wait a moment

Preferred Playoff Opponents AL

The American League playoff picture has become more clear, at least for the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers have clinched their division, and at this point we know two of Tampa Bay, Boston and New York are going to make it, as well as Texas or Anaheim.
It now moves from “Who’s going to make the playoffs?” to “Whose playing who in the playoffs?”
A month or two ago the obvious choice among contenders would have been Detroit. Except for maybe Texas, who has been dismal against Motown this year, not to mention they had lost MVP Josh Hamilton to injury in Detroit.
But things have become increasingly murkier as the Tigers have made a mockery of the AL Central and in the process passed Texas in the race for the top seed in the AL.
Now the answer might be Texas, who to no fault of their own have seen Detroit leap frog them. But it is their fault that Anaheim is within shouting distance. The Angels catching Texas would make for interesting playoff baseball. Not only is there the dynamic one-two punch of Jared Weaver and Ervin Santana, but also the fact that they could potentially face Detroit again in the ALCS. No one is going to forget the yelling-heavy matchup of Justin Verlander and Weaver on the July 31 trade deadline for a while.
First things first, or rather first things second, is that whichever two of the AL East Squads make the playoffs can’t play each other in the first round (this rule applies to all divisions). So, because New York currently has the best record they would play the AL West club (who has the worst), while Detroit takes on the AL East team that isn’t sitting on its couch watching (second and third best record).
I think for New York the obvious decision, and maybe one that they won’t have control over, is Texas. Detroit is the only other option, and while Texas rotation is good, Detroit’s is much better, not to mention Texas is easier for New York to match up with. The Yankees have winning records against all but two teams this year. Those two teams are Detroit and Boston. They are also 7-2 versus the Rangers on the campaign, which doesn’t hurt.
Detroit is 12-4 combined against Texas and Tampa, and while they are 1-5 against Boston I firmly believe they can beat the Sox thanks to Boston’s rotation questions. More importantly is Detroit’s lack of rotation concerns. It’s impossible to play Texas in the first round even if Detroit overtakes the Yankees for the top seed.  This is because of the aforementioned rule about division teams playing in the first round.  Tampa is probably the easiest of the East teams to beat, but I’d take a long look at Detroit in the playoffs. The dream scenario would be to beat Tampa in the division series and beat Texas in the Championship series.
Boston is a mixed bag. They have clobbered their arch rival Yankees 11 out of 15 times. But they can’t play New York in the first round. So, between Texas and Detroit the more favorable statistically is Detroit, but I just think Boston’s pitching concerns are too daunting for them to last long in the playoffs. There is also the threat of the Sox missing the playoffs period and spending some quality time with their couches and TV screens.
Texas doesn’t have much of a choice here. Barring a losing streak from either of the teams ahead of them, the Rangers will have the lowest seed in the playoffs. This isn’t great, because if the Yankees lock up the top seed then it will be a 2010 ALCS rematch. However, when Texas and New York have matched up this year, Texas has won 2 of 9. So, Texas should be hoping for a first-round matchup with Boston since they’ve won 6 of 10 against Beantown.
Tampa Bay and Anaheim are currently on the outside looking in. They both need to win and get help to get in. It might not bode well for the Angels who are 5 games back of Texas and are 7-9 on the campaign against the Rangers. What could be even more troubling is LA’s struggles against all other playoff contenders.  Through the 20th the Halos are 21-27 against Detroit, Boston, New York, Tampa and Texas. The only winning record of the bunch is against the Tigers where they are an unimpressive 4-3. Ideally after they catch Texas they would like to play New York just because they can’t play the Tigers and have lost 6 of 8 to the Red Sox.
Tampa on the other hand is 2 games out of it in the wildcard and has gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. While Boston and New York, the squads ahead of them, are 8-12 combined over their last 10. There’s no doubting that the Rays are on a roll, but if they make the playoffs they would likely play is not Detroit. The Tigers are a team the Rays dropped the ball against: fumbling to a 1-6 record against the Tigers. Against playoff contenders not named the Detroit Tigers, Tampa is 23-20 with 11 wins coming against Boston. The downside to this is that Boston is the team the Rays will likely have to leapfrog to get in. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t bad against Texas and the Yankees at 8-10, but I’m not sure that will cut it if, and that’s a gargantuan IF , they A catch Boston, and B beat Detroit.
While things are still murky with the playoff races in the AL West and East/Wildcard, one thing is for sure. It’s going to be one damn good postseason.

Published in MLB
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