It is hard to believe that we are nearly at the summer solstice when Opening Day seems like it was just yesterday. Nonetheless, the MLB season is almost to its halfway point in 2018. Division races are beginning to heat up and teams will start to make moves to bolster their rosters for a postseason run. With those races hitting their strides, here are some updates and predictions on the Postseason picture.
AL East all knotted up
Then again, we all pretty much expected that, right? The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox sit just a half-game apart in the American League East. The two bitter rivals are looking consistently like two of the three best teams in baseball. At >99.0% chances for the both of them, Fangraphs’ Postseason predictions put Boston and New York as near locks. In weighted runs created, the Yankees and Sox sit at second and third in all of baseball. The same goes for their bullpens at fielding independent pitching, and the Yankees’ rotation has surprised many with its success this season. There is no sign of this race slowing down, which means that we
could have need a game 163 from one of the best rivalries in sports.
Nobody tell @OldTakesExposed, but it is fairly safe to say that the Cleveland Indians have the AL Central all locked up. Currently, just 2.5 games up on Detroit, Cleveland has been in a somewhat tighter race than what was expected. Majority of the problem stems from the lackluster season performance by the bullpen. Cleveland’s bullpen ranks 29th in the Majors in FIP and is one of three teams whose bullpen has a negative fWAR. Batting and starting pitching are both top ten in baseball, so some key trades at the deadline should seal things up in the AL Central. Fangraphs puts Cleveland at 95.2% chances of winning the division.
Mariners continue to pressure the defending champs
The Seattle Mariners have been a fun story to follow in 2018. They surely have no easy task in the West with having to deal with the World Series champion Houston Astros. The Astros are the top team across the board. No. 1 in runs created, No. 1 in starting FIP, No. 1 in relief FIP and No. 1 in total WAR. Seattle has an uphill battle to the division title to say the least, but they are in prime position for a Wild Card slot. The Mariners find themselves top ten in the Majors in hitting, starting pitching and relief hitting. At a 78.2% chance of making the playoffs, the Mariners are looking good to join the other AL East team in the American League Wild Card.
Hello Braves, goodbye Mets
What a strange season for the orange and blue in New York. The Mets became the fastest team in MLB history to go from 10 games above .500 to 10 games below.
Through that turmoil rose the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have been what many call a textbook rebuild, and they are looking to capitalize on that in 2018. Atlanta is ninth in weighted runs created, tenth in starting FIP and 17th in bullpen FIP. Some additions to the bullpen at the break certainly would not hurt with how competitive the National League Wild Card race should be this year. Fangraphs still gives Washington a 73.1% chance of winning the division. The Nationals currently sit tied with Philadelphia at 4.0 games out of first.
Everyone but the Reds
Right now, even the 4th place Pittsburgh Pirates sit at .500 and just 6.0 games out of first place. The NL Central might just edge out the NL West as the most competitive division in baseball with four teams having a >10% chance of making the playoffs. The Cubs and Brewers are tied, but Chicago is given the long-term advantage in Fangraphs computer predictions. Milwaukee and St. Louis are neck and neck in the Wild Card race while Pittsburgh lurks just behind. The Cubs’ offense and bullpen are outstanding, but their starting rotation has been below-average. A 4.44 FIP and 2.6 WAR puts Chicago’s rotation in the bottom ten of baseball. The Brewers have a top five bullpen, but bottom 15 everything else. St. Louis’ strength is their starting pitching. Needless to say, none of these teams are bound to run away with the division. I would place my bet on the Cubs winning the division, but Milwaukee and St. Louis currently have the best odds of grabbing both National League Wild Card slots.
The wild wild West
Well, the National League West has been strange. The division-leading Diamondbacks have just a .549 winning percentage. The last place Padres are within 6.5 games. Los Angeles started off poorly this season but have rebounded well. Top five hitting and starting pitching is the key, but the Dodgers join the long list of contenders that could use some help in the bullpen. Fangraphs still gives the Dodgers a ~70% chance of winning the West. To be able to hold on to their slim division need, Arizona will need to seriously improve their hitting and starting pitching. 90 wRC+ and a 4.14 FIP is not going to cut it against the Dodgers.