MLB: Second Half Predictions
Now that the All-Star Break in Washington is over, it's time to kickoff the second half of the Major League Baseball season. As it stands right now, the division leaders that would go on to their league's division series are the Red Sox, Astros, Indians, Cubs, Phillies, and Dodgers. The Wild Cards in each league (Milwaukee and Atlanta in the NL and New York and Seattle in the AL) would play each other in a one game playoff to see who would go to Boston and The Friendly Confines in Chicago for the division series. Now to get some perspective, there isn't too much happening in the American League other than the fact that the Athletics are next closest team behind the Mariners in the AL Wild Card Race. Most of these predictions will come from the National League since all division leaders in the AL are at least 4.5 games ahead. 98 games down, 64 to go.
*Warning: The following theories/predictions may alter the current standings and Postseason race in MLB but may actually happen in reality as a result of the second half performances. Side effects may include bandwagon, anger, surprise, excitement, or hope for a fan's team.
Cubs and Brewers Deadlocked, play Game 163 at Miller park for NL Central and NLDS:
The recent Milwaukee Brewers squad of the All-Star Break is far from what they were back in May and June. Add a six game losing streak including a Pirates sweep in Pittsburgh and you have a team 2.5 games behind the Cubs in the division and has dropped down to the first Wild Card spot in the NL. Who is to blame for this you may ask? 6 words. Blown saves and the DL bug. Two of the Brewers' six losses have come from walk offs. The main reason for this is a lack of efficiency by Brewers pitchers which as a result, adds to their total pitch count and more mound visits.
But on a bright note, some of the Brewers' best hitters in Eric Thames and Ryan Braun should be coming back off of the DL for some games during their 6 game homestand against the Dodgers and Nationals which should give them back confidence offensively and a place back in the division. As for the Cubs, they start the second half with a 5 game home series against St. Louis including a doubleheader on Saturday. If the Brewers get back to winning and the Cubs start to lose their strife, Milwaukee should be back in business in terms of the NL Central.
But let's just say that after Game 162, both the Cubs and Brewers are deadlocked. What next? Well, depending on head-to-head matchups, the team that has the better record against their opponent would host a one game tiebreaker in which the winner would claim supremacy in the NL Central and would go to the NLDS while the loser is in the Wild Card Game. As a reminder, the Cubs lost their last series against Milwaukee 2-1 but have their next series against them at Wrigley. The current Brewers team will not be the injury prone team that the Cubs would face if a tiebreaker were to occur. And just for fun, I am going to pick Milwaukee to win the tiebreaker. The Cubs will not have as much strength as they did before the break making the Brewers the better team in terms of offensive depth. I've called the NL Central division race a dogfight but I think that it is way too much of an understatement. More like a war.
Rockies Win the NL West:
Say what!? Well hear me out. The Rockies have one of the best infields in baseball with All-Star third baseman in Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story, and Charlie Blackmon in the outfield. Colorado has won 10 of their last 12 and are just 2 games behind the Dodgers for first place in the NL West. This recent surge has given them the confidence they need heading into the second half of the season. And at a good time too, as the Rockies' next series will be in Arizona against the Diamondbacks which should move them into second place with a series sweep.
As for the division leading Dodgers, they are in Milwaukee to start the second half but have some tough competition to end July with (the first series in Milwaukee) plus two road series against the NL East leading Philadelphia Phillies (3 games) and the second place Atlanta Braves in Atlanta. They will not be home at Dodger Stadium until they return the favor for Milwaukee with a four game home series. This ten game road trip may temporarily lose Los Angeles the top spot in the division for either the D-Backs or Rockies as well as their confidence given that they have won three of their last four series. It will be a long second half until Postseason spots are determined, but the Colorado Rockies have shown everyone in their division that no one is safe no matter how much of lead you have in the standings.
World Series Prediction:
It may not be October yet, but it is never to early to predict who will be in the 2018 Fall Classic. This is a tough one, but I am having the Milwaukee Brewers beating the Boston Red sox in 7 games and in Fenway Park. Who would not want to see AL home run leader J.D. Martinez versus NL home run leader Jesus Aguilar with Cy Young candidate in Red Sox ace Chris Sale? Yes, the Brewers have lost 7 straight games with six of those on the road, but they have eight games against the NL Central leading Cubs left to go and who knows what the Central will look like in October if Milwaukee can catch up to them. As for Boston, the AL Postseason would go through Fenway if the season were to end today. I say they beat the Yankees in five and the Astros in six to win the pennant.
Once the All-Star Break ends, the fight for Postseason positioning is at its highest level with neck and neck division races and Wild Card races that will not end until the final day of baseball is complete. This is what the second half of the season is all about. Every team in the fight giving it their all, in hopes of finding at least a hint of October baseball in the pursuit of the Postseason. The National League has been like this all season with at least one team changing division positioning every week. This is also another reason why the National League has more competition than the AL. And if that is not what will make this second half of this season intriguing for more fans to watch, then I don't know what will.
In the first half of the season, everyone starts at 0-0, but once the second half starts, no matter how big a team's division lead is, no one is safe. And that could be the difference between the offseason, October, and maybe even a World Series Championship.