End of pro baseball season is tight race and too close to call

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We’re getting to the point in the baseball season where if this were a horse race, they’d be hitting the final turn with the jockey’s applying the whip and the announcer excitedly shouting, “and down the stretch they come!”

Six weeks remain and we have 16 of the 30 teams with winning records fighting for 10 playoff spots. It’s debatable whether or not the playoff format that added two more teams in a do-or-die wild card game is the way to go moving forward. There is no denying the mere addition of two teams has made this stretch run one of the more exciting regular seasons in some time, maybe ever.

Almost every region is covered with a contending team and we’ve seen the low-budget teams that struggled initially with the big free-agent craze of the late 80’s and 90’s finally cycle around to understand building the best farm system possible is the only possible way to contend.

Teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates can thank the Tampa Bay Rays for laying down the blue print on how to contend in today’s modern market. While not being able to contend for the big priced free-agents, they can beat them to the punch by being better evaluators at scouting talent.

Even if Oakland, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Arizona don’t make the playoffs, it’ll still be fun watching them try down the stretch with those low budget rosters. If we add Tampa Bay and Washington to the list, we’ve just named six of the 12 lowest MLB salaries of 2012. The fact they all have a chance heading into September while three of the top four payrolls in baseball (Philadelphia, Boston and maybe Anaheim) don’t is quite a feat and a positive sign for baseball.

Go ahead Bud Selig, give yourself another pat on the back.

Ice Cold Pitchers

Ryan Vogelsong: He has gone into a complete meltdown mode over his last two starts. Vogelsong was leading the league with a 2.27 ERA on August 8. In his two starts since, it’s risen to 2.85 by allowing 11 runs and not making it past the third inning.

Chris Volstad: The Cubs have lost 12 of his 13 starts. Best of all for run-line players, the Cubs have lost 10 of 12 games by two runs or more. Next crack at him on Sunday against the Rockies.

Zack Greinke: Worse than C.J. Wilson blowing an 8-0 lead Saturday, Angels have lost four of his five starts since being traded for and hasn’t really given his team a chance to win. Good luck Friday in Detroit.

Red Hot

Chad Billingsley: Dodgers seem to be at their best when Billingsley has it going strong. He’s won his last six starts with an ERA of 1.50. He’ll face Mark Buehrle and Miami at Dodger Stadium this Saturday night.

Johnny Cueto: The Cy Young candidate is 11-0 (1.61 ERA) in  day games and 5-6 (3.36 ERA) at night. Overall he’s won seven of his past eight starts. He’ll be at Philadelphia on Thursday night against Cole Hamels in the pitching matchup of the week.

Jeremy Guthrie: Once one of the most reliable bet-against pitchers in baseball, he has flourished over his past three starts in dominating fashion allowing only two runs over 22 1/3 innings, all Royals wins. Before his recent streak, his teams had lost 13 of his 14 previous starts. He’ll face Josh Beckett Saturday at Fenway.

Kyle Kendrick: If your looking for some value Friday night, take a look at Kendrick against Edwin Jackson and the Nats. He has dominated his past two starts allowing no runs and has shown a tremendous amount of control.

Stay Away Joe

Yes, the 35th anniversary of Elvis passing away just went by, and while “Stay Away Joe” wasn’t one of my favorite movies the King did, there were plenty of festivities to celebrate in Memphis and Las Vegas. But this movie title is reserved for the Reds reigning MVP first-baseman, Joey Votto.

Since Votto went on the DL with a knee injury, the Reds have been TCB – an Elvis popularized saying, “taking care of business” – going 24-10. Before Votto went out, he was leading the NL in six offensive categories. He’s expected back later this month, but no time table has been set. 

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