2018 MLB Recap
Another season of MLB has come to an end, with the Boston Red Sox disposing of the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 in the World Series. The Red Sox capturing their fourth World Series title over the past 15 years, was a fairly expected outcome in a baseball season that was otherwise full of surprises.
Fueled by the star power of Mookie Betts, J.D. Martinez and Chris Sale– not to mention up-and-comers such as Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers– it was a shock to no one that Boston won a franchise-record 108 games on their way to another World Series. Despite the prestige among the Red Sox’s big names, it was 35-year-old journeyman infielder Steve Pearce who tormented the Dodgers most and garnered World Series MVP honors.
Although the Dodgers were expected to follow their National League pennant run in 2017 with another strong year in 2018, their path to the World Series wasn’t as smooth. They rebounded after a terrible start– as of May 16, they occupied last place in the NL West with a 16-26 record– and managed to fend off the Colorado Rockies in a game 163 that decided the fate of the NL West. Los Angeles will possibly lose names like Manny Machado, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Yasmani Grandal to free agency, but with Clayton Kershaw returning on a new contract extension and Corey Seager likely coming off the disabled list in 2019, the Dodgers should be primed for another deep postseason run.
Perhaps the most surprising team of 2018 was the Oakland Athletics. The Houston Astros were expected to run away with the AL West once again in 2018 (which they did, with 103 wins), but the A’s gave Houston a run for their money before settling for the AL’s second Wild Card spot. Boasting young power bats such as Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Matt Olson, the Athletics have set high expectations for themselves following an unprecedented 97-win season.
The team that ousted Oakland in the AL Wild Card game, the New York Yankees, wasn’t exactly a surprise in 2018, but the fact that they managed 100 wins while not being close to full strength for a majority of the year is beyond impressive. Catcher Gary Sanchez suffered through a terrible season both at and behind the plate, Giancarlo Stanton arguably did not live up to his lofty expectations (despite clobbering 38 home runs) and Aaron Judge was injured during a critical part of the season. However, rookie infielders Miguel Andujar and Gleyber Torres picked up the slack, while solid starting pitching from Luis Severino and CC Sabathia ensured the Yanks’ status as one of baseball’s best.
In the NL, possibly the most surprising team was the Chicago Cubs, albeit for the wrong reasons. After looking like their usual selves in the first half of the season, their offensive production dropped off significantly in the second half, ranking 23rd in baseball with a .705 on-base-plus-slugging percentage and 24th with 67 home runs. This was largely in part due to an unhealthy Kris Bryant, as well as subpar years from Wilson Contreras, Ian Happ and Kyle Schwarber. The Cubs held on to first place until the last day of the regular season, when they lost game 163– the NL Central tiebreaker– to the Milwaukee Brewers. This relegated the Cubs to the NL Wild Card game, which resulted in a heartbreaking 13-inning loss to the Rockies.
Meanwhile, the Brewers were expected to contend in 2018, but exceeded expectations and won the NL Central while boasting the best record in the NL (96-67). The offseason acquisitions of Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich, the likely NL MVP, could not have worked out better, and the bullpen core of Josh Hader, Jeremy Jeffress and Corey Knebel, among others, was one of the best units in baseball.
Many of the teams that contended in 2018 are expected to return again in 2019, but it remains to be seen whether the major free agents of the 2018-2019 offseason– such as Machado, Bryce Harper and Patrick Corbin– will have an impact.