If you’re a baseball fan, it has no doubt been a long September for you. Typically, this is the time of year you look forward to the most because every game matters and there is great drama when it comes to what teams will earn playoff spots. But that’s not exactly how things have unfolded in 2017, which has been one long snore compared to previous years.
In terms of drama and teams fighting for playoff spots, the sport is scraping the bottom of the barrel. At least three divisions, possibly four, will be decided by 10 or more games. At least two or three of those divisions could potentially have a 20-game difference between first and second place.
Not even the wildcard races have been all that exciting. Even the once-compelling race involving a half-dozen lackluster American League teams fighting for the second wild-card spot has more or less dissolved. A three-team race for the second wild card in the National League is all we have.
However, baseball fans shouldn’t let a disappointing September get them down. The end of the regular season may have been a snoozefest for all but a few teams. But baseball will make it up to use during what is lining up to be an epic postseason.
The lack of September drama has been the result of baseball being top heavy this season. So, once the wildcard games have been played and we’ve whittled the field down to eight teams, we’ll have eight outstanding teams that all have a chance to reach the World Series. There will be nothing watered down about this year’s playoff field; every series will be a heavyweight matchup.
On paper, no matchup looks better than a potential ALCS between the Astros and Indians. With Houston’s acquisition of Justin Verlander, the Astros not only have a potent line-up that poses a great challenge for Cleveland’s rotation, but they also have a starting rotation that could be just as good as the Indians.
Of course, you can’t sleep on the Red Sox or the Yankees either. Those teams rank second and third, respectively, in team ERA in the American League behind the Indians. They have the depth in both the rotation and bullpen to match up with either the Indians or Astros. Both should end up winning at least 90 games this season, and neither Boston nor New York should be overlooked.
In the National League, the Dodgers have been the favorites for much of the year. However, an 11-game losing streak earlier in this month has changed that perception. Any team that loses 11 straight games is not a sure thing.
The Nationals, having figured out their bullpen and possessing three starters with an ERA under 3, are legitimate contenders. The Cubs, with their big bats, deep rotation, and championship experience, are also viable challengers. In fact, the wild-card bound Diamondbacks may be the biggest threat of all, as their pitching staff has the second lowest ERA in the National League, on top of a lineup headlined by Paul Goldschmidt and J.D. Martinez.
Picking a winner among those eight teams with any kind of certainty is liking finding a needle in a haystack. All are quality teams and all are capable of winning the World Series. Watching them play one another amidst the pressure and intensity of a postseason will be must-see TV. Yes, September has been a bore, but rest assured, October will more than make-up for it.