With the second half of baseball underway, everyone’s eyes move toward the trade deadline, which is approaching quickly and toward the playoffs. Those playoff races will start to heat up over the next couple of months, but in the AL we already have a pretty clear picture of who will be playing in October, the NL is not as clear. I will look a head to what the second half holds for each division and who will make the playoffs. We will start in the AL where four of the five playoff spots are seemingly already decided.
Starting in the AL East everyone had the Red Sox and Yankees sitting atop this division, just in the reverse order from where those teams are today. Entering today the Red Sox hold a 6 game lead over the Yankees. The Yankees have the advantage in the power department, with a slight lead in ISO and slugging percentage but a large lead on everyone in baseball in homeruns. While the Sox have the edge in batting average and as a team they strikeout at a lower rate. On the pitching side the teams are a rounding error apart in virtually every category. Given the 6 game lead I would give the edge to the Red Sox to hold onto the division lead and force the Yankees into the Wild Card Game.
The other two AL division races are not as interesting. Cleveland despite getting off to a slow start, have pulled away from the rest of the Central, which could be one of the weakest divisions in MLB history. The addition of Brad Hand should only help them tighten their hold on the division and get the Indians ready for another postseason run.
The defending champs have a 5 game lead in the West. Last year the Astros rode their offense, and the resurgent Justin Verlander, to a title. This year, the Astros pitching staff has stolen all the headlines and there is no reason to not think they will hold onto that lead.
The teams currently in second and third place in the West are where it gets interesting. Just 2.5 games separate the Mariners from the Athletics. Most people wrote off the Mariners after Robinson Cano’s injury/suspension but riding great seasons from Jean Segura and Mitch Haniger at the plate and James Paxton turning into a legit #1 they look poised to make it into October. They have already added Denard Span and Alex Coleme in May and with their weak farm system I would not expect many, is any, more moves. What to make of the A’s? If you ask most fans to name 3 players on that roster they would struggle. That is not a knock on the A’s roster, but since peak Moneyball, the A’s have operated outside of most baseball fans consciousness. The Matts, Chapman and Olson, manning the corners have had good seasons and look to be building blocks for the team going forward. The A’s have gotten a great season out of Jed Lowrie at second base. He has already passed his 2017 total in homeruns and is just seven RBIs away from matching last year’s total in that category. They have bolstered the pen recently with the acquisition of Jeurys Familia but it is hard to put trust in a rotation featuring Trevor Cahill Brett Anderson and Edwin Jackson. I expect them to stay in the hunt but the A’s seem to still be a year, or a couple moves, away from really being a contender.
AL East-Red Sox
AL Central- Indians
AL West- Astros
Wild Cards- Yankees and Mariners
Tomorrow we will look at how the National League is shaping up.
All stats current through July 23.
Photo courtesy MLB.