Ranking the September Pennant Races
September is for pennant race baseball. How do all eight races, including the AL and NL wild cards, stack up against one another in terms of entertainment?
1. The AL East
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees
Anytime the Red Sox and Yankees are involved, it’s sure to be the lead story in baseball. Possibly the most exciting thing about this renewed rivalry is that these teams are brimming with young talent and set to go at one another for years to come. As for this year, the determining factors with both clubs are similar: whichever team gets better starting pitching and power hitting down the stretch will win the division.
2. AL Wild Card
Teams involved: Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees, Minnesota Twins, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Baltimore Orioles. Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Tampa Bay Rays
The Red Sox and Yankees are both included because it’s unsure which team will win their division, but whoever both teams will surely qualify for the postseason. Behind them is a total crap shoot- Kansas City, Texas, and Baltimore all have playoff experience but are not as strong as years past. The rest of the bunch is unproven and with questionable rosters, which should make for an extremely entertaining race moving forward.
3. NL Wild Card
Teams involved: Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals
Much like the NL Wild Card, we’re pretty positive that this race is only coming down to the last spot. The Rockies have been sensational for much of the year, but have struggled in the second half due to mediocre starting pitching. The Brewers and Cardinals have come on as of late and have players with postseason experience. Will it be enough to catch Colorado? Only if the Rockies allow it to be.
4. NL Central
Teams involved: Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers
Don’t count out the Brewers. Especially after starting pitcher Jake Arrieta’s injury, the Cubs are much weaker than they appear to be on paper. This is not the same team that essentially won the World Series wire to wire a year ago. With a 3.5 game lead heading into Wednesday, this is still the Cubs’ division to lose, but they are entirely capable of losing it. With that said, if the Cubs win this division as they should, they are a dangerous threat to the Dodgers for the National League pennant due to their experience, going deep into the postseason each of the last two years.
5. AL West
Teams involved: Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Texas Rangers
This is where we start looking for interesting story lines as opposed to intriguing races. The Astros are going to run away with this division, but how will Justin Verlander fare as the de facto number two behind Dallas Keuchel? Will the team be able to respond in a positive manner following the tragedy of Hurricane Harvey? Will Mike Trout get another chance at the postseason? Did the Angels help him enough by adding Justin Upton? Will an experienced Rangers team sneak into the playoffs even after trading Yu Darvish?
6. NL West
Teams involved: Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies
The Dodgers have lost 9 of their last 10 games but will run away with the division and number one seed in the National League. If they win the World Series, they will still go down as one of the greatest teams in the history of baseball. The Diamondbacks have won 11 in a row and are primed to give L.A. one hell of a National League Division Series. Colorado has struggled as of late and will need to play much better in order to avoid getting bumped out of the Wild Card game.
7. AL Central
Teams involved: Cleveland Indians, Minnesota Twins, and Kansas City Royals
There are more interesting story lines heading into September than we anticipated- can the Indians avenge their soul crushing loss in the World Series? Can the surprising Twins make an unexpected venture into the Wild Card game, lead by the suddenly red hot Byron Buxton? Do the Royals have one last playoff push left in the tank? And if they do, can they make any noise in the postseason?
8. NL East
Teams involved: Washington Nationals
From start to finish, the Nationals have been the only team truly in the playoff race. Despite a rash of injuries to some of their best players, Washington is still capable of winning the World Series- as long as Bryce Harper can come back in time for the National League Division Series. The NL East has never been in doubt, and that speaks volumes to Washington’s incredible depth. Max Scherzer has a legitimate chance to carve out a place in Cooperstown if he is able to put on a Madison Bumgarner-esque postseason performance. Just behind Clayton Kershaw, he’s already established himself as one of the best pitchers of the decade.