September baseball has to be my favorite time of year. Nothing beats the MLB playoff race and the excitement that the Hunt for October always seems to provide. With one week remaining in the regular season, plenty of races have still yet to be determined. With that in mind, let’s dive into the major storylines this week!
Can the Yankees hang on to the top AL Wild Card spot?
This is not the race the Yankees were expecting to be worried about late into September. The expectation was a late-season battle with the Boston Red Sox for AL East division crown. Unfortunately for the Yankees, the division race is all but lost at this point. New York has been hampered by injuries, losing star slugger Aaron Judge for two months, while Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius have had long spells on the DL.
With the division gone, the focus shifted to securing home-field advantage in the Wild Card game. However, the Yankees pad of five games on the Oakland Athletics has been cut down to one-and-a-half games. With one week left in the season, it remains to be seen whether the Yankees can stay in that top spot.
Who will win the NL Cy Young?
The debate over who will win the NL Cy Young Award has been raging on for months now. The debate has whittled down to three pitchers, all of whom have a case to win the award: Max Scherzer (Washington) Jacob DeGrom (New York) and Aaron Nola (Philadelphia). Scherzer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner, leads the NL in innings pitched, strikeouts, wins, and WHIP. The Phillies’ Nola, at 25 years old and in his third season, has taken major steps forward this year and leads the NL in WAR. Jacob DeGrom may have the most compelling case of the three, leading the NL in ERA while also sporting a 9-9 record playing for the lowly Mets.
What is to be made of the NL Wild Card race?
The NL Wild Card race remains the same way it has all season: crowded. While some teams have begun to fall off (the Phillies and Diamondbacks), others have come on strong. The St Louis Cardinals, who on July 15, had fired their manager Mike Matheny and were sitting at .500. Now they at 87-69, the Cards trail the Milwaukee Brewers for the first wild card spot by two games and will meet in a crucial three-game series this week. The Cards meanwhile, hold a narrow one-and-a-half game lead over the Colorado Rockies for the second spot.
The final week of the season could also see Colorado capture the NL West, as they trail the Dodgers by one-and-a-half games. Given the unpredictable and rather crazy nature of the NL playoff race, the Dodgers could very well end up in the wildcard spots instead of the Rockies. For one more week, all eyes remain on the most exciting race in baseball.
Which managers are on the hot seat?
At the end of every season, there is a carousel of managers who are let go. Buck Showalter of the Orioles may very well be on the hot seat. The O’s are one of baseball’s worst teams this year, sporting a record of 45-110 as of writing. Another factor is his expiring contract, which could signal the end of his tenure in Baltimore.
Another manager rumored to be on the hot seat is Mike Scioscia of the Angels. He is the longest-tenured manager in baseball, having managed the Angels since 2000. During his tenure, they captured a World Series crown back in 2002. This will be the fourth consecutive season that the Angels will miss the playoffs under Scioscia. Despite the speculation, it is still yet to be determined whether the Angels will move on from their long-serving manager.
Who will finish with the best record in the National League?
The Red Sox have all but solidified the number one seed in the American League. However, the best record in the National League is still up for grabs. The Chicago Cubs hold the record at the moment but do not have much breathing room. The Brewers are behind them by only 2.5 games in their division. This means that the Cubs need to not only wrap up the best record but their division as well. They face strong competition in the Atlanta Braves, who lead the NL East. The Braves are 3.5 games back of Chicago as well, which means they are not out of the race just yet.
Michael Bauer is a Junior Sport Management major at Saint John’s University in New York. Best known for being on a winless high school baseball team for three years straight, he has a zest for sports and is an aspiring journalist.