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Predicting The Second Half of 2014 MLB Season

Predicting The Second Half of 2014 MLB Season

Predicting The Second Half of 2014 MLB Season
By: Micah Roberts   
Sportingnews.com

LAS VEGAS -- The first half of the baseball season has given us plenty to be excited about as we have some new blood mixed in with perennial powers building the playoff landscape. Will the Tigers run away with the AL Central? Do the Brewers have enough to hang on in the tough NL Central? Can the Giants regroup? How about the Angels with the second best record in baseball yet sitting in second place?

The LVH SuperBook has been updating its odds to win each division all season long, so let's take a look at where they've moved since March and who looks to have the best chance of cashing.

NL EAST DIVISION

NATIONALS 5-9 (opened 1-2)
BRAVES 3-2 (2-1)
PHILLIES 100-1 (15-1)
METS 50-1 (20-1)
MARLINS 60-1 (25-1)

LM Outlook: The Nationals and Braves start out with a fresh slate and the second half begins a new season as both are tied for the division lead. The Nationals were supposed to be right where they are, while the Braves have surprised somewhat. The big upside here for the Nationals has been their MLB-leading 3.08 team ERA, and the possibility that one of the game's brightest stars, Bryce Harper, will give them some offensive production.

After missing all of May and June, Harper has hit just .135 in July. The good news is that he did hit his second homer of the season on the weekend prior to the All-Star break. The bad news is that he's pressing too much and has struck out 16 times in 37 July at-bats. The fact that the Nats have done all this without his contributions is pretty remarkable. Look for a better Harper -- can't be much worse -- and for the Nationals to win the division.

NL CENTRAL DIVISION

CARDINALS 11-10 (4-7)
REDS 7-2 (7-2)
PIRATES 11-2 (9-2)
BREWERS 5-2 (12-1)
CUBS 1000-1 (35-1)

LM Outlook: This battle is even better than last season's NL Central race because the Brewers have been added to the mix with Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. The Cardinals' pitching has been outstanding this season with 17 team shutouts, but the loss of Yadier Molina calling the games (expected out 8-12 weeks, thumb), along with his bat, is a major blow to the Cardinals, a team that can't afford to lose good bats. So if the Cardinals appear weaker, who can step up and win this thing?

Cincinnati has received good starting pitching, but hasn't been able to rely on Joey Votto or Brandon Phillips for their normal offensive support (both are hurt now, too). Over in Pittsburgh, they've been scrapping away to make up for a terrible first two months and are playing their preferred brand of ball right now. Meanwhile, Milwaukee has cooled considerably after a hot start, as the previously strong starting rotation has failed them of late. The Cardinals are still the class of the division, but taking a shot with Pittsburgh to win it at 11-to-2 odds wouldn't be a bad choice amid all the issues the other three teams have,

NL WEST DIVISION

DODGERS 2-5 (4-11)
GIANTS 2-1 (9-2)
DIAMONDBACKS 300-1 (12-1)
PADRES 300-1 (10-1)
ROCKIES 300-1 (15-1)

LM Outlook: The Dodgers have that look of running away like they did at the end of June last season, and while they still haven't received the type of hitting expected out of Hanley Ramirez (.275), Matt Kemp (8 HRs) or Adrian Gonzalez (.260), Yasiel Puig keeps doing his thing. Not to mention, the added element of Dee Gordon (43 stolen bases), along with unlikely contributions from the likes of Scott Van Slyke and Justin Turner has helped keep the Dodgers offense afloat.

But we all know the real reason for their rise to the top after San Francisco looked as though they would run away with the division. It's all pitching. Any team that can roll out a rotation headed by Clayton Kershaw (1.78 ERA), Zack Greinke (2.73), Hyun-Jin Ryu (10-5), and a reborn Josh Beckett (2.26 ERA) will be hard to beat, and it's the reason they're considered World Series favorites with Detroit and Oakland at 9-to-2. If those four starters continue to perform at this level, the Dodgers would be favored in every series during the playoffs with possibly a pick 'em in the World Series, where the AL will now have home-field edge because of Tuesday night's All-Star Game result.

As for the Giants, it's obvious they are a much better club offensively with Brandon Belt in the lineup, but the rotation hasn't been as effective lately with even their most consistent starter, Tim Hudson, looking very vulnerable. The bullpen has lots of issues as well with Sergio Romo in a major funk. He lost his closer role to Santiago Casilla. They still have a second wind in them, though, and should be fighting for a wild card.

AL EAST DIVISION

RED SOX 15-1 (2-1)
RAYS 15-1 (2-1)
YANKEES 3 (5-2)
ORIOLES 11-10 (8-1)
BLUE JAYS 12-5 (12-1)

LM Outlook: It's been since 1997 that the Orioles have won the division and 1993 since the Blue Jays won the division (they also won the World Series that season). All the other teams that won during what is essentially the Derek Jeter era -- the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox -- find themselves third through fifth, respectively. And while it would be nice to see some fresh blood win it, the division race has a feel of not being anywhere close to over.

Baltimore pitching has been good, but their staff has the look of one that could get into a major funk. Mark Buehrle has cooled off for Toronto and Edwin Encarnacion (26 homers and 70 RBI) is sidelined for another two weeks. So while the old guard of the division is down for now, it wouldn't be a surprise to see either current last place team -- Tampa Bay and Boston -- make up 9.5 games.

Betting on it is another story. The Yankees don't have any sense of urgency in Jeter's last season to improve their starting rotation and Boston appears worn out. The Rays could be a team that gets themselves fired up and back into this thing, but the safer bet seems to be on Baltimore.

AL CENTRAL DIVISION

TIGERS 1-7 (4-11)
INDIANS 7-1 (6-1)
ROYALS 7-1 (9-2)
WHITE SOX 100-1 (15-1)
TWINS 100-1 (35-1)

LM Outlook: So should we just skip this one? The Tigers' starting rotation alone makes them appear to be a cinch for the division, even though they have only a 6.5-game lead over Kansas City and 7.5 over Cleveland. The Royals had that impressive 10-game win streak in June, but quickly shot themselves in the foot after briefly taking over first place. There are too many well-placed components to the Tigers' success that makes them able to withstand the type of injuries that might cripple other teams.

AL WEST DIVISION

A'S 2-3 (9-5)
RANGERS 5000-1 (2-1)
ANGELS 6-5 (9-5)
MARINERS 15-1 (10-1)
ASTROS 5000-1 (100-1)

LM Outlook: This is going to be fun to watch down the stretch. The two best records in baseball and surprisingly, the LVH isn't making the A's too big of a favorite even with the starting pitching they acquired from the Cubs. The A's have a 1.5-game lead, but can't shake the Angels who come strong with the bats and pitching every night. This team is loaded, and while everything has come together offensively with their high-priced free agents playing well, it's been the gritty guys like Kole Calhoun, Collin Cowgill and C.J. Cron chipping in with big contributions. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar are quietly having their best year together. And then there is Mike Trout.

Aside from all that, the biggest key that has taken the Angels to that next level of competing for the division and beyond has been the emergence of Garrett Richards (11-2, 2.55 ERA, 127 K), who is dominating.

The A's are finally considered an elite team and not just one of those from the 'Moneyball' era that will be pesky for New York or Boston to deal with in the playoffs. However, this Angels run is gaining some steam and the whole NorCal-SoCal thing is going to be fun to watch. These two teams will play all over the place against other squads until finally hooking up for seven key games in late August. Oakland is more stable, but Los Angeles appears to have more upside. Have we seen their best, or is it yet to come? Let's go with the Angels to win the division.

Mid-season Predictions:

NL Division winners: Dodgers, Nationals, Pirates
NL Wild Card teams: Cardinals, Giants
NL Champion: Dodgers
AL Division winners: Angels, Tigers, Orioles
AL Wild Card teams: A's, Mariners
AL Champion: Angels
World Series Champions: Dodgers

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