The New York Yankees are listed by Vegas as even-money favorites to win the American League pennant, but given everything that has gone wrong in the Bronx lately — particularly with the starting rotation — it’s tough to call that a good bet.
In truth, the four likely playoff teams — the Yankees, Rays, Twins and Rangers — look to be pretty evenly matched these days.
The Minnesota Twins are batting a brisk .277 as a team and have a 3.76 team ERA, statistics indicative of an elite team. Since August, they have been exactly that. It was not so long ago that they were in the midst of a tight playoff race with the Chicago White Sox, but the Twins have stretched that lead all the way to double digits. Their weakness, though, may be their rotation, which really only features one elite starter in Francisco Liriano. Carl Pavano may have a respectable 3.60 ERA, but he’s still Carl Pavano.
The Texas Rangers may be the most balanced club of all, featuring a true ace in Cliff Lee, a rotation full of solid arms who have had great years and a .277 batting average of their own. They also have the likely AL MVP in Josh Hamilton, who is batting .361 with a 1.049 OPS. They have veterans like Vladimir Guerrero and young guns like Elvis Andrus. Their bullpen, featuring flamethrower Neftali Feliz, has been solid too. The Rangers, like the Twins, have also been on a tear — recently sweeping the Yankees.
The Rays and Yankees have been baseball’s two best teams for most of the year, but their play has been mediocre down the stretch. The Yankees have the major league’s best offense, but their production has waned as the season has gone on. Their rotation, though, has been the biggest problem, as it has been a one-man show of late. Other than CC Sabathia, nobody has contributed very much at all.
Tampa’s weakness is obvious. The Rays don’t hit for a strong average and often look incapable of producing runs. Still, they are fast, defend well, have a great pitching staff and have managed to score the third-most runs in the majors.
The Red Sox do technically still have a chance also — 100-to-1 odds, according to Vegas.
So who do you think is the favorite to win the American League pennant?
Share your thoughts below.
Saturday, Sept. 18: How do you think the Red Sox should handle David Ortiz’s contract during the offseason?