As we head into the last week of the 2011 season, there are some very interesting factors that I am observing, to wit:
1) We’ve still got undetermined outcomes in the NL and AL Wild Cards. The last divisional races just concluded. Two weeks ago nobody thought this would be the case.
2) No team is running at maximum overdrive, unlike some recent seasons where teams like the Twins, Rockies or Giants put together huge winning streaks that resulted in post-season berths. The Phillies who were primed to set a club record for wins in a season now are a very long-shot to accomplish that.
3) The Cy Young Award races in each league are essentially settled, Justin Verlander having pitched the Detroit Tigers to a divisional crown, Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers having put himself in position to win the NL Pitching Triple Crown (most wins, lowest Earned Run Average, most strikeouts).
4) The AL MVP race that looked to be locked up by Adrian Gonzalez of the Boston Red Sox not too long ago now finds Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees also in the mix; whether or not the teammates cancel each other, both of them have the advantage of playing premium positions (center field and second base). I don’t think Verlander will win the award, although he will certainly be in the top ten and perhaps higher.
5) The NL MVP race looks to be the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp’s to lose although if voters want to make sure the award goes to a post-season qualifier, Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers will win. That’s not a sure thing as Kemp has had a completely awesome season. If he wins that will be unprecedented, the MVP and Cy Young Award going to teammates on a third-place, barely-.500 team.
One thing is for certain, 2011 will be remembered as another “Year of the Pitchers”, in fact perhaps we should begin considering this as an “Era of the Pitcher”; authentic power is once again at a premium. There will be no 50-home run hitter this year, likely not even a 45-home run hitter and there could be no 40-home run hitters in the entire National League. Runs batted in will also be modest, with the leaders barely (and perhaps not) breaking 120 and no one coming within range of 130.
Next week we’ll be in the post-season and we’ll size up the participants and gauge their chances at glory.