2014 Major League Baseball Preview for the Second Half
Oakland Athletics as the most dominant team so far
The Oakland Athletics finished the first half of the 2014 Major League Baseball season with the best record in baseball, in what has been a unique season so far. To this point season the contenders have separated themselves from the teams that are going to ultimately finish at the bottom of the standings, but in some divisions there are three or four teams competing for playoff spots. Most of the teams that were expected to challenge for playoff spots are in the mix so far, but the Diamondbacks, Phillies, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays have all had extremely disappointing first halves to the season. None of those five teams will have much of a chance to get back into the race in the second half, and they may all be teams that sell at the trade deadline. Even with these five teams out of the races early, there are some compelling division races across baseball with a couple surprise teams in the mix. A closer look at these division races and some predictions on how the second half will play out will give a better understanding of how this Major League Baseball season is unique compared to past seasons.
American League East
The surprise contender in this division is the preseason pick to finish last place, in the Toronto Blue Jays. While the Jays did not finish the second half very strong, they are currently in second place. The Yankees are bordering on falling out of contention in the second half because of injuries to their pitching staff, but they are still currently in the race. The Orioles late offseason additions have worked out for them, with the exception of Ubaldo Jimenez. Nelson Cruz is currently second in the league in homeruns and put together an MVP-like performance in the first half of the season.
Division Winner Prediction: Baltimore Orioles
National League East
The Phillies have not been a factor in the National League East race this season and currently sit in last place. The Marlins spent a few days in first place during the first half, but a poor finish to the first half has them well behind the top two teams in the standings. As expected, this division race is between the Washington National and Atlanta Braves. This division race should remain close for most of the second half with the Braves having the advantage in head to head matchups between the two. The loser of the division race will have a chance to qualify for the postseason via the wildcard berth.
Division Winner Prediction: Atlanta Braves
American League Central
With the way things finished in the first half of play for the American League Central, the Tigers look to be the clear cut favorite to win the division again. The Royals spent a short period time in first place during the first half, but as of right now the Tigers have a significant lead on them for first place with the Royals having an opportunity in the wildcard hunt. The Cleveland Indians also remain in the hunt for a wildcard berth after a strong finish to the first half.
Division Winner Prediction: Detroit Tigers
National League Central
This division once again is one of the more interesting divisions in baseball because they currently have four teams making a push for a playoff spot. With only five playoff spots in the National League, it is only possible for three of these teams to qualify for the postseason. The Brewers currently hold first place by a game over the St. Louis Cardinals and have a 1.5 game lead on the Cincinnati Reds. In fourth place the Pittsburgh Pirates have hit the ball well this season and also have a winning record along with being only three and a half games back of first place. The Reds and Cardinals finish the first half strong while the Pirates and Brewers finished the first half with a losing week of baseball. The Reds have two key players injured for most of the stretch run of the season so they become the most unlikely team to clinch a playoff spot. The Reds and Cardinals both have the pitching to get the job done though, and that is what gives the Cardinals the advantage in the second half of the season. Despite the rough finish to the first half, the Brewers should be a factor the rest of the way.
Division Winner Prediction: St. Louis Cardinals
American League West
With this division currently having three teams contending for a playoff spot, it is one of the better divisions in baseball. The Athletics currently have a 1.5 game lead on the second place Angels, with the Mariners trailing by eight games in the division but being one of the wildcard leaders. This division could easily feature three playoff teams this postseason if each team continues to play good baseball in the second half of the season. Ultimately the Oakland Athletics hold the advantage over the Angels in the pitching department because of the big trade they made recently to acquire Jeff Samardzija. The Angels really need to make a push for the division crown if they want to have playoff success though, because a wildcard game against Felix Hernandez and the Mariners could result in them being one game and done after a season in which they might win well over 90 games.
Division Winner Prediction: Oakland Athletics
National League West
What was once a large division lead for the San Francisco Giants, has quickly been erased with the Dodgers now holding a one game lead for first place in the division. The Giants still remain in position to take a wildcard berth, but with the talent on the Dodgers roster, it remains unlikely that they end up winning the National League West. Clayton Kershaw is once again having a historical season and the Dodgers pitching staff looks like it will be a force to be reckoned with when the postseason rolls around. The Diamondbacks currently sit in last place after coming into the season with some expectations of competing with the Dodgers for the division title.
Division Winner Prediction: Los Angeles Dodgers
American League Wild Card Predictions:
Wildcard 1: Los Angeles Angels
Wildcard 2: Seattle Mariners
National League Wild Card Predictions:
Wildcard 1: Washington Nationals
Wildcard 2: San Francisco Giants
With the all star game coming up this week, and home field advantage being decided for the World Series, the two favorites in each league will battle hard in the all star game for home field advantage. With both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland Athletics well represented in the all star game, they will have a fair chance to battle for what could be home field advantage for their team in the World Series.
World Series Prediction: Oakland Athletics over Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games