The State of the State: Ohio

July 18, 2023

A look at what’s happening on the Ohio sports scene: Can the Guardians and Reds stay atop their respective divisions?

© Albert Cesare / The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Major League Baseball standings at the All-Star break were a bit of a surprise. More specifically, the Central Division, in both the AL and NL, weren’t quite what most people expected.

The Guardians and Reds were in first place, putting the state of Ohio on pace playoff appearances for both teams. It’ll be unfamiliar territory for Cincinnati, as the Reds have reached the postseason in just one of the previous nine seasons. It’s less shocking for Cleveland, as it has appeared in five of the last eight years.

Both teams have reached this point through guts and guile. The Guardians have the 26th-highest payroll in baseball, just one spot ahead of the Reds. It’s hard for teams spending south of $100 million per season to contend, yet here they are.

It’ll be fascinating to see if they can keep it up. It’s certainly been a fun run so far.

Why to like Cleveland to win the AL Central (+160)…

  • It’s not as though the division is loaded with juggernauts; at the break, only the Guardians were at or above .500
  • They can manufacture runs; Jose Ramirez (14 HRs) and Josh Naylor (12) have some pop, but the team is fourth in the AL in stolen bases with 75
  • Emmanuel Clase is a big-time closer; his 25 saves at the break were just one off the MLB lead, although his five losses are a bit of a concern

Why to like Cincinnati to win the NL Central (+120)…

  • Elly De La Cruz is arguably the most-entertaining player in baseball; in just 33 games, the 21-year-old shortstop has become a fan favorite through his electrifying style of play and rockstar personality
  • With 454 runs scored in the first half, the Reds trailed only Atlanta (499) and Los Angeles (494) in the NL
  • The Reds play well away from home; their 27 road wins in the first half were second only to Atlanta (30) in the National League

Richard DeMala’s pick: Cincinnati to win the NL Central (+120)