|Kelly Olynyk Showing Improvement in Second Year||Connelly’s Top Ten: Best Holiday Around the Corner!||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 12||Celtics Defeat Winless 76ers, Avoid Embarrassment|
The All Star Break is here, which should give everyone plenty of time to rest their weary bones before the rest of the season resumes. St. Louis and Boston are still leading the leagues, but they aren’t safe by any means. Several teams in each league remain with great shots of forcing their way into the brackets, and even Houston and Miami are still a ways away from being mathematically eliminated. With the All Star Game upcoming and the trade deadline looming, teams will look to tweak themselves for the late season push, so let’s look at what would happen if the playoffs started as of Monday, July 15:
The Cardinals split a four-game set with the Cubs before the break, but that didn’t do anything to hurt their chances. They still have a game on Pittsburgh and talent to spare. St. Louis is still a very good team with a very good chance to go all the way, but there will be teams better than the Cubs to come.
Arizona is benefiting from a weak division, but they’re not terrible in their own right. Atlanta is similar, but they have four games on Arizona and home-field advantage. However, Atlanta recently lost both Upton brothers to injuries in the same game. If Atlanta doesn’t get their health back in time, they could easily be heading home early.
Both teams have been having some recent issues, but Pittsburgh is still north of .600 on the season. Pitching has really helped propel Pittsburgh’s success without any especially huge superstars. Cincinnati has some good pieces themselves, but Pittsburgh will give them a run for their money.
Even in a 3-2 loss in Oakland, a near no-hitter from a rookie showcased the depth Boston has waiting in their system. Boston’s lineup begins with speed, continues with power and ends with some good all-around hitters. If they get Clay Buchholz back and performing like he was before his injury, and if Jon Lester improves a bit to throw like an ace, the Sox will definitely be a huge October force.
The Athletics are doing exceedingly well, just a game behind the Red Sox. They’re helped by the fact that Max Scherzer was proven to not be mortal by taking the loss against Texas (though 13-1 is still incredibly good). With Detroit‘s power and rotation, the key for Oakland is clearly to drive up the pitch count for Detroit’s starters and break into a weaker bullpen without a clear closer. Whether or not that happens should determine who moves on to the ALCS.
Texas is playing .500 ball at the break, while Tampa has won 14 of their last 16 games. Oddly enough, both July losses have come against Houston. Even so, they haven’t been slowing down. Tampa is a clear favorite in the Wildcard game at this point.