Halftime Sports

The National League: A Month To Go

August 28, 2014


While the NL only has one divisional race closer than five games, the wild card spots are so up for grabs that the Marlins, I repeat, the Marlins, are in the hunt with a record of 65-67.  Although we all know it ain’t over til it’s over, let’s take a look at the current state of affairs.

NL East

It is hard to bet against the Nationals on this one. They’re 6.5 games up, with three members of their rotation maintaining ERAs under 3.  Behind them, Atlanta seems destined for the wild card game at best.  The Marlins are hot on their tails, playing spectacularly ordinary baseball, keeping themselves in the hunt without giving pundits any reason to believe in them.  At this point, they might just be the underdogs of the century.

Once again, we see the Mets languishing towards the bottom of the division.  Curtis Granderson and Shake Shack Burgers must not mix well, because their prime offseason acquisition is hitting a swashbuckling .017 above the Mendoza line. On the bright side, they did turn their first triple play since 2010, thanks to Yasiel Puig.  We end our eastern focus with the Phillies, who have managed to go from consistent contenders to perennial bottom dwellers. Ryan Howard would like us to focus on what he’s done in the past, so let’s just act like this isn’t happening and let them be.

NL Central

The closest race in the NL is here, with the Brewers and Cardinals battling for the division title.  The former are without a true ace, but the rotation as a whole has been rock solid, combining for an ERA of 3.62.  For St. Louis, Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn have dominated for the Cardinals, both posting ERAs under 2.80. Look for one of these two teams to take control of first place in the six games they play together in September.

If the Pirates are going to make the playoffs in back to back years for the first time since 1990-1991, they’re going to have to do it through the second wild card spot.  The loser between the two division title contenders will get the first spot, leaving Pittsburgh to fend off the Giants, Atlanta, and the Marlins for the remaining one.  San Francisco left the door open for the Braves by losing three in a row, then managed to close it again with two straight victories.  Cincinnati sits only 6.5 games back of the Giants but faces an uphill battle against its three division rivals.

The lovable Cubbies wrap up the Central, extending their drought to 116 years without a World Series title.  Theo and his boys promised to rebuild, and the farm system looks promising.  When you’ve waited 115 years, what’s one more?

NL West

It’s looking like the Dodgers can coast from here on out.  When you can throw Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke back-to-back and your lineup includes the likes of Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, and Hanley Ramirez, things tend to fall into place.  Come September, expect to see some serious bat flips. San Francisco currently holds the second wild card spot, but they have two teams within two games of them.  The Giants should take comfort in the fact that its competitors all have holes at least as large as their own.

Everyone thought the Padres would prove big sellers at the deadline, but they proved everyone wrong, holding on to all of their major pieces except Chase Headley.  What they’re trying to do, nobody knows.  They missed the chance to build for the future in order to keep together a team that cannot hope to sniff the postseason.

Not much can be said for Arizona and Colorado, the two NL teams furthest from the playoffs.  Rumors are flying left and right about Troy Tulowitzki leaving for the greener pastures of the concrete jungle, but his contract and past injuries could scare away many potential bidders.  If that happens, then Tulo might have to suffer alongside the Rockies for a few more years.

Predictions

East-Nationals

Central-Cardinals

West-Dodgers

1st Wild Card-Brewers

2nd Wild Card-Atlanta

 



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