CttP Roundtable: Which potential playoff-bound team is most likely to falter down the stretch?


September 22, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; Oakland Athletics center fielder Yeonis Cespedes (52) hits an RBI double during the first inning of a game against the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

We are back with another CttP Roundtable, and this time we’re going to take a look at potential playoff teams that are most likely to not qualify for the postseason, when all is said and done. The playoffs are only a month and a half away and teams are jockeying for position, while teams begin playing some high stakes games with division rivals. Teams have made their moves, for the most part, and are rearing to go, so let’s see what our writers have to say.

Benjamin Orr

The Oakland Athletics are the odd man out when it comes to the playoff race. The AL West has been such a battle and with the Texas Rangers’ acquisition of Matt Garza, it adds to an already lethal starting rotation, so I’m going to give the Rangers the nod over the A’s for the West. As for the two remaining Wild Card spots, I’m pretty sure Tampa Bay has one locked up and I think Baltimore is right behind them. The AL East is going to be big once again in the playoffs, so I think Oakland will just miss out behind Baltimore.

That said, this isn’t necessarily to say that Oakland should be counted out. This is more of a testament to what the Rays and Orioles have done this season and how it’s going to be a photograph finish between those two teams. The A’s have great players, but the Rays have the pitching edge on them and the O’s have the huge bats of Chris Davis and Adam Jones. It’s going to be a fun race regardless of the outcome.

Dan Wanser

Tampa Bay Rays, because they’re fighting pitching injuries and it doesn’t seem like they have the key players for the stretch run.

Paul Festa

The Oakland A’s. Not that they’re a bad team, but they don’t have a consistent enough offensive attack to stay with the Texas Rangers or the current wild card contenders.

They trail the Rangers in every major offensive category except runs scored (and the difference is only 1 run). They’re 21st in the majors in batting average, 14th in OBP, and 15th in slugging. They have guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Brandon Moss who hit home runs, but also strike out a ton.

The A’s have a solid pitching staff, but in the end, their offense will be their undoing.

Aaron Somers

I’ve got concerns about the depth of the Tampa Bay offense and ultimately whether they are able to sustain their production into a lengthy playoff run. Evan Longoria and Ben Zobrist are having typical seasons (for them, at least). Wil Myers has delivered on his promise since he joined the team and fortunately Desmond Jennings should return before the postseason would begin. James Loney has been surprisingly solid, but still doesn’t have enough of a track record for me to trust him as a source of offense at first.
That’s it, unfortunately. Sure, Kelly Johnson‘s hit 14 HR while becoming a full time outfielder, but he’s done little else at the plate. The rest of the team’s regulars – Jose Molina, Matt Joyce, Luke Scott, Yunel Escobar – all sit with slash lines below .260/.330/.430 on the year and they’ve received little production off the bench.

David Price, Matt Moore and the rest of the rotation should be fine heading into the playoffs. But if one person on this offense falters – or worse, gets hurt – then the Rays chances might be lost with them.

Jimmy Kraft

I simply can’t pick the Tampa Bay Rays here, they’ve proven my predictions wrong so many times before. I’m going to take the Oakland A’s, despite what they did last year against all odds. This year is different. It’s not a team predicated on hitting the long ball, but their four home run hitters (Yeonis Cespedes, Josh Reddick, Brandon Moss, and Chris Young) have only taken opposing pitchers out of the yard 14 times since the All-Star Break. Meanwhile, their starting pitching has been quite as sharp as it was earlier in the year. Their division is definitely winnable, but they have four teams within six games chasing them.

Joe Wedra

If there’s a team that could struggle down the stretch, it’s the Baltimore Orioles. While the hot bats are there, pitching could be their biggest downfall in the late rush at a second straight playoff appearance.

Chris Tillman, the strongest member of the current staff, is going to have to lead the group of starters to late-season success. Scott Feldman isn’t going to cut it against the AL East, Jason Hammel is still on the DL, and there is uncertainty surrounding Bud Norris and if he can be consistent.

Will the team call up a youngster like Kevin Gausman to stabilize the staff?

Tom Froemming

Tough question, but I’d have to go with the St. Louis Cardinals. The NL Central is tight at the top, and the Card still have six more games against the Pirates and seven versus the Reds. Also, St. Louis’ .333 average with runners in scoring position is 47 points higher than the next best team and the Red Birds rank second with a .319 BABIP. What happens when/if they stop hitting with runners in scoring position and run into some bad luck? With the bases are empty, St. Louis has the third-lowest OPS in baseball.

On the pitching side, I have some concerns about Shelby Miller and Edward Mujica down the stretch. Miller, 22, is approaching his career-high in innings pitched and has already ran into some trouble this month. Mujica has been dominant as the Cardinals’ closer, but I wonder how long that can continue.

The Cardinals have built a comfortable cushion, it’s still too early to count out the Diamondbacks and Nationals, who are both starting to show signs of life.

Ray Kuhn

This offseason, the Indians surprised some people by jumping into free agency to bolster their team. Based on the standings, it appears that has worked to this point as Cleveland is six games out in the division race and three and a half games out for the Wild Card.

The problem though for the Indians, is that they have a lot of company in the standings and they are 3-7 in their last ten games entering play Thursday night.

Cleveland’s offseason additions have not provided the boost that was expected despite their early season success. Nick Swisher is only batting .237 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI which is the same amount of runs driven by leadoff man Michael Bourn. Bourn has a decent season, but with only 17 stolen bases he has not made the impact Cleveland was hoping for either.In fact other than Justin Masterson and Ryan Rayburn, there are not many Indians that have really exceeded expectations this season. As other teams start to get hot, this will catch up with the Indians and I can’t see them hanging around the playoff race.

Remember readers you can jump in at any time and join the discussion. Give us your pick! Also, if you have any questions you wish us to discuss please email jkra0512 AT gmail DOT com with subject line “Roundtable Topic”. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed it as much as we loved discussing it.