MLB Update - Halfway Home
Posted By:Brett Haynes "The Top Fan" Tags:
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With the arrival of the All-Star break, the Major League Baseball season has reached its halfway point. It is pretty obviousby now who will be battling to the season's end, and who is simply trying not to be the worst team in the game. The Boston Red Sox (.614) and the Los Angeles Dodgers (.636) sport the best winning percentages in the American League and National League, respectively. And Albert Pujols is beginning to become an all-time great player.
The East division is setting up to be another classic NY Yankees - Boston Red Sox battle down the stretch. The Yankees caught much grief for the amount of money they spent in the offseason. But Mark Teixiera at first base, and CC Sabathia pitching have come through with solid performances thus far. Teixiera ousted the Red Sox' Brian Youkilis at first base as the AL first-bagger after hitting 21 home runs and knocking in 63 RBI's. And Sabathia has a record of 8-6 after a rough start. With all of that said, though, Boston still has a 3 game division lead.
Another team in the AL that is playing great ball is the Anaheim Angels. They have won 7 of 10 entering this break, and are an incredible 14-4 vs. the National League as they try to hold back the Texas Rangers, whom they hold a 1.5 game lead over in the AL West. Seattle, at 4 games back, is not out of the mix in this division, either.
The Central division has the Detroit Tigers with a 3.5 game lead over the White Sox and Twins. The Royals, my long-time favorite team, appeared early in the year that they may be contenders. However they have already fallen to 11 games back, and lost 3 straight sliding into the break.
At this point, it appears that the AL wild-card team will come from the East division. If the Yanks and Red Sox both continue to win, one squad will have home-field advatage through the playoffs, while the other will win the wild-card and make the postseason, as well.
If you are a fan of the LA Dodgers, St. Louis Cardinals, or defending world-champ Philadelphia Phillies, then you can probably rest easy that you will see your team in the postseason. These three clubs have nice leads in their respective divisions, especially the Dodgers, who have the best record in baseball and a lead of 7 games over second place San Francisco.
The wild-card battle in the NL is going to be the fun race to keep up with. As many as seven teams could end up battling for that fourth and final playoff spot in the NL, with the Central division being the heart of that race. The Brewers, Cubs, Rockies, Astros, Giants and Marlins are all capable of staying in that race. If the Braves got hot right after the break, they could also find themselves in that race.
The Central division is certainly the tightest at this point. Three teams are within 3.5 games of the first-place Cardinals. The Cubs are the team that has dissapointed the most, but there are 81 games left for them to make up just 3.5 games - and with the management of Lou Pineilla, this is very possible. If that were the case, the wild-card team would most-likely be from this division (depending on the play of SF).
Outstanding Players of the first-half.
Albert Pujols is an amazing baseball player. Period. Currently he leads the Majors in two of the three triple crown categories (home runs, 32, and RBI's, 87) and is 6th in the majors in batting average (.332). He is the all-star first basemen, again, and in my book, is the greatest player of the last fifteen years. He will be able to put on a show tonight from St. Louis in the home run derby.
Joe Mauer has the top bat in baseball, average-wise, as he is hitting at a .373 clip. Ichiro is right behind, batting .362.
Pitching-wise, 11 is the Major League-leading win total - and that number is shared by 3 pitchers; Josh Beckett, Jason Marquis and Tim Wakefield. After that 9 pitchers share 10 wins each.
My predictions for the second half.
I feel NY will come on and surprise people and take the AL East, leaving Boston with the wild-card spot. The Yankees appear to be playing stronger, and if Sabathia is better than 8 wins in the second half (which he should be) I see NY closing the gap and winning the division close. Boston will play the Angels, while NY will face the Tigers. I can see it set up where Boston and New York will battle in the ALCS.
In the National League, it will be tough to beat the Dodgers to reach the World Series. The Central division will be close, but I see the Cubs coming back and edging St. Louis for the division. I think the Cubs will play the Phillies in the opening round, while the Dodgers, with the best record in the game, will play the wild-card Cardinals.
In October, we will see the Yankees-Dodgers in the World Series where LA brings home their first title since 1988.
Heard it here first!
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