6 Teams, 3 Spots -- Who Actually Gets Them?

The answer is, of course, "Dunno." OK, well thanks for reading!

The 6 teams are Chicago, Detroit, Oakland, LAA, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay, fighting for one Central division spot and two wild cards. Here are some observations that have cropped up for me lately as I try to figure out, at the very least, who I'm supposed to worry about the most!

TIGERS...This is a team that was widely picked to run away with the Central but has consistently lagged behind the White Sox throughout the second half.

What occurs to me about the Tigers is that it's relatively easy to see what a team's pitching and hitting look like, but often more subtle to see how the defense may be impacting the team. Bad range can make decent pitching look like poor pitching, and balls that drop or get through the infield usually look about the same, in the box score, as balls that are hammered.

I would love to have Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in my lineup. I would not, however, love to have them fielding at the corners of my infield. It's possible that the Tigers' defense is so porous that the team really is as mediocre as they've played, and that Godot is going to arrive before they "rise to their norm, get hot, and waltz away with the Central".

ANGELS...They are still very much in the mix, even if they have the highest mountain to climb. And any team that starts with with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Jered Weaver has plenty of talent capable of playing great over any one month sample (like September). But...The Angels' bullpen is legitimately bad. Bullpens don't often decide seasons, but the Angels might just be weak enough there that they won't be able to sustain the kind of run they'll need to in order to snatch a playoff spot.

ORIOLES...They may be flukey, a team that on paper looks only "ok" and has squeezed a million wins out of a negative run differential, but if you're flukey for 5 months running, you're "for real" in some very basic sense. Hats off to the O's for the season they've had. But...Claiming a playoff berth in a tight race is not just about "doing lots of winning". It's also about avoiding that dreaded 6-game losing streak. If I had to pick one team who might have a disastrous week that undoes a lot of good work, it would be the Orioles.

Not yet mentioned? The White Sox, the A's, and the Rays. Perfect teams? No. Free of the issues chronicled above? Yes. They might end up being the 3 teams we see in October. What do you think?

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