Baseball Mid-Season

The second half of the MLB season starts today with several divisional series that will start to separate the contenders from the also-rans. The league added a second wild-card team to the picture creating an opportunity for teams who wouldn’t normally be competing in the second half a chance to get into the playoffs with around 85-90 wins. The two wild-card teams in each league will meet for a one game playoff on the day after the season ends. The next two weeks will be extremely important for teams as the trading deadline approaches and end-of-season opportunities are sized up.

A few NL surprises have been the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Washington Nationals, while in the AL the Chicago White Sox are three games clear of everyone in their division. The best team in baseball starting the second half is the New York Yankees, which is almost a trite statement. An interesting race to watch coming down the stretch should be in the NL West where San Francisco clearly has the best pitching staff (but an underwhelming offense). They stand a half game behind the Dodgers who have been plagued by injuries to key players during the first half of the season. In the AL the high powered offense of Nolan Ryan’s Texas Rangers have a four game lead and have led all season while at times having the best record in baseball. The Los Angeles Angels were big spenders in the off-season, but it has been the young guys who have triggered their turn around since the start of June. Home Run Derby participant Mike Trout has been a revelation since being called up. Baseball America’s number two prospect has been worthy of the hype, and at twenty years old, he appears to have all the makings of a 5-tool outfielder for the next decade.

The Washington Nationals – who have held two of the last three top overall picks after losing seasons – also have young stars leading their surge to a playoff spot. Bryce Harper, 19 has been stellar in the field and at the plate in his inaugural season. The story of the Nationals lies in the starting pitching lead by Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzales, Washington has a team ERA of 3.20 with 28 saves.

Expect teams leading the pack to try and make a big time acquisition before the July 31st trade deadline. Other teams will look to trade away players to build for the future. A few disappointments have been Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Boston.

Who do you like to win the World Series at this junction?