After examining the American League odds yesterday, today we turn to the playoff picture in the NL, the ostensibly superior league. (The NL representative has won four of the last five World Series.)
Odds to win the NL East:
The East has shaped up to be just a two-horse race this season: one horse is a thoroughbred, and one horse is really just a donkey in disguise.
After a slow start to the year, the World Series-favored Nationals have found their form and staked themselves to a two-game lead in the division at the break. This might be an understatement, but the starting rotation is championship caliber, highlighted by Max Scherzer and his 2.11 ERA. Drew Storen, despite not getting an All-Star nod, is having a great year closing. The outfield is led by NL MVP candidate and always entertaining Bryce Harper. Top to bottom, the nation’s capital has a very strong team.
Up in New York, the Mets went on an early 11-game win streak, which has allowed them to stay in the conversation, even after cooling off in June and dropping back to .500 momentarily. The Mets have one of the best team ERA’s in baseball, thanks in part to last season’s Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom and surprisingly successful closer Jeurys Familia.
However, the Mets are one of the worst hitting teams in baseball; they’re currently dead-last in team average and have a -2 run differential despite being 47-42. With David Wright unlikely to return this season and Michael Cuddyer having a pretty terrible year at the plate, the Mets will need to enlist some serious offensive help if they want to be in the playoff discussion come September.
Odds to win the NL Central:
The St. Louis Cardinals are good at baseball. Who knew?
Perennial playoff entrants, the Cards haven’t let injuries to Adam Wainwright, Matt Holliday, and Jon Jay stop them from running show in the NL Central. St. Louis has been nearly unbeatable at Busch Stadium (31-11) so, regardless of whether they’re achieving these wins above board or not, this team is unlikely to slow down in the second half.
If Pittsburgh wants to leapfrog the Cards (after dropping last year’s Wild Card game, it would be in their best interest), adding some help in the field couldn’t hurt. While the Bucs are on par with the Cards in runs scored (356 versus 355 for St. Louis) and team ERA (2.88 versus 2.71 for St. Louis), the Pirates have one of the worst fielding percentages in the National league and have racked up 62 errors on the year.
The Pirates still have nine games left against the Cards to help them close the gap, but six will be on the road. (Did we mention St. Louis dominates at Busch?) Without adding a little more help, it’s tough to see them jumping in front.
Meanwhile, the Cubs have a very realistic shot at the playoffs, just not as the division winner. A strong pitching staff coupled with the powerful young bats of Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant are finally giving fans at Wrigley something to cheer about. While they probably won’t end their 111-year World Series drought, they’re a solid bet to end their six year absence from the postseason by getting the second Wild Card spot, currently one game up on the Donkeys … I mean Mets … and two clear of San Fran.
The Reds and Brewers will just have to play out the stretch, possibly selling assets to their division rivals. Heck, maybe the Brewers can bring back Mr. 3000 to finish up the year
Odds to win the NL West:
The Dodgers are humming right along at the top of the NL West with a 4.5-game lead that is likely to grow in the second half. Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.39 ERA) is having another CY Young type year, out-pitching three-time winner Clayton Kershaw (6-6, 2.85 ERA), who’s having a down year by his standards.
On offense, rookie Joc Pederson has been a revelation in this veteran-heavy order. With a +62 run differential on the season, the Dodgers should remain the best in the west.
That’s partly because the Giants are in the middle of their World Series hangover. The last two times San Fran has won the World Series (2010, 2012), they’ve missed the playoffs the following year. Their starting rotation was supposed to be a strength, but it’s been average at best, posting a collective 3.91 ERA. Matt Cain’s return should help this group get on track in the second half, but this looks like a Wild Card team at best.
Arizona is on the periphery of the conversation at 7.5 games back. Led by Paul Goldschmidt, the D-Backs have one of the league’s best offenses. But atrocious pitching has them at an even run differential, and dealing for arms isn’t really part of this team’s plan.
Then there’s the lowly Padres, who entered this season with such high hopes, but are now staring at the reality of being sellers at the deadline. The same – minus the high-hopes – can be said of the Rockies, who remain 11 games back of L.A. despite sweeping a four game set from the Braves heading into the break.
Odds to finish in the Wild Card spots:
(Photo Credit: Keith Allison (Originally posted to Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/])
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