Tuesday, 26 September 2006

Does a team from the NL Central have to go to the playoffs?

Unfortunately, according to my sources, the answer to that question is yes. What a shame.

As of sometime last week, the Cardinals led the Astros by 8.5 games in the division and appeared to have a playoff berth locked up... then they lost 7 in a row, Houston won 7 in a row, Cincy got hot, and all of a sudden we have a 3-team race.

St. Louis - 80-76, -
Houston - 79-78, 1.5 GB
Cincinnati - 78-79, 2.5 GB

Ouch. The Cardinals are 1-8 this month playing such great teams as Milwaukee (73-84) and Houston. Looks like they really want this division.

Here's the remaining schedules:

St. Louis: San Diego (1), Milwaukee (4)
Houston: @ Pittsburgh (2), @ Atlanta (3)
Cincinnati: @Florida (2), @ Pittsburgh (3)

St. Louis also may have a game that was postponed Sunday, September 17th against the Giants, although to be honest, I'm not really sure what that's all about. Anyone know if that will get played?

Based on remaining opponents, the Reds seem to have the easiest schedule, but with them being down 2.5 games with 5 games left and 2 teams ahead, chances of winning this seem to be slim and none (before Tuesday's games, they stood at 1.4%). So we can probably scratch them off.

Which would leave it between the Cards and Astros. Even though Houston has 2 left against Pittsburgh, St. Louis probably has the easier schedule because Atlanta has a better record than Milwaukee, and St. Louis is at home for their remaining games while Houston is on the road. However, Houston just won 2 on the road while St. Louis just lost 2 at home. Baseball is a funny game.

In the end, I suspect that the Cardinals lead is just a little too large. 1.5 games is a lot to make up at this point in the year, and with the Cardinals playing their last 5 at home (where they are 46-29 on the year), I suspect they can at least win 2 or 3 of these last 5, which may be enough to hold on, unless the Astros remain invincible.

Either way, this at least provides us with some type of playoff race other than the NL Wildcard (which is pretty darn solid). Can the Astros do it?