The 2010 season has been a pitcher friendly season, and the Division races appear to be more competitive with less run away and hide winners we are used to seeing at the All Star break. And it's not just the year of the pitcher; it's the year of the young pitcher.
"It seemed like 15 years ago, it was a time of young shortstops, and other times, it seems there's an influx of great, young talent in outfielders," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But right now the influx of young pitching in baseball is incredible, and not just guys with stuff; guys that know how to pitch in tough division series at a young age."
Can these young guns hold up through hot pennant races?
Tampa Bay Rays: David Price (24) started the All-Star game and Matt Garza (26) was the MVP of the ALCS two years ago. James Shields (28), Jeff Niemann (27) and Wade Davis (24) give the second-place Rays a battle-tested young staff.
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Ubaldo Jimenez, RHP, Rockies: The 26-year-old Dominican is chasing history at 15-1 at the break, and he has the Rockies two games back of San Diego in second place.
Cincinnati Reds: RHPs Johnny Cueto (24) and Mike Leake (22) were a combined 14-3 at the break, and LHP Travis Wood (23) nearly tossed a perfect game last Saturday against Philadelphia.
And in his own category, Stephen Strasburg, RHP, Nationals: The Nationals may be done, but it's going to be fun watching how MLB's newest rock star responds to the attention that has made each start an event and the how he adjusts to the hitters as the hitters adjust to him. Other teams are developing more video on him each and every time out and you can be certain that players will be taking different approaches the second time around.
MLB Divisional Races
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Let's take a look In this article at how the Divisional races in Major League Baseball look and shed some light on which teams have the best chance to win their respective divisions and advance into the post season. Just in case you wanted to make a wager or two (not that any of us do that type of thing.....)
In the National league the most intriguing Division looks to be the NL West. The San Diego Padres currently hold a two game lead over both the Colorado Rockies and the LA. Dodgers. The Padres are certainly the most balanced team, combining fine pitching and some clutch hitting thus far this season. They also have the best road record at 24-18. They will be tough to beat. However they may get their most serious challenge from the San Francisco Giants. The Giants have the best starting pitching in the Division led by T. Lincecum and M. Cain. If the Giants can add a bat to go with their stellar pitching they would stand the best chance in this division. The Dodgers need to pick up more pitching to be a factor. Colorado is a battle tested bunch, and has much success over the past few years. They are a solid hitting group led by Cy Young candidate Ubaldo Jimenez. However even with Jimenez and his lights out first half the Rockies have had inconsistent stretches and will have to improve a road record that is 5 games under 500.
Prediction: The Giants will rally from a 4 game deficit to win the NL West.
Moving to the NL East we have what looks to be a three team race between the Division leading Braves, an upstart Mets team and the defending champion Phillies. Atlanta has surprised many in manager Bobby Cox final season, forging to the front with one of the best starting pitching corps in the league. Tim Hudson has regained his form of years past and now they will have J. Jurjens back and healthy for the second half. Atlanta also has a bright young star in J. Heyward and will be tough to unseat this year. The Mets are the surprise team this season as they have finally used their new park to their advantage, compiling a solid 30-16 mark. However they have been subpar on the road and have been the victims of several walk off losses this season. The Good news is they have the best second half starting pitcher in baseball the past few years in Johan Santana, who has compiled an impressive 63-19 record in the second half the past few years. He has already won his first 2 starts of the second half this season going into the break on a 16 inning scoreless streak. The Phillies come in seven games over .500 and have played lethargic at times this year drawing the ire of manager C. Manuel who has accused them of playing like fat cats. If the Phillies can get healthy they are more than capable of putting together a monster second half to win this division, especially with ace R. Halladay leading the way.
Prediction: In the end the Braves will emerge victorious, sending Bobby Cox out with one last NL East Pennant.
The NL Central appears to be a 2 horse race with the Cincinnati Reds holding a slim one game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. The Brewers and Cubs appear to be done and look hard pressed to even make a wild card run at this point. The Reds have over achieved this season and have been bolstered by former Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. The Reds are notorious for fading in the second halves the past few seasons and come limping into the break off a 4 game sweep at the hands of the Phillies. The losses were ugly with one being a 6 run comeback in the ninth inning by a never say die Phillies team. This could spell trouble for the Reds as they try to hold off an experienced and talented St. Louis team, that with one or 2 minor acquisitions could easily win this Division. The Cards have better starting pitching led by Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright.
Prediction: The Cardinals are the pick to overcome a slight one game deficit.
In the American League the most competitive division is the AL Central. The Chicago White Sox enter the break with a slight half game lead over the Detroit Tigers and lead the Minnesota Twins by 3.5 games. Chicago is truly on a tear having won 8 straight and 25 of their last 30 games. However for all their accolades they are barely in front and will likely drop back some as soon as their win streak tails off. The Tigers are the ultimate home to road dichotomy team this year. Detroit has been light out at home with a league best 32-13 record. However they are horrendous on the road with just 16 wins, better than just 2 other teams. Detroit will have to prove they can win on the road and play more consistently to win this division. The Minnesota Twins have struggled of late, falling almost 4 games behind the pace. However they have the most talent and if they can pick up a starting pitcher should have the fire power to win this division. They have plenty of recent post season experience to rely on when the games get real competitive at the end of the season.
Prediction: The Twins are the pick to rally and win the division.
The AL East has an interesting race. The Yankees lead by two games over a hot Tampa Bay team that opened up on fire, than faltered relinquishing the lead to the Yankees. The Yankees are the defending World Series champions and will be tough to catch here. They have a plethora of pitching. Even though they were outbid for Cliff Lee they have more than enough pitching and hitting to win this division. Robinson Cano has MVP like numbers and Andy Pettite a career second half pitcher have been lights out. Look for A-Rod and A.J. Burnett to have a big second half's to propel the Yankees. Tampa may sneak in as a wild card. They have the second best record in baseball headed into the break. However they must hit much better in the second half and continue to pitch well to have a chance. The Boston Red Sox have been hit hard by the injury bug all year. Though they have been decimated by injuries they have held their head above water. They are 14 games over .500 at the break. J. Beckett appears set to return. However they will have much to do if they are going to make up 5 games on the Yankees.
Prediction: Look for New York to win the AL East.
Last, but not least the AL West. The Texas Rangers appear to be the now team. They just acquired the best pitcher on the market in Cliff Lee. Even with a four game home sweep by last place Baltimore, heading into the break. They still enjoy a 4.5 game lead over last year's AL West winning L.A. Angels. Texas has a big hitting team once again this season. If their pitching holds up they look like a good bet to win this division. The Angels are barely holding their heads above water at 3 games over .500. They have been ultra streaky this season. They used a big win streak to get them back into the race. Recently they have been going backwards having lost 8 of their last 10 games. With all the losses in free agency, it appears they do not have the talent to make it happen this year. Oakland has played well in spots and may do well in the second half, but it won't be easy to catch Texas.
Prediction: Look for the Rangers to win the AL West.
So in the NL we are looking at the Braves, Cardinals and Giants to win the divisions and in the AL, the Yankees, Rangers and Twins look like the best bets. We'll leave the Wild Card races for another day as it's way too early for that. - Robert Fairchild
Robert is a professional sports gaming professional. He legally wages on professional and collegiate sporting events for a living. Robert is NOT suggesting that you quit your day job and try to wager on sports for a living. He is contributing his thoughts and experience to assist you in a recreational activity that you as an informed adult may choose to take part in.
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