AL Playoff Forcast

Way back in April, we thought that the Angels would have little trouble winning the AL West, and that if Tampa could just get enough offense, their great pitching would earn them the AL East top spot. We sorta thought that the up-and-coming Royals, with a little more pitching, could challenge the White Sox for the Central title. We are now actually admitting all this.

As the Angels close out an amazingly disappointing season in which they never really contended, it was the re-built Orioles and the up-and-coming A’s that made their mark, each earning at least a wild card spot. Like the Angels, the Royals were major disappointments, and the high-flying White Sox faded in the end. Tampa made a great run at the end, but losing their one really great hitter, Evan Longoria, for much of the season, was a killer and put them too far back coming into the stretch.

Looking to the postseason, Texas has a shot at their third straight World Series, but even with Ryan Dempster, it just does not seem like they’ve got the front line pitching to get there. The A’s can surprise, but even with their great depth of young starters, and unanticipated power, teams like them and the Orioles usually cannot come from nowhere and win out in the playoffs, especially now with that extra “play-in” game between the two wild cards. Baltimore, though, does have more vets than the younger A’s, and while they have a rotation of starters as young and inexperienced as in Oakland, their pitching secret weapon, closer Jim Johnson with his sensational total of 50 saves this season, could be the difference maker in one or more playoff series.

The Yankees are an enigma. With numerous injury issues to key players, and an overall lack of fear engendered in opposing batters by their pedestrian starting staff, their time in the playoffs could be brief, especially if the Orioles win the division title and NY finds itself in a one-game series against Oakland, and if their best pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda, had to start this Wednesday’s regular season finale and was thus unavailable, though they could bring CC Sabathia back on three days rest for Friday’s wild card game.

All this leaves one team out there, one team that should sail through the playoffs, and meet the NL champion [Giants] in the World Series, the Detroit Tigers.

It was just a few weeks ago when the Tigers, languishing far behind the division leading White Sox, were seeing rumors that this would be the end for manager Jim Leyland. While his contract status is still in limbo, Tiger ownership would be fools to oust the popular and immensely talented Leyland, and of course, would find it impossible to do so when the team wins it all – or even gets to the World Series.

The past month has seen dominant play from Detroi’s two great stars, triple-crown aspirant Miguel Cabrera, and the guy many experts feel is the AL’s best pitcher, Justin Verlander. But others have made significant contributions, such as left fielder Andy Dirks, and late-season acquisition Anibal Sanchez, who seems to finally have returned to his pre-injury form of a couple of years ago. One problem though could be the status of Max Scherzer, who has some arm soreness and who is likely to miss his last start of the regular season. Since April, Scherzer has gone 15-4 with a 3.10 ERA and the loss in his last start ended a six game winning streak. Doug Fister at times has been just as outstanding, including his team record nine straight strikeouts in his last start. That gives Detroit a solid four-man playoff rotation, with Rick Porcello in the wings.

Yep, Detroit will be AL Champs.

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