By Josh (9 Inning Know It All):
With only 11 games left in the Northwest League season for each of the teams still in the playoff race things are getting much clearer. For the Vancouver Canadians their magic number is 10 over the Eugene Emeralds and for the Boise Hawks their magic number is only 8 over the Yakima Bears.
For those of you that do not know what the magic number means, here is a quick explanation. A magic number is the number of wins by the first place team and/or losses by the second place team in order for the first place team to clinch the playoff spot. So in the West Division, if the Vancouver Canadians were to win 5 games and the Eugene Emeralds were to lose 5 games than that would equal the magic number of 10. This would mean that the Canadians would clinch the second half playoff spot for the West Division.
The Canadians also have a magic number of 7 to eliminate the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes. So barring a miracle I am going to count the Volcanoes as being out of the playoff race because they would need to surpass both the Canadians and the Emeralds.
If both Vancouver and Boise are able to hold onto their leads for the second half playoff spot they both become my picks to make it to the championship series. Now I know a lot of people are looking at this and thinking that Everett was the best team in the entire league in the first half and Yakima is not an easy team to walk through and even though I agree with both statements here is why I look at the second half winners to be the greater threats.
Playoffs are often about which team is hot and not about which team had the best record. For the West division the Canadians have been playing great. Their hitting is strong and the pitching has been outstanding. Plus you need to consider the impact on the AquaSox of losing Chris Taylor to a promotion and the huge loss in the middle of the lineup when Mike Zunino was promoted. You quickly realize that the team that dominated the league in the first half isn’t the same team that you are watching now.
Does this mean the AquaSox have no chance? Nope. With the threats in the lineup that the AquaSox still have (Taylor Ard, Patrick Kivlehan, and Marcus Littlewood) and the pitching they have (Dylan Unsworth and Victor Sanchez), this team can easily put together a streak that makes them a championship contender.
For the East Division the Boise Hawks have become a fierce team to face. The additions of Albert Almora and Daniel Vogelbach make their offense very strong.
Yakima isn’t going to just roll over for Boise though as they have been a steady team throughout the year and will lean on their pitching staff with guys like Daniel Watts and Blake Perry to give them the boost they need.
The 2012 playoffs for the Northwest League are beginning to shape up into a great set of match ups and the only thing that I’m disappointed about is that unless the Emeralds can come on strong and take the spot away from the Canadians I won’t get to watch any of the games. On a positive note with Hillsboro getting a team next season I will be guaranteed to at least have one playoff game being played within an hour of where I live, unless the playoff rules get changed than everything will go out the window.