Freud: At the break: Forecast for the second half of baseball (column) |

Freud: At the break: Forecast for the second half of baseball (column)

With pitchers like Justin Verlander, it's no surprise that the Houston Astros lead the American League West at the All-Star Break. Expect more of the same from the defending champs.
David J. Phillip | Associated Press file photo | AP

Happy All-Star Break, everyone.

It’s a late break because of the World Cup, and most teams have played more than 95 games, so we’re getting to the nuts and bolts seemingly sooner than usual.

Here’s the breakdown on the races.

NL West

Preseason pick: Dodgers

First place: Dodgers.

This has seemed like the division no one wants to win. The Dodgers were near comatose for a while. The Rockies and Diamondbacks have regressed from last year as predicted. The injury-racked Giants are only four games out.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers seem to be surging and, by all reports, will be acquiring Manny Machado from the Orioles. Isn’t it just like the Dodgers to pick up an unknown such as Max Muncy and see him turn into a stud? Quite annoying.

Yes, this is pure homerism on the part of the sports editor, but if the Giants could just get a pulse on offense, then this could be a race. Probably not going to happen.

As for the Rockies, yes, Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson are pitching well, but they still can’t eat innings, and the rest of the rotation stinks. Don’t worry kids, it will be Broncos’ season soon.

We’ll stick begrudgingly with the Dodgers.

NL Central

Preseason pick: Cubs.

First place: Cubs.

Talent rises to the top in baseball, and this division is a good example. The Pirates started hot and then collapsed. The Brewers led the pack, as they did last year, but have fallen on hard times. The Cubs were and still are the best team here.

Under the category of “the strange times in which we live,” the Cubs will make the postseason for the third year in row … for the first time since 1906-08.

The question here is whether the midmarket Brewers pull the trigger on a deal before July 31? They didn’t last year, and it cost Milwaukee a playoff spot last year.

NL East

Preseason pick: Nationals.

First place: Phillies.

The Phillies and Braves seem to be ahead of schedule, while the Nationals are underachieving woefully. The Nats provide in instructive tale for the Phils and the Braves — go for it.

Washington was going to be the power team in the National League during this decade with all its young talent. They sat Stephen Strasburg ahead of the 2012 postseason because there’d be plenty of opportunities ahead.

How’d that work out?

When there is no super team in your league as is the case with the National League this year, go, go, go. The Phillies and the Braves may be a year “ahead of schedule,” but with three/four rounds (with the wild card) of playoffs, the best team doesn’t always win. Get in and get hot.

We’ll say the Phillies win the East.

NL wild cards

Preseason picks: Cardinals and Brewers.

Current wild cards: Brewers and Braves.

St. Louis has to be the most disappointing team in the NL, and the Cards have already canned Mike Matheny.

The wild card seems like four teams — Brewers, Braves, Diamondbacks and Nationals — for two spots. We’ll go with the Braves and the Nats, the latter simply a guess based on the ridiculous talent on that roster.

AL West

Preseason pick: Astros.

First place: Astros.

Houston can hit, which is great. The Astros also have the novel concept of starting pitching with hurlers who go more than five innings. Quite quaint.

The Mariners are the surprise of the American League, but may not have the gas to finish. Do the A’s make a deal to try to make the wild card, likely against the Red Sox or Yankees? Oakland was burned back in 2014 by this strategy, so maybe not.

Either way, Houston returns to the playoffs to do battle with the Red Sox and Yankees.

AL Central

Preseason pick: Indians.

First place: Indians.

Cleveland aside, this division stinks. Not a hard call.

AL East

Preseason pick: Yankees.

First place: Red Sox.

J.D. Martinez with Boston certainly qualifies as the best offseason signing … for now. (He’s 30 and in the first year of a five-year contract.) The Red Sox appear to have the edge on the Bronx Bombers in pitching, so we’re happy to be wrong.

And, yes, despite the exciting world of advanced stats and home-run–or-bust approach, this game is still about pitching. We’ll see what these two rivals do at the trade deadline. Both franchises can afford to take on extra salary and the luxury tax.

Go Sox.

AL wild cards

Preseason picks: Red Sox and “It doesn’t matter.”

Current wild cards: Yankees and Mariners.

The American League has three teams in it: Astros, Red Sox and Yankees. Certainly, the Mariners can knock off the Yankees in one game in October, but I wouldn’t bet on it, given that Luis Sevrino gets the start for the Pinstripes.

We’ll call it Yankees and “It doesn’t matter.”

World Series

Preseason pick: Cubs over Astros.

Always stick on 17, people.

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