The All-Star break is an opportunity to take a step back from the standings and our individual teams and simply enjoy stress-free, frictionless baseball for a couple of days. We get to catch our breath … before matters start getting crazy. This year in particular, madness is in store: Both leagues have a cluster of Wild Card competitors, and only four teams, maybe five, look like obvious playoff participants so far. At the halfway mark, we know so little.
So, today at The Thirty, we make a prediction for every team for the second half. These predictions are educated guesses, but also, almost certainly, most of them will be wrong. The fun of it, after all, is actually watching to see what happens.
NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST
Braves: Their fans are going to be wondering if they’re about to go on another division title run. Two in a row isn’t quite like the 14 in a row they won from 1991 through 2005 … but with all the parity in baseball these days, it can feel like it.
Marlins: People will start noticing the pitching. The Marlins' staff has quietly become rather solid. There’s still a long way to go for the hitting, but there’s hope here.
Mets: Embattled manager Mickey Callaway survives the season. Beyond that, who knows.
Nationals: The Nats are starting to look like the Nats again, and that’s scary for any team that might catch them in October. Look out: An NL Wild Card Game win behind Max Scherzer is theirs, which means they will advance in the postseason for the first time.
Phillies: Bryce Harper’s first year in town ends outside the playoffs. Good thing he has 12 more opportunities.
NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL
Brewers: The bullpen finally hits a wall. It has been hinting at it, but Josh Hader has kept it afloat. But eventually, the strain gets to even him, and the Brewers’ strength can’t keep them afloat this time as they miss the playoffs.
Cardinals: Paul Goldschmidt finally gets it going, but it’s not enough. How will Cardinals fans handle missing the playoffs for the fourth straight year for the first time since 1988-95? Not well!
Cubs: They hang on to win the division by the skin of their teeth. They still have the most talent in a very wobbly division.
Pirates: Josh Bell finishes in the top three in the NL Most Valuable Player Award voting. But will this create any movement on a potential contract extension? That remains to be seen.
Reds: The Reds finish in second place. Yep, you heard it. The Reds have the second-best run differential in the division despite being in last place. But they’re close … and the luck finally turns their way in the second half.
NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST
D-backs: They finally find a taker for Zack Greinke and swing a trade involving their ace. The irony is that it might happen at the time when they need him the most.
Dodgers: Cody Bellinger becomes the first Dodger position player to win the NL MVP Award since Kirk Gibson in 1988. Clayton Kershaw, of course, won the MVP (and the NL Cy Young Award) in 2014.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner gets traded, and Giants fans don’t mind. Fans handle this sort of business so much better than they used to.
Padres: Fernando Tatis Jr. becomes your new favorite player. Seriously, watch this kid.
Rockies: Another NL Wild Card Game appearance is coming. And this time, they get to host it.
AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST
Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is going to get hot enough to not only win the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but also help the Blue Jays avoid their worst record in 40 years. Vlad Jr. has provided plenty of highlights, but he hasn’t quite taken over the league like many thought he might when he was called up on April 26. That ends in the second half, and he helps prevent the Jays from losing 100 games for the first time since 1979.
Orioles: They won’t lose as many as last year. The O's are, remarkably, on last year’s 115-loss pace. But here’s betting that they evade hitting that mark in 2019 … and that they don’t come close to losing that many games again for several decades, if ever.
Rays: They make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. The Rays haven't reached the postseason since 2013, and just because they have an AL Wild Card lead doesn’t mean they’re assured of it. But not only do they make it, here’s betting they host the AL Wild Card Game.
Red Sox: They fall short. The Sox just haven’t felt right all year. Certainly, they have the talent to grab the second AL Wild Card, but this feels not dissimilar from other post-championship hangovers we’ve seen in the past decade or so. The good news for fans is that if history holds, Boston will go out and win 115 games in 2020.
Yankees: This ends up being the best Yankees team since 1998, when they won 114 games. The Yanks have won more than 100 games five times since that historic season -- which seems like fewer than you thought, right? -- but this might be the most unlikely, most purely enjoyable time they reach that number. They need 104 to have their most since '98, and while they are on pace for 100, it says here they are going to do it.
AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL
Indians: A losing streak at the wrong time answers all the questions they need answered, and they end up selling at the Trade Deadline. All told, you get the sense the Indians aren’t particularly thrilled about the idea of doubling down on what will be at best an AL Wild Card slot. A dip at the right time clarifies their decision-making process, and maybe is even ultimately better in the long term.
Royals: Steve Balboni’s team record for homers lasted 32 years until Mike Moustakas set a new standard with 38 bombs in 2017. With Jorge Soler around, Moustakas’ record is going to last only two years, as Soler (currently with 23) becomes the first Royal to reach to reach the 40-homer plateau.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera finishes above .300. He might not be hitting for power anymore, but Cabrera sure does want to stay above that mark for the first time since 2016.
Twins: Only one Twins team has won 100 or more games: The 1965 team, which won 102. With the AL Central the way it is, this is the year that record goes down.
White Sox: They don’t quite make it over .500, but that’s no reason not to be excited. It has been since 2012 that the White Sox had a winning record. They won’t get there this year, but next year, they’ll get there … and might even make the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST
Angels: Mike Trout remains the best player in baseball and won’t win a postseason game. Same as last year, same as it ever was.
Astros: Yordan Alvarez leads the team in homers the rest of the way. Have you seen this kid? On this team, this is no small feat, to say the least.
Athletics: They make the AL Wild Card Game for the second consecutive year. Remember how dark it looked after that first series in Japan? If they can hold off Boston, they’re off to the Trop.
Mariners: There will be at least 10 more trades. We’re probably being too conservative here.
Rangers: They move out of their old stadium with more optimism than anyone expected. It has been a fun run this year, but there’s just not enough pitching to make the playoffs. But they will open their new digs with a lot of excitement for 2020.