The MLB season has reached the All-Star break. The first half provided a variety of incredible moments and the second half is poised to make for a memorable finish. With plenty of contenders and a new playoff format, let’s look at what could come at the end of the regular season for the National League.
Before hopping into the predictions here is what the playoff format looks like in 2022.
The MLB has expanded from five teams to six teams making the playoffs. The teams with the top two records in each league will get automatic byes in the Division Series.
The remaining division winner will get a three-seed in the Wild Card round. The other three teams with the best records will claim the final spots in the Wild Card round.
The three-seed will host the six-seed. The four-seed will host the five-seed.
Now here are the predictions of all six seeds in this year’s playoffs in the American League.
The Top Two
One – Los Angeles Dodgers (National League West)
There are a few teams vying for the top spot in the National League, but the best candidate is the Los Angeles Dodgers (60-30). The Dodgers finished with the best record in the National League three straight seasons from 2018-2020 before the San Francisco Giants took it from them in 2021. They appear poised to reclaim that title in 2022.
The Dodgers consistently find ways to win which is not hard when they have talent topping the charts. Some of their recent big offensive acquisitions have done great work so far in 2022. Trea Turner is cruising with a .306 batting average, 111 hits, 22 doubles, 14 homers and 68 RBIs. Leading the way though is the newest superstar on the team, Freddie Freeman. He has a .321 batting average, 114 hits, 31 doubles, 13 homers and 59 RBIs.
Additonally, they play in a division with limited competition. Outside of the San Diego Padres (52-42) there has been a serious lack of consistency from the Giants (48-43), Colorado Rockies (43-50) and Arizona Diamondbacks (40-52). After starting the season 4-5 against their rivals, the Dodgers tore those other four apart in 16 of 20 games. With this type of success the Dodgers should be in a great position to succeed considering 44 of their final 72 games are against the other four.
The Dodgers have a level of consistency that the majority of other teams across baseball can only dream of. It should not be difficult for the Dodgers to claim the one seed. However, they have a huge target on their backs.
Two – Atlanta Braves (National League East)
The two teams with the best shot at claiming the second bye into the Division Series are the New York Mets (58-35) and Atlanta Braves (56-38), National League East rivals. The Mets have stood at the top of the East for the entirety of the season, but the Braves have played too well recently to let it stay that way.
The reigning World Series champions did not have a strong start to the season. At the end of May the Braves only held a record of 23-27 while the Mets were 34-17. It was a steep hill for the Braves to get anywhere near the Mets prior to the All-Star break, but they did it. It all started to shift when they began June with a 14 game win streak. Over the last month and a half the Braves have won 10 of 13 series.
The Braves success has stemmed from players picking up the slack on all sides of the ball. Their offense has completely ramped up. In the first 50 games, they scored six or more runs only 14 times. In their last 44 games they’ve done it 18 times. It is a similar situation for their pitching. In the first 50 games they allowed six or more on 17 occasions, but allowed that much only eight times in the last 44 games.
The NL East is proving to be the most competitive NL division. The Philadelphia Phillies (49-43) found their stride at the same time as the Braves to become a contender. The Miami Marlins (43-48) have not been as bad a their record may lead some to believe. Wheras the Washington Nationals (31-63) have been just as bad as their record shows. It will most likely come down to who can take down the other East opponents more consistently. The Braves have 40 of 68 games, The Mets have 36 of 69 games against Eastern teams.
The Braves have been the more consistent team lately and this is the perfect time to be playing so well.
Wild Card Teams
Three – Milwaukee Brewers (National League Central)
The National League Central has been one of the weakest divisions in all of baseball in 2022, only behind the American League Central. The Milwaukee Brewers (50-43) and St. Louis Cardinals (50-44) have been fighting for the lead in the division all season. Both teams are very similar in their inconsistencies, but the Brewers have the best chance of winning the division.
It has been an up and down season for the Brewers to say the least. They started the season 18-8 with offense and pitching clicking. Since then they have had an extremely difficult time getting hitting and pitching to work at the same time. They ended May with a record of 32-18 and since then have lost or split 10 of their last 13 series.
The Cardinals have had a rather similar go of it. They reached a season best 10 games over .500 when they reached 37-27, but have failed to do much since. Much like the Brewers, they have only won three of their last nine series. Their biggest issue is their inability to win close games. They are 7-14 in their last 21 games decided by three or fewer.
Considering all of this, the Brewers have an advantage over the Cardinals that gives them a serious edge. They have a plethora of guys with experience in reaching the playoffs.
Josh Hader has found himself in a career worst stretch. Once he gets into August and September, the three time NL Reliever of the Year will be back to normal. As soon as Freddy Peralta comes back from the injured list he will join Corbin Burnes and Brandon Woodruff to complete one of the greatest starting rotations in baseball. For the offense, when it comes time to be clutch, late season games will be dominated by guys like Willy Adames, Christian Yelich and Rowdy Tellez.
Four – New York Mets (National League East)
A lot was already discussed about where the Mets stand in the divisional race. Despite not being picked to win the division they should not have any issue claiming the first of the three extra playoff spots.
This has been a dream season for the Mets who have not been able to put it all together since reaching the World Series in 2015. Since 2000, this is only the fifth time they had 50 or more wins through 93 games. Even better, their 58 wins are the most of any season through 93 games since the start of the century.
They started this season so incredibly hot because of their pitching. It has cooled down a bit in recent months, but is still highly successful. Carlos Carrasco had four brutal starts to finish June, but has been superb in July. In three July starts he has gone 17.1 innings allowing only three runs with 19 strikeouts. The most notable name is first time Met, Max Scherzer. In 11 starts he is 6-1 with a 2.22 ERA in 69 innings and has 90 strikeouts.
At the plate, they are being led by National League MVP candidate Pete Alonso. He leads the team with 24 homers, 78 RBIs (leads the MLB), a .517 SLG and an .856 OPS. They are also getting excellent production out of Starling Marte who is second on the team with a .295 batting average and a .458 SLG while leading the team with 12 stolen bases and 92 hits.
The Mets are going to utilize some stellar pitching and hitting to make it to the playoffs for the first time since 2016.
Five – San Diego Padres (National League West)
The San Diego Padres have been overshadowed by nearly every other team in the National League West in the 2000s. They have only made the playoffs three times in this century and lost in the Divisional Round each time.
They made a run for the top spot in the West early in the season, but have had to settle for second with how consistent the Dodgers have been. As discussed earlier, the West is a bit weak outside of the Padres and Dodgers. The reason the Dodgers are able to constantly win is because of success against these other three teams. The Padres have not been able to do the same.
In the first half they were 2-5 against the Dodgers and 18-12 against the other three. The first half of July featured 14 games against the West. Unfortunately, they only went 6-8, making for a rough entrance to the second half. In final few months they have 12 against the Dodgers and 24 against the other three. It is understandable if they struggle against the Dodgers, but to make the playoffs they must beat the other three at a better rate.
The start of the season featured a major blow as they lost superstar Fernando Tatis Jr. to an injured hand. Thankfully, they have a ton of other weapons to keep them afloat. On the offense, Manny Machado leads the team in almost every category. He has a .303 batting average, .377 OBP, .513 SLG, .890 OPS, 95 hits, 15 homers and 51 RBIs. On the mound, they have gotten excellent outings from Joe Musgrove. He is first on the team with a 2.42 ERA, eight wins, 102 strikeouts, and a 0.97 WHIP. His ERA and WHIP are also eighth best in all of baseball.
Six – Philadelphia Phillies (National League East)
It is extremely difficult to choose the final team to make the playoffs with solid teams like the Cardinals and Gaints, but the best option is the Phillies. They are actually playing like a winning team for the first time in a while. In 2021 they finished with a record above .500 for the first time since 2011. Now they are aiming to make the playoffs for the first time since 2011 as well.
The Phillies, much like the Braves, did not prove themselves in the first two months of the season. It was rather disappointing for them after acquiring power hitters Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos this past offseason. At the end of May they were 21-29, but they started June by winning 15 of 17 to move to 36-31. They have not been as hot as they only won four of their eight series coming into the break.
A large portion of their winning ways has been a result of Kyle Schwarber playing like a National League MVP. In National League ranks he is first with 29 homers, third with 62 runs and 52 walks, and ninth with 58 RBIs. He also leads the team with a .503 SLG and .820 OPS.
It will be a tough final stretch with 39 of 70 games coming against the other teams in the East. 19 of those are against the Braves and Mets while 20 are against the Marlins and Nationals.
So much of the decision making hangs on who teams play. Of the Cardinals, Phillies and Giants, the Cardinals have the fewest games against teams above .500 at 21, due to so many games against the struggling teams in the Central. The Phillies are not much worse as they only play 27 games against teams above .500. Then there are the Gaints who play 34 such games and with their struggles it will suffocate them.
The Phillies have gained so much consistency that they have the best chance of claiming this valuable final spot.
The National League is going to provide plenty of entertainment in the second half of the season. There are 10 teams with a realistic shot at the playoffs and only six total spots available. For some, it may come down to the weakest opponents, for others it may be getting consistent pitching. Each team controls its own destiny and it’s time to figure out who is worthy of the 2022 MLB Playoffs.
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