Yesterday (Wednesday) was the Fourth of July.
Fireworks, swimming, picnics, parades and other activities ruled the day, as did America’s favorite past time – baseball.
There were numerous games played across the land in major league and minor league parks that featured promotions and other doings to enhance those in attendance. The Fourth of July generally signals the first half of the Major League Baseball season and gives cause of reflection of the year thus far and thoughts of what might happen the rest of the way.
American League Update
In the American League, the defending World Champion Houston Astros, as expected, are at the top of the heap again.
Also, as expected, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Cleveland Indians find themselves among the league’s leaders. The other teams in the playoff race right now are the kind-of-surprising Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s and the disappointing Los Angeles Angels.
National League Update
As of today in the National League, the revamped Atlanta Braves, the unexpectedly-good Milwaukee Brewers and the consistent Arizona Diamondbacks would make the playoffs as league leaders with the Philadelphia Phillies, the Washington Nationals, the Chicago Cubs, the St. Louis Cardinals, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants fighting for wildcard bids.
Here’s a feeling of what I think could happen the rest of the summer.
Houston Astros are a shoo-in for West Division title
Houston is an American League shoo-in again with position players like Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, Yuli Garriel and George Springer, and a pitching staff with Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Dallas Keuchel.
The Astros are going to keep adding space against the rest of their West Division opponents.
Boston Red Sox and N.Y. Yankees will battle in East
Boston with the battling B’s (Xavier Bogarts, Andrew Beninteni, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr.) and starting pitchers like Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello, along with closer Craig Kimbel, will stay among the American League East leaders with the New York Yankees.
Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton top a Yankees murderous row batting line-up, and their starting pitching has surprised as C.C. Sabathia, Louis Severino and Masahiro Tanaka continue to have good outings.
New York, too, has a light’s-out closer in Aroldis Chapman to settle things on the Yankees’ side of the ledger. These two teams will battle for the American League East crown, and both will be in the play-offs.
No other team in the division will be a factor.
Cleveland Indians the class of the Central Division
Another team with no division competition is the Cleveland Indians, who with hitters like Yonder Alonzo, Edwin Encarnacion, Francisco Lindor and Melky Cabrera, and throwers Carlos Carrasco and Andrew Miller completely outclass the rest of their American League Central field.
They, too, are playoff bound.
Angels could win other American wildcard spot
Those four other American League teams could be joined in the playoffs by the California Angels if that West Coast team can get Mike Trout some help.
Atlanta Braves look like winners in the East
The South has risen again. The Atlanta Braves are fun and could well continue to lead the National League East.
Youngsters like Ozzie Albies, Dansby Swanson and Ron Acuna, along with veterans Freddy Freeman and Nick Markakis, lead a line-up full of pop.
Pitching may be Atlanta’s downfall, though, as they seem to go through a number of them in a short time. The Braves’ other downfall in the National League East could be Philadelphia or Washington.
The Phillies have overachieved thus far, even though young talents Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins have great potential and pitching additions Jake Arrieta and Aaron Nola have been big additions.
Washington is a head- scratcher.
Daniel Murphy and Bryce Harper are having terrible years. Only the pitching of Max Scherzer has kept the Nationals above board. Scherzer has 11 wins but could well have 15 if Washington could score runs.
The other two East teams (the New York Mets and Miami Marlins) have trouble scoring runs and give up too many themselves to be factors in the race.
Central Division is a tight race
Talk about a race: that’s what the National League Central has.
The Milwaukee Brewers are ahead right now using a line-up headed by Travis Shaw, Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain to claim that lead. But the Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are hot on their tail.
Both the Cubs – led by Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant – and the Cardinals – with Marcell Ozana, Matt Carpenter and Harrison Bader heading the way – can be trouble in the season’s second half.
These teams won’t have trouble with the rest of their division mates so it will be a three-way fight all summer-long.
Three-way fight shaping up in Western Division
Another three-way fight has shaped up in the National League West.
The Arizona Diamondbacks lead right now, especially since Paul Goldschmidt’s bat has woken up.
With a pitching staff led by top starter Zack Greinke and ace closer Brad Boxberger, the Rattlesnakes could be headed for a summer full of fun in the Arizona sun.
That fun could be short- circuited by the Los Angeles Dodgers though.
A return to the rotation by Clayton Kershaw has helped the Dodgers, as well as an everyday line-up that can score a lot of runs, including Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Justin Turner, Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson.
And the Dodgers also have the league’s best closer in Kenley Jansen, which is very important the rest of the way. Like Kershaw with the Dodgers, Madison Bumgardner’s return to San Francisco has aided in keeping the Giants in contention.
Also, the addition of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen has helped a batting order that includes Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford. It would take a lot of addition to help the other two National League West teams (the Colorado Rockies and San Diego Padres).
In conclusion, I feel the survivors in the American League will be the Astros, Red Sox, Yankees, Indians and Angels, and over in the National League, the Braves, Phillies, Cubs, Diamondbacks and Dodgers will somehow survive all these close races.
MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL STANDINGS
(as of Friday, June 29, 2018)
East W-L .Pct GB
Boston 55-27 .671 –
Yankees 52-26 .667 1
Tampa Bay 39-41 .488 15
Toronto 37-43 .463 17
Baltimore 23-57 .288 31
Central W-L .Pct GB
Cleveland 44-35 .557 –
Minnesota 35-42 .455 8
Detroit 36-46 .439 9.5
White Sox 28-52 .350 16.5
Kansas City 25-55 .313 19.5
West W-L .Pct GB
Houston 55-28 .663 –
Seattle 51-31 .622 3.5
Oakland 44-38 .537 10.5
Angels 41-41 .500 13.5
Texas 36-46 .439 18.5
East W-L .Pct GB
Atlanta 45-34 .570 –
Philadelphia 43-36 .544 2
Washington 41-38 .519 4
Mets 32-46 .410 12.5
Miami 32-50 .390 14.5
Central W-L .Pct GB
Milwaukee 47-33 .588 –
Cubs 44-35 .557 2.5
St. Louis 42-37 .532 4.5
Pittsburgh 38-42 .475 9
Cincinnati 34-47 .420 13.5
West W-L .Pct GB
Arizona 47-34 .580 –
Dodgers 43-37 .538 3.5
S.F. Giants 42-40 .512 5.5
Colorado 39-42 .481 8
San Diego 36-47 .434 12
By Joe Ferolito