By Dan Leach
As we charge past the MLB All-Star break and look towards teams playoff runs, there are a lot if surprise teams, (Oakland, Cleveland, Pittsburgh) that showed us in the first half that they might have what it takes.
There are also a lot of teams we thought would be playing a lot better, (Cincinnati , Detroit, Los Angeles Dodgers, ), which have some work to do. I am going to take a look at both leagues and give my second half predictions on who is going to be playing in October, who the award winners will be, and who to look for as a surprise team to sneak into October Madness.
NL EAST-ATLANTA BRAVES- The Bravos stormed through the first half of the season playing unbelievably balanced baseball and are built to make a run in October. Led by fast rising star Freddie Freeman, who has a knack for late game heroics, the Braves offense scores in bunches and breaks your will. Their starting rotation is one of the best in baseball and has the second best team ERA at 3.36 in all of the Bigs. Manager Fredi Gonzalez seems to be pushing all the right buttons and a franchise that has had some of the best prolonged success over the last 20 years seems to be ready to add to that.
Key Stat- Braves are 31-15 at Turner Field and play 35 of their last 63 in the ATL.
Predicted Record- 100-62
Second place- Washington Nationals
NL CENTRAL-ST LOUIS CARDINALS- The Cards have simply been the best team in baseball from day one. They have played consistent ball all season long and have always played within themselves, never letting anything truly distract them. Led by NL MVP candidate Yadier Molina who has been simply sensational and a pitching staff that never takes a night off, the Cards seemed primed to get back to their third world series since 2006, both title years. The bullpen is outstanding and with the Pirates on their heels in the NL Central, the Cardinals will keep the peddle to the medal and should end with the best record in MLB when all is said and done.
KEY STAT-Cardinals have an absurd MLB leading +163 run differential through 96 games
PREDICTED RECORD 101-61
Second place- Pittsburgh Pirates
NL WEST-LOS ANGELES DODGERS The Dodgers could not have started any poorer with that payroll and expectations through the first two months of the season…..Then Yasiel Puig happened! Puig has helped ignite the Dodgers to first place in the NL West after it looked like they might have trouble straying out of the cellar. The Dodgers pitching staff has truly come around and the offense is starting to score a lot of runs. Credit manager Don Mattingly who many, including me, did not think would even make it to the All Star break. He has righted the ship and has his team believing they have the ability to get to their first World Series since 1988.
KEY STAT- 3.55 TEAM ERA -5TH BEST IN MLB
PREDICTED RECORD- 95-67
Second Place- Arizona Diamondbacks
WILDCARDS-PITTSBURGH PIRATES AND CINCINATTI REDS
NL MVP-Yadier Molina- Cardinals
NL CY YOUNG-Adam Wainwright- Cardinals
NL MANAGER OF THE YEAR-Clint Hurdle- Pirates
NLCS- ST LOUIS VS ATLANTA – ATLANTA IN 6 GAMES