Can we determine the contenders this early?

The MLB season is well underway with most teams having played about 1/3 of their schedule which is about 55 games. A couple of months ago I wrote about the season starting. The article covered expert team predictions, expert player predictions, and my own personal predictions. Obviously teams have plenty of time to either start playing better or playing poorer, but 1/3 of the way into the season gives us a good preview of where it may end up. We can also look at the early leaders for MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year.

I, along with the experts predicted the AL would be a race between the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, and Indians. I gave the Twins and Rays a shot to compete and that is a good thing. The Twins have come out firing on all cylinders and have the best record in the league. Are they for real? It looks to be that way based on the strength of their offense. They lead the league in home runs. They also have a nice pitching staff led by Odorizzi and Berrios. The Rays are hanging with the Yankees and are only a half game out of the lead in the East. If the season ended today the playoffs would feature the Astros, Twins, Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. Plenty can change in the next 100-110 games so teams like the Indians and A’s have time to right the ship.

The National League is shaping up exactly as was figured early in the year. The Phillies and Braves are leading in the East, with the Cubs and Brewers leading the Central, and the Dodgers hold a comfortable lead in the West. Can anything change? I believe the Central is bunched up heavily and almost any team has a shot to come out on top. I also believe the Rockies and Padres have a shot to get hot and catch the Dodgers.

In my earlier article I mentioned that picking a winner of the Cy Young, MVP, and ROY would be very difficult. Now that the season is 1/3 complete I will make a few predictions. There are plenty of players that have had a great start to the season, but will they be able to sustain it? Here are a few names that should end up in the hunt for the MVP in the AL. I think Rosario, Bregman, Bogaerts, and of course Mike Trout have a shot. In the NL the favorites will be: Bellinger, Arenado, Yelich, and Rizzo. I think the Cy Young contenders in the AL are Verlander, Morton, Snell, and Odorizzi. The NL contenders will be Ryu, Scherzer, Greinke, and Strasburg. The ROY in the AL may come down to Chavis, Lowe, and possibly Vlad Jr. if he can get on a hot streak. In the NL the frontrunners are Alonso from the Mets and Paddack from the Padres.

It may be a little early to predict the actual winners of the divisions and player awards. Baseball has so many games that it is not too late for almost any team to make a run. Having 110 games left leaves plenty of time. In the NFL, being 1/3 of the way through the schedule means you have 10-11 games left and it may be too late. You also have to take the trade deadline into account. A team can get a dominant pitcher and that could drastically change the course of the season. Picking the winners could be anybody’s guess, but watching the season play out is what makes the sport so fun to follow.

—Victor Mandalawi

Playoffs are Underway!

The NBA regular season ended on April 10th. The playoffs began a few days later on the 13th. The regular season is always full of ups and downs for every team. Obviously, there are plenty of teams that are rebuilding and had no shot but one team that did not make the playoffs was the Lakers. Why is this significant? This is his first time since 2005 that LeBron’s team is not in the playoffs. Has it hurt the tv ratings? Of course it has, they are down 14%. Even though LeBron is not in the playoffs the show must go on. I wanted to take a look at the first round match ups that have completed and the current second round series. I also want to take a look at what teams are actual contenders. Can anyone knock off the defending champs?

In the Eastern Conference, the number one seed Bucks took on the Pistons and swept the series. The two seed Raptors played the Magic and lost the opening game but got back on track and won the next 4 to advance. The three seed Sixers took on the Nets and won in 5 games. The final first round series in the East was the Pacers vs. the Celtics. The Celtics did not live up to expectations in the regular season but they showed up and swept the Pacers. In the Western Conference, the Warriors had a little trouble with the Clippers winning in six games. The Nuggets beat the Spurs in a seven game series. The Trailblazers knocked out the Thunder in 5 games. In the final series the Rockets beat the Jazz in 5 games setting the stage for a rematch with the Warriors.

Usually the second round brings much better competition. Only 8 teams remain and all 8 are quality teams. In the West, the Warriors have their hands full with the Rockets, but they are up 2-0 in the series, yet it is far from over. Hopefully the series outshines all of the complaining the players have done about the referees. The other series features the Trailblazers and Nuggets. The series is tied at 1 game a piece. Both of these teams are very good and will be able to showcase their skills in primetime. The Eastern Conference features the Bucks and Celtics with the series tied at 1 game a piece. The other series is a match-up of the Sixers and Raptors. The Sixers hold the slight lead at two games to one.

Picking a winner out of the remaining teams is very difficult. I actually believe that all 8 teams could make a run and contend for the championship. However, betting against the defending champs is always a bad idea in my book. Until the Warriors are beaten, I can’t pick against them. Good luck to all of the fans that have a team still in the fight. Watching meaningful playoff games sure beats sitting around waiting for the Zion Sweepstakes!

—Victor Mandalawi