teams will be playing in October?
Of the Tigers, Reds and Blue Jays--the year's most unexpected division title
contenders-- Detroit has the best chance of making the playoffs because of its
young and talented pitching staff, which at week's end led the majors in ERA
even though 38.7% of the team's innings had been logged by hurlers under age 25
(starters Jeremy Bonderman, Zach Miner and Justin Verlander, and setup man Joel
Zumaya). The Tigers' start is legit: They had outscored opponents 394-285, by
far the largest differential in the majors. As for Cincinnati, its hitters are
first in the league in homers and fourth in runs scored, but the club has also
been lucky: The Reds were 14-7 in one-run games and had been outscored 377-373
on the season. Toronto is dangerous because it has ace righthander Roy Halladay
(9-2, 3.07 ERA) and a high-powered offense (first in the majors in slugging
percentage), but assuming the AL wild-card winner comes out of the Central,
where the White Sox and the Tigers each were on pace for more than 105 wins,
the Blue Jays would have to hurdle the Yankees and the Red Sox, who have
finished one-two in the East every year since 1998, to reach the
Will a manager be
fired during the season?
It's been six years since an entire season elapsed without a managerial change.
With eight managers in their first years on the job and 17 of 30 teams within
five games of a postseason berth, no bench boss appears to be in even serious
trouble. But that will change if Charlie Manuel's Phillies (8-14 in June)
continue to underachieve.
How many players
will hit 50 home runs?
From 2002 through '05 only three players hit 50 home runs in a season; this
year--with home runs up 11.7% from last year at the same point--six players
( Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Jim Thome, Alfonso Soriano, Adam Dunn and Carlos
Lee) were on pace to reach 50. Of the six, however, only Thome has cleared that
barrier in his career; Howard, Soriano and Lee have yet to reach 40. Despite a
15-day stint on the disabled list, Pujols, who hit his 26th homer last Friday,
was still the major league leader; if he stays healthy and sustains his current
home run rate, the first baseman will make a serious run at 70. (He was on pace
Will the Mets win
the NL East by 20 games?
Not since 1999, when the Indians finished 21 1/2 games ahead of the White Sox
in the AL Central, has a team won a division by 20 or more games. But the Mets
have a chance to do so in the NL East, where their cushion was a seemingly
insurmountable 11 1/2 games. And the margin could get wider in a hurry: The
Marlins and the Nationals are rebuilding, and the reeling Phillies and Braves
could unload prominent veterans in July. Look for New York--which has MVP
candidates in centerfielder Carlos Beltran and third baseman David Wright and a
red-hot leadoff hitter in shortstop Jose Reyes--to cruise home, especially with
26 of its final 33 games against teams with losing records.
So who's going to
The Red Sox, White Sox, A's and Tigers (wild card) in the AL; the Mets,
Cardinals, Dodgers and Astros (wild card) in the NL.