Well, we’re basically a week removed from the All-Star Break, so I thought it would be an appropriate time to make some second half predictions. Some of these takes will be right in line with what I said two months ago. Others (like Milwaukee) have since changed.
So here’s what I’m predicting for the second half of the MLB season.
At least two teams from the AL East are getting into the postseason. It could be three if Toronto gets its act together. The Blue Jays have the division’s best run differential (+83). The first place Red Sox actually have the third best differential (+63). Tampa Bay is in between, closer to Toronto, at +81. We probably also shouldn’t forget about the Yankees, who have a very similar record to Toronto. But their run differential is way below the other three teams. Thus, I’m not nearly as sold on the team wearing pinstripes.
A big key in handicapping this race is that the Blue Jays will resume playing home games in Toronto beginning July 30th. Playing in Dunedin and Buffalo, they’ve averaged a MLB high 5.9 runs per game at home this season, but went only 22-22 in those games. Expect scoring levels to drop at Rogers Centre where in 2019 they averaged just 4.4 rpg.
It’s interesting that the Jays are 22-11 in day games and 13-2 in Interleague Play. There are only two American League teams that they have winning records against - Baltimore and Texas. So maybe we shouldn’t totally buy into that run differential?
Chicago will run away with the AL Central. Book it. They probably will end up being the first team to clinch a playoff spot in either league. There will be no Wild Card from the Central.
I predicted months ago that Houston would run away with the AL West. Right now, they only lead the A’s by three games but that gap is going to get bigger. The Astros are the highest scoring team in baseball and the highest scoring road team. They have the AL’s best run differential and are a playoff lock.
Elsewhere in the West, Seattle WILL fall off and finish below .500. They have a -51 run differential entering Thursday’s action. The tremendous luck they’ve experienced in one run games and extra innings is something I’ve previously written about. It has continued, but I sense those records will eventually start to regress. The Mariners hit only .203 at home! They can’t sustain a better than .500 pace with an offense that is that bad.
Over in the NL, both Wild Cards will be claimed out West. I’ve been adamant about this from the start of the season. The Dodgers, Giants and Padres are the three best teams in the Senior Circuit. It’s a major dropoff after that. I’m not just speaking about the division, but the entire league. All three teams are in the top five of my power ratings.
Milwaukee has really turned the Central upside-down and could be poised to run away with things. They are the only team in that division to currently have a positive run differential. Their pitching is superb (top five in runs allowed). I do think they are poised to win the division, which is not something I would have been confident in saying a month ago. But a 7.5 game lead seems pretty safe.
The NL East remains the most difficult division to handicap in either league. My gut says the Mets, who have been in first place for a while now, are going to take it. But Atlanta now has the best run differential in the East, though they are going to be without Ronald Acuna Jr the rest of the way. The Mets having allowed so few runs gives them the edge though. But continue to monitor Jacob deGrom’s forearm. He’s obviously the predominant reason the Mets are #2 in MLB in runs allowed. It’s a good thing the Mets give up so few runs per game. Because their offense is ranked 29th (2nd worst) in rpg! I still say they make the playoffs though.
Put a gun to my head (please don’t!) and I’ll tell you that Astros vs. White Sox is the most likely ALCS matchups. In the National League, the West will cannibalize itself due to the playoff format. The Dodgers are still the team I favor to win the World Series.
Top Teams to Bet On (through 7/21):
San Francisco +24.5 units
Seattle +20.3 unitis
Boston +15.7 units
Detroit +13.4 units
Tampa Bay +12.5 units
Worst Teams to Bet on (through 7/21)
Arizona -32.4 units
Minnesota -24.9 units
Baltimore -18.1 units
Yankees -16.2 units
Texas -14.1 units