It's Friday, and in this space that means it's time to ponder the hypotheticals. Specifically, it's this day each week that we take a look at what things would look like if the 2013 season ended today. This is really a harmless thought experience, but by all means don't let that stop you from getting super-pissed in the comments section ...
|AL playoff matchups|
A good bit of compression in the junior circuit, as the Rangers edge the A's by just a half a game in the AL West, and Rays claim the second wild card by just 2 1/2 over the Yankees, three games over the Indians and Orioles and 4 1/2 games over the Royals. The Red Sox best the Tigers by three full games for top overall seed in the AL.
|NL playoff matchups|
The Braves have the best record in baseball, and the Dodgers win the west by a healthy 12-game margin over the Diamondbacks. The Central, meanwhile, was a mortal struggle to the end, as the Pirates edge the Cardinals by 1 1/2 games and the Reds by three. No individual playoff berth was in peril, but the seeding -- particularly in the Central -- came down to the wire.
|Most intriguing playoff matchup|
• This week, I'll go with Cardinals-Reds in the NL wild-card game. It's a heated rivalry throughout recent history, the two teams are evenly matched this season, and of course this particular match-up is loaded with "one and done" intrigue, per the format. Would Mike Matheny give the nod to Adam Wainwright, who's been cuffed around by the Reds quite a bit lately?
|Most intriguing potential World Series matchup|
• This one varies from episode to episode, so let's give it to Braves-Red Sox in the battle of current and former denizens of Boston. The Red Sox, of course, hail from the Hub City, and the Braves franchise called Boston home from 1876 until 1952 (while calling themselves the Red Stockings, Beaneaters, Doves, Rustlers, Bees and Braves along the way). Plus, each of these teams has a lock on the top seed, and they're on pace for a combined 196 wins this season.
|Best non-playoff teams|
•AL: Orioles. There's a handful of worthy candidates, but the O's get the nod based on their 74-65 record, their +42 run differential, and they're having played the third-toughest schedule in all of baseball.
•NL: Diamondbacks. They're not particularly good (three games over .500, +3 run differential), but the Snakes are marginally better than the Nationals, who have the same record despite a -14 run differential and thanks in part to a weak schedule.
• AL batting champ: Miguel Cabrera (.355) by a wide margin over Mike Trout (.335).
• NL batting champ: Michaell Cuddyer (.331) barely nips Chris Johnson (.330).
• AL ERA champ: Anibal Sanchez (2.68) over teammate Max Scherzer (2.88).
• NL ERA champ: Clayton Kershaw (1.89) over the injured Matt Harvey (2.27).
• AL position player WAR champ: Mike Trout (8.4) over Miguel Cabrera (6.8). Remember that WAR takes into account estimations of defense and base-running.
• NL position player WAR champ: Andrew McCutchen (7.2) over Carlos Gomez (6.6).
• AL pitcher WAR champ: Chris Sale (6.2) over Max Scherzer (6.0).
• NL pitcher WAR champ: Clayton Kershaw (6.6) over Jhoulys Chacin (6.2).
•AL home run champ Chris Davis (47) bests NL home run champ Pedro Alvarez (32) by 15 dingers. That's the largest margin between league leaders since 2001, when Barry Bonds paced the NL with 73 and Alex Rodriguez led the AL with 52.
•Braves closer Craig Kimbrel becomes just the 11th pitcher since the onset of the live-ball era (i.e., from 1920 onward) to notch a sub-1.00 ERA while working at least 50 innings.
•Mike Trout becomes the first AL outfielder to lead his league in WAR in back-to-back seasons since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967-68.