The MLB season is halfway over, meaning many teams are gearing up for a second-half playoff push.
Some clubs like the LA Dodgers and Houston Astros are shoo-ins for division titles. Others like the Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee Brewers must work to keep their leads. Can these teams hold on and win their divisions?
Then there’s the matter of MVP. Moreover, will rookie Aaron Judge take the AL MVP? Let’s answer these questions and more as we discuss second-half MLB predictions.
1. Tampa Bay will Top Boston in AL East
The Boston Red Sox are in good shape in the AL East right now. They’re 10 games above .500 (51-41) and hold a 2.5-game lead in their division. Nevertheless, we don’t see Boston taking home the crown.
Instead, we believe that the Tampa Bay Rays will chase down the Sox and win the East. Why can the 49-44 Rays win?
Going into the All-Star break, Kevin Cash’s team had won 14 of its last 17 series. They also seem to be playing better and better as the year goes along.
One reason for the Rays strong play is their offense. Even with Evan Longoria not having his greatest season ever (.267/13 HR), this team has the AL’s third-best slugging percentage. Corey Dickerson (.312/17 HR) and Logan Morrison (.257/26 HR) have had better seasons than anybody imagined.
The thing holding Tampa Bay back is their rotation, which has been average so far. But this could change since Brad Boxberger is healthy again, and Futures Game MVP Brent Honeywell is available for call-up any time. Bullpen help before the trade deadline could really push the Rays forward.
Of course, the Sox have the most talent and best chance to win. But will they venture further into luxury tax territory to upgrade at the deadline?
Then there’s the Yankees (47-42), who also have a chance to win. However, they’ve been hesitant to look for solutions in their farm system, and have only made low-cost moves.
Odds are that the AL East race stays tight until the end. In this scenario, we believe that Tampa Bay can win the division, or at least maintain their current Wild Card spot.
GTBets AL Pennant Odds:
Boston Red Sox +290
New York Yankees +850
Tampa Bay Rays +2500
2. Brewers will Hold onto NL Central Lead
As we’ve covered, the World Series champion Chicago Cubs (46-45) aren’t doing so hot right now. And everybody keeps waiting for them to turn the corner and overtake the Milwaukee Brewers (52-46).
After all, nobody could’ve envisioned Chicago – winner of 103 games last season – not making the postseason this year.
But here we are and in mid-July, and Milwaukee still has a comfortable 4.5-game lead in the Central. Leading the Cubs this late in the year has given the Brewers confidence. And this confidence can likely lead to a division title thanks a solid all-around team.
A 45-plus run differential tells us everything we need to know about how well this team is playing. Furthermore, it’s not like Milwaukee has just gotten lucky either. They’ve had seven extra-inning losses, making us think that they actually deserve better luck.
What’s impressive is that this has happened with Ryan Braun mostly out. If they get Braun healthy for a long stretch, then their already power-packed lineup will excel even more.
GTBets NL Pennant Odds:
Chicago Cubs +360
Milwaukee Brewers +1200
3. The Cleveland Indians will Dominate the AL Central
This is the biggest prediction we’re making because the Cleveland Indians (47-43) are only 1.5 games ahead of the Minnesota Twins (46-45). The Kansas City Royals (45-45) are also in the thick of things.
But there’s reason to believe that the Tribe can accelerate in the second half and earn a short at World Series redemption.
Cleveland got off to a poor start, amid lineup struggles and a terrible home record. This combination has enabled the Twins and Royals to hang around – with the latter giving their 2015 championship roster one last chance.
We expect separation, though, because Indians’ staff aces Carlos Carrasco and Corey Kluber will eventually get things straightened out.
Danny Salazar is making adjustments in the minor leagues and will be back. Then there’s Trevor Bauer, who’s in the process of simplifying his pitches. Assuming the staff comes together, then we’ll see a much-different Indians squad moving forward.
We also think that the stats bear some mind here. Cleveland is the only AL Central team with a positive run differential. This is impressive considering that the Indians have yet to iron out their rotation. Long story short, expect Cleveland to win the Central by 8-10 games.
GTBets AL Pennant Odds:
Cleveland Indians +333
Kansas City Royals +1800
Minnesota Twins +2500
4. Aaron Judge won’t Win the AL MVP
Nobody has created more excitement this season than New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge.
The 6’7″, 282-pound outfielder has hit .313, slammed 30 home runs, and tallied 66 RBIs. It’s as impressive a rookie season as we’ve seen in over a decade. The only catch…it won’t result in an MVP award.
One problem is that only two rookies have won the award (Fred Lynn in 1975; Ichiro Suzuki in 2001). This alone shows that the odds are against Judge.
But what if he breaks the rookie home run record (Mark McGwire, 49 in 1987) as it looks like he’s going to do? And what if he adds the rookie walks record (Ted Williams, 107 in 1939)?
If so, then this could be the greatest rookie season ever. But the question is if he can maintain his pace as the season heads towards the 100-game mark. Judge has never played more than 131 baseball games in a season. This means he’ll likely be dealing with fatigue as we move forward.
Then there’s the Yankees themselves. With a 47-42 record, they currently hold a Wild Card slot. But they’re in a tight division race with the Boston Red Sox (51-41) and Tampa Bay Rays (49-44) and could easily relinquish their playoff position. If the Yankees don’t make it, then we don’t see Judge earning MVP honors.
What’s more is that the AL has a number of other MVP candidates, including the Indians’ Jose Ramirez, Anaheim’s Mike Trout, Baltimore’s Chris Sale, and one of several Houston Astros. Our bet is that Judge fades and one of the Astros separates from their teammates to win.
But we certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Judge continue his outstanding season and become the first rookie to win the award since Ichiro.