5 Predictions for the Final Weeks of MLB's Regular Season and Playoff Races
With September almost at the midway point, the regular baseball season will soon draw to a close. Over the next few weeks, the tight playoff and statistical leaderboard races will finally have some closure.
But "closure" barely describes how exciting or historic some of the team and individual achievements have been and could be.
For instance, the Pittsburgh Pirates have not been playoff bound since 1992. But considering the team is almost a wild-card lock—and just one game back in its division—the Bucs could finally break their 20-year curse.
Read on to see the five predictions for the final weeks of the MLB's regular season and playoff races.
Chris Davis Hits More Than 55 Home Runs
Chris Davis has been hitting home runs at a torrid pace all season long. The slugger has already demolished his career record of 33 home runs by 16 dingers in 2013.
Even though Davis is only batting .222 so far in September, he collected his league-leading 49th home run on Tuesday, September 10.
With another 17 games to go, Davis has a good chance at eclipsing the 55 home run mark. Considering the 27-year-old smacked 12 home runs in June, Davis hitting another six or so home runs in September isn't outlandish.
Yu Darvish Records 260 Ks
Even though Yu Darvish missed a few starts in July, the ace pitcher still has 31 more strikeouts than the next best pitcher.
It's not difficult to understand how Darvish is leading the league in strikeouts, either. The 27-year-old possesses a six-pitch arsenal, including a fastball that averages 93.1 miles per hour.
But Darvish's most impressive pitch is actually his slider. In 2013, the pitcher's slider has been worth a staggering 25.6 runs above average. In fact, the pitch has been the best in baseball, trumping Justin Masterson's by 7.0 runs above average.
Striking out 246 batters is certainly an impressive accomplishment, but Darvish could easily collect 14 more whiffs over his last few starts.
Pittsburgh Pirates Break 20-Year Playoff Drought
By collecting their 82nd win on Monday, September 9, the Pittsburgh Pirates officially notched their first winning season since 1992. As jubilant as the achievement was, the Pirates are also, more importantly, en route to advancing to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.
It doesn't quite matter if the Bucs finish behind the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central, either. The Pirates are 11 games ahead of the Washington Nationals in the wild-card hunt—so only a New York Mets-esque collapse would prevent them from playing in October.
Compared to their first half (56-37), the Pirates have been dragging their feet a bit in the second half so far (28-24). Regardless, it's still a good bet that the Pirates will break their 20-year playoff drought in 2013.
Miguel Cabrera Falls Short of Triple Crown
Miguel Cabrera is leading the American League in two of the necessary three Triple Crown categories: batting average (.349) and RBI (133). And even though Miggy has also collected 43 home runs—just one shy of his 2012 total—he unfortunately has some stiff competition in that category. That being Chris Davis.
Davis currently has six more home runs than Cabrera and doesn't appear to be slowing down either.
It's hardly a long shot for Cabrera to best Davis and subsequently win a consecutive Triple Crown, but it's still unlikely.
Pirates and Athletics Win Their Respective Divisions
There are only two super tight division races left in baseball: the American League West and the National League Central.
In the AL West, the Oakland Athletics current lead the Texas Rangers by two games. Despite acquiring Alex Rios and Matt Garza in deadline deals, the Rangers still cannot seem to blow past the Athletics. If the small-market A's take the West, it will be the second time in two seasons the organization has accomplished the feat.
The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are a three-headed beast in the NL Central. The trio are within three games of each other, with the Cardinals currently atop the division. But perhaps since the Pirates have failed to reach the playoffs in 20 years, the team will have extra motivation to take the division too.
At just a game back, the Bucs are breathing down the Cardinals' backs.