2017 MLB Season: The Big Storylines Going into All-Star Break

The 2017 MLB season has seen a lot of great individual performances, such as the show that Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have been putting on as rookies, and also a lot of teams overachieving and underachieving their expectations, such as the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs, respectively. Here are some big storylines to look out for going into the All-Star Break in about a week’s time:

Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger’s Rookie Ceilings

A lot of rookies hit the ‘rookie ceiling’, or the ‘rookie wall’, as some people like to call it. Aaron Judge (26 HRs) and Cody Bellinger (24 HRs) are on their way to breaking rookie records that have been almost impossible to break. Both are on pace to break Mark McGwire’s record of 48 HRs in a season, which has been standing since 1987, and the two have also excelled in other areas (batting average, on-base percentage, etc.). The challenge, however, is keeping this up. Both Bellinger and Judge have been invited to the Home Run Derby, however, Judge does not seem like he is as interested as Bellinger. In many ways, this is a smart move, as it keeps him healthier going throughout the rest of the season. I expect both of them to get 40+ HRs, but Judge breaks the record.

The Nationals’ Bullpen Struggles

The Washington Nationals seem to have some kind of a discombobulated and non-existent bullpen. As displayed yesterday evening in their 5-4 loss to the Chicago Cubs at home, the bullpen doesn’t know how to keep their composure. The Nationals were leading 4-2 with 1 out left when Blake Treinen decides to sleep-pitch his way to get the last out. Treinen let Javier Baez get a single after Jeimer Candelario got a base-hit with 1 out, and then Tommy La Stella’s RBI single brough both Baez and Candelario in to score, and that’s how the game ended. Now, that being said, the Nats’ big time bullpen players like Sammy Solis and Francisco Rodriguez are returning from injury and being signed to the team, respectively, so if those two can provide sparks for this team. The Nats can gain my full confidence as the favorites in the NL as their offense is extremely impressive.

Houston Doesn’t Have a Problem Anymore

The Houston Astros for the longest time were the laughing stock of the MLB, always having the worst record in the MLB, and just having a terrible roster and management, in general. Now, after years of tanking, the Houston Astros have found their way, and are the current holder of the MLB’s best record. They have the second-highest scoring offense (445 runs), and are 1st in batting average (.283), on-base percentage (.349), and slugging percentage (.485). On the pitching side, they are currently 3rd in earned-run average, or ERA (3.82). Houston is also expected to have 4 unanimously chosen All-Stars this year in Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa, George Springer, and Lance McCullers. Expect this dominance to continue throughout the year, and for the Astros to be the World Series favorites.

 

 

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The Best MLB Storylines After All-Star Break

The MLB has been the center of attention in terms of sports to watch now that the Cleveland Cavaliers have brought an NBA championship to The Land, and with All-Star Break over and the season back in swing, here are my predictions for what will happen after the break.

How Legit Are the Orioles?

Let’s get serious now about something, their pitching stinks outside of Chris Tillman. I mean SPs Kevin Gausman and Ubaldo Jimenez were supposed to be huge this year, but it hasn’t happened. However, they are one of the best hitting teams in the MLB, led by 3B Manny Machado and RF Mark Trumbo, and their fielding has been bailing out their pitchers quite a bit. I will be very concerned in the playoffs if the pitching does not improve by then, but they can light up the scoreboard for sure, and that can make them a threat to teams like the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians (the top 2 seeds in the AL).  Also, if they can get a high seed, they could coast their way to the World Series (33 wins at home).

The Case for Texas and Cleveland

Yes, I am talking about the Texas Rangers and Cleveland Indians. If the Indians were to win the World Series, then Cleveland may as well just become the new Paris (except unlike the 2016 France Soccer team, Cleveland has a championship). The Rangers were off to a hot start to the year, but in their last 10 games, they have gone 3-7 overall, and only have a +16 run differential. Cleveland has a +81 run differential, and Baltimore, whom we mentioned earlier as a threat to these teams, had a +41 run differential. Texas hasn’t produced much, scoring 41 runs in their last 10 games, and allowing 94. If this keeps up, Baltimore and Cleveland will fight ‘til the end for the top seed in the AL.

What About Dem Cubbies?

The Chicago Cubs just could not seem to find their mark in June. Their pitching, including SP Jake Arrieta, who was supposed to be the best in the biz, has been on a downfall lately, and the team is starting to get a bit overconfident. Manager Joe Maddon has to do a better job of mixing it up and keeping the team intact. They do not want to turn out like the 2015-16 Golden State Warriors in the NBA, blowing a 3-1 series lead to the Cavaliers, and losing in 7. If they get to the World Series, they better not perform like that.

Do the Washington Nationals Have a Clear Path to the World Series?

The Washington Nationals seem to be having a very clear path in the NL right now because no team is overly good right now besides the Nats. The Cubs are disappearing, the Giants are inconsistent, the Mets look like the best team in the league, and then the worst. I mean the NL has turned into a roller-coaster with too many twists, turns, and drops, and it is making baseball fans sick. The Nationals have been so good across the board, with guys like infielder Daniel Murphy, C Wilson Ramos, OFs Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, and SPs Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer playing on top of their game, that they seem so dominant, and yet their record doesn’t say so. If they keep playing like they have, though, it’ll be smooth sailing for the Nats.

Who Will Be the Wild Card Teams for Each League?

Right now, in the AL, the Wild Card spots belong to the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays. In the NL, the spots belong to the LA Dodgers and NY Mets (Mets hold tiebreaker over Miami Marlins). I think that the Dodgers will make it in as a Wild Card team for the NL. As far as the 2nd Wild Card spot in the NL, I think that the Marlins have been so good of late, and OF Giancarlo Stanton’s confidence is through the roof after his historic All-Star Break (he hit 61 HRs in the Home Run Derby to be crowned Derby champion), and that will propel Miami to the playoffs for the first time in 12 years (they won the World Series in ’03). For the AL, I don’t think any teams are going competitive enough to prevent either Boston or Toronto from being Wild Card teams.

Front-Runners for MVPs?

For the AL, I would have to say it will be neck-and-neck between Mark Trumbo and Jose Altuve. Their stats are so similar, but I think that Altuve’s improvement from a fantastic 2015 campaign gives him the AL MVP. For the NL, it’s Kris Bryant, Bryce Harper, and Giancarlo Stanton. I think that Harper gets the edge due to how he has played as of late.