PRINTING PLAYOFF TICKETS
CAQ (70-44, .614): The Quakes cooled off a bit in June, going 11-15, but have resumed their torrid pace, with a 23-9 record since then. The offense has been good, but not great; they're 5th in RS, with Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez having slightly sub-par years for them. But run prevention has been the key: a 3.16 ERA and .791 X-out %, both of which lead the league.
MON (66-48, .579): Although the acquisition of Adrian Gonzalez has certainly helped -- the Pool Sharks' have scored 1/2 run per game more since then -- the real story of Montreal's moving away from the pack in the Ruth Division is pitching: after finishing with a league-worst 4.66 ERA last year, they're at a 4th-best 3.60 this season. During June, when they went 18-7, Bud Norris, Ian Kennedy, and Brandon Beachy combined to go 12-1 with a 1.67 ERA.
LIT (62-52, .544): It's easy to pin the Rockies' success on the fact that they've hit 168 homers, almost 70 more than the league average; with eight guys already in double figures for HR's, the Rockies figure to score a lot of runs. But despite playing in a bandbox, they also have the third-best ERA in the league, at 3.45.
TEX (60-54, .526): The Armadillos' record doesn't make them a lock for the playoffs, but the way they've been playing does: after going 19-29 in the first two blocks, they've played at a .620 pace since. They've come back to the pack a bit, going only 18-16 after a blistering 19-7 record in June, but a lineup which features four players who already have 20+ homers will be there in October.
WAC (59-55, .518): Despite playing in a hitter's park, the Cheese Wedgers are only 8th in RS, and their third-best 113 HR's is deceptive: Matt Kemp has over a quarter of that total, three other players are in double figures, Lucas Duda has 7, and no one else has more than 4. If West Allis is to make a run at it, their pitching -- a 5th best 3.63 ERA -- is going to have to carry them there.
CRP (59-55, .518): The league champions have actually played one game under .500 since May 1. Not hard to figure out why: although they score runs in bunches -- a third-best .751 team OPS -- they give them up in bunches, too: they're allowing .7 runs more per game this year than last.
WES (59-55, .518): Good pitching and a great bullpen are doing their best to mask the worst offense in the league. Matt Holliday (16) and Mike Morse (15) are the only players in double figures in HR's. When your 5th place hitter (Freddie Freeman) has six, and the only other guy closing in on double digits (Colby Rasmus, with 9) is hitting .202, you know you're in trouble.
VBO (56-58, .491): After a slow start, the Oddsox seem to have righted themselves by going 31-22 in May and June, but are only 13-21 since then. Problems on both sides of the equation: only Bowie has hit fewer homers, and 30% of VBO's innings have gone to pitchers with ERA's over 5.00. (The comparable figure for Littleton is 10%.)
MAR (55-59, .482): Although the Bones Demons lead the league in batting average, at .270, that's deceptive: they're only 6th in RS, and only three players -- Miguel Cabrera (20), Troy Tulowitzki (14), and Will Venable (11) -- have more than seven home runs.
WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR
MMM (47-67, .412): Maui was in it early, but has gone 19-41 since June 1. They'll get some big help on offense next year from the seasons Melky Cabrera, David Wright, and Mike Stanton are having, and they'll be looking for starting pitching in the draft: while their relievers have combined for a 3.52 ERA, their starters are almost a run worse, at 4.43.
RAZ (46-68, .404): Richmond probably isn't as bad as their record: other than an ugly June, when they went 7-19, they've played within a few games of .500 the other months. Getting out of Coors, which they can do next year, might be a solution: Corey Hart won't hit .354/.419/.572, but then again Dan Hudson won't go 3-13 with a 6.53 ERA, either.
BOW (45-69, .395): In their ballpark, Bowie wasn't expected to hit, and they haven't, but they were expected to pitch, and they haven't done that: a 3.90 ERA, 9th in the league, compared to last year's 2.72, which led the league by a mile. But they can take heart from the fact that one team printing playoff tickets this season, Montreal, lost two-thirds of their games just last year.