Thursday, June 18, 2009

Season 12 NL Playoff Races

NL North - It looks like the Rochester Big and Tall will take the division crown again, for the 7th straight year. With 24 games to go, they lead the New York new york by 9 games. However, for the 1st time in recent memory, the Big and Tall will actually have to fight for a 1st-round bye in the playoffs: they lead the Houston Hope by only 5 games in the battle for the 2 seed. The Big and Tall's drop-off from last year (.716 W% to .609) can best be attributed by an underachieving pitching staff, especially former closer Vin Ugueto (3.45 ERA last year, 6.81 this year) and RP Bernie Bonilla (3.16 ERA last year, 5.75 this year). SP's Willie Santiago, Julio Rosa, Gabe Burks, and Jimmy Springer have also all posted ERA's above their career averages.

NL East - The Indianapolis Lancers have clinched the division crown for the 10th straight season, and have the 1 seed pretty much wrapped up as well (18 game lead with 24 to go). Their improvement can be attributed to a couple factors: Rudy Aldridge bounced back from a career-worst year to become an MVP favorite again, and several other hitters are having career years: Orber Estalella, Damaso Moreno, and Eddie Sterns. The 1-2-3 punch of David Lugo, Erick Sweeney, and Sam Stewart has led the pitching staff.

NL South - This is the tightest race of all divisions right now, with the Houston Hope leading the Richmond Revolution by only a game. Luckily, the runner-up will likely end up with a Wild Card spot. The Hope are looking for their 1st ever playoff appearance along with their 1st ever season above .500. Victorzhao has engineered an amazing turnaround from last season, when the Hope finished with almost 90 losses. 1B B.J. Frascatore has been one of the keys to the turnaround. He missed much of last season with a knee injury, but has come back strong (.325 BA, 36 HR). Juan Contreras has kept up his consistent production, and the rest of the lineup contains 5 guys batting between .269 and .317 with 24-37 HR. The bullpen has been rock solid, anchored by closer Davey Espinosa, who spent the last 2 years in AAA after being a highly-touted Rule V selection in season 7.

NL West - This is another division with a close race, as the St. Louis Arch Angels are leading the upstart Oklahoma City Outlaws by only 3 games. The runner-up has a shot at a Wild Card spot, but isn't a shoo-in. The Arch Angels finished with a W% near .600 last year, but are hovering around .550 this season. The drop-off is largely due to a struggling bullpen. Season 12 Fireman of the Year Hector Kieschnick has been unable to match last year's success, and Michael Glass has fallen off after a successful year as setup man last season. The good news for the Arch Angels is the top of their rotation will keep them in any playoff series, with Charles Suzuki and Mo Levrault having fantastic years. The Outlaws have caught almost everyone by surprise. This franchise hasn't had a winning season since season 2, but are poised to break that streak this year. The offense is led by season 10 Rule V pick Geraldo Nieto and Russell Yeager. The Outlaws don't hit for much power, but they find ways to get on base and score runs. The pitching staff is powered by Victor Jacquez, who has bounced back nicely from a 20-loss season in Philadelphia last year, Kyle Foster, and closer Ryan Michaels, who is a perfect 15-for-15 in save opportunities this year.

Wild Card - The NL Wild Card race is one to watch this year, with 5 teams within 5 games of each other, all battling for 2 spots. The Revolution have the top spot right now, and are looking for their 5th consecutive trip to the playoffs. Vin Estrada is 2nd in the world in saves for them, and Chris Myers has continued being a real offensive force. The Baltimore mets are 2 games behind the Revolution and hold the 2nd Wild Card spot right now. They are looking for only their 2nd playoff appearance since season 2. They're once again led by HR machine Clay Tanner and a great 1-2 punch in the rotation in Lance Coleman and Tony De La Vega. New York is only a game behind Baltimore. New York is looking for their 1st playoff appearance since their 6-year streak ended in season 7. A midseason trade that brought Zach Clemens their way has really helped the offense. Their pitching has been pretty mediocre, though Sid Erdos has been a bright spot. The Cleveland Redlegs are only a game behind New York. Edwin Parker, Sherman Nathan, and Brent Morgan will give the Redlegs 3 players with 40 HR, and P.T. Jimenez has been phenomenal this year (league-leading 41 out of 42 saves). Finally, the Outlaws are only a game behind the Redlegs.

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