With over 100 games left to play in the 2018 MLB season a lot could happen. Someone currently leading the pack could crash and burn. Subsequently, someone at the back of it could heat up and make a run at the postseason.
As the standings currently look, every division has at least two playoff caliber teams but two—the AL Central and the NL West. At times, the Arizona Diamondbacks have looked like the real deal, but they have struggled over the last month.
Surprisingly, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been sitting towards the bottom of the division. But it wouldn’t take much for them to get on top since they are only 2.5 games out of first (as of June 4).
The AL Central, on the other hand, has not been nearly as competitive, leaving some to speculate whether anyone actually wants to win the division.
Cleveland was expected to run away with the division once again, but even the mighty Indians have struggled. Last season, they were one of the more potent offenses in baseball (sixth in runs scored with 818; their .263 batting average was good for fifth).
In April, they scored a total of 95 runs—sixth worst in baseball.
Thanks to a decent effort by the pitching staff (an ERA of 3.58 in April; eighth overall) they were able to win more than they lost (15-12). But of the rest of the AL Central, Detroit was the only other team to accumulate double-digit wins (11).
Cleveland’s 15 was good enough to lead the division. If only their bats could wake up and start giving their pitchers a little run support. In May, they did. Cleveland went from being one of the worst offensive teams in April to the best in May (179 runs scored; first). But then the pitchers lost their swagger (4.87 ERA; good for 24th in May).
The Indians have become more entertaining to watch, but as of June 4, they are only 30-28. It’s good enough for first, but it is only 2.5 games in front of the Tigers and 3.5 in front of the Minnesota Twins. It wouldn’t take long for that lead to disappear.
But the Royals, White Sox, and Tigers are essentially in a rebuilding year, making it highly unlikely that either of those teams will catch the Indians. That leaves the Indians and Twins to battle it out for the division crown and a guaranteed spot in the postseason.
It might be kind of hard for the Twins to overcome the Indians since they can’t seem to score too many runs. Through June 4, they’ve recorded just 239 runs, fifth worst in the AL. There was hope entering the season that the Twins could turn the corner after winning a wildcard spot last year. But that is looking more and more unlikely with each passing week.
But Cleveland’s bullpen is doing whatever it can to make sure the Twins stay within striking distance. Through June 1, their collective ERA is an incredible 6.02 (worst in baseball)
You have three teams that are not trying to win, one that can’t score enough to win, and another that gives up too many to win. The sad thing is, someone is going to win the division by default and make it to the postseason. Wouldn’t it just be crazy if the ALDS is the moment the Indians or Twins (presumably) get their pitching staff and offense on the same page?
While it would be easy to overlook the Indians or Twins, it would be foolish to do so. Back in 2006, the St. Louis Cardinals struggled throughout the regular season and won just 83 games, beating out the Houston Astros for the NL Central crown by a game and a half.
Their record of 83-78 was the third worst for a playoff team in MLB history. They even limped into the playoffs having gone 12-17 in September. But then they beat the Padres in four games to move onto the NLCS. There, they took down the New York Mets in seven to earn a spot in the World Series—which they won in five.
No one from the AL Central may appear like they are interested in winning the division. But whoever does will be happy to sneak up on everyone in the postseason and win the World Series.