Baseball

MLB Final Month Preview: National League

Brewers vs. Giants
Jeff Hanisch – USA TODAY Sports

The calendar has flipped to September which means the final month of the MLB regular season is here. It is the final stretch which means anything can happen. Based on the current standings it looks like it is going to be another incredible finish. This article is going to dive into the expected results in the National League.

East

Predicted Winner: Atlanta Braves

The National League East has been one of the most intriguing divisions to watch all season mainly because every team has been absolutely terrible. For a long time there was a relatively high possibility that a team with a record under .500 would take the NL East title. None of the teams have proven to be worthy of a playoff spot.

Through June there was a chance that all five teams could get to the top. The New York Mets eventually started putting things together and on July 15 were eight games over .500 and four games up on the second place Philadelphia Phillies. Yet, with this division no lead is safe. On August 15 the Mets had dropped to third place and the Atlanta Braves had taken sole possession of the top spot. At the start of September the Braves are nine games over and only 2.5 up on the Phillies and 5.5 up on the Mets.

The Braves have been able to transform themselves through a unique strategy. On July 10 superstar Ronald Acuna Jr. tore is ACL which ended his season. Instead of trying to replace him with one player they went with the Moneyball strategy. They acquired Jorge Soler, Joc Pederson and Adam Duvall, none of whom can single handedly do what Acuna can do, but together can be an almost unstoppable offensive trio.

Even though the Phillies and Mets still have the capability to make a run for the division the Braves have found a nice stride which will get them to October with the division title.

Central

Predicted Winner: Milwaukee Brewers

One of the biggest surprises of the season is the Milwaukee Brewers who enter the final month with an 81-52 record in first place 10 games up on the Cincinnati Reds. If people just looked at their offensive output it would be pretty difficult to understand how they are in first place. They have been one of the worst teams when it comes to hitting and scoring runs with runners in scoring position. This has made for some painful losses in low close games.

On the other hand it is easy to understand why they are so good when analyzing their pitching. They have maybe the best trio of starters in baseball with Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. They sit at the top in almost all of the major stats. At least two of three are in the top 10 in ERA, strikeouts, WHIP and opponent batting average. Additionally, it does not stop with starters. Their bullpen is stacked with talent including Brad Boxberger, Jake Cousins, Brent Suter and two reliever of the year candidates in Devin Williams and Josh Hader.

They have also gotten offensive production from every single guy they put in. They are such a difficult team to pitch against because of their all around help. Although Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain haven’t been as useful as in previous years they are getting a lot of help from guys like Omar Narvaez, Kolten Wong, Willy Adames and Jace Peterson just to name a few.

The Reds are on pace to make the playoffs, but their chances at the division are slipping quickly as the Brew Crew continues to play good baseball no matter who they go up against.

West

Predicted Winner: San Fransisco Giants

What more is there to say about this absurd division? Most seasons there is not even a contest as the Los Angeles Dodgers run away with the west. They have won the National League West title in eight straight years. Although they are still one of the best teams they are having to deal with an incredible San Fransisco Giants club.

The Giants enter September with a spectacular 84-48 record, but only have a 0.5 game lead over the Dodgers. For the longest time they held a 2.5 game lead. What one team did, the other team did the same making it impossible for either team to break away. This has been the story of the west all season, especially since the Giants took sole possession on April 29.

The Giants have lost two straight games to the Brewers which has allowed the Dodgers to move closer. This is a scary thought, but they should not be too worried. Prior to these games the Giants were 19-7 in August. Yes, they are in a bit of a tough stretch, but this team has faced adversity all season, battled back in the late innings and won a lot of close games. It has not been a fluke that they have the best record in baseball with excellent pitching and clutch hitting from everyone.

It will not be an easy final month especially since they start with two games against the Brewers and three against the Dodgers. Over the final 22 games they have 10 huge matchups against the San Diego Padres, seven of which are at home. As long as their big bats like Kris Bryant, Mike Yastrzemski and Brandon Crawford as well as pitchers like Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani can continue to be successful it will be hard for the Dodgers to take the division title away from them.

Wild Card

First Seed

It is clear the top seed will belong to the team that comes in second in the West. In this case this spot will go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

They have the second best record in baseball with one of the best groups of pitchers which includes Max Scherzer, Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and Kenley Jansen. Buehler will most likely win the National League Cy Young as he holds the best ERA (2.05), second best WHIP (0.91) and opponent batting average (.187), and third most wins (13).

Not to mention their offense which is filled will power from top to bottom. In a year when Mookie Betts has been hurt and Cody Bellinger has struggled to do anything they have been supported by guys like Will Smith, AJ Pollock and Max Muncy, just to name a few.

Second Seed

The second wild card spot will probably be decided in the final series of the season. Right now there is a tie with the Reds and San Diego Padres. They are not the only ones interested in this spot. There are teams like the Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals who want to join the fun. With four teams battling for the one spot it seems the most likely team to grab it is the Reds.

The Reds have been one of the most fun and surprising teams to watch. Nobody expected them to have one of the biggest offensive powerhouses in baseball which includes Joey Votto, Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker and Tyler Naquin.

Their offense has had no problem, rather it is their pitching which has given them the most problems. Their ace Luis Castillo started the season 1-8 through May which included an 8.04 ERA in May. One of their great relievers Amir Garrett started the season poorly with 20 runs in his first 19.1 innings pitched.

After a rough start for these two they have pitched much better over the second half of the season. Their pitching has been highly reliable with great starters like Wade Miley, Sonny Gray and Tyler Mahle. All of these great arms put the Reds in a position win a lot of games with lengthy outings.

The National League race will be tight all the way up until the end. It would not be very surprising if the rare game 163 made an appearance. In September anything can happen and it is the time where teams prove if they can handle the pressure.

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  1. Pingback: MLB Final Month Preview: American League - Championship Sports Media

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