Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Second NL Wild Card and the Teams that Want It

Something of a departure from the AL wild card picture, where all of the teams that are in the wild card race are close enough together that either/both of the spots could change hands at a moment’s notice, the NL is a totally different ballgame. Seven games separate the Braves and the Cardinals, and every team that’s chasing the cards are closer to being .500 teams than they are to being true playoff contenders. Also in a strange turn of events, just about everyone in the hunt for this last playoff spot is facing a reasonably tough schedule down the final stretch with not a single team in the mix having less than 6 games against current playoff bound opponents.

The Cardinals are in line for seven more games against sub par competition before closing out the season with three games against the Nationals and three more against the Reds. The four remaining games against Houston, and three against the Cubbies should have the Redbirds looking good going into that final stretch, and if ever there was a time to try to put some distance between themselves and the pack, it would behoove them to do so now.

The Brewers are two and a half games behind the Cards and have a marginally harder schedule to combat to actually make the playoffs this year, Currently in the midst of a three game set against the even .500 Pirates, they are also facing up against three games with the Reds and a four game set with the Nationals but they close the season with three against Houston and then the Padres, the Brewers need to gain ground during this last tough stretch and hope they can strike while the Cards are closing out the season against two playoff locks.

The Dodgers having split yesterday’s doubleheader are now two behind the Cards for the final playoff spot and aren’t exactly looking at a bunch of pushovers in the next few days to help them make their playoff push. They finish up a three game set against the Nats today followed by three games against the Reds. They get a six game respite from playoff bound opponents with three and three against the Padres and the Rockies but finish the season with a three game set against the Giants who, despite losing Melky Cabrera’s juiced up bat, gone 22 - 9 since the Melk Man’s forced vacation. The Dodgers certainly have enough talent on the team to make it through to the playoffs, but they will have to play their asses off against some stiff competition just to have a shot.

The Phillies are mathematically in the race, and if they had a cushy schedule to close the season, it might be a totally different story here, but with six games against the Nationals and three against the Braves in their last 13 I’m gonna have to call it for Phillies’ fans, there is no postseason this year, at least the Eagles are 2-0 so far.

The Pirates are similarly mathematically still involved but they’ve really only got the next eight games to make up ground before closing the year with three against the Reds and three against the Braves. The Pirates have been streaky enough to rattle off a few wins quickly, but they’ve faded over the second half and they might need another year or two to get over the hump and really make a postseason push.

Given the upcoming schedules for these postseason hopefuls, I don’t see too much reason to write the Cards out of it, honestly the Dodgers are just massively underperforming and while the Brewers have been hot of late (seriously, they haven’t lost two games in a row since before August 20th) it may just be too little too late.

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