The NHL season is over, NBA basketball is winding down, and the summer is almost here, and the Chicago Cubs are killing it. That means that baseball is going to start to enjoy a little more exposure and thus far in the season, it’s the Chicago Cubs that have enjoyed the most success. The World Series favorites (source: bet365) have barely blinked through the first two and a half months of the season as they look to break the franchise’s World Series championship drought.
Currently, the Cubs are going through just a little bit of a bad patch as they are 5-5 in their last ten. That’s certainly nothing discrediting, however for a team that has hovered at about .700 through the season, .500 baseball over a stretch is a little below standard. Nonetheless, Chicago remains the runaway favorites in the NL Central as both St. Louis and Pittsburgh are struggling to stay close. Entering Thursday, Chicago held a 9.5-game lead over the 2nd-placed Cardinals, a team that have closed the gap a little over the last couple of weeks.
Jake Arrieta, the reigning Cy Young winner, is the standout player on Chicago. So far the starting pitcher has gone 10-1 in the season to bolster his claim to a second Cy Young Award. A strong supporting cast is definitely there for Arrieta with Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, and Dexter Fowler all turning in very impressive seasons at the plate thus far. Their efforts have helped the Cubs play .688 baseball through the first 64 games, a mark that would put them among the all-time great teams if they could keep it up over the course of the long Major League Baseball season.
The National League has other strong teams, namely the Washington Nationals and the San Francisco Giants. Those are the other two divisional leaders at this point, with Washington holding a 5-game lead over the Mets and the Giants holding a 6-game lead over the Dodgers. The Nats enter Thursday playing .621 baseball so far this season while the Giants are playing .612. It’s still a little too early to talk about pennant races heating up. However, there’s nothing close when it comes to divisional leads at this point, at least not in the National League.
In the American League, the Baltimore Orioles remain the surprise team of the season. The O’s enter Thursday tied for top spot in the American League East, sharing a .578 winning percentage with the Boston Red Sox. The Toronto Blue Jays are right there as well, at six games above .500 with a 37-31 record on the season. The Jays have effectively faded a poor start to the 2016 season, and they currently sit just two games back of both Baltimore and Boston.
The AL Central currently lacks a dominant team. The Cleveland Indians and the Kansas City Royals are both 35-30 on the year as they share the divisional lead. The White Sox were fast out of the gates this season, however, they have since regressed sharply down to .500. Detroit, at 33-32, is also in the thick of things in the Central as they sit just two games back.
The brightest light so far in the American League is in the AL West. The Texas Rangers are playing .621 baseball, a mark that has sent them out to a comfortable 6.5-game lead over Seattle.
When it comes to individual league leaders, Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies and Mark Trumbo of the Orioles each have 20 home runs. Arenado also shares the lead for RBIs as he has 57 alongside Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays. Daniel Murphy of the Nationals has the best batting average at .359 while Jonathan Villar leads the majors in stolen bases at 23. In regard to Villar, he may be guilty of over-aggression as he has been caught stealing 8 times, a stat that also leads the majors.
For pitching, Chris Sale of the White Sox has the most wins so far (11) while Clayton Kershaw of Los Angeles has the best earned-run average at 1.58. Kershaw has also struck out the most hitters at 133, and he leads the majors in innings pitched.
If you were to try to project a winner at this point, it would definitely be the Chicago Cubs. They have enough depth in pitching and hitting that there isn’t a weak point to be exploited. Furthermore, they should be fine even if a key player were to suffer a long-term injury. The odds-makers currently make the Cubs 17/5 to win the World Series, odds that are very short when it comes to June baseball lines.