Sunday, September 16, 2012

Hot and Cold Streaks Shape NL Wild-Card Race

At the conclusion of today's play, the race for the second wild-card spot in the National League baseball playoffs is very much up for grabs. This is the first year that each league will have two wild-card teams, who will face each other in a one-game playoff (within each league) to begin the postseason. Barring a major collapse, the Atlanta Braves should capture a wild-card slot without much problem (although the Braves did fall apart in a similar situation a year ago).

As shown in the following table, some of the other wild-card contenders have experienced recent streaks that have either strengthened or weakened their playoff prospects.

Team Record Recent Streak?
Atlanta 84-63
St. Louis 77-70 Lost 8 of 10 (Sept. 5-15)
L.A. Dodgers 76-71 Lost 8 of last 11
Milwaukee 74-72 Won 20 of last 26
Pittsburgh 73-72 Lost 25 of last 35
Philadelphia 73-74 Won 15 of 19 (Aug. 23-Sept. 12),
but lost 3 of 4 in Houston this wkd
Arizona 72-74

Of the teams listed above, the one threatening to make the most dramatic comeback is (or perhaps "was") Philadelphia. The Phillies occupied last place in the NL East until mid-August and were "sellers" at the trading deadline (i.e., trying to build for the future rather than win now), trading away outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. However, any team whose pitching staff includes Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels can win games, and that's exactly what Philadelphia did. Losing 3 of 4 to lowly Houston this weekend has put a serious dent in the Phillies' playoff hopes, though.

Over in the right-hand column,you can vote in a poll regarding who you think will grab the second NL wild-card slot (assuming Atlanta wins the first one). You can examine the contending teams' remaining schedules here.

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