If you’ve not followed Major League Baseball (MLB), you need to understand how it works to reap the full enjoyment from following the action. Basically, the MLB consists of two leagues: the National and the American. Three different divisions — East, West, and Central —comprise these leagues, the season consists of 162 games, and there are two stretches of interleague games in which teams from the National and American leagues play each other.
Exploring the leagues further
Although the two leagues are both baseball leagues, there’s a major difference in how they play the sport, and this is that in the American League (AL), teams have a designated hitter (DH). This player doesn’t play on the field, but bats in place of the pitcher. In the National League, all the players on the diamond must bat, including the pitcher.
A look at the American League East
The AL East division boasts a lot of talent. Like the other divisions, it consists of five teams:
New York Yankees
Boston Red Sox
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Some consider the Yankees and the Red Sox, two of the finest teams to have ever graced the diamond.
At the time of writing, however, the Rays appear to be getting the better of both of them in the standings. They top the table with 65 wins at the time of writing. The Red Sox are just one win behind, whereas the Yankees are trailing in third place with 58 wins.
But it’s not over yet. We’re only a third into the season, and the Rays, feeling the impact of injuries on the team, have taken a dip in the power rankings. The Red Sox have, too. This all comes at a time when the Yankees and the Rays are enjoying a surge of success in the division.
How is the American League actually scored?
Games consist of nine innings, with each team batting and fielding in each inning. The points they score in each innings go towards a cumulative score, and the team that has the most points wins. Every time a player makes it “home,” they earn a point for their team. If a player hits a home run, they earn a mandatory point. It’s possible to earn four points with one hit.
To make it to the World Series, the winners, and the next best-performing teams (the “wild”) of each division go into the league’s division championship play-off, and the winners of the two divisional series then make it through to the league championship series. The winners of each league’s series then do battle with each other in the World Series.
The impartial observer can look forward to some big clashes in the week of August 11 to 13th, whereas for fans of the teams the games will be more of a nail-biting affair. The top two combatants in the American League standings, the Rays and the Red Sox, go head-to-head on Wednesday 11th. Then, a couple of days later, the boys from Boston go up against the Orioles. Both teams will be hoping that the superstitions around Friday, 13th play to their advantage.
What about the Blue Jays?
The Blue Jays have had a tough run due to the pandemic and only received the all-clear to play home games back in Toronto again at the end of July. As hard a time as they’ve had, however, it didn’t stop them defeating the Cleveland Indians 8-6 now that they’re able to play back at home.
In fact, there’s also no reason why the team can’t win the World Series. Despite being the only Canadian team in MLB, they’ve enjoyed back-to-back World Series wins in 1992 and 1993.
Although Canada has been a fan more of sports such as hockey and ice hockey, rather than of MLB, the nation may be about to develop more of an affinity to baseball. Lawmakers have been looking into the possibility of legalizing sports betting on single games, which may well kindle interest in the sport.
In 2018, the US allowed individual states to legalize sports betting, making changes to their existing laws, and it seems like Canada is doing the same. Canadians are currently allowed to place bets however not on a single game, they are only allowed to parlay bet, meaning there is multiple events all on one betting slip. However, it seems like the passing of C-218 and the legalization of single event bets is likely to see a growth in the Canadian sports betting market.
Who will win the World Series?
Although the boys from Toronto are perfectly capable, the big favorites at the start of the season were the defending champions, the Dodgers, who are out in the National League West. The next big favorites were the Yankees.
It’s come as something of a surprise, to say the least, to not see both teams taking their divisions by the scruff of the neck. That being said, the confidence of betting operators remains in the Dodgers to claim the World Series title. Good pitching rotation is part of the reason, and the team also still within reach of pulling division victory from the Giants.
Operators do, however, seem to have felt they’ve misplaced their original faith in the Yankees, who have surrendered their position as second favorite to the AL West-ers the Houston Astros. A solid lineup and a rotation that mixes young players and veterans has caught their attention and earned their confidence.
Just a third into the MLB season, there’s still plenty to play for and still lots of games to play. There have been a few surprises, with the favorites not performing quite as expected, which makes predicting a World Series winner anyone’s guess. But that’s all part of the beauty of MLB.