GRAEME GALLAGHER | SPORTS EDITOR
After about two weeks of baseball, I can conclude that this year is going to be wild. Already there have been some pretty awesome and strange occurrence that could not have been predicted. From the brawls between the Yankees and Red Sox, the almost no-hitters every night, and the Astros walking off on an infield pop up (the Padres are getting better right?), the first weeks have been completely crazy. However, in a season that seems unforeseeable, I will try to channel some magic and predict who will win every division this year.
We will start with the defending champion Astros and the American League West. Currently, the Angels are riding in at first place at 12-3, with the Astros not far behind in second at 10-4. The Mariners are in third and then the A’s and Rangers round out the bottom. So far, this division is not surprising me. The Angels had a fantastic offseason in which they acquired Zack Cozart, Justin Upton, and Ian Kinsler. Rounding off this impressive offseason, they got Shohei Ohtani. If you do not know, this guy is incredible. He is a pitcher that throws high 90s and also has a deadly splitter to compliment that. He can also hit like no other as he already has three home runs and is batting above .300. Also, do not forget that they have the best player in baseball in Mike Trout. This lineup is stacked and the Angels have looked very strong in the first week. Their only weakness is the starting rotation and Gerrit Cole has not gotten injured yet, so they are great in that regard.
The question for the remainder of the season is can they keep up with the Astros? My answer is a hard no. They have fared well against a very easy schedule so far. They have played the A’s, Rangers, and Royals, who are all on lackluster at best. Coming off of that, Ohtani has only pitched against the A’s and has not faced a good lineup yet. Expect his numbers to fall off deeper in the season. The Astros have great depth and will hit their stride soon. The Angels will keep the standings close, but will ultimately fall short to the defending champs. Houston will not have a problem, and will win the West. But, can we just enjoy the Rangers being 4-11?
The American League Central is a division that is realistically between two teams: the Twins and Indians. The rest of the division can be overlooked. The Royals are massively rebuilding, the White Sox are slowly getting there, and the Tigers are in a new era ever since Justin Verlander. So will the Twins or the Indians prevail? Minnesota is looking good so far and has a solid roster. Joe Mauer got his 2,000th hit this season and is being consistent once again, Brian Dozier is racking the ball with 4 home runs, and Max Kepler is getting on base. The pitching has been dominate as well with Jose Berrios proving himself and Jake Odorizzi being a nice addition. However, the Indians are still as good as last year and remember, when they get hot they can bust out a 20 plus game win streak. Yet, I am all for the Twins and I believe that they will win the Central.
The Beast of the American East is looking like it will be the Red Sox at the moment. Boston is looking pretty in first place with an 11-2 record and won their first series against the Yankees. Mookie Betts and Xander Bogaerts are tearing the cover off the ball, and Chris Sale and Rick Porcello have a sub 2.00 era. However, these are small sample sizes and they will eventually fall off. In this same context, the Yankees are 7-7 and have not looked good, well more particularly, Giancarlo Stanton has not looked good. He already has 25 strikeouts in the young season and has only hit .220. But, as the temperatures start to warm up, so will Stanton. Playing in Yankee Stadium, one of the best hitting ballparks in the game, Stanton will start to crush homeruns left and right. When he finds his stride, so will Aaron Judge and the Yankee pitching staff. With this in mind, the Yankees will win the East.
Now onto the National League and we will start with the very competitive west division. Every team, besides the Padres, have a strong chance at winning this division. The Giants added Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen to the team over the offseason. These players, along with Buster Posey and the emerging Joe Panik, round out a solid offensive lineup. As for their pitching, the have struggled with injuries. Madison Bumgarner got hurt in the spring, Jeff Samardzija is out on rehab, and Johnny Cueto has a hurt ankle. This leaves them with a lacking rotation and is the major cause for their 6-7 start.
The Diamondbacks are sitting on top with a 10-3 start with the Colorado Rockies behind them. Arizona and Paul Goldschmidt are playing great baseball behind their great starting rotation of Zach Greinke, Patrick Corbin, Taijuan Walker, and Robbie Ray. The Rockies are also riding a strong lineup with Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and D.J. LeMahieu. However, the biggest surprise of all has to be the Dodgers. The team that dominated early last year has started to a measly 4-8. How could this happen? Well, in a lineup with Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, and Cody Bellinger, the best hitter for them has been catcher Yasmani Grandal. That is certainly not ideal. Well, what about their pitching? Last week, they gave up 21 hits to the A’s, which is not good at all. Clayton Kershaw has a 1.89 era, but has 2 losses in three starts and whenever the team has a lead the bullpen struggles to keep it. Closer Kenley Jansen has a 7.71 era and only 5 strikeouts in 6 games. Yikes, to say the least.
So can the Dodgers pull it together and win the division? Nope. I really like the Giants to win it. If their starters can be decent until the injured Bumgarner, Cueto, and Samardzija come back, then they will be golden. After all, 2018 is an even year, which is good luck for San Fran.
Wait a minute, the Pirates are in first place? What is happening? If you are a Brewers fan, do not worry, this and many other things in the NL Central are not sustainable. The Pirates will not continue this run. They had a good stretch, but over the next month they will soon fall out of the top and join the Reds (when was the last time they were good) at the bottom. What else is not sustainable? Well, the Cubs being 7-7 is definitely not. I am sorry Brewers fans, the Cubs will be good again this year. They have kept their core around for multiple years now and they are at their prime. Sure, they may have a slow start, but they did last year too. Anthony Rizzo will get hot eventually and the pitching staff will pick it up. The Brewers have a good squad this year, possibly even better, but will face a similar situation to last year. They will keep pace, but ultimately fall short to the Cubs. But do not worry, I believe the Brewers will take a wild card spot this year. As for the Cardinals, they will be mediocre and fight at .500 baseball throughout the year. But, they will never be able to get over the hump because they can not commit to a rebuild. Cubs will take the division once more.
Last and certainly least, we have the National League East. This division is, how should I describe it, a steaming pile of mediocrity. The only real team I see in this are the Nationals, but they have struggled this year and sit at fourth currently. They should be dominating this division and that raises red flags for me. So, why not root for the Mets? They are crushing it! They are sitting at 11-1 on the year and have been playing inspired baseball. When I look at this roster, I immediately see the pitching staff. If Matt Harvey, especially, can produce good results, then this team can do it. I totally think that this is sustainable. The lineup is solid with some great veterans and can definitely take advantage of this division. Unless the Nationals can shape up, then we will Yoenis Céspedes and Jacob DeGrom in the playoffs!
These are small sample sizes to make predictions out of, so do not take these to heart. However, by the way this season has shaped, you never quite know who can make a run. The season still has a long way to go.