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Way too Early MLB Playoff ProjectionsPosted on August 10, 2012 at 09:17 AM.
In many ways the 2012 season looks a lot like last year in the MLB at this point.
The toughest teams in the American League look to be fighting atop the East and West respectively. Last year it was Boston on it's way to a season finale meltdown, but this year the Yankees have looked steady and unflappable. Texas is in the same familiar spot of first in the West, but things are looking cloudy behind them as the Angels slowly creep up while the Athletics hang around -- for how long though no one knows.
The AL Central is another episode of above-average tug-of-war to claim the division, which is made more important due to the fact the Wild Card spots are most likely to be swallowed by the East or West. Speaking of which, in case you forgot the 2012 season provides us with twice as many teams for the Wild Card spots, culminating in a one-game playoff between the two teams upon completion of the regular season.
Oakland, Baltimore, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Detroit, and even Boston are within pouncing distance. If all these clubs hang around we could be in for an amazing finish to the season. Think about it -- only five teams are realistically out of playoff contention in the American League.
In the National League East, Washington has replaced Philadelphia as the top club record-wise with Atlanta close behind in strong contention for a Wild Card spot. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are battling through the ups and downs of winning and losing streaks while St. Louis refuses to go away in the Central. Finally, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Arizona battle it out in the West much like the grouping in the AL Central.
The Senior Circuit looks to be slightly less competitive in regard to teams out of contention at this point. Split down the middle with eight teams realistically eliminated from playoff contention, the National League has the same number (eight) with a quality shot at a division title or Wild Card birth.
With so many teams still in line -- and knowing that literally anything can happen in the postseason -- predicting the playoffs is even tougher now than in any recent year I can remember.
If I was to put confidence points on a prediction for division winners, New York winning the AL East, Texas in the AL West, and Washington taking the NL East would be one, two, and three. If nothing else, I can't imagine a realistic outcome that leaves any of them out of the playoffs.
I see the AL Central less about who wins the division and more about the poor quality in the division other than Detroit and Chicago. Because of this, I see the White Sox making it into the postseason with the Tigers on a slight edge for the division title. The final Wild Card spot is a tough one to dish out, but I think I'm going to turn my back on the AL East (not an easy choice) and will side with the Angels out of the West.
In the National League, my first strong belief after the inclusion of the Nationals is that of how strong Atlanta looks to me. The Nationals and Braves may swap positions, but it doesn't really matter -- I see both in the playoffs but a slight edge to Washington for the division title.
Out West, the Dodgers are holding on despite a lack of depth and the Giants are taking advantage by playing slightly-above-average baseball. Sneaking up behind both, however, are the young and fiery Diamondbacks. Arizona appears to be picking up steam, perhaps motivated by their disappointing finish to the 2011 campaign. I'll go out on a limb and ride the current momentum here and say that the Diamondbacks will take the NL West.
The NL Central looks like a tough draw to sort, but I think it becomes clear once the peaks and valleys are removed from the equation. I've felt since before the season started that the Reds were the team to beat in the division. I've been equally surprised by the winning ways of the Pirates, but even more impressive is how St. Louis has hung around despite difficult injuries throughout the rotation and lineup all season long. I expect Cincinnati to remain at the top and look for the Cardinals and Pirates to switch places as Pittsburgh comes down to earth. St. Louis then joins Atlanta as the two Wild Card representatives.
In the Wild Card games I expect the balance of the Braves to overwhelm St. Louis in the National League. In the AL I think the White Sox give up a huge fight, but the strong arms of the Angels combined with big bats and youth will be too much to overcome.
In the American League, New York hosting the Los Angeles Angels will be a fantastic matchup for ratings. Albert Pujols in the Bronx for his first taste of American League playoffs -- get ready for a media frenzy -- but the Yankee mystique will prove to be a rude welcome as New York moves on. Texas and Detroit will be a solid matchup as well. I see a Rangers club outperforming the Tigers, however, in a series that features a Texas squad showing Detroit the difference between producing on the diamond and looking powerful on paper -- Texas advances as well.
In the first round of the National League playoffs Atlanta will travel to Cincinnati to take on the Reds. Cincinnati is a very good but very streaky club. I don't have the confidence in a Dusty Baker led group to make any noise in the playoffs and expect the Braves to pull it out in an offensive slugfest. The proposed matchup between Arizona and Washington is a bit of a surprise and a tough one to decipher in terms of how the youth and inexperience will play out. It's hard, however, to justify going against the long-term success of the Nationals and I expect Strasburg to be a factor despite his innings limit. Washington moves on to face the Braves for the NL Championship.
In the ALCS we have another classic contest between the Yankees and the Rangers. Texas is back hoping for a third straight trip to the World Series while New York wants to creep ever closer to their unthinkable 30th championship. Both teams are exceptionally talented and for me it comes down to the fact that Texas deserves the top spot until knocked off. The Rangers have proven they're the best American League playoff team of the past two years and have shown no signs of slowing down in 2012. Texas moves on for a shot at ending their pain or becoming the Buffalo Bills of baseball.
The Braves and Nationals duke it out for my hypothetical NLCS crown. Whether it's an ill-timed arm blowout that proves poetically unjust for the 'Nats, or the baseball gods are on the side of Chipper Jones -- my vote in this one leans towards Atlanta. The young guns can wait for another year (and no I don't expect or wish harm on Strasburg or the Nationals) as the Braves return to National League prominence for the first time since the 1990's.
Finally, the way-too-early prediction for the World Series championship in 2012. It's Texas versus Atlanta. Nolan Ryan taking on Dale Murphy. A lot of offense, solid defense and speed, and streaky pitching. Two years ago the Rangers were tamed by the pitching of San Francisco. Last year it was the improbable heroics of David Freese. This year, however, the Rangers won't be awestruck or the victims of Hollywood style fate. Texas will be your 2012 World Series champions.
What teams do you see in the 2012 MLB playoffs? Who wins the World Series?
Justin Mikels is a staff writer for Operation Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @long_snapper.
JOINED: Jan 26, 2008 (5 years, 118 days ago)
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