2007 Playoffs: Not So Fast
Although every team has now played 162 games, the regular season is not quite over. That's right, after six months and 2430 games, we need one more contest to determine the final spot in the 2007 postseason.
The San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies both have a shot at joining the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago Cubs, and Philadelphia Phillies as the playoff participants in the National League. In the meantime, the Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels, and New York Yankees are getting ready for the American League Division Series.
Today's play-in game between the Padres and Rockies will be the first one-game playoff since 1999 when the New York Mets beat Cincinnati 5-0 for the NL wild card.
OK, here is what we know as of Monday morning:
The Rockies, who have won a franchise-best 89 games, have the momentum, winning 13 of their final 14 games. But the Padres have a huge pitching advantage with Jake Peavy taking the mound vs. Josh Fogg. In a sort of David vs. Goliath matchup, Colorado fans should be comforted by the fact that Fogg has beaten several aces this year (including Brandon Webb in early September and Curt Schilling). Padres fans are heartened by the fact that Peavy, who has a chance to join Boston's Josh Beckett as the only 20-game winners in the majors this year, leads the NL in wins (19), ERA (2.36) and strikeouts (234).
Like Peavy, Matt Holliday is also playing for more than just a chance to extend his season. Holliday, who is leading the league with a .340 batting average (three points higher than Chipper Jones), will need to keep from going 0-for-5 tonight in order to win the batting crown. The Colorado outfielder also tops the NL in hits, doubles, total bases and has a chance to overtake Ryan Howard for the RBI title as well. Moreover, a big game tonight could make him the favorite – if he's not already – to capture the MVP award, too. Hey, voters like a good story so if Holliday does something heroic tonight, he would leap to the forefront of the MVP race, much to the angst of Jones, Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Prince Fielder, David Wright, and Hanley Ramirez.
Neither SD nor COL have ever won a World Series. The other seven have all won a world championship although nobody reading this piece has ever witnessed the Cubs doing so. Hey, everybody is allowed a bad century now and then.
Remarkably, four of the playoff participants have won a World Series this decade, yet the Yankees are the only team back from last season's postseason. With a victory tonight, San Diego can make it two returnees. Either way, MLB will have the fewest returning playoff participants since 1995 when the postseason format was increased from four to eight clubs.
In my estimation, the four best teams in the playoffs may all come from the American League. First of all, the Red Sox, Indians, Angels, and Yankees are the only clubs that won more than 90 games. Secondly, the AL dominated the NL once again, going 137-115 (.544) in inter-league play. Thirdly, did I mention that Arizona's 90 wins are the fewest by a league leader in a full season since 162-game schedules went into effect in 1961?
But the Cardinals proved just last year that none of this stuff matters all that much once October rolls around. Let the crapshoot begin.
Note: Starting tomorrow and continuing through Thursday, Baseball Analysts will have in-depth previews for each of the four division series.