With the MLB All Star week in Cleveland wrapping up, the MLB season is getting set to resume. All of the 30 teams have played more than half of their 162 scheduled games and it still isn’t clear who’s making the playoffs, asides from the Dodgers, Yankees and Astros. Here are the top five storylines to look forward to in the second half of the season.
1. Who will win the NL Central division?
The NL Central is the most loaded division of the six divisions in baseball yet not one team has stood out. The 5th place Cincinnati Reds are just 4.5 games back of the 1st place Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have been jockeying back-and-forth with the Milwaukee Brewers for the division and the Brewers are only .5 games behind the Cubs. Don’t rule out the veteran-laden St. Louis Cardinals, who are just 2 games back of the division lead, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are led by the MLB’s RBI leader Josh Bell. All five teams have a winning record at home and a losing record on the road so it will . be interesting to see who comes out on top at the end of the season.
2. Can the Twins keep their magic going?
The Minnesota Twins have been the biggest surprise of the MLB season so far. The Twins sit at 56-33, which is just 1.5 games behind the Yankees for the AL’s best record. The Twins are led by All-Star shortstop Jorge Polanco, All-Star ace Jose Berrios and outfielders Eddie Rosario, Byron Buxton and Max Kepler. They sit 5.5 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians, who have gained a ton of ground in the last week. The Indians are healthier now with shortstop Francisco Lindor back from injury but are still missing ace pitcher Corey Kluber. If the Indians continue to play the way that they’ve played recently, it will be an exciting division race. Look for both teams to continue to feast on the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers, both of which will likely lose 100 games.
3. How many home runs can Yelich, Bellinger and Alonso hit this season?
Brewers outfielder Christian Yelich leads the league with 31 home runs while Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger and Mets first baseman Pete Alonso each have 30 home runs. It’s possible that the baseballs that MLB used this year are juiced, which would be why three players have 30+ home runs at the All-Star break. Nonetheless, every hitter is facing the same type of ball. Only three National League players have ever cracked the 60 home run mark and all of which were suspected of cheating: Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. In Alonso’s case, the MLB rookie record was set by Aaron Judge in 2017 with 52 home runs, so it’s definitely possible that he breaks that record. Let’s see if the ball keeps flying for these three hitters.
4. Who finishes with the best record and thus home-field advantage throughout the playoffs?
As mentioned earlier, it is a three team race between the Dodgers, Yankees and Astros. The Dodgers sit at 60-32, the Yankees are 57-31 and the Astros are 57-33. Each of these teams are led by power-packed lineups, top starting pitchers and a shutdown closer. The Dodgers definitely have the worst bullpen of the three teams which could be costly and they play in the toughest division out of these three teams. The Dodgers also have the toughest remaining schedule of the three teams while the Yankees have the easiest. This is a battle that may be undecided until the final day of the season. Additionally, while highly unlikely, the Twins sit at 56-33 and could contend for Major League Baseball’s best record but they’re the likeliest of these teams to fade down the stretch.
5. The Wild Card spots are up for grabs; who’s going to take them?
In the National League, the Phillies and the Nationals currently occupy the two Wild Card spots. The Brewers are a half game back of the Nationals. The Diamondbacks, Padres, Cardinals, Rockies and Pirates are all 2.5 games or less back from the second wild card spot. In the American League, the Rays and Indians occupy the two Wild Card spots. The Athletics, Rangers and Red Sox are all three games or less back from the second wild card spot. The trade deadline could certainly affect the way things shake out, although there may not be a lot of selling teams. Look for Madison Bumgarner, Will Smith, Zack Wheeler and Trey Mancini to be just some of the many notable names traded to Wild Card contenders.