ReviewSeptember 14, 2009

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MLB Update: The Stretch Run

By R.J. White

While this is primarily a fantasy baseball site, almost all of us are fans of baseball apart from the fantasy world. For some, it’s easy to get distracted micro-managing your fantasy teams and lose sight of the MLB standings. Today, we’ll take a peek at how MLB teams are doing (as of September 13th), and whether that matches up with our expectations heading into the season.

NL East

1. Philadelphia
2. Florida (6.5 GB)
3. Atlanta (7.5 GB)
4. New York (20 GB)
5. Washington (32.5 GB)

Almost everybody had either Philadelphia or New York winning the division — one of those options is making people look smart, the other is making people look insane. Of course, no one could have predicted the incredible rash of injuries the Mets have had to endure. Philly has some great pitching to add to their explosive lineup, giving them a solid shot at a repeat title. Florida looked surprisingly competitive for a while and earned some Wild Card-buzz. Atlanta was in the same boat but never looked like a realistic contender. Washington is right where we thought they’d be.

NL Central

1. St. Louis
2. Chicago (9.5 GB)
3. Houston (13.5 GB)
4. Milwaukee (14 GB)
5. Cincinnati (19.5 GB)
6. Pittsburgh (27.5 GB)

On the arms of Chris Carpenter, Joel Pineiro and Adam Wainwright, and on the bat of soon-to-be-2009-MVP Albert Pujols, the Cardinals have re-established their dominance over the division. The trade for Matt Holliday really set them apart from the pack as a title contender and almost guaranteed this year’s NL playoffs would be pretty exciting. Houston is a bit of surprise at third, although they aren’t a .500 team. Milwaukee is the big disappointment here, while Pittsburgh’s last place finish is the least surprising thing on the NL Central menu.

NL West

1. Los Angeles
2. Colorado (3 GB)
3. San Francisco (7.5 GB)
4. San Diego (20 GB)
5. Arizona (23 GB)

Los Angeles did a great job of weathering the Manny Ramirez of suspension, but seeing Colorado within striking distance is a bit of a shock after the Dodgers looked completely dominant in the first half. That’s really a testament to how well the Rockies have played, and they’ve been the beneficiary of great pitching for once. They’re the likely Wild Card, an honor that’s led to many a World Series championship in recent years. Those Giants have played very well this year and have a bright future ahead in the 2010s. Arizona’s cellar-dwelling would have been a head-scratcher in March, but they were never able to rebound from Brandon Webb’s injury.

AL East

1. New York
2. Boston (7 GB)
3. Tampa Bay (19.5 GB)
4. Toronto (26.5 GB)
5. Baltimore (33 GB)

This was a difficult division to predict, but the Yankees offense and CC Sabathia stepped up in the middle portion of the season and are now looking like the favorites to win the AL crown. Boston was the favorite for a while, but despite deadline wheeling-and-dealing, they’ll likely have to settle for the Wild Card, where they have a four-game lead entering Monday. The Rays weren’t able to carry over last season’s magic and have completely bottomed out, losing 11 straight. All in all, this division didn’t have many surprises.

AL Central

1. Detroit
2. Minnesota (5.5 GB)
3. Chicago (6 GB)
4. Cleveland (15 GB)
5. Kansas City (19.5 GB)

A year late for their breakout, Detroit received awesome seasons from Justin Verlander and Edwin Jackson, but it’ll be tough to keep up with the other AL teams in the playoffs. Minnesota was good but not great, while Chicago has hung around much of the season. The big surprise is Cleveland, who many people picked to win the division. After their season derailed, they traded their top players and began the rebuilding process. Kansas City was garnering sleeper hype this year, but they still haven’t managed to get the right pieces in the right places.

AL West

1. Los Angeles
2. Texas (6 GB)
3. Seattle (13 GB)
4. Oakland (22 GB)

No ifs, ands, or buts: this is again the Angels’ division. The Rangers have taken a huge step forward, getting great performances from little-known young pitchers. Will this be another flash-in-the-pan season from Texas, or will their young arms build on the success of 2009 and keep the team in playoff contention in the future? Seattle and Oakland were predictably also-rans. I’d love to see Texas make this a competitive division throughout the 2010s, as the Angels have had the easiest road to the playoffs for quite a while.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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