- By Ollie Walden
August has begun and that means that the Major League Baseball races have begun. What I am trying to say is that is this were a horse race they would be rounding the final turn and storming down the stretch drive to the finish line. With the beginning of August, teams have somewhere between 40 to 50 games left on the schedule until the regular season closes. This is the final fight of the season and usually some teams are getting hot or some are folding. Over the next two days, I will briefly go over the two leagues and what there divisional and wildcard races look like as we enter the last quarter of the season. Today, I will kick it off with the American League.
The American League East division is old school this year, as it is down to the Red Sox and the Yankees, just as it seems like it has been for years. Boston has a slim one game lead and the Yankees are just waiting for any type of slip up to wrestle the division lead away from their hated rivals. The Devils Rays and Blue Jays are both above .500 on the season, but the 11 and 12 games margins that they trail by are going to be too much to overcome this late in the season for either team to steal the division title. To win the division title, they would need Boston and New York to fall apart and that just won't happen. Sadly, the Orioles are dead after a good start to the season, when they briefly held the division lead. This divison will come down to the Yankees and Red Sox, as usual, and you could flip a coin on who will pull it out. I'll say the Red Sox take it this season.
The American League Central division has been the Indians to lose this season. Cleveland jumped out to a big lead and has held on to the division lead almost all season, but the Detroit Tigers have stayed within reach and played solidly all season as well. Coming into August we have seen the Indians falter losing 7 of their last 10 games and the Tigers have reaped the benefits of Cleveland's stumble by grabbing a 4 game division lead. The White Sox are 7 games back and the Twins are 8 games back, but I don't see either of those teams making a serious run at this division. Unfortunately for Cleveland, I don't see them getting back to being as hot as they were when they started the season and even if they did I still feel Detroit would find a way to hold them off. I like the Tigers winning the American League Central title this season.
The American League West division race seems like it hasn't changed since the beginning of the season. You can glance at it from month to month and you will see Texas atop the division with the Angels 1, 2 or 3 games back of them. Seattle was within 4 games also, all the way until about the beginning of July and now the Mariners have fallen back some 12 games and are out of the race with Oakland. The Rangers are still just one game ahead of the Angels, but that one game might as well be 5 as they Angels have failed to be able to push Texas out of the top spot. I'd like to see the Angels do it and they have the personell to do it, but I feel like they lack the will power as they have had the chance to grab the lead all season and still havent been able to. I'm sticking with the Rangers to win this division by a slim margin, lets say they finish 2 or 3 games ahead of the Angels this year.
As for the American League Wildcard race, it is going to go to whoever finishes second in the American League East this season between the Red Sox and Yankees. Both teams are just too far ahead for anyone else to make a run at them. It would take a complete breakdown by either Boston or New York for someone else to steal the wildcars race and it just isn't going to happen this season. The American League is weak outside of the top 5 to 6 teams and the teams trailing in the wildcard race are just not good enough to pose a serious threat to Boston or New York. So, my choices to make it our of the 2011 season and into the playoffs are Boston, Detroit, Texas and New York.
Here's an article about 2011 MLB NL pennant and wildcard races preview.