With less than a week left in the MLB regular season, the chase for the playoffs is heating up with several teams still in contention.
This year’s postseason will be different from the past, with the addition of two Wild Card teams for the American and National Leagues. The Wild Card teams in each league will have a one-game playoff to decide the fourth playoff team for each league.
The traditional method of the three division winners making the playoffs will not change. Both Wild Card play-in games are scheduled for Friday, October 5, two days after the regular season ends. With the completion of these games, the Division Series between the eight remaining teams will start the following weekend.
The Division leaders in the American League remain very close with teams in the Central and the East separated by less than two games. The surprise Baltimore Orioles (88-66) trail the New York Yankees (89-64) by 1.5 games in the East, while the Chicago White Sox (82-71) have a one game lead over the surging Detroit Tigers (81-72). The Texas Rangers (91-62) have all but locked up the AL West with a five-game lead over the Oakland Athletics (86-67).
A surprising Oakland team still remains in the playoff picture as they are currently second in the AL Wildcard behind the Orioles. The Los Angeles Angels (84-69) remain two games behind Oakland and will need a late push for a chance at the one-game playoff.
In the National League, several teams have already locked up a playoff berth for the 2012 postseason. One of these teams is the Washington Nationals (93-60), who have the best record in the MLB and lead the Atlanta Braves (88-65) by five games in the NL East. The Cincinnati Reds (92-61) have clinched the Central, and the San Francisco Giants (89-64) have wrapped up the West.
The Braves have all but locked up a playoff spot with a five game lead over the reigning World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals (83-71) in the NL Wildcard. The Milwaukee Brewers (79-74) and LA Dodgers (79-74) have a tough task ahead, both trailing the Cardinals by 3.5 games in the Wildcard.
One of the most impressive hitters in baseball has a chance to accomplish something that has not been done since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Miguel Cabrera has a chance to capture the Triple Crown, which is awarded to a player that leads their league in batting average, home runs, and RBI’s. Cabrera currently leads the American League in two of the three categories including average (.331) and RBI’s (133). The Rangers’ Josh Hamilton has 43 home runs this season with Cabrera trailing by only one.
Baseball has never seen a player quite like the Angels’ Mike Trout. A centerfielder that hits for average and power, steals bases, gets on base and makes amazing plays in the field, Trout is the epitome of a five-tool player. In his rookie season, he is leading the MLB in runs scored (122), stolen bases (46) and wins above replacement (10.4). Trout is sure to win the AL Rookie of the Year, batting .328 with 28 home runs and 78 RBI’s.
With the close playoff races in both the National and American League and the addition of the extra Wild Card team, this year’s hunt for October is sure to be an exciting one.
By Billy Felo