The regular season is now less than a month away, which means it’s time for the annual assessment of seeing minor-league baseball past Labor Day [insert Philadelphia Phillies joke here].
Since this site took off in 2010, the Nats have had multiple affiliates make the playoffs in each season — two in 2010, three in 2011, two in 2012, four last summer. Barring multiple collapses, that streak should continue. With a lot of luck, they could match last season’s high-water mark.
Obviously, development is more important than winning, but as a season-ticket holder, I’m biased towards the latter but also because it’s just plain more fun to write about a pennant race (hence a post like this, natch).
Without further ado, here’s a look at the odds of postseason play from AAA to the DSL…
For years, Syracuse was a collection of 4A replacement-level players so it’s confusing to see multiple players under the age of 25. But perhaps more unusual is that the team is winning and clicking on all cylinders. Unfortunately, they’re in a three-way fight with Pawtucket and Rochester and the schedule does not favor them. The Chiefs have eight games left against the RedWings, but just two against the PawSox, who also only have two against Rochester and an August schedule of also-rans. Meanwhile, Syracuse and Rochester play each other six times. Yes, there’s still the possibility of the wild card but we could very well see one of those three teams finish with a better record than the Southern or Western Division teams… and miss the playoffs.
The Senators are battling to not finish with the worst record in the Eastern League, and trail the Fightins by a game and a half to avoid that dishonor.
The P-Nats are already in the playoffs, having won the first-half title for the Northern Division. With the first round a meager best-of-three, they still have the incentive to win the second half and get home-field advantage for all three games (currently, they will be home for the second and third game, if necessary; as first-half champs they had the choice of first game at home or hosting a deciding game). They have a three-game lead over both the Hillcats and Blue Rocks with four games left against each. Should they advance, the Mills Cup begins at the Southern Division series winner and finishes at the Northern Division, as is League custom in even-numbered seasons.
While some folks called it an epic choke, the reality is that the Grasshoppers pulled off a fantastic comeback to win the first half Northern Division title by finishing with 10 straight wins — the first three against the Suns. Hagerstown took three of four in late June but the two teams have been more or less even ever since. The Suns can get to the playoffs by either winning the 2nd half or by finishing ahead of the
Intimidators Crawdads for the second-best best overall record (currently, it’s a 5½ game lead) in the Northern Division if Greensboro takes both halves. Hagerstown hosts Kannapolis tomorrow through Sunday. The Suns host the Grasshoppers for three games August 19-21, then visit Hickory the 22nd through the 24th. Like Potomac, should Hagerstown advance to the Finals, they’ll travel to the Southern Division Series winner for Games One and Two, then host Game Three, and if necessary, Games Four and Five.
Trailing State College by 8½ games, Auburn’s only realistic chance is to sneak in via the wild card. The good news is that they’ve beaten three of the four teams ahead of them in the wild-card race (Connecticut, Brooklyn, and Staten Island). The bad news: they have no more games against them. The fourth, Williamsport, they play just three times more at Falcon Park (Aug. 22-24). With a record of just 23-27, it would seem doubtful that they’d go far in the postseason, but with two short (best-of-three) series, anything is possible.
Unlike Auburn, the G-Nats do have a winning record… albeit against the. same. three. teams. But if they somehow manage to knock off the GCL East-leading G-Cards down the stretch, it’s only a one-game playoff to make it to the Finals, which are a mere best of the three.
With 36 teams in five wildly uneven divisions (ten, ten, six, six, and four), the D-Nats are riding an eight-game win streak but are still 3½ games out of the hunt for the wildcard, eight for the division despite a .589 winning percentage. As noted a couple of years ago, there’s very little parity in this league — nine teams are playing .600+ ball, six are below .400.