There's only 2 weeks left in the HARL Regular Season. My oh my how times flies! Once September 1st rolls around, the top-5 teams will compete in the HARL playoffs to determine who will be crowned this year's league champion. For everyone else, it's time to pack up the rotisserie stuff and say "better luck next year". Truth be told, the bottom four clubs are so far down the points-rung that they probably packed it in some time ago.
So who's PLAYOFF BOUND?
Well, it's currently a 7-team race for five playoff spots. There's a really tight race for 1st Place going on right now between the JOKERS and SPITTING COBRAS. A mere 2 points is all that separates Joker Jack from his good friend Cobra Mike in the standings. It appears that the race for 1st Place regular season prize money will go right down to the Labor Day wire. Fortunately for both of these clubs, they don't have to worry about making the playoffs. They're playoff shoo-ins. But neither team has ever won a HARL title, so it's assuredly exciting, nail-biting, bed-wetting times around those two clubhouses right now.
With 85 points, the GAS HOUSE GRILLERS also look like shoo-ins for the playoffs. It would take a Herculean effort for them to catch the Jokers and/or Cobras in the point standings, as they trail that duo by more than 15 points. But barring a late-August collapse, the Gas House gang will be cooking playoff-dogs come September. Their July trade acquisitions of Ryan Howard and Andre Ethier are paying huge dividends offensively.
Lurking in 4th place are the ever-dangerous SEVY RHINOS. The Rhinos have been treading water for a couple of weeks, thanks to a mix of injuries and slumps that have zapped the offense of its usual strength. The Rhinos need to weather the storm from the hungry teams clawing at them from below (Hens, Assassins, and Brewskis). If the Rhinos can hang on and make the playoffs, they present an interesting team to deal with. They've got one of the best offenses in HARL, but their year-to-date pitching stats (with the exception of Saves) have been atrocious. But over the past month, the Rhinos staff has improved somewhat, thanks to surges from Oliver Perez and The Big Unit. A clean stats-slate would do them a world of good come September.
Fighting for the 5th and final playoff spot are the NORTH MARKET MUDHENS, ASSASSINS, and BREWSKIS. Right now, the HENS are in the driver's seat, holding down 5th place with 75 points (4 behind the Rhinos). They have the luxury of complete health (nobody on the Disabled List) and a starting rotation that looks as strong as anyone's on paper. They're kind of the anti-Rhinos in many respects (weak offense, strong starting staff, so-so bullpen). After tasting the playoffs for the first time last year, Judge Mike and the boys are hankering for a return to glory.
At 71 points, the ASSASSINS need to make a late-season run in order to push themselves into the playoffs. Without Justin Upton, Ryan Church, and Jonathan Sanchez in the lineup, that could be a tall order. Rental superstar Manny Ramirez has been worth every penny, but he's going to need hot streaks from Wright, Holliday, and Kouzmanoff to bolster the offense. And Ben Sheets really needs to step it up and carry this staff if they're going to reach the postseason.
Although 7 points out of 5th place, the BREWSKIS are still in this thing. They've got Chipper back and the Atkins-Hawpe-Stewart-Baker-Iannetta contingent on offense. Chris Dickerson was also a great late-season free agent pick who is playing regularly. JJ Hardy is hot, Mike Cameron is solid, and we all know the streaky Cody Ross can get red-hot on occasion. So if the offense can tear the cover off the ball, the Zambrano-Maine-Myers starting trio can hurl some gems, the beermakers could make a surprising rally.
So stay tuned... we'll know how it all turns out in 2 weeks!