Here is my 2nd half preview of the NL Races in baseball:
The Braves early in the season was the best team in baseball record wise. To end the 1st half of the season they struggled going 5-5 in their last 10 games. Coupled that with a below .500 away record (23-36) and their projected outfield either battling injuries or on the DL and you have to wonder if this team is prepared for the long haul. Also Washington and shockingly Philadelphia are hanging around. Minus a 3 game series with St. Louis, they start the 2nd half playing a favorable schedule of the White Sox and Mets. Still they have to get healthy if they want to win the division.
Prediction: 2nd (2nd Wild Card)
I would have been totally wrong if someone would tell me the Nationals would be one game over .500 at the All-Star break. However with the Braves struggling recently, they have let Washington back in this race. If the Nationals are to win this, they need the man below to get hot and to do well with upcoming series vs the Dodgers, Pirates, and at the Tigers. They also need Stephen Strasburg to be consistent like they know he can. Still right now I feel they are better prepared to take over the division lead over the Braves. Fear the beard my friend.
It’s hard to know what to do if you are the Phillies. Ryan Howard is on the DL still for several weeks, Roy Halladay is gone for the year, Cole Hamels is hot and cold, and Ben Revere is out for several weeks with a broken ankle. Still they are amazingly 6.5 games out. Do you trade pieces to build for the future or try to trade for pieces and go for it this year? Glad I am not the Phillies GM as that is a tough decision.
New York Mets
The Mets have been playing better lately. Matt Harvey and David Wright are great pieces to build around. They should look to move salary by the deadline and achieve the goal of reaching .500 by the end of the season. It is almost hard to believe that I am picking both New York teams to finish fourth in each of their divisions, but I am!
Their owner Jeffery Loria is getting everything he deserves. If I am Jose Fernandez or Giancarlo Stanton I am playing my rear end off for the rest of the year. Cause if history tells us anything, the better player you are for this owner, the quicker he wants to get rid of you. And somewhere on his couch Ozzie Guillen is still laughing at how much he is still owed!
St Louis Cardinals
As much as it pains me to admit it, the Cardinals have played well and earned the top spot in the NL Central up to this point. Yadier Molina is arguably the MVP of the National League. The reason why I don’t think they will finish first is the starting pitching. While they lead the league in the most number of starters used due to injury after injury, you can only plug a hole so far before it leaks. If Chris Carpenter comes back and can pitch anywhere near he use to, that will be a huge lift. After playing the Padres, they have a challenging schedule playing the Phillies (who are still in the playoff chase), Braves, Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, and Cubs (who lately have played the Cardinals tough).
Then they play a helping of the some of the same teams (mainly NL Central) again in August and September. Ouch.
Prediction: 2nd (1st Wild Card)
So you may be asking the question, at what point will the collapse begin again. Not this year. The Pirates remind me of the 2011 Milwaukee Brewers. They were good all year then went on a unbelievable 2nd half run where I can’t remember a time being a fan expecting the team to win every night and they did losing only 8 times from after the All-Star break through August.
This Pirates team I feel may do that this year. They lead the league in team ERA recently (3.07), have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and have a fan base that has returned to PNC Park, filling it up every home game. With their 25-15 record vs the NL Central, they obviously don’t fear anyone in the division. Their 2nd half schedule is easier than the Cardinals and I am sure they have July 29th-August 1st (vs the Cardinals) circled on their calendar as one of the most important home series since maybe 1992. I will go out and say it, the Pirates will win their 1st division title in 21 years!
Homer Bailey is turning into an elite pitcher before our eyes. That’s good for the Reds as he and the other starters need to hold the fort until Cueto comes back from the DL (if he does). Saying that, the Reds play the Pirates and Cardinals at the beginning of the 2nd half. What is sandwiched in between? A long west coast road trip. And due to a rain out, on July 23rd, the Reds get to be the home team playing at San Francisco!
This team has looked like they are good but not at the same level of the Cardinals and Reds. I look for them to fade slowly out of the race rather than stay competitive.
Surprise the city by being playing better than the Sox? Check
Get rid of awful Carlos Marmol? Check
Be within single digits of .500 at the break? Check
Light a fire under Alfonso Soriano rear end? Are you kidding me? Check
Let me tell you another stat you will not believe. The Cubs are only 10 games out of the wild card. While that is still a tall order to jump through all the teams to move up, they are a hot streak away from being considered for…. (I won’t say the P word as to not jinx it).
Have you ever seen a team that has 3 players in the lineup batting above or near .300 for the season and they be one of the worst teams in baseball? Or how about a team that has one of the best bullpens in baseball be one of the worst teams in the league? Me neither but congrats to the Brewers for accomplishing that.
Jean Segura and Carlos Gomez may overtake Ryan Braun as the core to build around along with Jonathon Lucroy. Injuries have hurt this team, however starting pitching has been way too inconsistent. The good news is some of their young players have come around and actually have pitched better. Namely Wily Peralta
And whoever told me Aramis Ramirez was a good signing please tell me why now? Having to baby the guy twice a week for hurting his knee in spring training and re-injuring it again thinking he is in his 20s trying to stretch singles into doubles proves I can still call him a bum! What a bad signing!
At one point the D-Backs were rolling. Then came a slump. Then came an entire NL West collapse to allow the Dodgers back into the race when they have no business being there.
If only the Diamondbacks were in the NL Central. That is the only division where they have an above .500 record!!!
This team has an outrageous payroll and up until Puig Mania was a losing streak away from firing its manager Don Mattingley. Now because the whole division collapsed and fell down to them, they are at .500 and smell snake blood.
It pains me to say this however the only reason why this team will win this division is by default because they bought their talent. It also does not hurt to have most likely Cy Young Clayton Kersaw and Zack Greinke at the top of your rotation. At least I can look forward to Vin Scully calling the playoffs!
We also get to see more of the legend of Puig Mania
This is one of the teams in the NL West that are just average. I am glad that Michael Cuddyer is having a breakout season and made the All-Star game. Still there is nobody really on this team who you look at that can carry this team. The series with the Cubs, Marlins, and Brewers should at least keep them in the conversation of the division at least until August.
San Francisco Giants
What happened to this team? Early July they were at or near the top of their division and have taken a nose dive. Since about mid May I ready somewhere that they have one of the worst records in baseball with only 17 wins. I saw this team play in Milwaukee in late April, get easily swept by them, and thought to myself something is not right here. The pitching is there, however they go many games where they can’t score runs. See Homer Bailey’s no hitter as example A.
They will be better than the Rockies, however I think they will go from World Series champs to watching at home in October.
San Diego Padres
On Saturday June 29th, this happened and I could not believe it.
|West||W||L||PCT||GB||WCGB||L10||STRK||HOME||ROAD||LAST GAME||NEXT GAME|
|Arizona||42||38||.525||–||–||5-5||L2||21-16||21-22||6/29 @ ATL, L 5-11||6/30 @ ATL, 1:35 PM|
|Colorado||41||41||.500||2.0||5.5||4-6||W2||25-18||16-23||6/29 vs SF, W 2-1||6/30 vs SF, 4:10 PM|
|San Diego||40||41||.494||2.5||6.0||4-6||L1||25-18||15-23||6/29 @ MIA, L 1-7||6/30 @ MIA, 1:10 PM|
Now forward back to the NL West all falling apart and the Padres are sitting at 8.5 games back. This team I don’t think was going to compete this year, however they should be commended for playing hard all the time. These times that they were near the top of the division show me that they are turning the corner and will be better next year.
Division Champs: Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers
Wild Card Winners: Cardinals, Braves