Handicapping American League Playoff Race

The MLB trade deadline is nearly one week passed and the American League is as tight as ever. At the time of this writing, there are six teams within 2-1/2 games of a wild card berth. Some teams helped themselves through trades while others sat on the sidelines.

Here is a rundown of the contending teams in the American League; with a predicted season outcome.

Oakland Athletics

The acquisition of Jon Lester may have cost the team Yoendis Cespedes, but the playoffs are won with pitching and few have a track record as solid as Lester’s. His 2013 performance was absolutely dominant, and will be instrumental in their chase for the World Series. Home field will be key, as the pitcher friendly park will play into their strength.

Detroit Tigers

The trade for David Price was a surprise to some, but it was deemed necessary to keep pace with the A’s in the American League. Detroit’s lineup is as balanced and potent as any in baseball with Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez the most dangerous duo. Unfortunately, without a closer, Detroit will struggle to reach the ALCS.

Anaheim Angels

The Angels bolstered their bullpen by acquiring closer Houston Street. The offense is not as potent as it was once projected, with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton not at the same levels they once were. Their rotation is not as impressive as Oakland or Detroit but has been solid all season. They are well positioned to claim the top wild card spot and have a chance to catch the A’s for the division lead.

Baltimore Orioles

Nelson Cruz has cooled off from his torrid first-half pace, but is a deadly bat in the lineup. There is enough depth in the lineup to put runs on the board; but Baltimore will need one of their starters to step up and become a true staff ace. A division title is well within reach and the Orioles have an outside shot at an ALCS bid.

Toronto Blue Jays

Surprising that the Blue Jays didn’t make a trade deadline deal. The offense is solid as is the pitching. Edwin Encarnación will need a healthy return from injury for this team to chase a division crown or hold on to the final wild card spot.

New York Yankees

How this team stays in the hunt is anyone’s guess. Their pitching staff has been decimated; yet there is New york, knocking on the doorstep of another postseason. The motivation to give Derek Jeter one more playoff run is clearly motivation here. But at some point, the many losses they suffered will catch up to them.

Kansas City Royals

Another team that did little to help their chances through trade acquisitions. A decent lineup that has a few holes and a top-heavy rotation that should keep the team hovering around the .500 level through the balance of the season. When your team’s top power threat is hitting .198 (Mike Moustakas), staying in the mix will be a challenge. If “Big Game” James Shields becomes the dominant pitcher he was a few seasons back in Tampa Bay and the lineup can provide a few more runs, the Royals should not be totally discounted from a playoff berth.

Seattle Mariners

Austin Jackson was a nice addition but the Mariners need more offense to contend. Despite having a big name player like Robinson Cano in the lineup, the team has gotten their power from the likes of Mike Zunino and Kyle Seager. A playoff berth will be a stretch, but any team that is anchored by Felix Hernandez cannot be completely discounted.

Cleveland Indians

The team has remained in contention due to solid pitching and timely hitting. To ascend to a playoff berth, the team will need more consistent production outside of Michael Brantley. In July, Yan Gomes (.329 with 5 home runs) and Carlos Santana (.313 with 6 home runs)have added some pop in July, but Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall will need to get hot. Unless this team can find a way to win more consistently on the road, the playoffs will be a long shot.


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