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A look at the division races with SI.com's Jay Jaffe

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Jay Jaffe chats about what is going on in baseball

I met Jay Jaffe during the 2012 Arizona spring training when he spoke at the SABR Analytics Conference.  Since then Jaffe joined SI.com where he covers baseball.  Jaffe is also writing a book entitled Cooperstown Casebook where Jaffe will use his JAWS - the Jaffe WAR Score System to give a "revolutionary look at all current Hall of Famers as well as overlooked players."

Prior to his baseball writing career, Jaffe was a graphic designer for about the first ten years out of college.  He started his blog to learn how to build a website, initially he wrote about music but as time went on, he went on to write about baseball.

Today we take a brief look around the MLB and what has gone on in 2014.

National League East:

Unlike the American League, the National League is looking a lot like what a lot of experts and fans thought going into the season with Washington, St. Louis and Los Angeles leading their divisions and San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Atlanta and Milwaukee in the wild card hunt.

"Washington look like they are the strongest team in the league as they are peaking at the right time," Jaffe said, "They have three starters with ERAs under three plus Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez."

National League Central:

"I didn't believe in Milwaukee [Brewers] all year, they had a great five months but seems to have hit a wall," said Jaffe, "Milwaukee lost their opportunity to put the division away when Yadier Molina went down."

"So many guys have performed below expectations for the Cardinals," Jaffe said, "Jon Jay has played very well, with Peter Bourjos in center field and Matt Holliday and Jay beside him, that is a good defensive outfield."

Jaffe's closing thought on St. Louis, "I don't think the Cardinals are as strong as they were last year," adding their lack of power and their bullpen leaves them as not his pennant favorite.

National League West:

Despite so much trouble, "the Dodgers are pretty where we thought they would be," Jaffe said, "You are probably not going to see 42-8 in a hundred years but then this team hasn't a month under .500 so that will keep you in the race."

Jaffe added "the Giants have been a resilient team despite all of their injuries."

One thing besides Vin Scully that Dodger fans should embrace right now is their number one pitcher, Clayton Kershaw.

"I think you have to treasure what Kershaw is doing," said Jaffe, "it is easy to take an ace pitcher for granted what they are able to do, because what they are able to do gets kind of boring. 

"I feel lucky I don't take Kershaw for granted, I make it point to tune in every fifth day to see him."

Jaffe added "the numbers he is putting up are incredible, best ERA, on his way to his fourth ERA title, 200 strikeouts already."

Jaffe noted that it is hard to compare Kershaw to Pedro Martinez and Randy Johnson because they were putting up their numbers in much better offensive seasons and higher scoring environment.  And Johnson was able to push for more innings than Kershaw is now.

American League East:

"I came into the thinking that this division was a wide open race so I am surprised that Baltimore is running away with it, said Jaffe, "and that they are doing without Matt Wieters and Manny Machado, Chris Davis has been terrible and Nelson Cruz has been pretty lousy after the first two months of the season is a testament to the quality of the pitching there."

Ed: Davis was also suspended 25 games Friday for a positive test for amphetamines, a suspension that includes playoff games.

Jaffe added that the Orioles rotation stabilized once Kevin Gausman arrived in June and the bullpen really got hot once Andrew Miller was acquired.  Oriole manager Buck Showalter is able to mask his lack of a true number one starter with deft use of his bullpen.

If the Orioles reach the playoffs, Jaffe said that "I wouldn't be surprised if Showalter didn't start playing matchups in the fifth inning."

On what happened to the Red Sox, I asked Jaffe did Boston make it mistake in not re-signing Jacoby Ellsbury and going with Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley Jr?

"They really didn't give themselves a nice option there," Jaffe said,  "maybe if Daniel Nava could have filled in the breach if they had send Bradley down, Grady Sizemore wasn't up to the task of playing everyday.

"I think they second-guessed themselves when they moved Bogaerts to third base when they signed Stephen Drew," said Jaffe, "and Drew was terrible and Bogaerts numbers fell off a cliff after that."

In looking at what Boston went through and trying to see into the Dodger future with Hanley Ramirez and the Dodger outfield isn't exactly the same but Jaffe thought one thing to be learned is that when breaking in young players, "you want to have fallback options that you can play and maybe share a job with."

Jaffe's final thought on this was that the Dodgers "don't have to clear a full space for them but they have to make a bigger space than what they have now" in regards to Joc Pederson and in a year or two, Corey Seager.

American League Central:

"Dayton Moore [Royal's GM] certainly believed that some of his young hitters would hit but it hasn't happened yet," Jaffe said, "Alex Gordon is the only one producing at a much better than average player, Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez are about at league average and the rest of the team...Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas have disappointed."

Jaffe noted that the Royals defense has been good, the only starting pitching below league average is Jeremy Guthrie and he is still above replacement level.

With the Tigers, the bullpen has been festering for years and they have had nothing but bad luck there.  Jaffe noted that Miguel Cabrera has not been healthy all year and the Tigers never have found a way to get him healthy.

American League West:

The Angels are going to win the West despite the lost of Garrett Richards, "I still look at their rotation and I don't see a playoff rotation, Jered Weaver sure, Matt Shoemaker has had some nice starts, C.J. Wilson has been pretty lousy, Hector Santiago pretty good kind of enigmatic, Jaffe said, "their bullpen has been pretty good. They are going to have follow the model of getting six innings and going to the pen in the playoffs.

"The Angels are an offensive team, they have one player [David Freese] in their lineup who is below a 100 OPS+," said Jaffe. "Freese has been warmer over the last few months and they are going to rely on that to win some games."

On the AL MVP, "I think it is still Mike Trout's award though Josh Donaldson could have been contender had Oakland not faded.  Alex Gordon has gotten some big hits recently but this does appear to be Trout's year."

Felix Hernandez is the leading contender for the AL Cy Young Award, "Masahiro Tanaka looked he could give him run for his money but the injury pretty much ended that."

To conclude, we ended on something that Jaffe is passionate about, team entropy.

Team Entropy:

If you follow Jaffe on Twitter @jay_jaffe, you may have already started seeing this #TeamEntropy in his tweets or tweets to him.  What is Team Entropy you ask, Jaffe explains.

"Team entropy is when you start rooting for a maximum amount of chaos, Jaffe said, think about more of those games, what happens with all of those tiebreaker scenarios, rooting for extra games to determine wild cards and divisions."

"Pretty much from the middle of September I am looking at that this stuff to happen," said Jaffe,  "You have to imagine the Commissioner's office going crazy trying to fit all of these with the national TV contracts."