As we head into the second half of the 2019 MLB campaign, we have seen some surprises. But for the most part, many of our preseason predictions are on point.
The All-Star break is the time we see the playoff picture really take shape.
The AL East, which we knew would be a dogfight, is even more exciting than we had hoped. Defending World Series champion Boston won its last four games entering the break, but yet sit in third place in the division at 49-41. The Red Sox’ early pitching woes haven’t subsided, but have certainly improved. The big issue with this team is their lack of success at home. They are just 20-22 at Fenway Park.
The real surprise is the Tampa Bay Rays. They sprung out of the gate to lead the competitive division for a while and now sit in second place at 52-39.
Let’s face it, we knew the New York Yankees would be good (slated to win an AL most 97 games), but with more injuries than a New England Patriots midweek injury list and a daily makeshift lineup, they still own the best record in the American League at 57-31.
Currently, 13 players are on the injury list (seven position players and six pitchers). The Bronx Bombers have been dealing with this all season long. What happens when these players return?
The AL Central normally belongs to the Cleveland Indians. The Tribe is riding a six-game win streak, but yet trail the Minnesota Twins by 5.5 games. Minny has been hot all season and by far possess the more powerful offense. The Twins’ lineup has a team batting average of .272, with 166 HR’s and 489 RBI. Compare that to Cleveland’s team BA of .246, 115 HR’s and 368 RBI. But, if any team has the savvy and experience to gain ground in the second half of the season, it’s the Indians.
The Houston Astros lead the AL West by 7.5 games over the Oakland A’s and 9.0 games over the Texas Rangers. The A’s and Rangers are giving the Astros a run for their money, but don’t kid yourself, Houston will take this division with ease.
This is a team that once again owns one of the best pitching staffs and one of the most dangerous lineups in the AL.
Like the AL East, the NL East has three very strong, winning teams. The Atlanta Braves have played the most consistent baseball thus far, resulting in a six-game lead over the Washington Nationals and a 6.5 game lead over the Philadelphia Phillies. But yet, they are the only one of the three with a winning road record.
This division will heat up and you will see the second- and third-place teams surge at times. However, consistency will ultimately decide as to which team takes this division.
The NL Central is the tightest division in all of baseball with just 4.5 games separating all five combatants. There isn’t a single team in the Central that sports a winning road record. This will be an issue for whoever goes to the postseason. Despite the Chicago Cubs leading by a half-game and owning slightly better hitting and pitching, this division will come down to the wire come September.
Just between us, I still like the Milwaukee Brewers here.
No team in all of baseball has a dominance of their division like that of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The NL’s best team, at 60-32, LA has a 13.5-game cushion in the NL West. This is peculiar because only four games separate the other four teams in the division. That shows you the strength of the Dodgers.
Offensively, they have a team BA of .263, with 146 HR’s and rank third in the NL with 466 RBI behind the Braves (474) and the Rockies (471). Their pitching staff ranks No. 1 in all of baseball with a Team ERA of 3.37. There is no team in the NL that can compete with Los Angeles.
I am not a front-runner by any means. Having said that, the best teams in both leagues are those four with the best records. The AL pennant is going to come down to the Yankees and Astros. I touched on two points earlier. The first being New York’s injuries. This team, once they get healthy, is going to become even stronger on the mound and at the plate.
The second point is that the Houston is near the top of the league in both pitching and hitting. Obviously, this is a talented team. However, over recent seasons, the Astros have been a top team in both, but yet have walked away with just one World Series ring.
The Yankees are doing something they haven’t done in years — they are finding ways to win late in games. It’s not the New Yorker in me that’s making this prediction, it’s the analyst/handicapper. New York will snag their 41st pennant, their first since 2009, and represent the American League in the Fall Classic.
The NL pennant belongs to Los Angeles. The road to getting there is going to be interesting. Because no Central team is winning on the road, I must, as of right now, side with the Braves to face the Dodgers for the NL crown. Atlanta’s offense is certainly a true force. It will be their pitching that will ultimately be their demise come time to face Los Angeles.
Understand that the Dodgers have been to the World Series the last two years and have fallen short to their AL opponent both times (to the Astros, 4-3, in 2017, to the Red Sox, 4-1, in 2018). The AL and particularly the Yankees have too much power.
Prediction: New York Yankees to win the 2019 World Series.
Last Week: 2-0
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