There’s been a trend in baseball this year: A sizable gap in the standings, separating division leaders from division wannabes.
The National League Central does not care for that trend. The NL Central believes in divisional races, not just between first and second place, but between first and third place. And first and fourth place. And first and fifth place.
The gap between the leader and the bottom feeder in the NL Central is smaller than the gap between the leader and the runner-up in any other division.
In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a 13.5 game lead over the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks. Over in the AL West, the Houston Astros hold a 7.5 game lead over the runner-up Oakland A’s. The New York Yankees are 6.5 games ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in the AL East, while Atlanta leads the Washington Nationals by six games in the NL East. The upstart Minnesota Twins carry a 5.5 game lead over second-place Cleveland.
But the NL Central. Ahh, the NL Central. Over there, the Chicago Cubs reign supreme, leading the Milwaukee Brewers by a whopping half of a game. Even if they can hold off the pesky Brewers, the St. Louis Cardinals wait, just two games behind, with the Pittsburgh Pirates only 2.5 games back. Even the cellar dwellers, the Cincinnati Reds, sit within striking distance, just 4.5 games behind the Cubbies.
With the exception of the NL West, every race in baseball is still technically open. We’ve seen teams overcome six-game deficits in September, let alone in mid-June. So it’s not as though we know exactly who will be lacing up their cleats come October.
But if you’re a fan of action-packed races, and games with lots on the line, keep your eyes on the NL Central. None of these teams seems interested in running away with the division, or with falling out of the picture.
It should make for a fun home stretch.