AL playoff picture comes into focus

The American League postseason is pretty much set.

The Quill's MLB expert Sam Poli gives his views on baseball's postseason

photoshopped by Mr. Rogers

The Quill's MLB expert Sam Poli gives his views on baseball's postseason

AL East: Toronto Blue Jays

Josh Donaldson swings away at his second chance for world championship with the Blue Jays. http://www.gammonsdaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Josh-Donaldson-Jays.jpg
Josh Donaldson swings away at his second chance for world championship with the Blue Jays. (http://www.gammonsdaily.com)

Talk about a power hitting lineup, 2015 MVP Josh Donaldson leads with pack with American League RBI leader Edwin Encarnacion and suspension/injury plagued Jose Bautista.

No doubt this team has the offense to make a run, but how well will their pitching hold? Last year, Toronto lost to the Royals 4-2 in the ALCS giving up an average of 6.3 runs during those six games.

Aaron Sanchez, who has the lowest ERA in the AL (2.92), will look for support from Marco Estrada and J.A. Haap.

The Blue Jays will take the number 3 seed in the AL, and look for another shot at the title.

AL Central: Cleveland Indians

Similar to the Cubs, the Indians have a painfully long losing streak of 68 years.

The key to winning in the postseason is pitching, and Cleveland has the lowest team ERA in the AL (3.83). Among their five starters, only one has an ERA above 4, and their bullpen is superior.

The meat of the lineup is led by Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana who both have 30 plus home runs. Cleveland’s top player, though, is young shortstop Francisco Lindor. He leads the team in runs (90), hits (174), bating average (.322), and OBP (.368).

The Indians should take the number 2 seed and look to follow the lead of the Cavs and win one for Cleveland.

“The Indians are my pick to win it all this year,” says Kyle Service. “They match up well with every team, and should at least make a solid run.”

AL West: Texas Rangers 

Hamels hopes to win the second title of his career
Hamels hopes to win the second title of his career. (http://a.fssta.com)

The best team in the AL, but once again, a bungling postseason team. In the Rangers’ 56 years of being a franchise, they have yet to win a title.

A big reason for Texas’ success this season were the moves they made at the trading deadline. The Rangers added Jonathon Lucroy and Carlos Beltran into their already healthy mix.

Ian Desmond has gone above and beyond his calling. He has substantially improved every offensive category and moved from shortstop to center field.

Their pitching may hurt them, as they are one of the worst teams in ERA (ranked 12th in AL). The Rangers will likely be the number 1 seed, but someone besides Cole Hamels needs to jump in or Texas could be in trouble.

 

Wild Card: Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers 

Boston Red Sox

Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia go for their thrid championship as teamates
Big Papi and Dustin Pedroia go for their third championship as teamates. (http://boston.sportsthenandnow.com)

Possibly the best lineup in the league, the Red Sox have six players in their starting eight who are putting up numbers equivalent to MVP-like seasons.

Veterans Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz lead the way as others like Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts follow. One thing that has impressed me is the transition Hanley Ramirez made from short stop to first base. He has embraced it gracefully, while keeping solid numbers at the plate.

David Price has bounced back from an awful start to the season, and has gotten help from Rick Porcello, who leads the AL in wins (20), and Steven Wright (3.33 ERA).

Boston will take home field advantage in the wild card.

Detroit Tigers 

Many expect three teams from the AL East to make it, but I’m going with Detroit.

The key for the Tigers has been Justin Verlander. After a rough 2014 campaign and a shortened 2015, Verlander has once more shown us his talent, and that he is leader of the pitching staff.

Miguel Cabrera is on pace for his tenth 30 home run 100 RBI season. Ian Kinsler continues to produce at the top of the lineup and starting pitcher Michael Fulmer has been a pleasant surprise as the probable rookie of the year.

I like the Tigers because of their experience. Three of their top four leaders in WAR (Wins above replacement) are at least 33 years old. I see Detroit as threat as they take second place in the wild card.

“The Tigers will take a wild card spot,” says Coach Espelage. “Miggy has been a rock for them and now that Verlander is back to form, this team definitely has a shot.”

For further projections go to this link.