The All-Star Game has come and past in Major League Baseball, marking the end of the end of first half of the MLB season and the beginning of the postseason push for many teams over the final two months of the regular season. And the first three and a half months of the baseball season saw teams from both the National League and the American League surprise fans with either excellent or abysmal play.
Former World Series champions the San Francisco Giants and the Chicago Cubs limped into the break with below .500 records and cellar dwellers in the case of San Francisco. Though the Giants hopes for a postseason appearance is chained to an anchor at the bottom of McCovey Cove, the Cubs went from 100+ wins in 2016 to a six game deficit in the National League Central, behind the Cinderella Milwaukee Brewers. Chicago has hinted at turning into sellers at the deadline, will to offer up their struggling young slugger and World Series hero, Kyle Schwarber, though it is doubtful he’ll be wearing anything other than Chicago blue come August 1st.
No, barring a collapse from the Brew Crew and a reemergence of the 2016 version of the Cubs, it looks as though the five postseason slots for the NL Postseason is set. The Washington Nationals has a death grip on first place in the powderpuff division known as the NL East, as the New York Mets suffered a parade of injuries to their roster to put them a dozen games out. And the Los Angeles Dodgers 61 wins at the All-Star break were the most in baseball, placing them at the head of the west. Also out west, the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies both seem willing to play game 163 in a wild card playoff in October.
As much fun as the Brewers been, the top teams in the NL is clearly the Dodgers and the Nats. Los Angeles team, like many other Dodgers teams over the past years, feature very few weakness in their lineup or the pitching staff. However, the Dodgers have yet to see themselves play in the World Series during this time of Los Angeles success. The Nationals, who had four different players starting the All-Star Game, has a close to perfect team, similar to last year’s Cubs, one glaring problem: the bullpen. The team is without a steady, reliable hand to get the final six outs. The next week will see Washington in any and every trade talk for a top flight relief pitcher.
Then we move to the American League, and boy, this is a motley of teams all around the country fighting for five spots. Outside the Houston Astros 15.5 game lead in the West to give them the best record in the AL and first place, no other division is safe. Last season’s bridesmaid, the Cleveland Indians hold a three game lead from the 2015 champion Kansas City Royals and a 1.5 game lead from the Minnesota Twins. The AL East also has become a three team race, with the Boston Red Soxs looking to spend the next two months fending off their rival New York Yankees, led by the personification of a video game cheat in Aaron Judge and the Tampa Bay Rays.
And with a crowded division battle, that means an even more crowded battle for the two Wild Card spots. The American League has seven different teams within five games from the final Wild Card spot, currently being held by the Yanks, who is only a game back from the top spot in the Wild Card. There are more teams in the AL Wild Card race then there are not.
Houston remains the heavy favorite in the American League today, but the Boston Red Soxs have made the contest interesting with their trio of pitchers in Chris Sale, David Price, and Rick Porcello and an already strong lineup that got a power hitting third baseman in Todd Frazier to sure up the third base. And who knows what the rest of the AL will do come trade deadline time. Hell, the Yankees farm system seem to be a never-ending flow of young players who immediately make an impact. From Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, to Clint Frazier (no relation though he also plays third base) this past month, who knows what the Yankees will bring up or use for trade leverage come August.
Last season, the question around this time was whether or not anyone could be the Cubs. Today, there much more parity in both leagues, especially the AL. Now the question becomes which team can heat up in the Autumn wind of September and October for the World Series trophy.