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AL Wild Card - who do you like?

We're into the second half of the Major League Baseball season now, the trading deadline's approaching, and it's pennant race time. My favorite ballclub, the Seattle Mariners, is in contention for the the AL West title, but they're also in contention for the AL Wildcard. As of right now (7/20) the Wildcard standings are:

Cleveland   56-39 (.589)   -
Seattle     53-39 (.579)   1.5
New York    48-45 (.516)   7
Minnesota   49-46 (.516)   7

At the moment it looks like a two team race between the Mariners and Indians, but a late-season surge by either the Yankees or the Twins could make things interesting.

Cleveland has a nice offense, a good bullpen, and a killer #1 starter in C.C. Sabathia, though the 4 pitchers behind him are less than fantastic. Neither Travis Hafner or Josh Barfield have performed up to expectations, and good second halves on their parts would help their club a lot. Hafner in particular, a lefty slugger typically good for a 1.000 OPS, is key for his club.

With the Mariners, everyone talks about the lackluster rotation, but a balanced offense led by Ichiro, along with a lights out bullpen has picked up the slack. J.J. Putz has been especially productive, going 28-for-28 in save opportunities (making 30 in a row, if you go back to last year). Felix Hernandez missed time in the first half with an elbow strain, and had a string of lackluster starts upon returning. His health in the second half will be key.

Both the Yankees and Twins will have a lot of ground to make up. The Yankees may be able to accomplish it if key veterans like Abreu, Damon, and Mussina pick it up, but the Twins may not have the talent on their roster to make that kind of jump.

Who do you like?
The Mariners need more starting pitching but I have to say they will push forward and get it done with their minor leaguers because I feel they have the best pieces in the minors that fit their needs.

Cleveland does have a very good line-up from 1 to 9, but I still have questions about their pitching. Outside Sabathia and Carmona, they still need to solve their rest of the rotation 3-5. Sabathia had injured plagued seasons the last couple of seasons, so there is an issue whether he can really handle the greater number of innings. And as for their bullpen, it has been atrocious recently with Fernandon Cabrera and their close who has a 5.28 ERA Wink.

The Yankees have an atrocious bullpen and pitching staff with a bunch of overworked middle relievers. And the trade rumors are they want to trade one of them for a position player. Farnsworth for Wigginton, WTF?

The Twins I think have the least holes in their total team but when even one point of their game performs bad, everything seems to go bad.
I wouldn't mind seeing the Mariners pull this one out, since I don't think they can beat the Angels to take the AL West. I grew up watching them, and it was heartbreaking, not for me but my dad, to see them choke when they won 116 games Laughing . I never count out the Yankees though. They always seem to find a way to make it into the playoffs and into the ALCS. Cleveland has been a good team all year, but I'm a White Sox fan so I'm hoping they don't make it Wink
The Indians will take this one. They have smart solid team
The race is getting tighter:


TEAM           W      L      PCT%    GB
Seattle        60     48     .556    -
Detroit        61     49     .555    -
NY Yankees     61     50     .550    0.5
Minnesota      56     53     .514    4.5
Toronto        56     54     .509    5.0

Cleveland's taken the lead in the Central, and the Yankees are making a serious charge. Meanwhile, Minnesota and Toronto are creeping into the race.

I still love my Mariners' chances, especially with the promotion of Adam Jones. The Tigers are no slouches, though, and the Yankees are making up more ground than I expected they would. Is this one going down to the wire or is someone going to run away with it?
The Yankees are starting to pound people. If there pitching start to help a little they will take it

Team    W    L    PCT    GB
NY Yankees  77    62    .554    -
Seattle    74    63    .540    2.0
Detroit    73    65    .529    3.5
Toronto    70    68    .507    6.5
Minnesota 69    70    .496    8.0
Oakland    68    72    .486    9.5

Ugh. I hate seeing the Yankees up there. I really hope their pitching implodes soon. They just have so much young talent. A year ago everyone was saying that their minor league system was completely gutted of talent. Well since then, we've seen both Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlin come up and do well (so far). Then there is also Robinson Cano who is having a fantastic year. Great for them personally, but I want this to be the year where the Yankees finally don't make the playoffs.
The Yankees will get in
Yankees, rolling in. Now if they could just get Mussina to pitch like he normally does that would be key
Well, that didn't work out so good.

The Mariners' nosedive was the worst of any M's team that had been 20 games over .500 at some point in the season. Personally, I blame McLaren for letting Putz rot on the bench during the losing streak. No, there weren't save situations to put him in, but our bullpen was the strength of our pitching staff, and by sitting Putz you hamstring yourself. Bah!

Every team in the AL playoffs is a team I truly loathe. Yankees and the Red Sox with their gigantic payrolls and media love affairs, the Angels for winning our division (again), and Cleveland, the team that eliminated us in 1995. Double bah!

Go Philadelphia!
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