I’m still not at all fond of the wild card play-in game, in no small part because the wild card, since it’s been introduced, has quite often been the league’s second best team. I don’t think a team should be penalized for being in the wrong division.
However, year one of the new wild card format is giving us a lot more excitement than we might have otherwise.
The NL races would have been all but over with three weeks to go if not for the second wild card. The division titles are set. Sure, there’s a chance the Braves could collapse again and blow their big wild card lead, but it hardly seems likely. Even after losing three in a row to the Brewers, they’re still five games up on the second wild card-leading Cardinals with 18 games to play.
The American League, on the other hand, would have plenty of crazy races going on regardless. But the second wild card means there’s still some hope for the Angels and Rays, who would be pretty huge longshots otherwise. And while it is possible that the team with the league’s second-best record may well end up in the wild-card playoff game, it’s not like there’s any clear second best team in the AL right now.
Because of the second wild card, there are currently 19 teams with some shot at going to the playoffs. That’s a pretty amazing total with just 18-20 games left in the season.
Every now and then, The Players’ Tribune runs a “five toughest” feature. In 2015, David Ortiz listed the five toughest pitchers he ever faced. Last month, Christian Yelich wrote up the five toughest pitchers in the NL East. Now, it’s Ian Kinsler‘s turn with the five toughest pitchers in the AL Central.
Kinsler goes into detail explaining why each pitcher is difficult to face, so hop over to The Players’ Tribune for his reasoning. His list
Presumably, Kinsler intentionally omitted his Tiger teammates from the list. He has faced Justin Verlander a fair amount earlier in his career, and he has only a .176/.333/.235 batting line in 42 plate appearances against the right-hander. Verlander’s stuff is often described as tough to hit in one phrase or another. Kinsler has also struggled against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco (.590 OPS), but one can understand why he would be omitted from a list of five given who was already listed.
Angels first baseman C.J. Cron hit a grand slam against the Mets on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to keep his spot on the major league roster as the club announced his demotion to Triple-A Salt Lake on Monday. Infielder Nolan Fantana has been promoted from Salt Lake.
Cron, 27, was hitting a disappointing .232/.281/.305 with one home run and RBI in 90 plate appearances. I guess you can say that wasn’t the kind of Cron job the Angels were expecting. Cron was an above-average hitter in each of his first three seasons, finishing with an OPS+, or adjusted OPS, of 111, 106, and 115 (100 is average).
While Cron is figuring things out in the minors, Luis Valbuena, Jefry Marte, and Albert Pujols could each see some time at first base.