Two teams trying to pull off a miracle.
The Florida Marlins opened the season 11-31. They have gone 59-38 since.
The Philadelphia Philles flopped miserably in mid-season. In mid-May they were 22-16, just a game in arrears of the New York Mets. By July 7 they had tumbled all the way down to 38-47 and out of any reasonable shot at a division title. They fought back to .500 and above and even closed within a half-game of the Wild Card lead before falling back.
Both clubs are locked in at 70-69. Both have 23 games left to play.
They face each other 10 times over that span.
In their way are each other, the San Diego Padres and possibly the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Padres enjoy a three-game cushion in the Wild Card standings but one thing we’ve learned in 2006—especially in the National League—is that a three-game lead can evaporate in a heartbeat.
Both teams atop the NL West know that a 5-5 split in these 10 games means that both clubs make it.
We’re going to look at the Phillies, Marlins, Dodgers, and Padres to see if the two NL East clubs have a reasonable shot at postseason baseball.
We’ll look at their schedule, how well they’ve played of late (15 games), how they’ve fared all year for a better sample size and make an educated (HA!) guess. Or more likely I’ll just pull it out of my, er…um—the air. For those of you into gambling take my conclusions and bet the opposite and send me a commission check—they don’t call me Nostradumbass for nothing y’know.
Schedule SP ERA RP ERA OPS Runs Padres (11-4) 4.32 (4)* 3.44 (2) .745 (12) 617 (14) 7 vs ARZ (5-7) 4 vs LAD (11-3) 3 vs SFG (6-10) 3 vs CIN (2-1) 3 vs PIT (2-1) 3 vs StL (2-1) 28-23 (.549)
Why The Padres Could Win
Obviously the favorites for the Wild Card. They have a three-game cushion and a winning record against teams in their upcoming schedule including complete domination of the Dodgers. If they play against their upcoming opposition as they have all year (.549 winning pct.) they’ll finish 86-76, meaning both the Marlins and Phillies would have to go 16-7 to force a playoff and 17-6 to finish ahead. If the Marlins/Phillies split their 10 games they’d have to go 11-2 and 12-1 against the rest of their respective schedules. Possible, but not likely.
How The Padres Could Lose
The Padres’ offense was worst in the NL in August and not much better so far this month. Their pitching has been carrying them. The Padres need a major cold spell in this department if they’re to be stopped. If the bats suddenly become hot they’ll have a legitimate shot at a World Series appearance.
Schedule SP ERA RP ERA OPS Runs Dodgers (8-7) 4.37 (5) 4.09 (8) .777 (5) 695 (4) 4 vs NYM (1-2) 3 vs ARZ (8-7) 3 vs COL (12-4) 3 vs SFG (10-6) 3 vs ChC (1-2) 3 vs PIT (5-2) 3 vs SD (3-11) 40-34 (.541)
Why The Dodgers Could Win
Basically in the same boat as the Padres. If they play their schedule as they have all year they too finish 86-76. Their final three-game set against the Friars probably decides the division.
How The Dodgers Could Lose
The Dodgers are scuffling along, winners of just eight of their last 15. They’ve been streaky all year and they have a raft of inexperienced players—especially in the back end of their bullpen. Toss in an eastern swing through New York and Chicago and finishing the season in Colorado and San Francisco, and you’ve got a recipe for a meltdown. Don’t think the Giants wouldn’t love to send the Dodgers packing in 2006.
Schedule SP ERA RP ERA OPS Runs Phillies (9-6) 5.28 (16) 3.82 (3) .787 (2) 739 (T1) 10 vs FLA (6-3) 5 vs HOU (1-0) 3 vs WAS (8-8) 3 vs ChC (3-1) 3 vs ATL (9-6) 27-18 (.600)
Why The Phillies Could Win
They’ve got the best offense in the National League. They’ve got one of the better bullpens. Tom Gordon is thankfully back. Ryan Howard and Chase Utley have to stay hot. They need 15 wins to have a realistic shot. If they play against their schedule as they have all year it’ll get them 14 wins. Their starting pitching—a sore spot all year—has finally come together. A rotation of Cole Hamels, Jamie Moyer, Jon Lieber and Brett Myers is enough to get it done, but they need help from their number five spot and pray for no more bullpen meltdowns. With the loss to Houston, their margin for error is razor thin. It’s doable but they need help from the NL West contenders.
How The Phillies Could Lose
Arthur Rhodes back-to-back blown saves at the end of August/beginning of September against the Nationals and Braves might be remembered as the time the Phillies lost the Wild Card. They were one strike away from a tie atop the Wild Card standings and instead are now three back. Anything shy of seven wins against the Marlins ends their season.
Schedule SP ERA RP ERA OPS Runs Marlins (12-3) 4.22 (1) 4.59 (13) .764 (7) 656 (8) 10 vs PHI (3-6) 7 vs NYM (5-7) 3 vs CIN (1-2) 3 vs ATL (7-9) 16-24 (.400)
*numbers in brackets besides offense/pitching stats indicate NL ranking
Why The Marlins Could Win
They need a miracle. They’ve got a middle-of-the-road offense. A sketchy bullpen, an inexperienced rotation and a .400 record this year against their upcoming opponents. In addition to 10 against the Phillies, they’ve got seven against the Mets. Having said that, baseball is a game of improbabilities, and the Marlins are red-hot, flying high and playing loose. Their next seven games are at home against the Phillies and Mets before they start a 10-game road trip. They need five wins at home to have a shot.
How The Marlins Could Lose
I think I kind of covered this above. Oh well. I guess I’ll tell a David Samson joke:
Q. How does David Samson change a light bulb in his office?
A. He asks South Florida to build him a stadium with an office that has a new bulb in it.
Final prediction (kind of)
Teams most likely to win: Padres/Dodgers
Team to potentially melt down: Dodgers
Team most likely to pull out a miracle: Phillies (hey, they’ve got to even out 1964)