MLB: Midseason Favorites in the AL and NL
The Major League Baseball season has nearly reached its midway point, which means a couple of things: The All-Star break is coming up shortly, along with fun events like the Home Run Derby, and teams are beginning to evaluate their places in the standings. With that in mind, we’ve decided to do a little evaluation and look at the midseason favorites in the AL and NL for the playoffs.
Division leaders: Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers
Wild card leaders: Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays
All over baseball, we’ve found that none of the division races are particularly close at the season’s midpoint. In the American League, we see Baltimore, Cleveland, and Texas all with leads of 5.5 games or more. At the same time, none of the three teams were heavily picked by experts as the best in their division, with the possible exception being the Rangers.
The Red Sox and Blue Jays in the AL East will likely give the Orioles a run for their money in the second half, and the starting pitching woes for the Rangers might catch up to them at some point. The Houston Astros are on a tear of late, winning nine of their last 10 games and pulling to within 8.5 games of first place.
It seems like a long shot, but don’t count out Houston chasing down their interstate rivals. The AL Central has the Indians out in front, and they don’t seem to be slowing down. They’re currently on a 12-game winning streak and have pushed the Kansas City Royals to six games back.
But despite injuries and losing a few key players to free agency, the Royals are still the defending World Series champions and have made the trip to the World Series two years in a row. Picking a favorite in the American League is tough right now, even with what look to be reasonable cushions in each division for the leaders.
The Red Sox have an outstanding offense, but their pitching leaves a bit to be desired. We have full faith in Boston addressing that at the trade deadline, so expect to see them overtake Baltimore at some point this summer and head into the post-season as the prohibitive favorite in the AL.
Division leaders: Washington Nationals, Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants
Wild card leaders: Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins
Much like the junior circuit, the National League features some divisional races that don’t appear to be too close at the moment. The only one that’s a big-time runaway is the Cubs in the NL Central, with an 11-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals coming into play today.
Chicago is the most well-rounded team in the league — and possibly the game — with great starting pitching, a strong back-end of the bullpen, and a deep and talented starting lineup. The NL East has the Nationals leading the surprising Marlins by 5.5 games, but Miami has been playing well lately and shaving the lead down ever so slightly.
The New York Mets aren’t far behind either, but they’re having injury and performance issues in their starting rotation and are in danger of their season starting to fall apart. The Giants are six games up on their only real competition, the Dodgers, in the NL West.
San Francisco has had injury issues that leave the door cracked a bit, but the Dodgers have underperformed all year and now have to deal with Clayton Kershaw heading to the DL with back problems.
Right now, the three division leaders are the clear favorites in the National League. The Nats have a great starting rotation, the Cubs are well-rounded, and the Giants have a great team and the “every other year” theory going for them.
If you had to pick one, the Cubs are an easy selection — with a rotation that runs five deep and a lineup that never gives you a break, which is a pairing that neither Washington or San Francisco can boast.
With still a half season left to play and a lot of story lines just beginning to unfold, it’s nearly impossible to make predictions about which teams will represent their respective leagues in the World Series. But, at the very least, we can make an educated guess at how it might shake out based on everything we know today.
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