Just felt like giving a little bit of a mid-season baseball recap.
The Mets have the best record in the National League and are matched in wins, somewhat amazingly, by the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs have a young team who is playing well in a tough division. It will be interesting to see if they can hold on.
As far as the Mets go, they seem like they're playing just well enough to hold on to their first place lead. They give the other teams hope, and hten go on a run to bring their lead back out to for or 5 games. Currently it's 4 after a win last night that really served to encapsulate their season. They came from behind to take the lead from the Braves, who they can't beat traditionally, and then held on to their one run lead despite having the bases loaded with none out in the top of the 9th.
I think we're forgetting that their outfield has been in disarray all season. Every one of their ourfielders, Beltran, Alou, Green, Chavez, Milledge, and Gomez, has spent time on the DL this season; some far more than others. I think we shouldn't unerestimate the impact that Endy Chavez has on the team and his absence hurts their bench and their defense. Lastings Milledge has been great recently. I think his time on the DL actually helped him in cooling him down a little bit. I hope he can keep it up. Carlos Gomez is a nice player who swings a little too hard. If he can rein that in a little bit, I think the outfield is looking good for the next few years. Imagine Beltran, Milledge, and Gomez in the outfield (3 natural center fielders) with Chavez on the bench (another center fielder).
Also as a tangent, I would really like to see David Wright stay in the the 3 hole and Beltran move to 2 when he comes back, but I know that there is no chance in the world that would happen. Also Castillo, the new 2B is a pretty good 2 hitter, so it's almost a guarantee that D-Dub is moving back down to 5.
I have a feeling that they're really not playing well at all, but the other teams in the National League are not really playing any better. On top of that, the Mets have room to improve whereas the Diamondbacks, Padres, Brewers, and Cubs are playing up the their ability. I still think the Phillies are dangerous, but they strike me as a team built in the same vein as the Mets, but just not as well. I think the Mets will hold them off. You have to worry about the Braves, but Chipper and Smoltz are aging, and Andruw Jones is the biggest waste of talent in the league over the last two seasons turning from Vernon Wells into Jeromy Burnitz. Can you believe that Andruw Jones is only 29 years old? He's been in the league since 1996 as a 19 year old rookie. That was about 100 pounds ago, though. Today he just looks like a fat guy trying to hit home runs in his beer league. His swing is gross. Anyway, save for Andruw, the Braves may get their new chemistry working and we might have to look out for them.
The NL wild card race is tight. The Padres, Rockies, Phillies, Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers are all within 3 games of each other. Not to mention the Brewers, who have a tenuous grasp on first place in the central. So I feel like the Mets are going to hold on to the division, and with a bit of luck one of those other teams will win the wild card and keep the Phillies and Braves out of the playoffs. I don't have supreme faith in the Mets this year, but they are still clearly the best team. If someone gets lucky, they could easily win the NL pennant, however, a la the Cardinals of last year.
NL MVP: Matt Holiday
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy (not John Maine, unfortunately)
Rookie of the Year: Hunter Pence
Dear American League, NL playoff teams, and Yankee haters: Be Afraid. The Yankees are going to win the wild card. It's a bit too late for them to win the division, even though they were as close as 5 games yesterday, but they are going to buck up and make the playoffs. I almost don't believe it myself, but it's true. Those of you who hate the Yankees are going to respond with, "Yeah, but this is by far the easiest part of their schedule. They played the Royals, Blue Jays, Devil Rays, and Orioles, for the past month. Why don't you wait until this upcoming stretch against Cleveland, Detroit, Anaheim (I refuse to call them the LA Angels), and Boston before you start handing out rings?" I respond with the fact that the Yankees are built to be the best team in baseball (they're not, but that's how they're built) and if they start clicking on all cylinders, then you had better watch out. They *averaged* 10 runs per game on their last homestand. The only reason that Bobby Abreu didn't win AL player of the month of July is because Robinson Cano and Hideki Matsui had better months than him. They've finally let Melky Cabrera play every day, and everyone else is in trouble.
I predict that the Yankees will beat up on Cleveland and Detroit over the next couple of weeks, both of whom have been on the slide recently, and put themselves in prime position for the wild card. They're also playing the Angels and Red Sox this month, and that will be the test of their playoff potential. There are two things that might keep the Yankees from success here at the end of the season and their names are Mike Mussina and Jason Giambi. The problem is that both of them suck. If, this is a big if, but if Phil Hughes can pitch well into the end of the season, and Joe Torre can get his head out of his ass, then the rotation in the playoffs can be Pettitte, Wang, Clemens, and Hughes. I have absolutely no faith in Mussina. Giambi might throw a wrench into the recnet Yankee success. They have made intimations that when he comes back next week, he shouldn't expect to play all that much and I hope they stick with that. He could get hot, but I doubt it.
The wild card right now is a three team race including the Yankees, Detroit/Cleveland, and Seattle. Seattle is actually playing well and could get all up in the playoff race by the end of the season. The worst case scenario would be for the Mariners to continue to play well, challenge Anaheim for the division, and get them involved in the wild card race too. The best case would be for them to fall off out of the picture and for Cleveland and Detroit to pull each other down.
Now I don't think the Yankees pitching and bullpen will pull them through a playoff stretch, but it's conceivable that the Yankees take the Phoenix Suns approach to the playoffs and just try to outscore everyone. Plus I would feel pretty comfortable with the Yankee lineup and Pettitte or Wang on the mound.
My prediction is that this is the year for the Los Anglels California Angels of Anaheim to win it. They are just the most consistent team. As a side note, if there is no run-away winner within the next couple of years, then Chone Figgins could very well win the MVP. Not this year, but one year. Boston is just complacent at this point. They won't make a playoff run. Detroit and Cleveland have been exposed recently, I think. It's not out of the realm of possibility for the Yankees to win the pennant, but I don't see it this year.
AL MVP: A-Rod (hard to argue against him, even though Magglio Ordonez is great)
AL Cy Young: Dan Haren (of Oakland. This is a really tough one. You could argue for Sabathia, Beckett, Carmona or a couple others too)
Rookie of the year: Travis Buck (of Oakland. He just has the best name of all the candidates including Dustin Pedroia, Hideki Okajima, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and Jeremy Guthrie)