Playoff Contender Check-In

It’s been over three weeks since resumption of play following the All-Star Game, so now is as good a time as any to check in on how the top playoff hopefuls have been doing in the second half.

AL Hopefuls

Boston Red Sox

2018 Record: 81-34

Position in Standings: 1st in AL East, 9.0 games ahead of New York Yankees

Second Half Record: 13-4

Boston recently swept a four-game weekend series against the division rival Yankees, solidifying their leadership position and are on pace to make a run at the 2001 Seattle Mariners’ regular season win record. I look forward to them being swept in the playoffs.

Cleveland Indians

2018 Record: 63-50

Position in Standings: 1st in AL Central, 9.0 games ahead of Minnesota Twins

Second Half Record: 11-7

Cleveland has the worst record out of any of the AL playoff contenders but is lucky to be part of the piss-poor AL Central, so they are in good position to secure another division championship and face the second seed AL team. Their starting rotation, led by Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, will make them a tough playoff opponent.

Houston Astros

2018 Record: 73-42

Position in Standings: 1st in AL West, 5.5 games ahead of Oakland Athletics

Second Half Record: 9-7

The 2017 World Series champs have gotten off to a less than impressive start in the second half. They have faced criticism for a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays before the non-waiver deadline to acquire RP Roberto Osuna, who is facing assault charges in Canada after an arrest for allegedly beating his girlfriend that resulted in a 75-game suspension under the MLB domestic violence policy.

New York Yankees

2018 Record: 71-42

Position in Standings: 2nd in AL East, 9.0 games behind Boston Red Sox; 1st in AL Wild Card (+4.5 games)

Second Half Record: 9-9

The Bronx Bombers have gotten off to a disappointing start in the second half and were swept by the Boston Red Sox on the road over the weekend capped off by an embarrassing extra-inning defeat broadcast nationally on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball. They have since rebounded by sweeping the lowly Chicago White Sox this week, but it appears they will be a 100-win team relegated to the one-and-done Wild Card round.

Oakland Athletics

2018 Record: 67-47

Position in Standings: 2nd in AL West, 5.5 games behind Houston Astros; 2nd in AL Wild Card, 4.5 games behind New York Yankees

Second Half Record: 12-5

Oakland has gotten off to a great start in the second half, but has not come within striking distance of the reigning World Series champs in the divisional standings. They have a better record than Cleveland, but the bias towards division winners in playoff seeding means they will likely have to advance past the Wild Card round in order to make a title run.

Seattle Mariners

2018 Record: 65-50

Position in Standings: 3rd in AL West, 8.0 games behind Houston Astros; 3rd in AL Wild Card, 2.5 games behind

Second Half Record: 7-11

Seattle’s poor showing in the second half is the reason I have decided to check in on the 2018 contenders. They have fallen behind in the Wild Card race after a series loss in a four-game set at home to the also-ran Toronto Blue Jays and a series loss to the equally poor-performing division rival Texas Rangers (one loss being Texas SP Bartolo Colón’s record-setting 246th career win).

NL Hopefuls

Atlanta Braves

2018 Record: 62-49

Position in Standings: 2nd in NL East, 0.5 games behind Philadelphia Phillies; 2nd in NL Wild Card, 1.0 games behind

Second Half Record: 10-7

Atlanta was a surprise team in this year’s playoff race, as their young stars were not expected to push the team into contention so soon. Their notable non-waiver trade deadline acquisition was OF Adam Duvall from the Cincinnati Reds. The Braves have been somewhat streaky in the second half, with a four-game slide followed by a five-game winning streak. A poor second-half performance would allow the playoffs to slip out of reach.

Arizona Diamondbacks

2018 Record: 64-52

Position in Standings: 1st in AL West, tied with Los Angeles Dodgers, 3.0 games ahead of Colorado Rockies; 3rd in NL Wild Card, 0.5 games behind

Second Half Record: 11-8

Arizona has gotten off to a decent start in the second half, but not good enough to overtake the 1st place Los Angeles Dodgers, who started off the 2018 season very poorly but have since risen to the top of the NL West division. Arizona chose to focus on strengthening its bullpen at the non-waiver deadline with the acquisitions of RP Brad Ziegler from the Miami Marlins and RP Jake Diekman from the Texas Rangers. They will need a strong run in the second half to pull past their competition and secure a playoff spot.

Chicago Cubs

2018 Record: 66-48

Position in Standings: 1st in NL Central, 1.5 games ahead of Milwaukee Brewers

Second Half Record: 11-10

The Cubs hold the NL’s best record but have not been anywhere near as dominant as their AL counterparts, the Boston Red Sox, thanks to injuries sidelining key players like INF Kris Bryant and SP Yu Darvish and an underperforming starting rotation, with the exception of Jon Lester. The Northsiders have also gotten off to an uncharacteristically slow start in the second half for the Joe Maddon managerial era, but have managed to surpass the Milwaukee Brewers after the Brewers were swept by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a five-game series just prior to the All-Star Break.

Colorado Rockies

2018 Record: 60-54

Position in Standings: 2nd in NL West, 3.0 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks; fourth place in NL Wild Card, 3.5 games behind

Second Half Record: 9-9

Colorado started the second half with a series win over the division rival Diamondbacks and an interleague series sweep of the Oakland Athletics but have since lost a series to their fellow playoff hopeful Milwaukee Brewers, which included a walkoff loss in a blown save by RP Wade Davis. The Rox have made a move to bolster their pen with a non-waiver trade deadline of RP Seunghwan Oh from the Toronto Blue Jays, who saved an extra-inning game to salvage the Brewers series. They will need to make a strong run to have any chance at a second straight playoff appearance.

Los Angeles Dodgers

2018 Record: 63-51

Position in Standings: 1st in NL West, tied with Arizona Diamondbacks, 3.0 games ahead of Colorado Rockies

Second Half Record: 10-8

The Dodgers got off to a poor start to the 2018 season thanks to injuries sidelining several SPs and star INF Corey Seager, who is out for the season, but have rebounded thanks to the performance of rookie INF Max Muncy. LA made a splash before the trade deadline, acquiring INF Manny Machado from the Baltimore Orioles as a replacement for Seager’s spot in the lineup and also acquired RP John Axford from the Toronto Blue Jays, so they remain the team to beat in the NL West.

Milwaukee Brewers

2018 Record: 66-51

Position in Standings: 2nd in NL Central, 1.5 games behind Chicago Cubs; 1st in NL Wild Card (+1.0 games)

Second Half Record: 11-8

The Brewers started the second half in a strong position thanks to their ability to beat all opponents except the division and league-leading Chicago Cubs and the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates, which cost them the division lead prior to the All-Star Game. The Cubs have not performed much better than the Crew in the second half but cling to a 1.5-game lead. Although they lost SP Brent Suter to a season-ending injury, the Brewers did not acquire a starter before the non-waiver trade deadline and chose to load up on infielders like Mike Moustakas (acquired from the Kansas City Royals) and Jonathan Schoop (acquired from the Baltimore Orioles).

Philadelphia Phillies

2018 Record: 64-50

Position in Standings: 1st in NL East, 0.5 games ahead of Atlanta Braves

Second Half Record: 11-8

The Phillies spent much of the first half behind the Atlanta Braves but have since overtaken them and hold a slim lead in the division standings. Although they lost a four-game road series to the Cincinnati Reds, they have won or split all other matchups thus far in the second half, including a four-game sweep of the Miami Marlins. Their notable non-waiver deadline acquisitions include RP Aaron Loup from the Toronto Blue Jays and INF Asdrubal Cabrera from the New York Mets.