The calendar has turned over to September, a huge month for true baseball fans. How about some bold predictions as September begins? There are certainly no guarantees, as funny things have been known to happen in the twilight between summer and fall. Heroes (and goats) can come from the most unexpected places. This is a magical time for baseball fans, as anticipation builds for the playoffs. So, without further ado, here are some bold predictions for fans to ponder.
American League Overview
Several teams have had their ups and downs, while others have just had difficult seasons. When the season began, there were four teams generally considered to be non-contenders: Texas, Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore. These teams have lived up (or down) to their expectations. Minnesota was expected to contend in the Central, but the Twins failed to play good baseball over long stretches. Cleveland struggled to stay above .500. Los Angeles, playing mostly without Mike Trout, has likewise fallen out of contention. This leaves eight teams in the mix for possible postseason play.
This division has been all but locked up by the Chicago White Sox. Any challenge from the Twins disappeared early in the season, while Cleveland hung around for a while. However, Cleveland suffered injuries to several starters and have hovered at or around the .500 mark for the last month or so. While they could make a miracle run in September, that seems highly unlikely. At this writing, the Sox hold a ten-game lead with 29 games left to play. Barring some serious unforeseen circumstances, the White Sox should wrap up this division by the middle of the month.
This is the most intriguing division in all of baseball. Only the Orioles are out of contention, as they were eliminated in April. The Red Sox started the season surprisingly well, exceeding any preseason expectations. They have come back to the pack though, as their bullpen has really struggled of late. The Yankees, after a slow start, have gotten hot lately, rattling off a 13-game winning streak. New York’s rotation is still suspect, but their surge has them in good shape at the moment. The Rays are the Rays; that is, they just keep playing solid baseball and keep on winning. The young Blue Jays are on the rise and must be taken seriously.
As September play begins, the Rays lead New York by eight games, Boston by ten games, and Toronto by 14.5 games. While there may well be a surge by one of the other three teams, this division is the Rays to lose. They are just too well-managed and too fundamentally sound to blow the big lead. The Rays will win the East, going away.
The West is the most competitive division in the AL. This division features three teams that could conceivably win the division, although the Astros have to be considered the favorites. Currently, they hold a 4.5 game lead over the A’s, and a 6.5 game lead over the surprising Mariners. Oakland is one of those teams that always seems to hang around and show up in October. Meanwhile, Seattle appears to be a team on the rise, although they may be a year early in terms of contention. While the A’s promise to continue to vie for contention, the Astros will emerge as division champs in the West.
What about the Wild Cards?
So far, we have pegged the White Sox, Rays, and Astros as the division champs in the AL. Now it gets a little more interesting. The standings for the two wild card spots look like this:
Red Sox 0
So, how does this all shake out? We did not go out on a limb in predicting the division winners. However, these wild card spots present more of a challenge. A look at the remaining schedules may shed some light on how this race ends. First, the Yankees and Blue Jays meet seven times in September. The Yankees also have three more games with the Red Sox and nine games with the Orioles and Rangers.
Boston has four games with the Rays, three with the White Sox, three with Seattle, and six with the Orioles. Oakland has seven games with Seattle and three each with the Astros, White Sox, and Blue Jays. Seattle has three games with the Astros but also a staggering seven games with the woeful Diamondbacks. Toronto has six games with the Rays in September. So, there are plenty of games between the contenders, which is as it should be. Serious fans will be able to see an important game every night for the whole month.
We have looked at all of the factors, and are going to make our bold predictions. While there is no way of knowing how the games will play out, we are going to go with two upsets. We are going out on a limb and predicting that the two AL wildcard teams will be ….drumroll……..The A’s and the Blue Jays. Yes, we could very well be crazy here. Going against the grain can have that effect on people. Yet, we are unashamedly sticking with these two teams as those who will meet in the wildcard game.
Why The A’s and Blue Jays?
First of all, the Yankees’ rotation is not exactly overpowering once you get past Gerrit Cole. Yes, they can pound the baseball, but starting pitching is king in September. So, the Yankees will struggle with that schedule. Second, the Red Sox bullpen has really struggled of late, and that is not a good sign. They figure to score some runs and get decent starting pitching. However, bullpens are crucial in September, and we think the Carmines’ pen will come up a little short. The Mariners have been playing pretty well lately. However, we believe that the fairy tale run to October will disappear for the M’s. This team’s best years are ahead of them, but not this time.
As for the A’s, this is a battle-tested team. manager Bob Melvin always gets the most out of his players, and the fact that they are within five games of the Astros is proof. They have postseason experience, and they know how to play in September. They may be the least glamorous team in the hunt, and they do lose national exposure, from playing on the West Coast. Yet, we believe that they are going to find their way into the wildcard game in 2021.
Finally, how about the darkhorse Toronto Blue Jays? Yes, they are currently at the bottom in the wildcard race. However, this young team is capable of surprising a lot of people, and we believe that they will do just that. While the Jays will be tough for years to come, they are going to get on a roll this month and sweep right by the Yankees and Red Sox. Their starting pitching and young hitters are a fearsome bunch, although their bullpen is somewhat less fearsome. Yet, look for the Jays’ bats to explode in September and carry them right into the playoffs.
Finally, The Matchups
Our bold predictions end with what will be the matchups in October. Watch for Tampa Bay to have the best record in the AL when all is said and done. The Astros will finish ahead of the White Sox, as the Sox will set a record for resting starters in September. The A’s will hold off the Jays for the home field in the wildcard game. So, in the AL, the postseason will look like this:
Wildcard: Toronto at Oakland
ALDS: Toronto at Tampa Bay, Chicago at Houston
You heard it here first, and we are confident that this will all happen. Of course, there can always be upsets in any sport, but these are predictions you can take to the bank. Well, we think so anyway. Time will tell. Here’s hoping for September fun for fans everywhere. Enjoy!
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images