The All-Star break is over! This year’s MLB season is coming down to the wire with some obvious, and not so obvious, postseason contenders at the top.
From the Boston Red Sox keeping things interesting in the American League to the National League first place Chicago Cubs continuing what they started last season, we’ve seen it all.
With all that being said, there are a few teams that can easily coast into the postseason while others have to work overtime. Here are 7 predictions for the second half of the MLB season.
- The New York Mets will fall short, missing the postseason.
The Mets are in an interesting spot right now– third in the NL East, five games back from the division-leading Washington Nationals, and a #3 Wild Card spot that is in jeopardy. The Miami Marlins currently hold second place in the NL East and that coveted final Wild Card spot, slightly dimming New York’s hopes of another World Series run.
However, despite losing Mat Harvey for the season, Mets pitching continues to be a highlight of the season. The team’s overall ERA sits at 3.34, ranking them third in the league behind the Nationals (3.28) and the Cubs (3.29). Closer Jeurys Familia has been as commanding as it gets, dating back to last July. Since then, he’s converted 50 consecutive saves, putting him at fourth all-time. This weekend was a highly anticipated series with the Marlins that resulted in New York winning two out of three games and inching them closer to that highly coveted #2 spot. This is a good sign, but the Mets need much more than this series win to earn them a comfy place in the postseason.
- The Boston Red Sox will go to the ALCS.
As a NY Yankees fan it pains me to say this, but the Red Sox are on a tear. David Ortiz, or “Big Papi”, is in his final season and making sure he leaves on a high note. The last time the Red Sox made the World Series was 2013, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals, but this is a team that is no stranger to near-impossible comebacks. Back in 2004, Boston rallied to beat their bitter rival Yankees 4-3 in the American League Championship Series. The team went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, thanks to MVP Manny Ramirez. It was one of the most memorable moments in baseball history (in fact, there was an ESPN “30 for 30” film made about it). If you’re a Yankee fan, it’s a moment you’d like to forget.
The roster looks much different than it did in 2004, but one thing remains the same– David Ortiz is still a vital piece to their offense. Now a designated hitter, he leads the team in home runs (24) and RBIs (81), and on base percentage (.423). He is not the only player that keeps producing. The Red Sox are leading the Majors in almost every hitting category, including batting average (.291), runs (547), hits (990), and RBIs (521) in 96 games played. The Red Sox can continue to play well into October with this dominant offense.
- Their opponent will be the Baltimore Orioles.
Believe it or not, the Orioles have the most victories in the American League in the last five seasons. Baltimore also haven’t had a losing season in that span. There haven’t been any major postseason wins to support all of this, but Manny Machado, Mark Trumbo, and Chris Davis are leading the charge to change that narrative. They are just three of the five players that currently have over 50 RBIs and 15 home runs on the season. Hitting the ball is no problem, but pitching needs some work.
Starting pitching has been as shaky as it gets. Ubaldo Jimenez acknowledged this before the All-Star break, stating, “As a starting pitcher, you want to be the best out there for your team. We haven’t been able to do the job. It’s not fun. At all. We have to find a way to get back on track.” The one exception to this would be Chris Tillman, who has been fairly consistent with 14 wins and a 3.18 ERA. The bullpen, however, is a different story. Zach Britton and Brad Brach, both All-Stars, have sub-1.00 ERAs. Britton has converted all 32 save opportunities and Brach has provided 18 holds late in games. With the trade deadline approaching, it’s not too late for manager Buck Showalter and the Orioles organization to make some changes or add new faces to the pitching rotation.
Disclaimer- With the way the current standings are, it is possible that the Orioles and Red Sox will face off in the ALDS instead. Either way you put it, it will be a home run derby part two, led by Big Papi and Mark Trumbo.
- The Washington Nationals will get eliminated early in the postseason.
The Nationals have an incredible lineup, but their pitching staff has the lowest ERA in the MLB with 3.28. Besides pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, their pitching rotation include Max Scherzer and underrated pitcher Tanner Roark. To further show how solid their starters are, Strasburg just got his first loss since September Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The bullpen is just as brilliant with former Boston ace Jonathan Papelbon and Felipe Rivero. This doesn’t discredit Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy for all that they have done, but a strong pitching staff is what will make the difference late in games.
What will be their biggest downfall? History. Since 2012, Harper’s rookie season, the Nationals have made the NLDS twice and lost both times. In 2012, the Nats were no match for the St. Louis Cardinals, who outscored them 32-16 in five games. Two years later, Washington was swept by the San Francisco Giants who would advance and win the World Series. Add this bad luck in with zero World Series wins and a National League that looks stronger than it has in a long time and you’ll understand why Washington won’t make the cut.
- The Yankees will get their record to over .500, but will not make the postseason.
The Yankees have been inconsistent on both sides of the field all season. Yes, they have recently started winning, but some would argue that this is “the worst possible time to start winning”. A team full of veterans would be an easy bargaining tool with the trade deadline approaching, but the Yankees aren’t willing to sell any key players in exchange for new talent. This mentality won’t help a team that is 13th in league ERAs (4.20) and 23rd in batting average (.249).
39-year-old Carlos Beltran has pulled his weight, leading the team in batting average (.305), home runs (21), and RBIs (62), but he can’t do it all alone. Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann are second and third in runs batted in, but they trail behind Beltran by 20. Starting pitchers Nathan Eovaldi (9) and Masahiro Tanaka (7) lead the team with wins while CC Sabathia and the rest of the rotation struggle. Regardless of whether or not moves are made by August 1st, the damage is done.
- The San Francisco Giants will make it to the NLCS.
The San Francisco Giants continue to be a sleeper this season as far as World Series chances are concerned. Pitchers Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner have 23 wins combined and ERAs under 3.00. Superstar catcher Buster Posey continues to be a constant bat in the lineup, leading the team in batting average (.287).
In the last six years, the Giants have won the World Series three times. These victories came in 2010, 2012, and 2014. The advantage will be that many of the players from that 2014 team are still in San Francisco. A major loss is Pablo Sandoval, who was traded after that series to the Boston Red Sox. Still, the win pattern is hard to look past. Could 2016 be added to the pattern?
- The Giants will face the Chicago Cubs in the NLCS.
The Cubs have continued their momentum from 2015, the year they went all the way to the National League Championship Series and got swept by the New York Mets. 14 players on the roster are batting over .250 on the year, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo (.287, 75 RBIs) and third baseman Kris Bryant (leads team in home runs- 25).
The major obstacle in the Cubs’ way is their World Series curse with various origins, including the fabled “Billy Goat curse“. Many Chicago fans believe wholeheartedly that a billy goat was the reason for that World Series loss to Detroit in 1945. The Cubs haven’t won the finale since 1908, and although there is still hometown pride in the Bulls and the Blackhawks, it won’t be the same until the boys in Wrigley bring one home.
With the second half underway and the trade deadline approaching, keep an eye on the standings. The World Series matchup could be tougher than you think.
Kayla Solomon is a new contributor to AllSportsEverything.com. She attends Temple University for nine months out of the year, but will be here in New York all summer! Follow Kayla on Twitter at @dontKAYme, Instagram at @kayla_nyree. Also, find her writing weekly on blackaphillyated.com and on her personal blog, dearfuturekay.wordpress.com.
Photo via sportingnews.com.