I really like the expanded playoff format, where we have an extra wild card team.
I know, the postseason seems so interminably long, pushing all the way to Halloween as often as not before we find a winner, but in a game that can so often be decided by a bounce or a throw or a bad pitch, or call, the difference between success and failure is indeed quite fine.
I do confess that this time of the season, I try to make sure my teams are loaded with as many contending players as I can get, for generally that means everyday play from the guys who got the team there, and that means stats, which are good.
It is pretty clear that Oakland, with the best team and record anywhere this year, followed closely by the Angels, are pretty strong locks for two of the five playoff spots, and as of today, the Tigers and Orioles would join the fray.
But, what do we think of the rest of the likely suspects?
Toronto (57-50): Amazing that the Jays have kept it close after losing Edwin Encarnacion, not to mention Brett Lawrie, Maicer Izturis and Adam Lind for spells. But, they have hung tight and they are the best of this lot of clubs, and I think they are better than the Orioles. Their rotation is largely workmanlike, though I expect Marcus Stroman to settle in atop the group as he gains confidence and experience and becomes a real professional. The team is supposed to get Encarnacion and Lawrie back within the next ten days, and if that happens, look out Baltimore. Although the acquisition of Danny Valencia tells me at least one of them is not as close to ready as we would like to think.
New York (54-51): Brandon McCarthy and Chase Headley have provided a nice shot in the arm for the Yanks, but aside from the fact that they are aging and the long part of the season is ahead, well, Hiroki Kuroda and David Phelps atop a rotation does not seem very threatening, and Shane Greene and Chris Capuano at the bottom is scary. Right now, the Yankees have a run differential of -36. That simply won't cut it.
Seattle (54-51): The Mariners have done pretty well with an outfield of Dustin Ackley, James Jones and Endy Chavez, but that is because they have Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Young atop their rotation. I actually do think the team will suffer playing in the best division in baseball, where in September they will see a lot of the Athletics and Angels. The real problem in Seattle, though, is I am not sure this team will be close to as good in 2015. Or at least I don't see much foundation for improvement.
Kansas City (53-51): If Mike Moustakas can actually show that he can simply hit .250 to go along with the pretty good power he has, then the Royals will surely be right there as a complete, if still a bit inexperienced, team. But, the truth is I like these guys. A very strong outfield of Lorenzo Cain, Alex Gordon and Norichika Aoki, with maybe the most unheralded shortstop, Alcides Escobar, along with Salvador Perez and of course Eric Hosmer is a good and mostly up-and-coming lineup. Truth is I think that Toronto will push Baltimore into a funk, and give the Royals a shot at the wild card. And, they may do well for a round, but, the inexperience will do them in. At least this year. But, they will be this year's Cinderella team.
Cleveland (52-53): The Tribe are certainly as much fun to speculate upon as are the Royals. They have a lot going for them, in Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, but hope, as in they can hope Danny Salazar can regain his 2013 magic, and a prayer that Justin Masterson can return from injury and simply be consistent are slim reeds. Still, the Indians have a pretty good offense despite a somewhat derelict outfield, with a run differential of +6, as opposed to the -1 Kansas City still owns. In the end, I think their depth, or lack thereof, will betray them. But, the Indians have a nice core to watch going into 2015.