Autumn has rolled its way into the Midwest, and it’s the best season hands down. For one, evidently, it means it’s time for 45-point blowouts being handed down by the Detroit Lions. Two, it means the return of cider mills. For those of you out of the cider mill loop, you can get the most ridiculous cinnamon donuts there, as well as a wide variety of jams.
And yeah, it’s also time for playoff baseball.
Both the Giants and Cardinals are trying to make one last push to try and eek into the postseason, but I hope they don’t. As it stands right now, the NL playoff picture could be very interesting. In fact, it’s actually kind of like the table at the cider mill with all the different types of jam….
NL East Champs: Phillies (strawberry)
The Phillies have a decent starting rotation. Lol. Ok, they have one of the best rotations ever. Anyone who wants to get past the Phillies this year will have a tremendous battle on their hands. Just putting the ball in play can be a tall order when you face these guys. Their starting staff is the only one in baseball that carries an ERA below 3.00.
Offensively, the Phillies trademark might be putting the ball in play. The only regular in their lineup who has a strikeout issue is Ryan Howard, but pretty much every time he makes contact he brings a runner home. On the year Ryan Howard has 134 hits and 113 runs batted in.
Philly’s big mid-season acquisition Hunter Pence has been a wrecking ball since being added to the league’s best team. Since joining the Phillies, Pence is hitting .316/.389/.552 with 9 home runs. Like my homeboy Doug Fister in Detroit, Pence might be the guy in the NL who boosts his team over the top.
The team from the city of brotherly love has kept a similar nucleus together for a while now, and has obtained a wealth of postseason experience. Since they are beginning to be a household name in the postseason, we’ll go ahead and deem them the strawberry jam of the NL.
Potential Wild Card: Braves (peach)
The Braves are almost the Phillies in reverse. They have accumulated a new batch of younger guys, and it is the fellas pitching in the later stages of the game who are a pain in the neck.
If the tomahawk choppers take a lead into the 7th frame, odds are it’s over. The Braves bullpen is tops in innings pitched, FIP and WAR. Craig Kimbrel will snag a lot of votes for NL rookie of the year, as his slider is about as evil as Darth Maul. He possesses a K/9 rate of 15.03 and batters or only hitting .163 off of him. Johnny Venters handles the eighth, and his 95-mph sinker probably brings grown men to tears in opposing dugouts. And Eric O’Flaherty is an expert at stranding base runners in the 7th, as he carries a 1.03 ERA.
Offensively Atlanta has the potential to be dangerous come October as well, as their attack is spearheaded by guys like Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. And somehow at the age of 39, Chipper Jones has quite a lot in the tank as well.
Since I can’t think of a jam flavor the Braves are similar to, we’ll go with peach for the total cop out answer.
Sizzling in the Central: Brewers (mixed berry)
The Brew Crew can bring a little bit of everything to the table. Milwaukee’s top four starters are all capable of shutting down the opposition, as they all carry WHIPs under 1.30. Yovani Gallardo is once again quietly putting together another rock solid year, and Zach Greinke and Shaun Marcum are no slouches either.
In relief John Axford is tough in the closer role. Though, their lack of a strong lefty coming out of the pen might be an issue when they have to deal with teams who are strong in the left-handed hitting department.
Ryan Braun seems to be entering his prime, as a guy who recently joined the 30-30 club. Braun is quite a talent, as he has been mashing opposing pitching all year long. He is the catalyst of a team that has quite a bit of firepower offensively, as four of their regulars have an OPS over .800. Also, eight of their regulars have over 10 home runs on the year.
Due to the nice balance on this team, mixed berry seemed like the obvious choice.
Best of the West: Diamondbacks (Mandarin Orange)
Kirk Gibson and the Diamondbacks have come out of nowhere to be the new kids on the block this fall. If a bomb were to fall on Philadelphia and wipe out their starting staff, Ian Kennedy might give Clayton Kershaw a run for the Cy Young. The former Yankee is 19-4 with an ERA a tick under 3.00.
Arizona carries with them the leagues fastest rising star in Justin Upton, who is hitting .292/.373/.535 for the year with 30 bombs. He also has swiped 21 bags.
This is a young team, as Ryan Roberts is the lineups only regular who has hit the age of thirty, but they are very resilient, as they have taken on the persona of Gibby and ran with it. If you don’t play the full nine innings against the Diamondbacks, they will bite you – pun intended.
J.J. Putz, a Michigan native, has been a very underrated pick up in the closer role. He’s notched 40 saves, and has a WHIP of .911. Unfortunately for my partner Blaine, David Hernandez has been brilliant as well. Outside of a pounding he took in Colorado a couple weeks back, the guy has been pretty much untouchable.
Since Arizona is not yet a household name, we’ve gone ahead and designated them with the most exotic flavor.
If the NL playoffs end up containing these four teams, the contrast in styles should be a real treat to watch. Whether or not you spread these teams on your toast is up to you.