What a season it has been so far in Major League Baseball. Plenty is on the line as the divisional races begin to heat up in the summer months, and the MLB is once again looking forward to another year of excitement when October nears. With all of the surprises and milestones that have caught the attention of many, I felt it was necessary to get everyone up to speed on what to expect and what is simply too close to call for now. Needless to say, it’s going to be a fun and action-packed end to the regular season.
American League West
Division leader: Texas Rangers (+8.5)
The Rangers have to be the biggest surprise of the current division leaders. Although coming off of a division title last season thanks to some late wins against the Angels, they failed to break the 90-win mark and it seemed as if the Astros would make some large strides. But with Houston still recovering from a 7-17 record at the end of April, the door has been left wide open for Texas to make an unexpected run. What is even more surprising is that they have done this without much help from Yu Darvish, who has only pitched two games due to injuries. It’s possible that this division could end up being a three-team race, but it will likely be a two-team race between the Rangers and Astros if anything. Last year, the Rangers clawed back from an eight-game deficit at the end of July to win the division. And with how well Jose Altuve has been playing lately, it is certainly possible that we see the Astros give the Rangers a run for their money. But if the Rangers play like Rougned Odor follows through, the Rangers will have no issues.
American League Central
Division leader: Cleveland Indians (+5.5)
In the division of the defending champions, the Kansas City Royals have been floating around the even mark through the first three months of the season, but are very much alive in the race for the pennant. The Chicago White Sox made an early case to lead the division, going 23-10 early on, but since then they have struggled tremendously, limping into the all-star break at a mediocre 42-40 record. Chris Sale, however, is 14-2 with an ERA of 2.93. Speaking of limping, the Minnesota Twins are standing as baseball’s worst team, and it didn’t help that they started 0-9. There is one thing that they have going for them, as they are 4-2 against Cleveland this season.
Meanwhile, the Indians have held at least a share of the division lead since June 4 and just recently had their 14-game winning streak snapped north of the border, which set a franchise record. Even though many showed concerns about the condition of Michael Brantley prior to the start of the season, the Tribe have been able to do all of this without his presence, mostly because of the Indians’ future star in Francisco Lindor, who is definitely enjoying his time in the spotlight.
I doubt the Royals or Tigers going down quietly, but the Indians have a rather good chance of emerging from the AL Central as the winners of their division.
American League East
Division leader: Baltimore Orioles (+3.0)
The Orioles and Red Sox have been in control of this division for just about the entire season. David Ortiz is making history in his last year, and what would be better for him than to make another playoff run? Recently though, Boston has fallen back a bit, enough for the Blue Jays to pick up the pace and join the conversation of who will win the AL East crown.
As for the Yankees, they are experiencing yet another back-and-forth season, hovering near the .500 mark with one week to go until the break. They are definitely not out of the chase just yet, but things are going to have to change if they wish to have any hope to make the postseason. If the Bronx Bombers are to miss the playoffs this year, it would be the third time in the last four seasons that they’ve failed to quality for baseball’s second season. Joining them at the bottom of the divisional standings are the Tampa Bay Rays, who lost 11 in a row just a week ago.
National League West
Division leader: San Francisco Giants (+5.0)
It is an even year, and that already gives the Giants an advantage heading into the season. For those who don’t know, San Francisco has won the World Series in the past three even years. Whether that actually means anything for the Giants or not, it seems to be working for them so far. With a record that is 20 games above .500, the Dodgers are the only team that is anywhere near them. And with Los Angeles suffering the loss of Clayton Kershaw to the disabled list, the opportunity is on the table for San Francisco to blow the lead wide open.
No recap of the NL West is complete without discussing the story of Trevor Story, who was atop of the home run leaderboard at the end of April with 10. While he has cooled down in the long ball category, only hitting nine since then, he still possesses a .266 batting average and has been in the lineup for the majority of the season for the Rockies.
National League Central
Division leader: Chicago Cubs (+8.0)
Cubs, Cubs, Cubs. Did I mention the Chicago Cubs?
Chicago is attempting to wash away a curse that has been upon them for the past 108 years, and that is their World Series title drought. Last year, they reached the NLCS, only to be swept by the New York Mets. Kris Bryant has 23 home runs in just his second season, and Jake Arrieta is pitching like he isn’t even human. He also has a no-hitter under his belt from earlier this season against the Reds. Cincinnati stands at 30-53 through 83 games and is on pace for triple digits in the loss column, and their bullpen is to blame for some of the losses they have had to suffer through.
The Cardinals and Pirates, who both helped ring in the 2016 season with the first game on April 3, are struggling to get hot through the first half, and that is going to be needed if they wish to have a chance to contend with Chicago late. Now is a perfect opportunity for both of them to make some sort of run, as the Cubs have showed that they are not invincible after getting swept by the Mets this weekend.
National League East
Division leader: Washington Nationals (+5.0)
Is this the year that the Nats can finally live up to expectations? After disappointing finishes to the past couple of years, Bryce Harper is determined not to let it happen again. Max Scherzer broke a record as well, racking up 20 strikeouts in a single game to tie the MLB record, something that has only been done four times by three different pitchers.
The New York Mets, trying to make their way back to the Fall Classic, are five games back of the pace in the division, but have renewed hope after a sweep of the Cubs this weekend. And if Bartolo Colon and hit a home run, anything can happen. Colon hit his first home run at the age of 42, and became the oldest player to hit his first career homer.
I wouldn’t count the Marlins out yet either, who stand just a couple games behind the Mets. The thought of them winning the division is highly unlikely, but we’ve already been surprised plenty of times this year, so why not add one more?