Where’s the parody? MLB divisions lack excitement
A glance at the mid-to-late July MLB standings presents a first impression of great parody, especially in the American League. After all, there are currently 17 winning teams across both leagues, 9 of which come from the AL.
However, those W-L totals and win percentages can be a bit misleading. As we near closer to the back stretch of the 2019 season, only a few teams initially pass the “eye test” of having a real chance of going all the way. That includes heavy favorites Los Angeles (Dodgers), the Houston Astros, and New York Yankees. Those remain the betting favorites to hoist the World Series trophy (Odds before All-Star break) come late October.
Yes, there are others with a real shot: the Atlanta Braves, Chicago Cubs, Minnesota Twins, and the Tampa Bay Rays. Then there are fringe teams, who if they can catch lightning in a bottle, have enough pieces to pull it off if and when they reach the postseason. That list includes teams like the Milwaukee Brewers, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, and Washington Nationals among a few others. Still, it appears for now that most division races are out of reach. Let’s take a gander:
If you were to look at the Injured List, and you’re a Yankees fan, you’d be thinking there’s no way this team has one of the best records in baseball. 12 players currently reside on that list, and many others have been off and on it all season. This includes lengthy stays for star players like Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Jacoby Ellsbury, Greg Bird, Dellin Betances, Troy Tulowitzki, Luis Severeno, and the list goes on.
Still, New York has the best record in the AL at 62-33, which is the second-best in baseball. Tampa Bay (56-43) just lost three in a row and sit 8 games back in the division. Boston (53-44), who has played well over the past 10 games, is still 10 back.
Toronto and Baltimore have combined for only 65 wins, so they’re not even in the discussion. There’s still much to be played, so the Rays and Red Sox can catch the Yankees, but a deeper look shows there hasn’t been much in terms of parody here. New York has straight up owned both teams, going 18-6 against the pair, including 6-1 against rivals Boston. The Yankees have had many guys – like a Luke Voit and Gio Urshela (unlikely heroes) – step up and fill voids. Plus there’s Gary Sanchez hitting 24 bombs and the offense scoring 535 runs (4th best in MLB). New York has feasted on its own division (34-11). The Red Sox score more runs (547; best in baseball), but the pitching has struggled badly.
Right now, this is no contest for New York. Tampa Bay and Boston are really no match right now, and can only contend for the Wild Card spots.
The Central is just bad. Minnesota (59-36) has capitalized on the rest of the division (21-12). However, the Cleveland Indians (55-40; 4 GB) have held their own against the Twins, going 4-5 in nine games there. That’s it though. The White Sox (42-51), Royals (36-62), and Tigers (29-63) are just awful. The Twins and Indians will have some big-time battles upcoming, with the loser having to try and grab a Wild Card spot from a Tampa Bay, Boston, or Oakland-type.
They say this might be the best division in baseball. That may be true, with Houston (61-37), Oakland (55-42), Texas (50-46), and the Angels (50-48) all holding winning records. Seattle is the outlier at 39-60. But to say the A’s, Rangers, or Angels have a shot at taking the division crown from Houston is nonsense.
The Astros have obliterated AL West teams, going 30-11 and slightly better percentage-wise against the other AL divisions. Houston has gone 7-1 against the A’s, 8-6 against Texas, and 5-3 against LA. Those latter two have been no slouch against the might ‘stros, but the makeup of those teams shouldn’t be able to hold with Houston. The Rangers are 10 back and the Angels 11 back in the division. Only Oakland (5.5 back) has a shot right now, but the way it has played against Houston, there’s not much there.
The Braves stand atop the East at 58-40, 5.5 games over the Washington Nationals, who have experienced a revival of sorts. The Phillies appear to have jumped in the deep end holding an anchor, sliding 7.5 back but still in the picture. The NY Mets (44-52) are not good, and the Marlins are straight up awful (as expected).
The parody here is probably better than most divisions, if only because Atlanta has dropped three in a row, including a Thursday night game to Washington. This being a four-game set, if the Braves rebound to win the next three, that could put this division away barring a 2011-type collapse. This of course also assumes the Phillies, who have been dealt a number of injury blows, continue to trend in their current direction.
If the Nats can split this series or take it by winning three or four, that would make this an exciting run to say the least.
The Cubs hold the two game edge over Milwaukee and 2.5 over St. Louis. None of these teams are playing to expectations, especially the Brewers, who at 51-47 are carried almost exclusively by reigning MVP Christian Yelich. The -9 run differential is very problematic for them. The Cubs have been good as of late, but their pitching hasn’t been sharp at all, and they might as well not show up for road games (18-27).
Then there is St. Louis, who despite grabbing arguably the biggest free agents outside of someone named Harper or Machado, are a very mediocre team. Paul Goldschmidt and Trevor Miller are those two pick-ups that have not performed at the level they were expected to be at. The Pirates and Reds are decent, but have too many holes to make a legitimate run. So this division is probably the most exciting for now, as it is a three-team race.
Lastly, the not-so Wild West. Not wild at all. Pretty boring out there, as the Dodgers, who are just destroying baseballs at an alarming rate and have the BEST rotation in baseball, is running away at 64-35. That’s 14 games ahead of Arizona (49-48), the only other winning team in the division. The Giants (48-49) are mediocre at best, and the Rockies (46-50) are a major disappointment this year. San Diego has showed signs of promise (46-50), but they are still a year or two from major contention. The Dodgers have this thing on lock.