Results tagged ‘ Diamondbacks ’

Pennant races

With September nearly upon us , I thought I would look at who is going to be in the 2013 Postseason in the National League.

In the East, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say the Braves have that locked up. They hold a lead that I don’t believe can possibly be overtaken.

In the west, I would say the same thing about the Dodgers . That is something I didn’t think would happen this year for them. Not because they didn’t have the talent, but because of chemistry. They seem to have that in abundance now.

Where the NL gets cloudy is in the Central. St. Louis is leading the division by a game and a half over the Pirates, with the Reds 3.5 back, as we sit here on the 28th of August. They are both Wild Card teams right now, but the NL it could get very interesting is the final month.

With so many games played against each other, the Pirates , Reds and Cards could be their own worst enemies. If they all beat up on each other in a fight for the Central, that could give Washington and maybe the D-Backs a chance to sneak into one of the Wild Card spots, as the NL East and West are much weaker divisions than the Central. It would only take a run by one of those teams to keep both Wild Card teams from coming from the Central.

Pittsburgh has been struggling lately and the Reds have yet to make a strong run. It is great to see that the Pirates will enjoy their first winning season in 21 years, but do they have the experience to withstand a playoff push? Time will tell.

Last month I said that I thought both Wild Card teams will come from the Central. I have since changed that opinion. I believe that either Washington or Arizona will sneak in and take one of the Wild Card spots based solely on the strengths of the divisions.

When it is all said and done, I believe LA will be representing the NL in the World Series.

Upton trade and sibling rivalry

Atlanta acquired Justin Upton to play along side his brother, B.J., in their outfield. I think this is a great deal for the Braves. I believe that the thing holding Justin back from being as good as he can be is the fact that all the pressure had been heaped on him in Arizona.

There are some players who can handle that pressure and perform up to expectations, but also there are guys who feel that pressure and expectation and it can make them try to do more than they are capable of doing. I truly believe that Justin falls into this category. His talent is off the charts. But you have to believe that your talent is enough and trust in what you can do. I know personally from the point of an observer, that just watching his reaction to a strikeout or a missed play in the outfield that he wasn’t feeling that he had a bad at-bat or took a bad route. He was feeling that he let his whole team down. That is a lot to shoulder as a kid under 25 years old.

Going to the Braves to play next to his older brother is going let this kid’s true ability shine through. First of all, he is not going to be “the guy” in that Braves lineup. He is going to be one of the guys. The Braves had to part with Martin Prado, who I feel is one of the best “baseball players” in the game today — meaning he can put on any glove and have success. But in the the Braves also got Chris Johnson, who I feel will be the everyday third baseman and hit for more power than Prado. Now that Chipper Jones has retired, this team is now Brian McCann‘s. He is the perfect guy to take over the leadership role for the Braves. He is a steady, level-headed guy who plays the toughest position on the field.

What this means for Justin Upton is that he can put on his uniform and go play the game. From everything I have heard, he and his brother have a great relationship. I can speak from experience when it comes to playing with your brother — not at the big league level, but in high school. My older brother signed with the Brewers the year before I signed with the Padres. My only goal was to outperform my older brother, his was to make sure his little brother didn’t show him up! This deal could mean that we will finally see what the Uptons are truly capable of doing. There is nothing stronger than sibling rivalry to bring out the best in someone. I still feel the Nats are the best team in the NL East, but this deal definitely puts pressure on them to play in 2013 as well or better than they did in 2012. I am not counting out the Phillies, but their big three starting pitchers are going to have to all win 15 or more games apiece if they hope to contend.

NL Postseason race

Last week I have my AL playoff team predictions, this week the NL.

In the East, it is simple: Washington is going win it. In the Central it is even more simple: the Reds have an 11-game lead over the second-place Cardinals. The West is equally unexciting. The huge trades the Dodgers pulled off have done nothing to help this team. If anything, they have made them more inconsistent. The Giants hold a 7.5-game lead.

But this is where the Wild Card has made the month of September so exciting — especially the last two seasons. As a baseball fan and as an analyst, I can’t stress enough how important the Wild Cards has become in keeping our game relevant to watch in the final month of the season. Not only for fans, but for players as well.

When I played, there were teams I was a part of that by the All-Star break had zero chance at making the Postseason. As for me, I never needed a reason to go out and play as hard as I could every time I walked on the field. But I would be lying if I said all players felt and acted the way I did. I played with many teammates over the years who, once the postseason wasn’t a possibility, didn’t have to take every pitch or every at-bat as seriously. What the Wild Card has done is force these types of players to do what they should do anyway. We were payed to play all 162 games to win.

I wasn’t the most talented pitcher to ever put on a uniform by a long shot. But the one thing I had a great deal of was pride — and an extreme hatred for losing! Now the Wild Card is forcing all the players to go out and play every game like its the last game they will get to play.

As for the Wild Card races in the NL, this is where the excitement comes in. There are 15 games left on the schedule, and there are five teams within 4.5 games of a Wild Card spot. The Dodgers are one game back of St. Louis, the brewers 2.5 games, Pittsburgh at 3 games, the Phillies at 4, and the D-backs at 4.5.

Had I written this blog four days ago, I would have said Philly would be the team to leapfrog the teams in front of them. They had won seven straight games and were heading to Houston (who at the time had won 45 games all year long) to play a four-game series. They promptly lost three out of four to Houston. So I believe Philly is done.

I think the great first-half story of the Pittsburgh Pirates is done as well. They are down to one game over .500 and are now looking at the possibility of their 20th straight losing season. Arizona I don’t think has the pitching to string together a streak of seven or eight wins in a row, and that is what it is going to take to win that final spot.

This brings us to St. Louis and Milwaukee. The Cards are not playing the kind of baseball this year that they did last year in September, thanks to very inconsistent pitching and offense. So I feel that the Brewers — who had every reason to fold up their tents and call it a year not too long ago — have done what every team and every player ought to do. They have played hard every night and are right now the team that I think has the momentem to over take the Cardinals. So I believe the five teams that will represent the NL in the Postseason will be the Nats, Reds, Giants, Braves, and the Brewers.

This would mean that the Braves would play the Brewers in a one-game playoff in the Wild Card game, which for me means the Brewers — if Fredi Gonzalez does what I think he should do, as he has the cushion to set it up this way — would have to beat Kris Medlen, who in my opinion is the best pitcher in the game at this moment! It may only be a great run he is on, but there is not another pitcher right now who can claim his team has won 21 straight games he has started!


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