With the trade deadline in the rearview mirror, the playoff picture is becoming clearer in the National League. After early and midseason falters from the Nationals and Cubs respectively, both clubs have jumped out to comfortable leads in their divisions. The Giants have not been playing good baseball lately, but due to a battered and bruised Dodgers rotation, San Francisco has managed to hang on to their division lead by 2.5 games. I don’t see the giants having losing months in August or September, so expect to see the black and orange come October.
As for the wild card, there are some potential surprise clubs in the mix. Despite all of the injuries to starting pitching and the Yasiel Puig demotion, the Dodgers have lingered in the West and hold a 3 game lead in the wild card standings. Corey Seager seams like a lock for NL Rookie of the Year, but it’s looking like he may garner some MVP votes as well. Seager is having the best offensive season for a Dodgers shortstop ever. With the most productive outfield in baseball, the Fish are tied for second (more on the Redbirds later) with the second wild card spot. Despite Giancarlo Stanton’s early struggles, the outfield in Miami has averaged for a .856 OPS, far better than any other team in either league.
After pitching their way to last year’s World Series, the Mets have sustained both serious and nagging injuries to their esteemed rotation. With as many young, power arms there are in the Mets rotation, there is twice as much uncertainty regarding the future health and/or performance of each of their starters (save Bartolo Colon, strangely enough). They have lingered, but I don’t see a playoff berth for the winners of the 2015 NL Pennant. Colorado has played above their heads, and Pittsburgh has played below theirs. Neither will make any noise in 2016, but it will be interesting to see what type of role the Rockies play out west over the next few seasons.
And of course, there is St. Louis. I save the Cardinals for last mainly because I cannot decide what type of team they are. The starters, while performing well at times, can’t seem to establish any consistency. The depth chart has taken some hits as well, most recently with Aledmys Diaz finding himself on the DL. Still, despite sitting 9.5 back in the central, they remain in contention for the wild card, and it isn’t wise to discount St. Louis come playoff time.
Here is my forecast for the National League when the regular season comes to an end:
Chicago Cubs (101-61)
Washington Nationals (94-68)
San Francisco Giants (91-71)
Miami Marlins (88-74)
Los Angeles Dodgers (85-77)
So now I ask: Who’s going to buy me a beer if I’m 5/5 come October?