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02/06/08 10:00 AM ET

Which contenders will miss playoffs?

Yankees, Indians, Rockies and Phillies all face tough roads

It can seem like the same teams make the playoffs year after year -- Yankees, Red Sox, Angels, Braves, Cardinals. The reality, however, is that from year to year, the turnover tends to be pretty significant.

Since the beginning of the Wild Card format in 1995, just over half of playoff teams have gone back to October the following year -- 51 out of 96, or 53 percent. So obviously nearly half of them are staying home.

That fact led to the question: From last year's playoff teams, who could be left out this year?

The World Series champion Red Sox look plenty stout, and the Angels may allow so few runs that it doesn't matter what they produce on offense. The Cubs were aggressive in bettering their squad, and they're still looking to do more in a relatively weak division. The Diamondbacks look like one of baseball's truly rising franchises, and they added one of the game's best pitchers in Dan Haren.

That leaves four other squads. So here's a look at the four playoff teams from 2007 that may have the most trouble getting back to October in '08.

Cleveland Indians: The problems for the Indians actually start about 100 miles away -- in Detroit.

The simple fact is, the competition has gotten tougher. With the additions of Edgar Renteria and Miguel Cabrera, Detroit's lineup looks like an absolute beast. And Cleveland wasn't really as much better than the Tigers as it appeared in '07. While the final margin was eight games, the Indians' Pythagorean record was only two games better than the Tigers'.

Yet, while Detroit got better on offense -- and possibly in the rotation, if Dontrelle Willis can turn things around -- Cleveland stood still. The Indians didn't bring in any help for C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona, both of whom shouldered heavy loads and could have a hard time meeting last year's numbers.

The offense should still be fearsome, especially if Travis Hafner returns to his expected level. But the top of the rotation and the setup men in the bullpen may have to be superhuman again in order for the Indians to win the Central.

New York Yankees: It's hard to imagine the Yankees missing the playoffs, and they certainly have the necessary pieces to upgrade midseason if need be. Besides that, the recasting of the roster to build the next series of great Yankees teams looks very good. But in the short term, this season may be a tougher one for the Bombers than they're used to.

The primary question is the starting rotation. Chien-Ming Wang is fantastic, and Andy Pettitte is dependable, but then what? The kids are exciting but far from certain. Mike Mussina's struggles are baffling. The Yanks ranked eighth in the league in starters' ERA, 11th in starters' innings pitched and got exactly one complete game all year. Maybe the Hughes-Chamberlain-Kennedy combo is the answer, but maybe it's not.

And even the formidable Yankees offense is likely to go from utterly dominant to merely excellent. Jorge Posada is sure to backslide. Johnny Damon is in serious decline. They'll score a lot of runs, but likely closer to 900 than 1,000 this year, and in a league with the Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Indians, that might not be enough.

The Yanks probably have the best postseason chance of any team on this list. But they're not automatic.

Colorado Rockies: It's no knock on the Rox to say they'll have tough sledding in 2008. They were no fluke, and they're likely to be a good ballclub again in '08. But while much of their division was busy getting better, Colorado more or less stood still.

If the kids keep improving, that's not necessarily a bad strategy. But what if 24 homers is Troy Tulowitzki's top end, rather than a jumping-off point? What if Matt Holliday's age-27 season really was his career year? And what if Todd Helton's power continues to fade?

Similarly, the starting rotation may well shine again. But it's far from a guarantee. Jeff Francis looks like an ace, but behind him it's not so clear. Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales might join Francis to give Colorado a three-headed monster. Or they might show their youth -- they're 24 and 22, respectively -- and experience some turbulence.

Colorado's future remains bright, no doubt about it. The Rockies have done things the right way, and overpaying for mediocrity would have been a bad idea for a team with such a promising young core. But the short term might be dicey, especially in a division that seems certain to be wide-doggone-open once again.

Philadelphia Phillies: Would that Cole Hamels could pitch two or three times a week. Failing that, the Phils may have a tough time making leads hold up no matter how many runs they score. Brett Myers should provide a good No. 2, but he's certainly a fuzzier proposition than it seemed 12 months ago. And from there, who knows?

Kyle Kendrick had a nice year, but if his strikeout rate stays low and his homer rate stays high, he won't look nearly so good going forward. Jamie Moyer wore down drastically in the second half, no surprise at age 44. This was a team that could badly use another starting pitcher, and it didn't get one. With the Mets making a drastic move by trading for Johan Santana, the Phils look like the chasers this time around.

And then there's the offense, where Philly also saw more removed than added. Yes, Aaron Rowand was probably overpaid, and the Phils were probably smart not to meet San Francisco's offer. That doesn't mean he won't be missed. Geoff Jenkins will hit some homers, but he's 33 and his performance has headed in the wrong direction in recent years.

Like Holliday, the man he beat out for MVP, Jimmy Rollins is no slam-dunk to repeat his big showing from 2007. Still, the Phils should be an offensive machine again. After all, Ryan Howard took a step back in '07, and he's likely to hit higher than .268 -- not that he was ineffective last year, mind you. And Pedro Feliz, despite execrable OBPs year after year, represents an offensive and defensive upgrade over Abraham Nunez.

The Phils will surely contend, but they were only a hair better than the Mets last year, and New York got better while Philadelphia did not.

Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.