Welcome to the MLB Roundtable! Today we break out the battery of Archie and Steve to talk closers, All-Stars, Division winners and who is the biggest surprise so far!
ARCHIE: To answer this question you only have to look at the perennial play-off teams. It is the exception and not the norm that a team makes it to the playoffs closing by committee. Every team has their “Ace” or number one starter. Granted that some are more Ace than others. But not every team has that exceptional closer. Those teams that do however, seem to make the playoff run every year.
STEVE: Say no more than Mariano Rivera. Perhaps the greatest closer that ever played the game. He was probably responsible for a few of the Yankees World Championships. As a former pitcher myself, I can say with certainty that closing is one of the hardest jobs. If you get into a jam, you don’t have another inning to make up for it as a starter. I think having a strong closer is essential to a winning baseball program. That being said, I do not want to take anything away from starters. It takes a strong starting rotation to win in a short series, the reason a closer is pivotal is because if you are in 2-1 game in the ninth inning, and your starter pitched his heart out. That closer has to have the mentality to go out there and finish that game for his starting pitcher. Its not easy.
2. Early look at the ASG candidates. List your AL All-Stars.
ARCHIE: cather, Joe Mauer, 1st base, Chris Davis, 2nd base, Robinson Cano, 3rd base, Miquel Cabrera (and there’s not a close second), SS, Jonny Peralta, OF, Mike Trout, Adam Jones, Nelson Cruz.
STEVE: Tough because there are the players who SHOULD get in to the players that WILL get in. My All Stars that SHOULD be there are as follows: 1B Chris Davis- Baltimore 2B Robinson Cano- NY Yankees 3B Miguel Cabrera (though Longoria will get in as a reserve) SS JJ Hardy- Baltimore C Joe Mauer- Minnesota, Outfield Mike Trout- LA Angels, Jose Bautista- Toronto, Adam Jones- Baltimore
3. Who wins AL East this year?
ARCHIE: This is the ONLY division in MLB that every team is currently ABOVE the .500 mark. Again, they are proving to be the best division in MLB. And, at this point in the season, I’m liking the Orioles to squeak out the crown.
STEVE: Very tough call on this, I think the team that is playing the best baseball at the end of the year will take it. Look for this to be a race to the finish with all five teams in the hunt. I think the injuries are going to hurt the Yankees down the stretch so they are on the outside looking in, Tampa is not consistent this season and will not keep pace. So that leaves the Red Sox, Orioles, and Blue Jays. The Toronto Blue Jays are starting to play the way they are supposed to. I see the Jays coming out on top as I think they will play the best baseball over the next three months of the season and take the division by 2 games. Have no fear Baltimore and Boston fans, there still are two wild card spots that will likely be taken by your teams. Toronto edges out the East.
4. Who wins the NL West this year?
ARCHIE: Only the Dodgers have rode off into the sunset. Or at least seem to have. They still have the talent to make a run, but I’m thinking they will have players on the sellers market before the 31 July deadline. The rest of the division have only a margin of 3.5 games after this weekend separating top and 4th place. I still think the Giants have the best rotation to shut teams down, so I will give the nod to the SF Giants to finish the season in first in the west.
STEVE: Lets break it down just like I did the AL East. The Dodgers are done so we eliminate them right off the bat. The Rockies have been playing good baseball all year, but I don’t see them keeping pace in the west. The Padres have been a surprise to some, and I think they are the wild card here, as I can’t seem to put them over the top, nor can I write them off. This leaves the Giants and Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks are clicking on all cylinders, they have a solid pitching staff, great hitting, and solid defense, and a fundamentally sound manager in Kirk Gibson. The Giants have spurts of greatness and at times look like the team that ran through the playoffs last season, however there are periods where they cant score a run. I give the Diamondbacks a slight edge here, but you cannot count out the defending champs.
ARCHIE: Remember in September, you heard it here first. The PIRATES make the playoffs this year. I really like the team Huntington has put together and the team is playing good ball. I am not sure they will win their Division, after all they have a lot to overcome against St Louis and Cincinnati, but they WILL NOT fold like a cheap lawn chair this season. In fact, they just might be one of those teams looking to pick up some of that overpriced Dodger talent before the deadline.
STEVE: After seeing what the Pirates did against the Angels on Sunday night, it is hard to not pick them. However, I am not that surprised at what they have accomplished this season, and I think it will continue into the playoffs for the Bucs. The team that will surprise a few people? I have to go with the Toronto Blue Jays. Okay, maybe not the biggest surprise, but you have to take a look at how they started the season to how they are playing currently. Why will this be a surprise? Because I am predicting that from now until the playoffs, the Blue Jays will own the best record in baseball. This team is finally starting to play the level of baseball that the management signed. RA Dickey will come back to form, Buerhle will have a better second half, and Josh Johnson will return to his old form. If they can get Jose Reyes back (which is not likely) they will be in the drivers seat and go all the way to the top of the East by the end of the year.
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