To say the 2013 Major League Baseball season has seen some unexpected results would be an understatement. A division that was supposed to be one of the toughest in baseball was settled months ago, while teams that haven’t been close to playoffs for years are in the hunt for a berth in October. Let’s look at each division and how the playoffs look as of now.
The National League East was the one division clinched months ago. The Atlanta Braves have the best record in the NL and have a magic number of just 4 to officially win the division. With a young team led by Mike Minor and Kris Medlen in the starting rotation and an offense led by MVP candidate Freddie Freeman, the team has impressed many with their play. The Braves will get an added push at the end of September when Jason Heyward returns to the lineup after recovering from a broken jaw.
In the NL Central, the team currently tied in the top spot is a team that hasn’t sniffed postseason play since losing in the NLCS in 1992. Led by two resurgent veterans in the starting rotation, Francisco Liriano and A.J. Burnett, as well as Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez offensively, the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied with the usual suspect at the top spot, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cardinals have been led by MVP candidate Yadier Molina and Cy Young candidate, Adam Wainwright.
The NL West has just two teams with a record better than .500 with the Los Angeles Dodgers holding an 11.5 game lead ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers are being offensively by Hanley Ramirez who returned from the disabled list with a vengeance and Yasiel Puig, the phenom that burst onto the scene in June and has carried the team since. Los Angeles will be a dangerous team in October, as they have one of the best trio’s of starting pitchers with Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
As we look at the American League East, the Boston Red Sox are owners of the best record in the league. They have a magic number of 5 to clinch the division and have been a force offensively and in the pitching game. Their rotation has been led by John Lackey, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. Behind the Red Sox in the standings are three teams that have a chance to win a Wild Card berth. The Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are all fighting for their chance to compete in October. The Rays currently hold one of the two spots and the Yankees and Orioles are just 3.5 games back.
The AL Central has also seen a team that hasn’t been in the playoff picture for some time find a spot near the top of the standings. The Kansas City Royals are 7 games back of the first place Detroit Tigers, but are just 3.5 games out of the wild card hunt. The Cleveland Indians are also in the hunt, sitting 5 games back of Detroit and 1.5 games out of the wild card.
The surprising Oakland Athletics are 5.5 games ahead of the Texas Rangers and 16 games ahead of the disappointing Los Angeles Angels. Leading the way for Oakland has been Bartolo Colon, who owns a 16-6 record with a 2.73 ERA, and Jarrod Parker, who is 11-6 with a 3.55 ERA. Offensively, the team may find some struggles in October as they have just one player hitting above .300. They do have a swinger’s chance to win as Brandon Moss, Yoenis Céspedes and Josh Donaldson all have the power to bring the Athletics back with a late inning home run.