Looking into baseball crystal ball, take two | VailDaily.com

Looking into baseball crystal ball, take two

Chris Freud

There is no baseball for the two days.

This is a disturbing development for those of us with no life.

(Yes, there’s the ESPYs, but why isn’t Mikaela Shiffrin up for an award? And Lindsey Vonn has no chance of Best Female Athlete — Serena Williams — and Best Comeback Athlete — Derrick Rose or Rob Gronkowski wins. Really, Vonn should win for her comeback and both Vonn and Shiffrin should be up for Best Female Athlete, but ESPN doesn’t give a hoot about skiing.)

So, what do we do?

We size up the MLB races.

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NL West

The Dodgers lead the Giants by 4.5 games, and this should be very interesting. The Dodgers are not as good as expected because they live and die by the long ball and their pitching is questionable.

There is nothing wrong with Clayton Kershaw this year — he’s just not pitching like a god this year. But they have a mortal Kershaw and somewhat invincible Zach Greinke and not much else in the rotation.

Los Angeles should be in the Cole Hamels/Johnny Cueto sweepstakes. They will make a move. But not having a clear edge in pitching and the ability to manufacture a run in tight ball games make the Dodgers vulnerable.

Tim Lincecum is essentially done in San Francisco — we love you forever, Timmy, but 85 mph ain’t a fastball. The Giants have Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy and Chris Heston, making a nice rotation with some combination of Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong as the fifth.

Hunter Pence is healthy and the defending champs need Nori Aoki back. The Giants will make some odd-looking trade to acquire a set-up man to beef up the bullpen and make a run.

Yes, I’m completely biased, but the Giants have winning DNA, and the Dodgers don’t. I make no guesses as to what happens in the postseason, but no one wants to see the Giants in October.

NL Central

Aren’t the Cardinals just so annoying? Half of their team is injured, and they’re still the best in baseball. (Their only Kryptonite is the Giants in the postseason, which still surprises me. Travis Ishikawa?)

Speaking of the guy who hit the walk-off homer in the NLCS, he’s a Pirate. Pittsburgh is in the wrong division and I hope they get a wild card. They’re good. The Cubs are getting there. They might snag the second wild card.

The Reds are going to disassemble themselves in the next two weeks, which will be fun to watch.

NL East

Meet the most mystifying team in baseball, the Nationals. On paper, this is the best team in baseball. Washington just isn’t playing like it. Yes, they’re dinged up on offense, but they really should be running away with the division. The Nats should win the East, but another postseason meltdown, and manager Matt Williams is gone.

It would be tempting for the Mets to trade one of their starters to acquire some hitting and jump into the middle of the playoff chase. Don’t do it. One can never have enough pitching. The Mets will win this division next year. Just be patient.

AL West

The Houston Astros were the feel-good story of the first half, and, who knows? They may be young enough not to know that they shouldn’t be contending for the division title yet. The Angels, however, are the real deal. They are one of the best teams in the AL with Albert Pujols at full form. The Los Angeles team playing somewhere in California should win the division.

Still waiting for Seattle to show a pulse. (Yep, I was sucked into the hype there.)

AL Central

I did not think lightning could strike twice with Kansas City. I was wrong. (I have nothing against the Royals. They were just in the way last year.)

This division is having a changing of the guard, particularly with the Tigers’ decline, which will not be helped by Miguel Cabrera’s injury. Does Detroit deal David Price? (He’s going elsewhere this offseason as a free agent.)

Meanwhile, the Twins are the surprise of this division, and the Indians always seem to make a late charge.

AL East

Not a good division. The Yankees may slide into the playoffs. There is some pitching there. The Rays being in this is a testament to their farm system. If I were the Red Sox, I’d have a yard sale.

I had Nationals-Mariners in the Series at the start of the season. Let’s adjust to Cardinals-Angels.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

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