at the trade deadline and beyond had essentially thrown in the towel this year only to rebound and become the hottest team in the September pennant race run.  With a starting pitching threesome of Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels, this club has the potential to slip past everyone, but they’ll need to continue their hot streak against other playoff teams like the Nationals and Braves.  They also have the most ground to make up.

Still a catalyst, Jimmy Rollins wasn't traded at the deadline and he continues to lead the Phils during this stretch run.

Jimmy Rollins is heating up.  You can’t overlook the studs like Utley and Howard.  Losing Victorino and Pence didn’t help matters, but Carlos Ruiz is having a career year (.331 AVG, .399 OBP, .944 OPS, 14 homers, 60 RBI) and Juan Pierre (.312 AVG, .355 OBP) are contributing.

The Outlook:

This thing is wide open.  If I had to pick a winner, it would be the Cardinals, not because they are in the lead, but because of their home record and the return of Chris Carpenter.  The Dodgers will need to pull off a miracle in the final 14.  It’s possible for them, but not probable.  We haven’t seen the Dodger offense appear with the new additions and now with the loss of Kershaw, and injury to Kemp they are severely handicapped.  I think it’s too little, too late for the Phillies, Brewers and Pirates, but teams have recovered from larger deficits that those three clubs, so I may be wrong.

All of this clamoring for a final wild card spot, just to play in a one game playoff.  It makes the final two weeks extremely exciting.   I have a feeling that when all is said and done, it may be anti-climatic, because after one game with the Braves, it may be all over.  The second wild card winner may be completely spent by the time that they face the well rested Braves on October 5th.  In the end though, this is all we can really ask for, a chance to get it and meaningful games up to the end.

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