Reds now the team to beat

By clinching the NL Central with ease the Reds are in pole position for the playoffs. AP Photo/Tom Uhlman

The last week of the 2012 season will go down in history as a particularly stressful time in the American League. We're less than 48 hours from the end of the end of the regular season, the divisional crown is still yet to be awarded in the East and West divisions and the Detroit Tigers took until the 160th game to put away the Chicago White Sox. In the Senior Circuit, the Cincinnati Reds had a comparatively easy time, clinching the division title more than a week ago, guaranteeing Cincinnati a spot in the division series.

With the NL Central not being truly up for grabs since the beginning of August, the Reds haven't had much to play for other than playoff seeding and personal pride, the equivalent of putting your feet up by the fireplace compared to the bedlam in the AL.

If we're looking ahead to the playoffs, does one method of making the postseason bode better than the other? Unusual in baseball's mythology is that there are two opposite bits of conventional wisdom on the subject. Some believe that the fire resulting from a successful pennant fight forges the strongest steel and avoids complacency and rust. Others believe that the extra time to recover from the inevitable bumps and bruises of the long season is a team's best weapon. So which is it, if either?