By: Justin Bjorseth
One division has been clinched in Major League Baseball. The “Loveable Losers,” on the north side of Chicago have, as expected, secured the National League Central and are on their way to finishing with the best record in all of baseball. There is no denying the fact that they are the favorites going into the postseason. Their biggest question is, what is the playoff rotation going to look like? There’s not one person in the country, especially those who support the Cubbies, who doubt that Joe Maddon will handle the rotation perfectly. They will have Jason Hammel out of the bullpen to work long relief. Many thought their weakness this season may be Kyle Hendricks and an aging Lester. All those two have done is lead the NL in ERA. They’re going to be a tough out in October, but like every year ever, I predict these Cubbies will choke.
The other two divisions in the National League also appear to be locked up. The Nationals in the East and the Dodgers in the West. Washington is no surprise. They also present a dominant pitching staff, led by Max Scherzer and Tanner Roark. A healthy Stephen Strasburg could make them the team to beat in the National League. It doesn’t appear they know whether or not he’s going to be ready come October, but if Daniel Murphy can duplicate last year’s postseason magic on offense, they could catch lightning in a bottle and steamroll everyone. Plus, how funny would it be to see Dusty Baker win the pennant at Wrigley Field? The same place that he managed the Cubs during the infamous Bartman incident. The Dodgers are a bit more of a shock. Their division rival, San Francisco, has won the last three World Series during even years. That, coupled with the fact that they had the best record at the break, made it seem the Dodgers were down and out. Oh, I didn’t even mention the Kershaw injury. The only conclusion I can draw is they are winning for their beloved broadcaster, Vin Scully. The Nationals pitching staff matched up against the likes of Kershaw, Maeda, and Hill, sets up an NLDS that should be a classic.
The best NL race is for the Wild Card. Three teams left in contention are vying for two spots: the Mets, Giants and Cardinals – all separated by a game. New York has been the hottest of the three, but just shut down ace Jacob DeGrom for the year crippling another chance at a pennant. The Giants and Cardinals split a four gamer this weekend that left St. Louis a game behind them for the second spot. No matter what, I like San Francisco in the one game playoff. No one is going to beat Madison Bumgarner. They have an incredible pitching staff, but probably lack the offense to do anything significant in October. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t the Cubs and Nationals in the NLCS.
The American League East is transforming from a three team race, to total Boston dominance. They’ve won five in a row, including a four game sweep over the Bronx Bombers this weekend. Rick Porcello has managed to become the ace of the rotation. He won his 21st game Monday night. I raise a few question marks with the Red Sox going into October because of Price’s well documented playoff struggles throughout his career. There is, however, a certain magic at Fenway this time of the year. Especially when it is the last hooray for one of the most beloved men in Boston.
The Central has been Cleveland’s for most of the season. They added Andrew Miller at the break, which was huge. The Royals taught us the past few seasons that a solid bullpen can guide your way to the promised land. Cleveland has the best team ERA in the American league and is managed by one of the most experienced managers in baseball, Terry Francona. The Cubs aren’t the only team looking to end a World Series drought, and if anyone knows anything about doing that, it’s Terry Francona.
The best record in the American League belongs to Texas. Their deadline moves shot them far ahead of Houston and Seattle, who were hot on their tail at the time. The offense is a powerhouse, but I don’t think they have the pitching to knock off Cleveland as the favorite.
The Wild Card has Baltimore and Toronto currently, with Seattle and Detroit each two games behind. I like Toronto to make a run if I have to choose one of the four. They have the second lowest ERA in the AL, a highly potent offense, and the experience of having been there last year.
Cubs over Giants
Nationals over Dodgers
Nationals over Cubs
Blue Jays over Rangers (The tension will be real)
Indians over Red Sox
Indians over Blue Jays
Nationals over Indians
(Featured Image: Keith Allison, Flickr)