Heading into the last month of the regular season, it’s time to take a serious look at the National League’s potential playoff teams and see who are the serious contenders to win 2012′s coveted Commissioner’s Trophy. Going by division then the two Wild Card openings, I’ll list my picks to reach the playoffs and their chances of winning it all.
East, Washington Nationals: Since the All Star Break it has become quite clear that the Nationals are no fluke. Their complete turnaround from basement dwellers to feared contenders can largely be attributed to seasoned-manager Davey Johnson’s direction and influence on young stars like Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, but most importantly, it’s their pitching. While their offense is relatively middle of the pack(12th in the Majors in AVG at .258 is their highest rank among offensive categories), it’s their pitching that has made them a real threat. Granted, their success is largely dependent on what they decide to do with Strasburg once the calendar reaches October, but as of now their pitching staff as a unit ranks first in ERA and quality starts, and second in WHIP and opposing AVG. Chance of winning it all: Again, it’s all dependent on Strasburg getting to pitch, but if he does I’m saying they’re the favorites at 35%
Central, Cincinnati Reds: The hottest team in the NL since the All Star Break, they distanced themselves from the Cardinals and Pirates with a 10 game winning streak in July, oh yeah and that was without former MVP Joey Votto who is still out with a knee injury. In fact the Reds are 26-12 without their star first baseman this season. Just imagine what they’re capable of once he returns paired with the league’s best relief pitcher in Aroldis Chapman and one of the league’s best starters in Johnny Cueto. Chances of winning it all: 25%
West, San Francisco Giants: Aside from the race for the final Wild Card spots, the West looks to be the closest divisional race in baseball with the Giants facing the second place Dodgers, who are three back, six more times this season, including a three game season finale in Los Angeles. However the Giants get the edge here because of their remaining schedule outside those six games. The combined winning percentage of the teams they face the rest of the season is at .464 while the dodgers face an opposing percentage of .505. Chances of winning it all: Considering whoever they face in the postseason has to get through a rotation featuring Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants’ chances are pretty good at 25%
First Wild Card, Atlanta Braves: Although most of their remaining games are on the road, they still have the third best record in the NL behind the Nationals and Reds. They’re also 2.5 spots ahead of the second place Wild Card Cardinals and 3.5 over the Pirates. I think it’s safe to say they’ll reach the postseason as the Cardinals or Pirates are likely to knock the other out of contention in the coming weeks. Chances of winning it all: Both Wild Card teams will face a new uphill battle this year as they essentially play an extra one game series in the postseason while the divisional winners get the day off. 10%
Second Wild Card, St. Louis Cardinals: Consider history, it’s too hard for me to really believe the Pirates can sneak into the playoffs. Sure they have the NL’s best player and potential MVP Andrew McCutchen, but having to pick one, I’m taking last year’s World Series winners over a team that hasn’t reached the playoffs since 1992. Chances of winning it all: 5%
About the Author
Written by Connor Callaghan
A San Francisco native, I've been following Bay Area sports for as long as my memory's served me. A graduate of the University of Oregon, I majored in English and Writing. I've shifted my focus on writing to what I really love, sports.