With a little more than six weeks remaining in the 2012 season, tight divisional races and young, ultra-talented players have made this season one of the most exciting in years.
There are easily 20 teams still within seven games of making the playoffs and blossoming stars such as Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Chris Sale and Stephen Strasburg are legitimate contenders for MVP and Cy Young awards in their respective leagues.
However, what adds another dimension to the next six weeks are possible “X factors” -- the circumstance or player who has the potential to determine which of those 20 teams make the playoffs and which go home. Here is a quick look at potential X factors for the top contending playoff teams as of today.
Circumstance: The Nationals continue to insist that they’ll shut down Strasburg when he reaches an innings pitched total in the 160-180 range despite the fact they have a chance to win the World Series.
X factor: Ross Detwiler. The lefty has pitched at least seven innings and yielded just two earned runs or fewer in four of his past six starts and will be crucial for the Nationals to stave off the Atlanta Braves.