Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 MLB Second Half Predictions

I haven’t had much time to write lately and don’t anticipate that changing any time in the near future. This may become an even less occasional gig than it is now. While I had a minute I wanted to jot down my predictions for the second half of this pretty entertaining baseball season. I didn’t do awful last year with my Second Half Predictions, but I did ruin Brennan Boesch’s first year by predicting he’d win the ROY. He floundered with a .163 BA, 2 homers, and 18 RBI after the break. I did hit with Buster in the NL and was pretty damn on target with my Carlos Gonzalez projection. Back to 2011.

The first half saw no-hitters thrown by both Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano and two near no-no’s – Anibal Sanchez’s 8 hitless innings against the Rockies and San Diego ending up just one out shy of 9 hitless against the Dodgers. But the biggest moment of the first half happened just before the break with Derek Jeter collecting his 3000th hit in dramatic fashion. The National League won the All Star Game on the bat of Prince Fielder, so for the second year in a row, the Senior Circuit will have home field advantage for the World Series.

As far as teams go there have been some surprises, both good and bad.

The good –

Cleveland – They got off to a surprising 33-20 start, attempting to run away with the division, but an ugly June has pulled them back to the pack where they are currently ½ a game behind the Tigers at the break. The Indians are making their first serious attempt at contending since their last division title in ’07.

Pittsburgh – The Pirates sit 4 games above .500 at the break and 1 game out of first. As owners of 47 wins with 72 to go, they could go 33-39 the rest of the way and have their first 80 win season since 1992, the last time they made the playoffs. Will they have enough to hang in a tight NL Central race?

Arizona – Sitting 6 games above .500, the young Diamondbacks are chasing down the older Giants. Their stats don’t support a sustained run in catching San Fran (3 games up), but I don’t think it matters with this team. Expect them to be in it in the end.

The bad –

Oakland – A surprise pick for many, it doesn’t look like the A’s will break .500 this year either, for the 5th straight season. When you don’t score many runs (28th in MLB) you can’t afford to give up many (3rd in ERA but only 8th in runs allowed).

Florida – No one foresaw that awful run – 19 losses sandwiching one win against the Diamondbacks. The Marlins went 1-11 at home during that streak, but they did put together a positive 5 game run prior to the break. Too little too late.

The ugly –

LA Dodgers – What a shitty team this is. No closer. Kershaw is solid, but Billingsley will always be just above average, and they don’t score for Kuroda. No leadoff hitter. No power aside from Kemp. Ethier has his eye/mind on another team. Loney still has little league strength. Furcal is hurt again…again. Eugenio Velez? Nice arm. He’s the only LF I’ve ever seen allow a guy to tag up and go 2nd to 3rd on a fly ball to LF; makes Juan Pierre look like Raul Mondesi. I knew the Dodgers would be bad this year, but I was expecting a 70-75 win season. With a 41-51 start, they’d have to go 29-41 the rest of the way to get to 70, and I don’t think they’ve got 29 more wins in them. With matchups @Arizona, @SF, vsWAS, vsCOL, vsARI, @SD, @ARI, and vPHI to start the second half, they don’t get a break until game 25 when they host the Astros, and that’s assuming Houston’s still awful at that point.

Thanks McCourt, you bum!

Here are my quick division winner thoughts:

AL East
Baltimore is done at 18 out, and Toronto doesn’t have the pitching to get back in the race at 11 out. I think Tampa’s going to flounder around on the border of relevance the rest of the way, but I’ve got this coming down to Boston and New York. The league’s two best teams are separated by one game and play each other 9 more times – 6 in Boston 8/5-8/7 and 8/30-9/1 with 3 in New York 9/23-9/25. They both play Tampa Bay 13 more times (BOS 7 at home, NYY 6 at home), so even if they don’t contend for the division, the Rays will have something to say about who wins it. A-Rod will miss a month or more after knee surgery which will surely be felt on the shallow Yankee bench. Granderson and Cano are potent, but Teixeira needs to make more contact and Gardner needs to be more of a threat. Their pitching is getting a boost from senor citizens Garcia and Colon and hope to finally have a healthy-armed Hughes for the second half. Boston’s pitching armor has its chinks. Beckett, Buchholz, and Lester are hobbled, Lackey has a 6.84 ERA, and Tim Wakefield doesn’t belong in a 2011 MLB rotation. I think Crawford is going to return healthy and resemble the pre-first half fabrication we’ve been witnessing. In addition to the obvious importance of their rotation’s health, Crawford’s second half performance could be the most critical factor in this race. Boston will pull this out by 3 games, but the Yankees win the wild card. I think the main keys are Boston gets healthy, Crawford is a huge spark, and Colon and Garcia both regress a bit.

AL Central
Kansas City is the only team I’m counting out at this point, as Minnesota has shown they can make a late run. I think they’ve got a better shot of getting back into this thing than the disappointingly inconsistent White Sox. This just in – Adam Dunn is atrocious. Cleveland is only ½ game out at the break, but I think Detroit pulls away in the end and wins it by 3-5 games. Of my division winner picks, this is the one in which I’m most confident. I think the Tigers end up making a move for a pitcher to go between Verlander and Scherzer at the deadline. The top 3 guys I’d target are Wandy Rodriguez, Francisco Liriano, and Hiroki Kuroda. I think Wandy has the chance to be the most dangerous in a short series and would slot in very nicely between the two power righties. Other options might include John Danks, Jason Marquis, Livan Hernandez, Erik Bedard Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster, Edwin Jackson, Carl Pavano, Jeremy Guthrie, Mike Pelfrey, and Brett Myers.

AL West
I’ve already touched on how bad Oakland is, and mid-May surge aside, the Mariners aren’t any better. This is a two team race, and as easy as it looks to pick the Rangers to put the Angels (1 game back) comfortably in their rear view, something tells me this will be tight until the end. I’m taking the Angels. I think pitching is going to be an issue for Texas the rest of the way, and while the Angels aren’t a terribly inspiring team, they do enough in all areas to be a factor for the long run. It never hurts to have Weaver and Haren atop your rotation either, and I think they’ll be the difference makers. Also, the Angels and Rangers square off 13 more times this year, and a whopping 10 of those matchups will occur in California. I’ll take pitching and defense over offense in this matchup.

NL East
The Marlins are bad without Josh Johnson, and I don’t think they’ll win anything of significance again with Hanley Ramirez. If they’re smart they’d move him yesterday. Washington flirting with .500 is cute. The Mets have traded K-Rod and will likely move Carlos Beltran in the next week or so as well. Jose Reyes, healthy or not, may be spending his last days in New York. Beltran is being talked about as an option with multiple teams, but how cool would it be to see the Braves pick up Jose Reyes. Talk about a serious move. The Phillies are expected to run away with the division in the second half, but I’m not counting out the Braves erasing this 3.5 game margin. I’ll say the winner takes it by less than 2 games. Loser is the wild card.

NL Central
Houston is bad, and the Cubs aren’t good. Cincinnati can go on a run, but at two games below .500 I don’t think they’re going to be consistent enough in the second half, especially on the mound. I don’t think Cueto will keep it up, and I can’t count on Leake, Arroyo, Wood, or Volquez. Votto, Bruce, and Phillips are solid, but they need more from Stubbs at the top of the lineup. I won’t root against Pittsburgh, but I think they’ll eventually (not quickly) fade. I believe this comes down to St. Louis and Milwaukee, and if the Cardinals can show some semblance of health, I think they take it. Milwaukee’s road ineptitude won’t help them having already played 47 (57%) of their scheduled 82 home games. Greinke will have a better second half, and I’ve got Fielder making a strong run at MVP. All things considered, I have more confidence in the Cardinals. Carpenter appears to be on track again, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they got someone (Kuroda makes a ton of sense) to go with him, Garcia, and Lohse for the playoffs. There’s been buzz that the Rays have interest in Rasmus, and the Cards like Hellickson. That would be a great get for Dave Duncan. Hellickson doesn’t have lights out stuff now and is doing fine. Match him with the pitching coach guru, and he’ll put up more zeros.

NL West
The Padres have a chance to avoid the basement for a third year in a row, but they shouldn’t celebrate outdoing Frank McCourt’s shit sandwich. I don’t believe Colorado has enough to make another one of their patented runs this year. Tulo and Cargo are both banged up, and I’m not sold on the pitching behind Chacin and a resurgent Ubaldo. That’s a big 8.5 games to make up this year. I think this has a chance to be the most competitive of all division races, with the Diamondbacks and Giants fighting it out the rest of the way. San Francisco doesn’t leave their time zone in September, but Arizona plays 28, yes 28, of their remaining games against the Dodgers and Padres. The numbers don’t support it and the Giants will likely get another big bat (Beltran, Reyes), but I’ll go with the surprise DBacks to take the West.


Red Sox over Angels
Tigers over Yankees

AL Winner – Detroit
The Sox and Yanks are the obvious choices, but I’m going with a bit of a surprise in the Detroit Tigers. They’re a streaky team, have the lineup to produce in the playoffs, have a dominant closer, and are a #2 pitcher away from becoming a serious threat.

Phillies over Cardinals
Braves over Diamondbacks

NL Winner – Philadelphia
I think Atlanta hangs with them the whole way to the NLCS, but Philly’s dangerous short series rotation of Halladay, Lee, and Hamels will be overwhelming in the postseason. I think it would be a great series to watch and would require all seven games.


American League

Rookie of the Year
I came up with 11 players who will likely be in the conversation in the end, but I think I can safely eliminate JP Arencibia, Ben Revere, Zach Britton, Aaron Crow, and Dustin Ackley. Remaining are three hitters and three pitchers. I think Eric Hosmer will end up with a more productive first year than Mark Trumbo, and Jemile Weeks is going to get some votes. This will probably come down to a pitcher, and there are three good ones to choose from. Jordan Walden took over the Angels’ closer job from Fernando Rodney early on and, despite some rough patches, isn’t giving it up. At pitcher, I think this will eventually come down to Jeremy Hellickson and Michael Pineda. I believe Pineda has the more lasting stuff and will prove to be the better rookie come October.

Final voting –
1) Michael Pineda
2) Eric Hosmer
3) Jemile Weeks
4) Jeremy Hellickson
5) Mark Trumbo

Asdrubal Cabrera was a huge key to Cleveland’s first half surprising success, and David Ortiz is still getting it done at 35. Adrian Beltre and Josh Hamilton will be in the running in the end but may cost each other votes. Paul Konerko is having a hell of a year, but with the Sox stinking, voters will find another option. The Yankees wouldn’t be where they are without Curtis Granderson, and he’ll be huge to them staying with Boston. I think Jose Bautista is going to continue putting up big numbers, but like Konerko, his team isn’t going anywhere. This comes down to Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez. They’ll both be among the league’s best in the power stats, but Gonzalez will likely finish with a sizeable cushion in batting average. I’m looking forward to those two squaring off in the ALCS.

Final voting –
1) Adrian Gonzalez
2) Miguel Cabrera
3) Jose Bautista
4) Curtis Granderson
5) Adrian Beltre

Cy Young
If the first half of the season is any indication, this is going to be a tough one to pick. CC Sabathia leads the majors with 13 wins and appears likely to eclipse 20 for the second year in a row. Justin Verlander is one behind with 12 and has a no-hitter to his credit. Jered Weaver began the year as the most dominant hurler and still holds baseball’s best starter ERA at 1.86. I expect his teammate, Dan Haren, owner of 10 wins and a 2.61 ERA, to be in the mix as well. I think Jon Lester is going to struggle to match stellar numbers with the rest of these guys in the end, and I expect Josh Beckett’s numbers to regress a bit as well. James Shields has an 8-7 record, but his 2.33 ERA and 0.98 WHIP are nearly identical to Beckett’s numbers. I’ve got this coming down to Verlander and Weaver. I’d love to split it between the two of them, but I think Verlander has a better chance of maintaining his dominance throughout and doesn’t have a teammate (Haren) to fight off for votes. Verlander wins an extremely close race.

Final voting –
1) Justin Verlander
2) Jered Weaver
3) CC Sabathia
4) Josh Beckett
5) Dan Haren

Rookie of the Year
I don’t see as many worthy candidates in the NL as I do in the AL. Dillon Gee has been a pleasant surprise for the Mets, and Josh Collmenter, despite his recent plateau in production, had a nice first half. Domonic Brown should have a better second half, but I think he struggled too much early in his promotion to win this thing. Cory Luebke is a guy to keep an eye on in the second half. I don’t think he’ll be one of the top vote getters, but I predict a very nice run from him in the Padres’ rotation. Danny Espinosa is sporting a blah .242 BA, but he’s on pace for nearly 30 homers and over 90 RBI. If a position player wins the award, I think it’s going to be him. Then there’s the Braves who I think end up with three legit candidates – Freddie Freeman, Brandon Beachy, and Craig Kimbrel. I put Freeman just behind Espinosa and think he might be the best of this bunch this time next year. Beachy spent some time on the DL, but his impressive 78/15 K/BB ratio is something to follow and admire. Kimbrel may have the equally dominant Johnny Venters breathing down his neck, but his 28 saves lead all of baseball. His 70 strikeouts blow away the rest of the competition as John Axford (53), John Papelbon (51), Carlos Marmol (52), and Sergio Santos (56) are the only other closers with at least 50 Ks.

Final voting –
1) Craig Kimbrel
2) Danny Espinosa
3) Freddie Freeman
4) Domonic Brown
5) Brandon Beachy

To me the NL’s class lacks the oomph of the AL’s. At this point there are 6 or 7 guys I think have a legit shot at the award. One of them is currently disabled, and when he gets healthy he might be suiting up in a new uniform. Depending on where he ends up, Reyes will look to extend his huge BA and triple bagger cushions. Andrew McCutchen has established himself as Pittsburgh’s offensive centerpiece, but I think he’ll be lacking in numbers in the end. This year’s Justin Upton, fortunately, resembles the ’09 version rather than last year’s, and if Arizona hangs in like I think they will, it will be largely due to his success. Troy Tulowitzki had a huge April and a strong June, but May and July haven't been kind. As long as his quad issue doesn't linger, I think he and not CarGo will be the Rockies' catalyst this year. Expect a strong finish from him. Lance Berkman, Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Matt Kemp were the league’s three best all-round hitters in the first half, and I think Berkman has the best chance of slipping the rest of the way. That leaves two Brewers and the only decent Dodger as finalists. I’ve got to think Kemp slips a bit because of the garbage around him in LA, and Fielder has to be the hungrier Brewer at this point with a huge payday looming this offseason. They may not win the Central, but it won’t be Fielder’s fault. It’s a close call, but as he did at the All Star Game, Prince gets the regular season’s MVP crown.

Final voting –
1) Prince Fielder
2) Matt Kemp
3) Jose Reyes
4) Ryan Braun
5) Troy Tulowitzki

Cy Young
Just as I think the NL will come down to the Phillies and Braves, so to will the NL Cy Young. Jair Jurrjens’ ERA is just one hundredth of a point higher than baseball’s best, and his 12 wins lead the league as well. Of any of the NL’s top hurlers, his numbers are likely to regress a bit, as he’s the “weakest” strikeout threat of the bunch, but he’s a great bet for at least 20 wins behind his efficient pitching and Atlanta’s lineup. Tommy Hanson has won 5 straight decisions and is becoming an automatic great start. The Phillies’ top three guys have a combined 31 wins, WHIPs right at or below 1.00, and ERAs well under 3.00. Halladay is Halladay, but I really love the step forward Hamels took this year by harnessing a slider. Maybe Kevin Correia surprises everyone and makes a huge run in the second half, but a Brave or Phillie should end up with this thing.

Final voting –
1) Roy Halladay
2) Cole Hamels
3) Jair Jurrjens
4) Cliff Lee
5) Tommy Hanson

1 comment:

  1. Forgot to mention why I didn't mention Kershaw as a Cy Young candidate.

    2 reasons:

    1) I doubt LA scores enough to give him the wins he'll need. I know Felix won on a shitty team last year, but I don't want to count on the voters being so level headed two years in a row.

    2) He has 4 complete games in 104 major league starts, and 3 of them have come in the last 2 months. Will he wear down, go less innings per game, and give the bullpen (and "offense") more time to give it away?

    Realistically, he's going to finish in the top 3 in voting, and hell, he may (hopefully) even win the damn thing. I don't want to jinx the guy, and I can't count on the pieces around Kershaw to allow him to outdo all of the NL East's top hurlers, especially since they’ll be winning significantly more critical games down the stretch.