MLB Second Half Preview

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Chris Sale” by Keith Allison is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

BY ADAM HATLAN

Ah, the MLB All-Star break. The official-unofficial mark of the midway point of the season. A time for the best teams to relax and prepare for the stretch run, and a time of reprieve for some fan bases.

As division races have begun heating up, playoff races are starting to gain a clearer picture. Of course, anything can happen in baseball, with injuries and trades bound to happen that could shake up division races. Teams have to decide whether or not to load up for a playoff run and be buyers, or be sellers and throw in the towel until next year. Oh, and be hopeful the injury bug stays very far away.

Let’s take a look at how things might shake up the rest of the way in MLB.

AL EAST

This is a two-horse race between the Red Sox (68-30, 1st place) and Yankees (62-33, 4.5 GB). The Yankees lead the season series 5-4 against Boston, and the two teams play each other 10 more times in the second half. The Red Sox feature the number one scoring offense in the AL, the Yankees number three. The Yankees are leading MLB with 160 home runs. Number two in home runs? The Red Sox, of course. Boston’s Chris Sale and New York’s Luis Severino are both pitching like Cy Young candidates, but Boston features a rotation with four double-digit winners. Yes. Four. And it’s only July. The loss of Eduardo Rodriguez for Boston could make things interesting. Do the Red Sox go out and trade for a starter? Or hope that a Drew Pomeranz/Brian Johnson/Steven Wright trio can be enough? It’s worth keeping an eye on, but I think Boston should be able to take the East for the third year in a row in what could be the best race of the second half.

Projected standings and wins:

  1. Boston (104-58)
  2. New York (99-63, Wild Card)
  3. Tampa (83-79)
  4. Toronto (70-92)
  5. Baltimore (52-110)

AL CENTRAL

The Indians should be safe here. They currently sit 7.5 games ahead of second place Minnesota in what is possibly the worst division in baseball. Think about this: Cleveland would be in second place in any other division in baseball. Weak. But they will get Andrew Miller back, who is a difference maker out of the ‘pen. Jose Ramirez is a superstar with MVP numbers. Terry Francona is…well, Terry Francona. The Indians win this division easily. BTW, what the hell happened to KC? Wow.

Projections:

  1. Cleveland (90-72)
  2. Minnesota (74-88)
  3. Detroit (68-94)
  4. Chicago (58-104)
  5. Kansas City (46-116)

AL WEST

Are the Mariners for real? They sit five games behind division leader Houston and have a run differential of -1. That’s pretty impressive, considering they lead the second wild-card position by 3.5 games. But can they sustain it? I’m not buying into Seattle as a contender. It’s the other team in their division, Oakland, that has my attention. They completed a recent stretch over the past couple weeks in which they beat Cleveland four-out-of-six, then went INTO Houston and nearly swept the Astros, taking three-of-four. Oakland has been doing it with a rotation that features just two pitchers with double-digit starts. Can THEY sustain it? We’ll see, but I’m buying it. Oh, and I think the Astros should have little trouble taking the division.

Projections:

  1. Houston (103-59)
  2. Oakland (92-70, WILD CARD)
  3. Seattle (90-72)
  4. Los Angeles (82-80)
  5. Texas (70-92)

NL EAST

The Phillies and Braves in first and second, respectively, at the all-star break? Are you kidding? The Nats have been underachieving (Harper, Murphy, pitching-staff-not-named-Scherzer), while in my opinion, the Phils and Braves overachieving. Coming into the season, the Nats, just one year removed from being one game from the NLCS, seemed to be easy favorites. Philly had a bunch of “Who?” guys, while Atlanta seemed too young. Enter a potential Cy Young candidate for Philly (Aaron Nola) and rookie of the year candidate for Atlanta (Ozzie!), and you have some exciting story lines in the NL East and two unlikely teams at the top. If Philly goes all in and acquires Manny Machado, this is their division. If not, I think it comes down to which team can stay healthier. Either way, this division could be decided in the final two weeks of the year. Philly and Atlanta face off 7 times in the final 11 games. Chills. (Oh, and I think Jacob DeGrom is not a Met by the end of July).

Projections:

  1. Philadelphia (92-70)
  2. Atlanta (91-71, WILD CARD)
  3. Washington (81-81)
  4. Miami (68-94)
  5. New York (64-98)

NL CENTRAL

The Brewers may have seen first-place for the last time this season. Losers of six straight, the Brewers hurt themselves badly to end the first half, allowing the Cubs to quietly sneak ahead of them and possess a 2.5 game lead. The Cubs are having a season nearly equivalent to their 2016 season (shhh…), and have really started kicking it into gear over the last month-and-a-half. Barring a major addition to the Brewers lineup (ahem, Manny Machado?), the Crew may struggle keeping up with the high-powered Cubs. Machado to the Crew will make things interesting, though. The Brewers’ bullpen has been very shaky lately as well. The Cubs on the other hand, will be looking forward to the return of Yu Darvish and the addition of Jacob DeGrom. (Say what?!). The Cardinals are a mess, but may get a boost after the firing of Mike Matheny (kinda shocked by that one). The Pirates and Reds have both been playing good ball over the last month, but not enough to make a surge in the standings.

Projections:

  1. Cubs (96-66)
  2. Brewers (90-72)
  3. Cardinals (83-79)
  4. Pirates (79-83)
  5. Reds (75-87)

NL WEST

Four teams within striking distance here. The Giants are are in fourth and just four games behind leader Los Angeles. This is a tough one, especially considering how up and down the division has been. LA has been playing the best ball over the past two months, and I think it was only a matter of time before they started clicking. Kershaw was hurt, Madea has been dinged up…but the unforeseen power of Max Muncy has saved the day for LA! What a story this guy has been. Five career homers headed into the season over pieces of two seasons, and suddenly he finds himself with 22 first half homers and in the home run derby. Whether he continues this kind of hitting in the second half or not, he’s been a fun story line. Manny Machado comes into play here again, as the Dodgers and D’backs have both been linked to Machado. Does he put one of those teams over the top? I would say the Dodgers more than the D’backs. I think this race comes down to experience, and here, LA takes the upper hand.

Projections:

  1. Dodgers (93-69)
  2. Arizona (90-72, WILD CARD)
  3. San Francisco (84-78)
  4. Colorado (79-83)
  5. San Diego (67-95)

PLAYOFFS

AL: WILD CARD–Oakland over New York

Divisional–Boston over Oakland, Houston over Cleveland

ALCS–Boston over Houston

NL: WILD CARD(ONE-GAME PLAYOFF)–Arizona over Milwaukee (PLAYOFF), Atlanta over Arizona

Divisional–Chicago over Atlanta, LA over Philadelphia

NLCS–Chicago over LA

WORLD SERIES–Boston over Chicago

So there you have it. My second half MLB predictions.

Obviously a lot can change here with the trade deadline likely to shake things up and injuries to star players, but I believe this is a pretty accurate representation of what might happen. Here’s to an entertaining second half.

Watch for foul balls.

GO BASEBALL!

 

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4 thoughts on “MLB Second Half Preview

  1. I agree with your take in the AL East. I’m a Yankees fan and I get a lot of shit from others but I don’t think they’re offense will be very trustworthy come October. I’d much rather have the efficient .300-hitting approach that Boston has than the Yankees’ all-or-nothing attack. Maybe I’m wrong but it’s something I’ve kept a close eye on. Going to be an interesting second half. Good article.

    Like

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