The Major League Baseball regular season is slowly coming to an end but picking up intensity as we close in on the final month. Many things have changed from the first month in the MLB, some divisions have done a complete reversal with teams looking good early on to the bottom of the pack now. Two of the biggest locks that we knew about going into the season were that the New York Yankees and Houston Astros were going to be the in the playoff hunt throughout the year in the AL.
Earlier in the season the AL East was an absolute battle between the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees. These teams were going back and forth holding leads in the division for a period of time. Going into the All-Star Break the Red Sox held a 3.5 game lead on the Yankees which has dramatically changed since. As of today the Yankees are now 9.5 games back and struggling to pick up any ground with one of their star players out in Aaron Judge, his timetable for return was originally 3-4 weeks but it has yet to be determined exactly when he will be back in action. Boy oh boy are Yankee fans hoping he is back before the playoffs because in his spot the Yankees have had Shane Robinson (a no-name from the minor leagues) playing and batting 9th in the lineup. As you can imagine the drop off from Judge to Robinson has been detrimental to the Yankees division hopes and the Athletics and Mariners have been slowly gaining ground on them in the Wild Card. This is all going on as the Red Sox are 32-11 in their last 43 games and steam rolling teams down the stretch to catch another division title.
AL East Prediction: Red Sox
The AL West seemed all but locked up early in the season by the reigning World Series Champion Houston Astros. Lately the Astros have hit a skid as the Oakland Athletics have hit their stride. Besides the Red Sox, the Oakland Athletics have become an absolute power house and a gambler’s dream being the underdog in many games but somehow winning games night in and night out. The Athletics have chased down the reigning champs and are now only 1 game back in the AL West. Although many of you have written off the Mariners as nobody has heard much about them, they keep lurking around as they are 4.5 out of the division leading Astros right now and 3.5 out in the wild card behind the Athletics. When Robinson Cano was suspended many people figured that would be the end of a possible magical Mariners season. Well folks, the magic has continued as the players behind him including Dee Gordon have stepped up to keep them in contention for a playoff spot going into the last month of the season. When a team in the MLB is hot toward the end of a season we have seen many instances in the past where they finish strong until the end, examples being the Colorado Rockies 2007 finish and the Oakland Athletics finish in 2002 behind Billy Beane’s analytical roster.
AL West Prediction: Oakland Athletics
Not much to say about the AL Central. The Cleveland Indians will win this one by a landslide as no other team is closer than 12 games back nor has a winning record. Minnesota is 59-64, 5 games under .500 and will not catch the Indians.
A rematch of the ALCS will take place in a winner move on game for the AL Wild Card….
AL Wild Card Prediction: Yankees and Astros
The NL East is a very intriguing division. You can wipe the Marlins and Mets off of the map per usual, but this year the Phillies and Braves, two extremely young teams are neck and neck and have been for quite some time. Braves being a half game up right now on the Phillies and 7 games up on the Nationals who were considered World Series contenders at the beginning of the year. The Nationals have gone through some injuries, not having one of their best hitters in Daniel Murphy caused them to get off to a pretty sluggish start, even with him back in the lineup now, the Nats are still losing ground on the Phillies and Braves. In the end I believe pitching will prove to be a key factor in this division between the Braves and Phillies. The Phillies have Jake Arrieta who has been on a playoff team before, unlike many of the Phillies and Braves pitchers right now. I think the duo of Arrieta and cy-young contender Aaron Nola will be huge down the stretch for the Phillies. (Update on Daniel Murphy, as I am writing this blog he has cleared waivers and has been claimed by an unnamed team, speculation was he could return to New York but on the other side of town with the Yankees but we can confirm the team was not the Yankees). Rumors are swirling that it could be the Cubs, if so the favorites to win the NL would shift right back to the Cubs, potential huge news, (Will update the blog when official). Update to the Update: The Cubs have officially traded for Daniel Murphy making them my favorite to win the NL now. Bryce Harper is also on revocable waivers and has been claimed, that team has until September 1st to work out a trade in order for Harper to be playoff eligible.
NL East Prediction: Philadelphia Phillies
The NL Central is an interesting division this year. Many free agents/trades landed some high quality players in the NL Central this year. The Brewers landed themselves Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain, 2 major acquisitions for them boosting their outfield and batting lineup. Cain is batting .302 while Yelich is at .310 both having great years keeping the Brewers right in the thick of the playoff race. The St. Louis Cardinals traded for Marcel Ozuna who has gone through just about an average year for him, he is clocking in at a .271 batting average right now while his career average is .276, this year has been rough as he has gone through many hot and cold streaks. The Cubs started slow behind the Brewers sticking around 3-4 games back for most of the early months, they have really picked up lately how they normally play and now hold a 3.5 game lead in the division. Cole Hamels was a big trade pickup for the Cubs, he has had somewhat of a resurgence on the Cubs pitching well for them his last few games.
NL Central Prediction: Chicago Cubs (Regardless of potential Murphy claim).
Last but certainly not least being the tightest division in baseball right now we analyze the NL West. The Los Angeles Dodgers made it to the World Series last year but fell short to the Astros in what was a WILD 7 game series that went back and forth. Being one game away from winning it all the Dodgers were favorites in the NL West. Getting injured early in the year and missing a little over a month, Clayton Kershaw’s absence certainly did not treat the Dodgers well as they failed to hold the division lead. The loss of Corey Seager at shortstop due to Tommy John surgery (unusual for a shortstop) hurt them as well. The Dodgers made the biggest pickup at the deadline by acquiring Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles for prospects. Dodgers currently sit in 3rd place in the division 2 games behind the Diamondbacks and 1.5 games back in the wild card. The Diamondbacks and Rockies are two teams year in and year out that always seem to be in a race toward the end of the year but never can really get over the hump. The Rockies lineup is a scary lineup, some would say with elevated stats due to the fact they play in Denver with a high elevation that is geared toward hitters. The Dodgers have too much talent on that roster between pitching staff and batting lineup to not somehow sneak into the playoffs one way or another.
NL Central Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
Two strong Batting lineups will round out the NL with the Wild Card winners being…..
NL Wild Card Prediction: Colorado Rockies and Milwaukee Brewers