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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MLB playoff predictions: a month of foresight

Published: September 2, 2011
Section: Sports

It’s been an eventful baseball season so far. Three no-hitters, 3,000 hits for Derek Jeter, 600 homers for Jim Thome and there’s still a lot of baseball left to be played! As we enter the month of September, we embark on the stretch run. Many of the divisions look to be locked up, but there are still a lot of postseason spots still in play!

AL EAST: Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles, Rays, Blue Jays

Arguably the toughest division in baseball, the AL East includes three of the top five teams in the league in the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays, only two of which can make the playoffs. In the end, I believe the Red Sox will win the division. Boasting one of the best lineups in baseball, the Sox are stacked from top to bottom with Jacoby Ellsbury having a career year, and Adrian Gonzalez putting up MVP numbers in his first year with the club. Although the Yankees can put up similar offensive numbers to the Red Sox, they do not compare in terms of starting pitching. The Sox have one of the best one, two punches in the AL in Lester and Beckett, as well as serviceable pitchers in Lackey and Aceves, while the Yanks do not have a solid number two behind C.C. Sabathia. Both teams will make the playoffs, but I believe the Red Sox will win the division.

AL CENTRAL: Tigers, Indians, White Sox, Twins, Royals

With a six-game lead over the White Sox at the end of August, the Tigers are the favorites to win the division. Detroit has ace Justin Verlander, who is on pace for 25 wins and is the probable Cy Young award winner. Behind him, Max Scherzer and newly-acquired Doug Fister are putting together solid years. The Tigers offense is highlighted by Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Alex Avila, who’s becoming one of the top catchers in the league. And Detroit also has Jose Valverde, who has been lights-out this year, closing games. While the White Sox could make a late push, it’s likely that the Tigers will win the division.

AL WEST: Rangers, Angels, A’s, Mariners

The AL West is the tightest division in baseball and will come down to the wire in September. In the end, though, I think the Rangers will once again win the division. The Angels certainly have the better rotation with Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana at the top of their rotation. Although Texas does have ace CJ Wilson and rookie Alexi Ogando having great years in their rotation, the Angels edge them out there. The difference between the two teams is the offenses. Texas has an explosive lineup that includes defending MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Ian Kinsler and Michael Young. The Angels cannot win on pitching alone and so, at the end of the day, Texas will win the West.

WILD CARD: It’s obvious that the Yankees will win the Wild Card if the Red Sox win the East. With one of the best lineups in baseball that features MVP candidate Curtis Granderson, as well as Robinson Cano, Mark Teixara and Alex Rodriguez, there is no way that the Yankees miss the postseason.

NL EAST: Phillies, Braves, Mets, Marlins, Nationals

The East is the Phillies division to lose. Having led the division since April, the Phillies are on pace for more than 100 wins. General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. recently improved his team’s sluggish offense with the acquisition of Hunter Pence to go with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the middle of the lineup. And with one of the best starting rotations in the past century, the Phillies are a lock to go deep into the playoffs.

NL CENTRAL: Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Pirates, Astros, Cubs

What started out as an open competition at the beginning of the summer has turned into the Brewers’ season of dominance. The Cardinals—although a respectable eight games over .500—find themselves 10.5 games back at the end of August and not at all within striking distance. The Brewers shored up their bullpen before the trade deadline with the acquisition of Francisco Rodriguez (K-Rod) to go with John Axford to close out games. With an offense that includes MVP candidates Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers are the favorites to win the Central.

NL WEST: Diamondbacks, Giants, Padres, Rockies, Dodgers

Although the Diamondbacks are currently leading the division by 5.5 games, I still believe the Giants will be the NL West champs for a second straight year. While the D-Backs do have a powerful lineup highlighted by Justin Upton and Chris Young, they simply do not have the starting pitching to compete with the World Champion Giants. The Giants have two-time Cy Young Award-winner Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and all-star Ryan Vogelsong. Although their offense is weak, expect a big September from newly-acquired Carlos Beltran to push the Giants back into the playoffs.

WILD CARD: While there are a few good teams in the NL that remain in playoff contention (Arizona and St. Louis), the Braves are just too good of a team not to make it. Their pitching is probably the best in baseball, with a rotation that includes Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, and a back-end of the bullpen that features Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel, who recently set the single-season rookie save record. Their offense improved before the deadline with the addition of Michael Bourn to go with Brian McCann, Chipper Jones, Dan Uggla and Jayson Heyward. With the second-best record in the NL next to the Phillies, it’s clear that Braves will win the Wild Card.

Who will win once the postseason starts? Well you know what they say—anything can happen in the playoffs. Anything except the Mets winning the World Series that is.