Yes, we’re barely on the cusp of Spring Training, and I’m already talking about October baseball. But, what’s the point of making division-by-division predictions, if we aren’t going to try and guess who will finish the season on top?? So, here’s how I see the playoff picture coming into focus at the end of the year:
Division Winners: Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Oakland A’s
Wild Card Teams: Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers
I don’t believe the Red Sox have improved enough with their pitching staff to overtake Baltimore. And, I honestly don’t think they’ve done enough to end up even as a Wild Card team. It will be a tight race between Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, and the White Sox – I only have 4 games separating them all. But, in the end, the AL Central will have 3 playoff teams.
Division Winners: Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Dodgers
Wild Card Teams: Chicago Cubs, San Diego Padres
Until the Padres signed Shields, I had them two games behind the Cardinals for that second Wild Card spot. But, I think Shields will make just enough of a difference to push them over St. Louis. To me, the Cubs are the bigger surprise here. Everyone has heard about their stellar young offensive players that are on the cusp of breaking through for big years. But, if their bullpen and rotation perform as well as last year, they could have the best overall pitching staff in the league.
Now that we have the general playoff picture set, let’s talk winners…
NL Wild Card: San Diego def. Chicago
Oakland def. Kansas City (3-2)
Pittsburgh def. Los Angeles (3-2)
Baltimore def. Oakland (4-2)
Washington def. Pittsburgh (4-1)
Washington def. Baltimore (4-2)