October is still two and half months away, but it is never too early to get excited about the postseason if you’re a baseball fan. Now that the first half of the season is behind us, the picture is that much clearer as the playoff push has officially begun. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be surprises. While some teams will continue to cruise all the way to the finish line with little change, some will rise out of nowhere, others will experience the dreaded second half collapse, and blockbuster trades in the coming weeks are all but guaranteed.
Mason and Dean now reexamine the 2016 MLB season with their mid-season predictions, giving us some great insight while also presenting what may seem at the moment to be outrageous hot-takes. Let’s see if they’re right come October.
*Takes sip of beer for every prediction that I get wrong*
NL Division Winners: San Francisco Giants, St. Louis Cardinals, Washington Nationals
NL Wild Cards: Chicago Cubs (1), Los Angeles Dodgers (2)
AL Division Winners: Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, Kansas City
AL Wildcards: Boston Red Sox (1), Seattle Mariners (2)
Well…they say hind sight is 20/20 and I am feeling pretty bad about picking the Cardinals to win the division, but I think you all will forgive me for picking the most consistent team in baseball to win that division. How
Other than that my biggest mistake appears to be not even including the Orioles in the post season. Barring a shocking collapse, the O’s will most likely make the playoffs, whilst the Sox, Blue Jays, and maybe even the Yanks will be fighting for the last wild card spot. However, at the moment the AL East is tighter than an eagle scout’s knot with the Red Sox a half game ahead of the Orioles in the division.
The Lastros are now the 3.5 games out of first place-stros, and continue to keep up a winning rhythm necessary to catch the struggling Rangers. At this rate it looks like the two teams from Texas will be representing the AL West. Seattle is 6.5 games behind first…and well it looks like no AL team in the sunshine state is making it to the end of October.
Now when it comes to the AL central, I feel like not many people saw Cleveland’s volcanic rise coming. I mean, did LeBron lifting the curse really lift all of the other Cleveland sports teams as well? Whatever, the Tribe has been really fun to watch and we are all witnesses. While the Royals are 9.5 games out of first, I’m not ready to count them out just yet.
Now the fun part: The surefire predictions for the second half of the season that will absolutely 100% come true without a shadow of a doubt. After all…fortune favors the bold.
There are several good teams right now that are in slumps, but I choose not to judge a team on it’s most recent struggles, but rather look at their entire body of work so far. Even for those teams that are struggling, the trade deadline is right around the corner, which provides an excellent chance to elevate a team into contention.
The Giants will win their division – okay it’s #EvenYearMagic so this isn’t the hottest of takes, however even though the Gigantes have been struggling since the All Star break, let’s not forget when they are at their most dangerous: October. Even though the Dodgers keep on keeping on without their lord and savior Clayton Kershaw, the Giants will be fine and we’ll most likely have to hear Dean chant “dynasty” as the bay area brings home it’s 4th world series in 8 years.
The Rangers hang on for dear life and win the division – Despite the promising offensive pieces, the Rangers desperately need to shore up their rotation. Yu Darvish has returned after a month on the DL, but Colby Lewis is still rehabbing and Derek Holland has about 50 more days on the 6o day DL. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the bullpen has been a glaring weakness this season, ranking 29th in the MLB (last in the AL).
But Mason, with how are they going to win if they keep collapsing like they are? Well have no fear, for TRADES ARE HERE. The Rangers have one of the top “prospects” (he’s no longer really a prospect, more of a established young player) in Jurickson Profar and a lot of teams want at him. They also have promising young slugger, Joey Gallo waiting in the wings, but the Rangers would have to get one hell of an offer to ship off both of them.
Last year we saw the Lone Star Ballers get Cole Hamels, so would it be that much of a shock to see them get another top pitcher by the deadline?
Chris Archer or Rich Hill will be wearing a Ranger uniform by the trade deadline – Like I said, the Rangers are no strangers to making bold moves when it comes to making trades *See Cliff Lee in 2010, and Cole Hamels in 2015*. This trade would be made with the assumption that the front office is willing to risk the future for winning right now. I don’t see them giving up both Gallo and Profar for either of those two (maybe Chris Sale of the White Sox), but they are going to have to dig deep into the treasure chest to get any of these. However, I think that regardless of who they trade for, if the offer is reasonable, they pull the trigger.
The Indians make it to the ALCS – OHHHHHHHHH BELIEVELAND how the times have changed. Riding the tidal wave of momentum started by a LeBron James cannon ball, the Indians are so hot. They are mowing through their competition, and they boast one of the best rotations in the MLB. I want to put them in the World Series so hard (probably against the Giants) but I just can’t count out the other team that I think is going to make it to the ALCS….
It’s going to take a lot to stop the Red Sox – While it’s even year magic in the NL, it’s Boston magic once again in the AL. Big Papi is having a career season in his LAST season of his career. Meanwhile Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts are lighting it up. They already gave up a lot for Drew Pomeranz, so it’s very clear that the team is going to do whatever it takes to send off Big Papi with a world series victory, thus confirming everyone’s theories that sports are rigged. So if I were a team in the AL, I wouldn’t want to face Boston in the first round.
The Nationals are going far this year – Well, the Nationals are the team that we all thought they’d be last year. Dusty Baker is letting the boys play and well nobody can say that it’s not working. They are in first place in their division, and with the M-E-T-S facing some very unfortunate injury issues, I can’t imagine them overtaking the Nats. Howver, Giancarlo “Destroyer of Worlds” Stanton and the Marlins are sneakily in second place. Regardless, with the combination of Scherzer and Strasburg lighting the world aflame, the Nats look like they are ready to meet the Giants head on in the NLCS, looking to avenge their loss two years ago.
Division Winners: Take Two
NL Winners: Washington Nationals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs
NL Wild Cards: (1) LA Dodgers (2) Miami Marlins you gotta believe
AL Division Winners: Cleveland Indians, Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers
AL Wildcards: (1) Baltimore Orioles (2) Houston Astros
Alright now our all knowing Baseball ranking Czar, Dean Straka, shall give you his takes.
At the beginning of the year I didn’t hesitate to predict the division winners and wildcard teams for each league. Let’s first revisit the teams I chose back in April to make it to the postseason.
NL Division Winners: San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets.
NL Wildcards: Washington Nationals (1), Pittsburgh Pirates (2)
AL Division Winners: Texas Rangers, Kansas City Royals, Toronto Blue Jays
AL Wildcards: Boston Red Sox (1), LA Angels of Anaheim (2)
Fast-forward to today. The Cubs, Giants and Rangers are all sitting in first place in their divisions, even though the latter two are clinging on to dear life for those division leads with atrocious play out of the All-Star break. Even the Cubs have had their struggles of late, but hot starts have given each franchise some insurance. Meanwhile the Red Sox and Nationals have exceeded my expectations for the time being, the Nats holding on to the NL East least for a few games while Boston just overtook the Orioles for the AL East two nights ago.
On the other hand, the Blue Jays aren’t bad, but they’re playing in a stacked AL East, with Baltimore producing a home-run powered surprise season that not many people saw coming. The Royals and Mets have played like anything but defending World Series and NL champs, respectively, though it finally appears that New York is figuring something out over the past few weeks. Their first challenge will be getting past the 2nd place Marlins who are having their best season in quite a while. For the Royals, it appears that they’ve been shell-shocked by an Indians squad that has completely stunned the nation by winning 14 games last month en route to a formidable lead in the AL Central.
The Pirates have also been an incredible let down after they killed it last year, but like the Mets, they’ve finally been able to sustain some winning baseball midway through the year. The Angels: wow they were awful, but now they’ve suddenly gone undefeated out of the All-Star Break. Finally, while we’re still talking about the AL West, my prediction about the Astros missing the playoffs looked really promising until they suddenly got hot and are now 3.5 games out of first place.
But to the question you’ve really been waiting for: What do I think happens now after actually having watched half of the 2016 season?
Well, here I go.
The New York Mets get healthy and surge to overtake the Nationals and win the NL East
No, I’m not just saying this because the Mets have owned the Cubs this year and the Cubs are really good. I’m saying this because the Mets are too talented to waste this baseball season away. Yes they are only six games above .500, but they are also only 6.5 games out of first place. With the pitching talent they have in the trio of Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Jacob DeGrom, who just threw his first career shutout last weekend, they are more than capable of beating any opponent. The loss of Daniel Murphy to the Nationals this year certainly hurt, but guys like Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Reyes, David Wright and Curtis Granderson shouldn’t be taken for granted and can do a lot of damage when everything clicks.
First things first, the Mets need to get healthy, especially Cespedes who is the center of growing concern with a leg injury. It will certainly be a hurdle for the Mets to overtake Washington and now Miami, but the Marlins are anything but the most experienced when it comes to making playoff runs, and Washington showed some vulnerability with an 8 game losing streak last month. Heck, Stephen Strasburg just lost his first game yesterday too. There are also more than 70 games left to be played, so I’m not counting the Miracle Mets out.
Sorry Marlins, you guys just barely miss out on the wild card by a game or two. Tough luck.
Giants choke away into the top wild card spot while the Dodgers win the NL West.
Yes Mason, it’s an even year, so of the course the Giants won’t miss the playoffs entirely. You also might think that I’m just making this claim in some sort of reverse jinx attempt too. But don’t be fooled by the Giants having the best record in the MLB at the All-Star break last week. It hurts to say this, but this team is not as good as their record looks. They are without three critical pieces of their lineup in the forms of Hunter Pence, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy, and the bullpen has been simply atrocious ever since the beginning of June. That’s why its really remarkable that they even got to where they were in the first place. The bubble must always burst though, and the Giants 0-5 record out of the All-Star star break is a telling truth about some of the teams’ serious weaknesses. Now even the starting rotation that includes Johnny Cueto, Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija is giving up too many home runs.
In the middle of June, the Giants had an 8.5 game lead over Los Angeles. It has now been cut in half. And that is without LA having Clayton Kershaw. Yes, Kershaw could be done for the year after yesterday’s report, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the Dodgers are 11 games over .500 with no pitching, propelled by a firery offense with names like Corey Seager, Trayce Thompson, Justin Turner, and Yasiel Puig. Certainly a big move at the trade deadline for either team could change the current course we’re on, but considering that LA has one of the easiest 2nd half schedules in all of baseball, you have to think they might surprise some people and win their 4th consecutive division title.
The Red Sox win the AL East by a landslide while the Blue Jays miss the postseason
If you haven’t noticed the, the Red Sox are playing really good baseball. They’ve topped 10 runs in each of their past two games. They have more players than you could count hitting over .300. Hanley Ramirez hit three homers in one game two nights ago. David Ortiz is having an otherworldly farewell performance as he plans to retire at the end of 2016. And now Boston has overtaken the slumping Baltimore Orioles for the first place in the stacked AL East.
Speaking of the stacked AL East, the postseason picture could get a little messy with this situation. The Blue Jays at the moment are 12 games over .500, but that is only good enough for third place in the AL East – the second wild card spot at the moment. I know the Blue Jays have some good bats in the forms of Edwin Encarnacion, Joey Bats and Josh Donaldson, but what the Orioles have done offensively this season is near unprecedented, which makes it hard for me to see them falling behind Toronto.
Meanwhile the Houston Astros are not far behind Toronto for that second wild card spot (let alone the AL West lead). Before long it could be the Rangers fighting for the WC rather than the Astros for all we know. Let’s be honest though, the leaders of the AL West have it much easier given how mediocre the division is as a whole. That said, I simply don’t see there being three teams represented in the AL East. Rather, two teams form the West, and two from the East. At the end of the day, Toronto will post a winning record (+/- 15 games over .500) but fall victim to a stacked division, missing the postseason and robbing us of another instance of Joey Bautista flipping his bat all the way to Montreal.
The Rangers blow the AL West lead to the Astros and play as the 2nd wildcard
If you didn’t already see, things haven’t been going so hot for a Rangers squad that held as much as a 10.5 game lead for first place in the AL West last month. They’ve lost 12 of their past 15 games, even with incredible offensive talent in the forms of Ian Desmond, Nomar Mazar, Rougned Odor and Adrian Beltre. This week their woes hit a new low when they were swept by the lowly Angels. Who is to blame for all of this? The pitching staff that has posted a 6.99 ERA in this 15 games stretch.
Now the grim reality for Texas is that the Houston Astros are only 3.5 games behind the Rangers for first place, and given how hot the Houston has been with guys like Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Sprigner both in the field and at the plate, you have to like their chances right now. The only red flag for the Astros is that they face a 13 game stretch in September that is entirely against the Rangers, Indians and Cubs – all first place teams at the moment. Seven of those games also come on the road. Meanwhile the Rangers have already gotten their games against teams like Chicago and Pittsburgh out of the way, but still, not a good sign when you can’t beat guys like the Angels and Twins. Unless a huge move is made at the deadline, I don’t see the Rangers ending the season where they are.
The Royals fall victim to the World Series hangover and miss the postseason.
The Royals were expected to be great again this year. Instead they are only .500 and sit 9.5 games out of first place. Whoops.
Revisited Final Predictions
AL Division Winners: Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros
AL Wildcards: Baltimore Orioles (1), Texas Rangers (2)
NL Division Winners: New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers
NL Wildcards: San Francisco Giants (1), Washington Nationals (2)