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Playoff picture beginning to take shape08/22/2008 3:13 PM ET
By Benjamin Hill / Special to MLB.com
Here's a closer look at what the playoff picture looks like with roughly a week and a half left in the regular season:
Division leaders: Scranton/WB (North), Durham (South), Louisville (West)
Louisville, owners of the IL's best record, clinched the West Division on Thursday night. The next club to follow suit will likely be the Bulls, who maintain a 5.5-game lead over Norfolk in the South. In the North, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is clinging to a 1.5-game lead over Pawtucket. The drama surrounding this race is lessened by the fact that whoever finishes second will almost certainly make it to the postseason as the Wild Card winner. In fact, the SWB-Yankees have already clinched a playoff berth, while the PawSox's magic number to do so currently stands at one.
PACIFIC COAST LEAGUE
Division Leaders: Iowa (American North), Oklahoma (American South), Salt Lake (Pacific North), Sacramento (Pacific South)
Prepare for a string of division clinchings in the PCL, where every first-place club enjoys a lead of 6.5 games or more. Sacramento's magic number to lock up the Pacific South is one, while Oklahoma's is two in the American South. Elsewhere, the I-Cubs enjoy an eight-game lead over Memphis in the American North, while Salt Lake has a 6.5-game edge over Tacoma in the Pacific North.
Division Leaders: Trenton (Northern), Bowie (Southern)
The Thunder, winners of seven straight, have already clinched a Northern Division playoff spot. Next up on their agenda is to clinch the division outright, which could happen as early as tonight. In the race for the second-place playoff spot, Portland has a two-game lead over Binghamton and a five-game cushion over Connecticut. In the Southern Division, Bowie maintains a three-game lead over Akron. Bowie's magic number to clinch a playoff berth stands at one, while Akron's is three.
First-half Winners: West Tenn (North), Birmingham (South)
Carolina is sitting pretty in the North Division, as they have a seven-game lead over second-place Tennessee. There is considerably more intrigue in the South, where Mississippi leads Montgomery by 2.5 games and first-half winner Birmingham by 4.5. None of these three teams have any games remaining against one another.
First-half Winners: Arkansas (North), Frisco (South)
In the North, the Naturals' once-comfortable lead over Springfield has dwindled down to a mere game. The two clubs conclude a four-game set tonight as the Cardinals seek to take three of four in the series. The South is even closer, as Midland and first-half champion Frisco are tied. The two clubs begin an all-important three-game series against one another on Saturday. If Frisco repeats, the playoff spot will go to the club with the best overall record. Midland currently has a 2.5 game lead over San Antonio in that particular race, and the two clubs are set to begin a four-game series on Tuesday.
Class A Advanced
First-half Winners: San Jose (North), Lancaster (South)
In the California League, both first-half winners are threatening to repeat in the second. San Jose has a 4.5-game lead over Modesto in the North, and Lancaster (winners of six straight) has a 1.5-game edge over Rancho Cucamonga in the South. If the Giants and the JetHawks do indeed repeat, then each division's remaining two playoff spots would go to the clubs with the best overall records. Currently, that would be Stockton and Modesto in the North, and Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore in the South.
First-half Winners: Potomac (Northern), Myrtle Beach (Southern)
As in the California League, the two Carolina League's two first-half winners are threatening to repeat in the second half. Potomac is up by 4.5 games over Wilmington in the North, while Myrtle Beach has a four-game lead over red-hot Winston Salem and a 5.5-game cushion over free-falling Kinston. If both clubs do indeed repeat, then the playoff spots would go to the clubs with the second-best second-half records. In that case, Wilmington would have to hold off Frederick in the Northern Division, while Winston-Salem would need to keep their lead over Kinston.
FLORIDA STATE LEAGUE
First-half Winners: Palm Beach (East), Fort Myers (West)
Dunedin's magic number to clinch the West Division is one, so Blue Jays fans may as well start making their playoff plans. The East is a far different story, as Jupiter has a half-game lead over Daytona and 2.5-game lead over St. Lucie. This one will go down to the wire, especially considering the fact that Jupiter and Daytona close out the season with a four-game series.
First-half winners: Lansing (Eastern), Clinton (Western)
In the Eastern Division, South Bend has a comfortable five-game advantage over Dayton, who should probably be more concerned with holding off Fort Wayne (three games back) for the Wild Card spot. In the Western, Burlington has reeled off seven straight wins and now has a 4.5-game cushion over Cedar Rapids. In the race for the Wild Card, the Kernels lead Quad Cities by three and Beloit by four.
SOUTH ATLANTIC LEAGUE
First-half Winners: Lake County (Northern), Asheville (Southern)
West Virginia currently leads Lakewood by a half-game in the Northern Division, and the two clubs figure to battle it out to the bitter end. Delmarva, meanwhile, is in third place and five games out. In the Southern Division, Augusta has the best record in the league and is now 5.5 games up on second-place Columbus.
Class A Short-Season
NEW YORK-PENN LEAGUE
Division Leaders: Staten Island (McNamara), Batavia (Pinckney), Lowell (Stedler)
The Pinckney Division continues to be the most intriguing division in the league, as Batavia has just shot out to a half-game lead over Jamestown. Meanwhile, Auburn has lost five straight games and is now five games back. Whoever finishes in second-place in that division will most likely secure the Wild Card spot. Staten Island has won eight straight games and now has a four-game lead over Hudson Valley in the McNamara Division, while Brooklyn is five games off of the pace. Meanwhile, down in the Stedler Division, Lowell has a healthy 6.5-game lead over Oneonta.
Division Leaders: Spokane (East), Salem-Keizer (West)
Salem-Keizer has a one-game lead over Eugene in the West, and the two clubs begin a pivotal six-game series on Saturday. In the East, Spokane is sitting comfortably with a seven-game advantage over Boise. The two clubs close out the season with a six-game set, however, so if Boise stays within striking distance they could be poised to pull off an upset.
Division Leaders: Pulaski (East), Elizabethton (West)
In the East Division, Pulaski holds a 5.5-game lead over Danville, and can clinch the division with either a win or a Braves loss. Elizabethton is poised to once again win the West Division as they can clinch tonight with either a win or a loss by Johnson City.
First-half Winners: Billings (North), Orem (South)
First-half Winner: Angels
The Arizona League is not broken up into divisions, which results in a simple playoff format of first-half winner vs. second-half winner. The Giants are currently at the top of the second-half standings, although the Padres have won seven straight games and are now just 1.5; games off of the pace. The Rangers (3.5 back) and the Cubs (4.5 back) are also in the running.
GULF COAST LEAGUE
Division Leaders: Phillies (North), Dodgers, Nationals (East), Pirates (South)
The Pirates remain the GCL's best team, but their lead on the Twins in the South Division is a less-than-comfortable 1.5 games. The loser of this division race will most likely make it to the postseason anyway, as a result of the fact that the GCL has added a wild-card team this season. Elsewhere, the Phillies are four games up on both the Braves and Yankees in the North, while the Dodgers and Nationals are dead even in the East.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.