My Thoughts on Major League Baseball at the All Star Break
Major League Baseball has reached the all star break. That can mean only one thing, we are that much closer to football season! I decided to go back to my MLB preview post from March 30th to see how my predictions have stood up.
I started my preview with the AL East. I said Toronto was the best team nobody talks about because they are mired in mediocrity in baseball's toughest division. At the break, the Jays are 45-47 and going nowhere in that division. On the plus side, Jose Bautista was the leading vote getter and leads the majors in home runs. He has also picked up his average to become a more complete hitter.
After a slow start, Boston looks like the favorite in the AL. Adrian Gonzalez is worth every penny. Carl Crawford was starting to pick up his anemic numbers, but has been on the dl since mid June. Despite not getting the production from Crawford they imagined, Boston is ranked first in just about every major offensive category.
Even though the Yankees whiffed on every major free agent they are still the YANKEES. New York has out talented their way to 53 wins at the break and are one game behind Boston. The pitching is still a concern, despite Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon being pleasant surprises. I will be very interested to see what moves New York makes at the trade deadline. Oh yeah and Derek Jeter has 3,000 hits!
Tampa Bay has been a surprise to me. Their pitching and defense has kept them in the race, because they do not have the bats to swing with Boston and New York. Baltimore were early pacesetters, but they do not have the depth, talent, or pitching to compete in this division.
Moving to the AL Central, I did not see Cleveland being viable at the break. Along with Seattle, I thought the tribe would be in the running for the worst records in baseball. Cleveland is average on paper, but they somehow find themselves a half game behind Detroit at the break. Cleveland has a soft enough schedule to have a killer July, but i think the runs ends in August when they face Boston, Texas, and Detroit to start the month.
The Tigers have been perennial underachievers since the World Series run in '06. They have one of the most dominant pitchers in Justin Verlander and are very efficient offensively. The depth of their rotation and bullpen scare me, but they may hit their way to an AL Central crown.
The White Sox were my pick to win the division, but they look average at best. The have a collection of quality starters, but no dominant aces. Adam Dunn has been terrible, and Gordon Beckham may never be a great major league hitter. Despite their underachieving, they can win the division with a hot second half.
Minnesota has and hasn't surprised me. We just assume they will be there at the end, because that it what they do under Ron Gardenhire. The pitching is below average while Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau have had a hard time staying healthy. Despite a miserable May, the Twins have won seven of their last ten and somehow are only 6.5 games behind Detroit. I wouldn't completely count the Twins out just yet.
Kansas City came out fast, but are still a few years away from being viable.
The AL West is shaping up exactly like I thought it would. Texas finds themselves atop the division at the break. They still hit their way to a lot of wins, and the pitching isn't terrible without Cliff Lee. They should have a great second half battle with the Angels.
Los Angeles was my pick to win the division, and I think they are primed to have a huge second half run. Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and Bobby Abreu may be past their primes, but have enough in the tank for one more run. The pitching is excellent with two aces at the top of the rotation, and the young hitters like Mark Trumbo are really coming into their own.
Seattle was a nice first half story, but I expect them to take a huge nose dive in the second half. Oakland has been this years Seattle. The A's aren't who we thought they were, and are just a bad baseball team. Hey Billy Beane, lets scrap this obsession with walks and OBP and get some real major league hitters!
The National League has unfolded exactly as I expected it would. Philadelphia was my pick to win the east with their pitching and at the break they have the best record in baseball. I also said the Braves would give the Phillies a little push and win the wild card. Atlanta is 3.5 back and in good shape to take the wild card.
I thought Florida would be cagey. After a good start they collapsed in May and June and were forced to call on 80 year old Jack McKeon to recapture some of that 2003 magic. Washington spent some money but I wondered if it would be money well spent. Year one of Jayson Werth's contract has bought the Nats a .210 batting average with 10 homers and 31 runs batted in. Despite Werth's poor play and Jim Riggleman's abrupt resignation, Washington is .500 at the break. The Mets have been a nice surprise. They are one game over .500 at the break, but lets not fool ourselves. They are not catching Atlanta or Philadelphia. They are having a hard time staying healthy and the pitching isn't good enough to contend.
As predicted the Central is wide open. Milwaukee, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh??? are still in contention at the break. Pittsburgh will probably fade in the second half, but Clint Hurdle should have a statue outside PNC Park for having the Buckos four games above. 500 at the break. The pitching isn't elite, but good enough. They aren't a great offensive team, but years of high draft picks are finally paying dividends on the field.
Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati are all good but not great. Whoever gets the hottest in September will take the division. I still give the edge to Milwaukee because of their pitching.
San Francisco is showing no signs of a hangover at the break. The loss of Buster Posey hasn't crushed them like some thought it would. Brian Wilson hasn't been as automatic in the 9th, but the Giants still appear to be the class of the west. Arizona has been a nice surprise. Kirk Gibson has done a nice job, but I don't know if they have the horses to make a second half run.
I'm still waiting for Colorado to pull a Colorado and win 18 out of 20 to vault themselves into contention. I wouldn't put it past them. No one is surprised the Padres stink, and the Dodgers are having the kind of first half I expected from the Mets.
This has been one of the more wide open seasons in a long time, and I'm am looking forward to some good division races in the second half.