The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Mid-term report card: pre-season predictions off the mark

At the beginning of the regular season, I predicted the Boston Red Sox would repeat as World Series champs this year, beating out the Colorado Rockies (see blog post from March 23).  Despite the rarity of a team repeating as champions, I was convinced the Red Sox had the makings to put it all together again.  And that was in spite of the loss of two of their main relief pitchers over the winter.  I also figured the Rockies were on the verge of getting to the next level and would finally break the Dodgers’ streak of division championships.

Well, so much for my predictions.  If the season ended today, neither of my World Series picks would even capture a wild card spot.  But, hey, that’s what makes this game fun.

Recapping my pre-season picks: in addition to my Red Sox pick, I also had Cleveland and Houston as American League division winners and New York and Oakland as wild card entries.  In the National League, besides the Rockies, I picked Philadelphia and Chicago as division champs, with Washington and Milwaukee as the wild card teams.

Currently, the Yankees, Twins, and Astros are atop the AL divisions.  The Rays, A’s, and Indians have the next-best records.  The Braves, Cubs, and Dodgers are leading their respective divisions in the NL, while the Nationals and Brewers have small margins over the rest of the wild card hopefuls.

The Yankees have turned out to be the most impressive team in the AL.  Who would have thought they could survive all the early-season injuries they incurred?  Not only did they survive; but they thrived with a set of replacement players.  DJ LeMahieu, originally acquired from the Rockies over the off-season as utility player, has to be considered a serious MVP candidate for the performance he has turned in so far.  The Yankees will be buyers at the trade deadline for additional starting pitchers to help secure their hold on the division title.

The Red Sox, currently trailing the Tampa Bay Rays in the division, have largely been disappointing for most of the season.  Infielders Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers have been leading the team offensively, but I expect Mookie Betts and J. D. Martinez to improve their output during the second half.  However, relief pitching will have to improve for them to overtake the Rays, who have been really good this year.  The Rays don’t have the big-name players on their roster; but they seem to get the job done anyway, especially their pitching staff which leads the AL in ERA+ by a good margin.

The Twins have led the Central Division for practically the entire season.  They have gotten big benefits from their off-season acquisitions.  They have an impressive run differential of 122, while leading the AL in many offensive categories.  Cleveland has made recent improvements to close the gap between themselves and the Twins, but they are below league average in most offensive categories.  The jury is out on whether they will be buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.  It will depend on how close they can stay to the Twins in the meantime.

It appears the Astros will be the runaway winner of the West Division again.  Their lineup is solid when everyone is healthy, but like the Yankees, they have survived injuries to key players so far.  Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole are undoubtedly the best Number 1 and Number 2 starters in the league, but the Astros need more depth and will consequently be in the market for additional starters.  The A’s are staying in contention for a wild card spot with a reliable starting pitching staff that doesn’t have a true ace.

At this point, the Yankees and Astros have to be considered the favorites for the AL pennant.

The Braves are proving last season was no fluke, when they won the NL East division.  The youthful team is playing winning baseball again, with 22-year-old rookie Austin Riley adding to its potent offense.  Josh Donaldson and Brian McCann are providing the veteran leadership for the young lineup.  Pitcher Mike Soroka has been outstanding, and the addition of veteran Dallas Keuchel will re-inforce the staff down the stretch.

It’s conceivable Washington, currently six games behind the Braves, could make a run for first place.  They have the best overall starting staff in the league with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin, and Anibal Sanchez.  However, their chances will likely rest on the shoulders of Anthony Rendon to continue to power the offense.  The Nationals should secure a wild card spot even if they don’t overtake the Braves.

That leaves Philadelphia on the outside of the playoff picture.  Rhys Hoskins has been their best player, aided by having Bryce Harper hitting in front of him.  Harper has contributed as advertised, but most of the rest of the starting lineup has performed below league average.  Their pitching staff is below average as well.

The NL Central Division is the most competitive in the majors this season.  As of Saturday, only 5 ½ games separate first-place Chicago and last-place Cincinnati.  The Cubs should prevail unless they suffer some kind of unexpected meltdown.  Anthony Rizzo, Javy Baez, and Kris Bryant headline the offense, but the team could still use an effective leadoff batter. They’ve already added relief ace Craig Kimbrel to shore up their bullpen, but they will be in the market for more arms there.

The Brewers have perhaps the best player in baseball in Christian Yelich, but their pitching staff is barely average, resulting in an overall negative run differential.  Still, they only trail the Cubs by 1½ games.  They should be in the market to add some pitching depth, but they typically haven’t had the financial resources to compete for top-flight players.

Even they are currently close in the standings, the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds don’t figure to seriously challenge the Cubs or Brewers.

The Dodgers are the cream of the crop in the NL and are poised to finish that way at the end of the season, too.  Except for a handful of games in mid-April, they have been in first place the entire season.  Cody Bellinger rivals Yelich for the distinction of best player in the league.  Hjun-Jin Ryu has taken over the role of ace of the Dodgers’ staff, even though veteran Clayton Kershaw and the young Walker Buehler are having good seasons.  The Dodgers are desperate for a World Series championship after having fallen short the past two seasons.  They’ve become the Atlanta Braves of the 1990s by winning the NL West for the last six seasons.

The rest of the teams in the NL West trail the Dodgers by 13 or more games.  It’s doubtful any of them will challenge for a wild card position.  However, the San Diego Padres are showing signs of the type of exciting team they could look like a couple of years from now.

The Dodgers are considered strong favorites to win the NL pennant for the third consecutive year.

It would be nice to see a Yankees-Dodgers World Series again.  They have competed against each other in some of the most memorable World Series in history, although it’s been 38 years since their last contest.  I would gladly sacrifice my pride (admitting my poor predictive capability) to see that matchup.

Add a Comment

(Enter the numbers shown in the above image)