People are still on the roads. People are still on the beach. And the summer is not quite out of reach yet.
Major League Baseball is steeped in tradition, metrics, and mythology. It’s a tricky sport to predict, and experts like Buster Olney get it wrong all the time. Back in March, I led a serious discussion with you about the five teams I felt had the most realistic chance to make it to the World Series. I scoured websites like Baseball-reference.com to get a sense of what each team could bring to the table.
Each team is an eclectic fusion of a little something different that has helped them stay deeply entrenched in pennant races. The Red Sox, Cubs, Tigers, Dodgers, and Nationals, all have key intangibles and achilles heels that will prove the difference between trick or treat come October. So, like the Uber driver’s bumper sticker, how am I doing? Let’s find out.
Los Angeles Dodgers (64-50, 2nd in NL West) — Yasiel Puig is the reason why the term “Flavor of the Month”, exists. He’s currently hitting a pedestrian .250, while garnering attention in the clubhouse and around the league for his erratic temperament. Despite this, the Dodgers are getting done with another elite pitching staff, anchored none other than Clayton Kershaw, and veteran Scott Kazmir, who, if he wins his next start, will give the Dodgers three starting pitchers with ten or more wins. Corey Seager is batting a cool .303, and slugger Adrian Gonzalez is a shade behind at .295. San Francisco holds a half game lead as of right now, but this pennant race could have a Hollywood ending
Boston Red Sox (61-51, 3rd in AL East)
The safest gamble in Boston is Mookie Betts. He’s a catalyst for a dynamic offense, his 74 RBI and 23 home runs have helped pick up the slack in some of Price’s poor outings. It’s tough when Buck Showalter is a manager in your division. When Porcello, and Steven Wright tow the rubber, good things happen. They have 28 combined wins, and 385 combined strikeouts. That’s a whole lot of sad walks to the dugout for opposing batters. With improved fielding, the Sox have a legitimate shot at taking the division, or certainly earning a Wild Card berth.
Chicago Cubs (71-41, 1st in NL Central)
Winners of eight consecutive games, and holding the best record in baseball, it seems at this point like something bigger than all of us is happening right now. Joe Maddon’s team always finds a way to win, and rarely with too much flash. Three of their biggest boppers, Rizzo, Fowler, and Bryant, all have sub-.300 batting averages. The Cubbies make their living in OBP, and efficiency, a lot of their baserunners make it all the way around. Can we forget about their pitching staff? Heck no. Kyle Hendricks, Jake Arrieta, and Jon Lester, all have an ERA under 3.00. This team isn’t where I thought they’d be at this point, they’re better.
Washington Nationals (67-46, 1st in NL East)
The four syllables in Daniel Murphy’s name evoke vivid images of offensive production that would make Billy Bean’s salivary glands go into overdrive. The young hitter has driven in 82 RBI. And part of this team’s success is that, unlike Beavis and Butthead, they know how to score. You know about this guy Stephen Strasburg? He’s done his squad a real solid by working to a 15-2 record, and a 2.80 ERA. They’re making baseball great again in the District of Columbia.
Detroit Tigers (61-53, 2nd in AL Central)
Okay, so if you’re playing along atv home this is the thing that is not like the others. Or is it? On their last homestand, the Tigers took three straight series against the Sox, Astros, and Mets, to get themselves back into serious contention with the Tribe. Since the start of July, Justin Verlander hit a switch. Fans in Detroit call him “JV”, but he’s pitching at a Varsity level. On offense, Miguel Cabrera is still a dude you’d rather not pitch to. He’s got 26 long balls and 76 runs batted in. Combine this with the much-needed, and triumphant return of J.D. Martinez, and the Tigs look primed for a run at the postseason, and maybe a little more.
Next season will be one of transition across the majors. What we have right now is a month and a half fight to the postseason, to then see who will prove the healthiest, the timeliest, and hungriest club in professional baseball. Why not keep these five teams in mind?