This Week in Baseball: September 27, 2009

Playoff season is almost upon us baseball fans!  As expected the Yankees have had their spot in the postseason wrapped up for some time.  Last weekend saw the Cardinals clinch their division and the Dodgers at least lock up a playoff spot if not the division title.

Technically there are still four division spots still up for grabs. It would take a minor meltdown for Joe Torre and the Dodgers not to take their division for the second straight year, a feat they have not accomplished since the ’77 and ’78 seasons (back to back division titles that is).  The Phillies and Angels both have 5 game leads on their opponents and have held their respective division leads for most of the summer.  With only 8 games remaining I think it would take a nuclear meltdown for them not to win their divisions.

For all intents and purposes the American League wild card is wrapped up as well.  The Red Sox have been playing for second in their division and the wildcard berth for weeks.  With 8 games remaining they need to win 3 (or a combination of wins and Ranger losses) to return to the postseason for the seventh consecutive season.

That leaves the National League wild card and the American League Central as the only competitive races as the regular season comes to a close.

The real competition looks to be in the AL Central.  Lately the Twins have been absolutely on fire winning 9 of their last 10.  The Tigers, while maintaining their spot on top of the division have let the Twins play themselves back into contention by only winning 6 of their last 10.  Should the Twins come out of the four games against the Tigers in Detroit with the division lead their chances at taking the division are looking pretty strong.  They get to finish the season against the hapless Royals.  The Tigers, however, would have to face another division foe in the White Sox who would love to put the nail in the Tiger’s coffin.

One would expect the home team to have the advantage in this case.  However, in games played at Comerica Park the Twins have been hitting .328 against Tiger pitching while the Tigers have only managed to hit .290 against the Twins.  Over the last week the Twins have been swinging a pretty mean bat averaging .295 and slugging .467 as a team.  On the other hand the Tigers have been hitting pretty well too hitting .321 and slugging .469 as a team over the last week.

With both teams hitting so well it appears like the pitching staffs will be the deciding factor.  Over the season the Tigers have been the fifth best pitching team in the American League with a 4.25 ERA with the Twins ranking tenth in the AL with a 4.52 ERA.  However at this point in the season it is often the hot hand that takes the game.  While the Twins have given up fewer walks in the last week (13 to 29 for the Tigers) the Tigers have been pitching lights out.  Over the last week opponents have only been able to hit .249 (Twins pitchers have been allowing .285) against the Tigers.  Tiger’s pitchers have also posted an ERA of 2.55 to 4.33 for the Twins over the last week.

Even thought the Twins have been swinging a better bat in Detroit than the Tigers both teams have been batting relatively the same over the past week.  The Detroit pitching staff has looked great, and is talented enough to put the Twins playoff hopes out of reach this week.  Look for the Tigers to sweep the Twins and clinch the division.

detroitWhile watching these games may I suggest that you give Grand Slam Gold a try from the Detroit Beer Company.  These guys have not been around very long (founded in 2003), but don’t let their relative youth scare you away.  Grand Slam Gold is obviously a nod to baseball hence the name and the fact that they only make it in the spring and summer.  Like many summer beers, Grand Slam Gold is a golden colored beer that is not very filling making it easy to enjoy.  English hops dominant the flavor with a hint of biscuit malt rounding out the taste.  I envision many of these being lifted in the week to come as the Tigers return to the postseason.

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