Cabrera, Playoffs and What To Look Forward To

Last night, while the First Presidential Debate of this year's election was going on, baseball history was being made.  Miguel Cabrera officially inked his name in the baseball history books, becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski accomplished the feat in 1967.

Cabrera went 0-2 in the final game of the regular season, playing only four innings, but the o'fer performance did not matter because Cabrera had created enough separation between he and the potential spoilers -- namely Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton -- that only a miraculous performance by either Trout or Hamilton combined with a Cabrera nine-inning dud could affect the outcome.  Trout went 2-3 but fell short of the batting title by 4 points.  Hamilton went 1-5 without a home run.

By finishing the season as the league leader in batting average, home runs and runs batted in, Miguel Cabrera became just the 10th player in major league history (going back to 1920 when RBI's became an official stat) to win the hitters Triple Crown in baseball.  Make no mistake, the hitters Triple Crown is a monumental achievement that has gotten more and more difficult over the years.  What makes this feat so difficult is that there is a clearer distinction now than ever among players with speed and players with power and pitchers approach hitters like Cabrera and Hamilton differently than they have in the past.  High batting average guys like Ichiro Suzuki and Juan Pierre amass two hundred hits per season with their legs - slap-hitting gap shots and legging out infield singles while hitting well over .300.  Power hitters like Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton specialize in hitting the long ball.  Intentional walks and getting pitched around is very common and in order to lead the league in RBI, you have to have guys on base ahead of you.  It just seems like every year, there's a spoiler in one of those three categories and it's very rare that you'd have someone actually finish the season atop all three categories.

In other news... the Yankees drubbed the Red Sox en route to their 13 division title in 17 seasons.  While that was not a surprise -- the Yankees boast the highest payroll in baseball to the tune of $198 million -- the Oakland A's, second-to-last in payroll obligations, put the finishing touches on an unfathomable season, beating the Rangers in game 162 and winning their first division crown since 2006.  The A's were faced with a 13-game deficit on June 30th so the comeback is not only improbable but historic -- only the 1978 Yankees overcame a larger deficit to win the division the modern era.

And so the first round playoff match-ups are set and there will be no one-game tie-breakers... just one-game Wild Card playoffs.  Like it or not, the playoffs begin on Friday night with those win or go home Wild Card matches.

Here's how the playoffs will look:

The Yankees, Tigers, A's, Nationals, Reds and Giants are this year's division winners with the Yankees and Nationals boasting the best records in their respective leagues.  All six of those teams avoid the one-game Wild Card playoff.

The Orioles and Rangers (AL) and the Braves and Cardinals (NL) will play the Wild Card match-ups on Friday night with the Rangers and Braves hosting those one-game playoffs.

The winners of the Wild Card playoff games will play the Yankees (AL) and Nationals (NL), league respective, of course, with the Yankees and Nationals maintaining home field advantage in a 5 game Division Series.  These series start Sunday.

The Tigers will play the A's in a 5 game Division Series with the A's having home field advantage.  This series begins on Saturday.

The Reds will play the Giants in a 5 game Division Series with the Giants having home field advantage.  This series begins on Saturday.

Winners move on... 7 game Championship Series with ALCS set to begin Saturday October 13th and the NLCS set to begin Sunday October 14th.

The 7 game World Series will begin on October 24th with a final game 7, if necessary, scheduled to take place Thursday November 1st... who's up for some November baseball?


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