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When we’re talking about stats or the standings in baseball, the “first half” are the games played before the All-Star break — regardless of whether a team has played 81 of its first 162 scheduled games. Most teams will reach that mark the the end of the holiday weekend, yet there’s still two more weeks of play before we get to the break.
As such, being only halfway through the season even though it’s been such a grind to get to this point, let’s take a look at each playoff race and predict how fun (read: close) it’ll be. 
AL East — Snoozefest. It’s over. 
AL Central — We discussed this last week and the conclusion is the same. Though it might not be the best baseball, there’s a great shot it’ll be incredibly fun. The White Sox are in third place, but within striking range and have a boatload of head-to-heads remaining against both the Guardians and Twins
AL West — The Astros can yawn their way to another title here, so we’ll yawn along with them. The fact that two division leaders have a lead of 13 1/2 games at the Fourth of July is ridiculous. 
AL wild cards — AL East teams hold all three spots right now, but the Guardians are only 1 1/2 games out. The White Sox are four out and, get this, the Rangers and Mariners are only five out. With the AL East being so tough — even the Orioles aren’t that far behind here at 7 1/2 back — there could well be an opening for a lesser-looking roster. There’s potential for major chaos here and that’s fun. 
NL East — I’m counting the Phillies out now, but a Mets-Braves race is intriguing. It’s currently a 3 1/2 game lead for the Mets, though it was once 10 1/2, which means the conventional wisdom here is “the Braves have all the momentum and are going to catch them.” For me, what matters most is that the Mets have the lead. Those early-season wins count just as much as the Braves’ June wins. It’s going to be a fight, but the Mets have the advantage. Best of all, there are 15 games left between the two teams(!), starting a week from Monday. 👀
NL Central — It’s a two-team race, just as most assumed it would be from early on. Unfortunately, there are only seven games left between the Brewers and Cardinals. Fortunately, they will be very competitive. They are each 6-6 against one another so far, with three four-game splits. 
NL West — The Dodgers did a little separating here this past weekend, though the Padres salvaging Sunday made it workable. Still, the smart money is on the Dodgers. In fact, a Dodgers win by at least 10 games here seems more likely than another team winning it. 
NL wild cards — Whichever contenders don’t win the Central and East will be major players here, as will the Padres. Those would be the chalk picks at this point (giving us the Mets, Braves, Cardinals, Brewers, Dodgers and Padres in the playoffs), but the Giants and Phillies are in the ballpark and even the Marlins are within striking range. The potential for chaos here is far lower than the AL, but it’s possible. We’ll go with a medium-level-of-fun prediction. Beats those AL East and AL West races, right? 
1st in The Official Power Rankings — The Yankees have held down the top spot for the last several weeks with ease, but I think the Astros and Dodgers are going to make this a fun three-team race the rest of the way. 
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