Sports

MLB baseball is back, playoff contenders are familiar

Spring weather is just about to finally arrive in Pittsburgh, and with it comes the fever for baseball that fans across the country miss dearly in the winter. After the Houston Astros’ impressive World Series win in 2017, and with the 2018 season well under way, what can fans expect to happen in MLB baseball this year?

American League (AL)

East: All likelihood goes to the New York Yankees in the race for the AL East this season. By adding last year’s home run leader in Giancarlo Stanton to a powerful lineup that already holds Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez, this team has the power to out-slug and outscore just about any team in the entire MLB. Their pitching staff is nothing to shake at, either. Luis Severino finished in third place in Cy Young voting last season, and the return of Sonny Gray will help to stabilize their starting rotation. Look for the Yankees to score 200 runs.

The Boston Red Sox should be the first AL wild card, too, with the way they’re looking.

Central: Obviously, anybody would pick the Cleveland Indians. They’re still rolling from their two consecutive postseason appearances, Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are a vicious one-two punch in the starting pitching rotation, and, if Fransisco Lindow can carry over his success from last season, this team will be tough to beat.

Don’t count out the Minnesota Twins as a possible wild card, however.

West: The Astros. Come on. They won the World Series last year and aren’t showing any signs of slowing down. After acquiring Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh, the Astros might have the most consistency in a five-man pitching rotation of anyone in the league. Don’t worry about the Astros making the postseason.

National League (NL)

East: The clear front runner in the NL East is, possibly for the last year, the Washington Nationals. They’ve got two of the best pitchers in the entire league in Max Scherzer, coming off his third Cy Young Award season, and Stephen Strasburg. Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon, Adam Eaton, and Trea Turner all make up an incredibly strong starting lineup that can hit with the best of teams. Scherzer and Daniel Murphy are getting older, and Harper is a free agent next year, so the Nats better strike while the iron is hot and try to get that first World Series win now.

Watch out for the Philadelphia Phillies in a wildcard spot, now that Jake Arrieta has signed with them. They’re a young corps with a lot of room to sail to easy victories against the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, and Miami Marlins.

Central: My heart screams Pittsburgh Pirates because of the extreme home town bias, but I have to hand this year’s Central victory to the Chicago Cubs again. They’re only getting better in adding pitcher Yu Darvish from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the off season, and Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood all can clean up after him. The Cubs don’t lack in power, either, with Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant forming a fearsome 1-2 starting lineup.

Any team in this division other than the Cincinnati Reds could take the wild card or even challenge for the division. The St. Louis Cardinals have been quiet, which usually means they’re stirring up some witchcraft to win another World Series. The Pirates are the Pirates and might stumble into a wildcard spot without the help of Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole if their pitchers can eat innings and Gregory Polanco has as massive a year as everyone is hoping, and the Milwaukee Brewers have no shortage of power on their end, either. It’s anybody’s game in the NL Central once again, in my eyes.

West: Anyone who doesn’t say the Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t winning the division this year isn’t as crazy as they sound. Much like the Central, four of the five teams in this division have a solid chance of making the playoffs, be it a division win or a Wild Card grab.

The Dodgers are the Dodgers. They have all the money in the world and the talent to back it up. Just to name a few: reigning NL rookie of the year Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, and Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers have the chance to run away with this division, while the San Francisco Giants are a team that can hit. After bringing in McCutchen and Evan Longoria, this team has the potential to be one of the most potent offenses in the MLB. Watch out for them in the wild card round, and, since it’s an even numbered year, the World Series. It’s baseball time!