Thursday, September 23, 2010

Revisiting the NL Playoff Picture

As we head into the final week of the 2010 regular season, I thought it might be worthwhile to revisit a post from a couple of weeks ago... In that post, I bemoaned the fact that the Cardinals weren't able to do the one thing that is required of all good/great teams -- beat up on the little guys. The Cardinals have been terrible against "lesser" competition, and in the time since I wrote that post, they've only gotten worst. You might not realize it, but they've posted the worst record in the NL since the All Star break. Of course, on weekends when they do play a team that still has a shot at October, they surprise by taking 2 of 3. Then they play the Cubs and get swept. And thus you have the frustration of the 2010 season as a Cardinals fan.

But, my intent here is to revisit the teams I talked about in that previous post -- the Padres, the Giants, the Reds, the Phillies and the Braves. Since they've put themselves squarely in the hunt, I'll also touch on the Rockies.

Let's start with the Phillies.....Back in June, it looked like they wouldn't even make the playoffs, but as they have the last several years, they turned on the jets at the right time, and basically wrapped up the division with their recent sweep of the Braves. They head into the playoffs with a rotation that starts with Roys Halladay and Oswalt followed by Cole Hammels. Yeah, they have a great shot at reaching their 3rd consecutive World Series.

The Braves have slipped a bit since my last post. They still have a lead in the Wild Card race, but the 3 teams in contention for the NL West are still in the mix. I think the season is a disappointment for the Braves if they don't make it as the Wild Card, and personally, I would love to see them make the World Series and send off Bobby Cox in style (provided they don't have to go through the Yankees to do that).

The NL West remains the last compelling race in any division in baseball. The Padres decided to quit winning and saw a 6+ game lead evaporate. Since that time, they've spent days alternating with the Giants for the division lead. The Padres play a Cinci team that may be resting stars for the post-season and then welcome the Cubs, who have played better under interim manager Mike Quade. The Giants get the Rockies and then the Diamondbacks. Then the two teams square off in San Fran, and just might have the division and a spot in the playoffs on the line.

Unless of course the Rockies spoil everything by getting back in the groove after stumbling a bit against the D'backs. Troy Tulowitzki has had a September to remember and has been clubbing home runs at an unconscious pace. He's cemented his spot as the premier short stop in the NL, and might just earn a spot in the MVP voting if he can help the Rockies turn October into "Rock"tober.

The Reds, of course, have things basically wrapped up as the Cards are starting to give time to their September callups. Dusty Baker worked magic with the 2003 Cubs, and may be improving on that story with the 2010 Reds.

It is going to be a fun October.

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