Time to see where we are at as MLB heads towards the All-Star break next week. Looking back at my pre-season predictions, what the hell was I thinking picking the Reds to win the NL Central?
Here are how the division races shape up and what we predicted here at My Pinstripes.
AL East - Well yeah, I took the Yankees to win it with 97 victories. That's looking really woeful right now. The Red Sox, who we thought would come in 2nd, have played some mediocre ball for am month, but not as bad as the stumbling Yankees and Jays.
AL Central - We took the Tigers to win it with 95 wins. As we expected, the Indians and Tigers are battling it out in a race that will probably come down to the wire. We were on the money with the White Sox being sellers as the trade deadline approached.
AL West - On the money so far with the Angels, though 93 wins is going to turn out to be more like 98-100. The Angels lineup is filled with .300 hitters, good starting pitching and a strong bullpen. There's no reason to think they won't represent the AL in the World Series. The Red Sox get a lot of hype because of their starting rotation, but the Angels are a better all around team. The Mariners have been a big surprise, currently sitting 11 games over .500.
Revised Prediction: Red Sox, Tigers, Angels for the division, Indians for Wild Card.
NL East - We underestimated the Mets ability to produce solid pitching from scraps - i.e. John Maine and Oliver Perez. We also overestimated the Phillies, which is always easy to do. Despite a rough stretch in June, the Mets are still 11 over .500 and the cream of the crop in the NL East. The Phillies and Braves will compete, but there's no catching the Mets.
NL Central - Oh God, that awful Reds pick. Must have not had coffee that morning. The Reds stink and are now looking for a new manager. We also did not give enough attention to the Milwaukee Brewers who are chock full of young talent, lead by masher, Prince Fielder. And Ben Sheets is looking like the real deal again. The Cubbies have survived in-fighting and are hanging in there despite a shaky starting staff and bullpen. The Astros, Cards, and Reds are all garbage.
NL West - No Bruce Bochy, but the San Diego Padres sit atop the NL West this afternoon. Bochy is having a miserable time with a miserable Giants club and a miserable Barroid Bonds. The Dodgers, our pre-season pick, sit one game back. Somehow, a young, mediocre Dbacks team is only 2.5 back. They showed against the Yankees just how green and lousy they are. The Rockies had the huge sweep of the Yankees, but have looked like crap since. Our pick here will still be LA to rise above it all.
Revised Prediction: Mets, Brewers, Dodgers for division, Padres for Wild Card.
Our AL pre-season predictions were as follows: Cy Young - Johann Santana, MVP - Travis Hafner, Rookie of the Year - Delmon Young
Johann Santana's win-loss record is nothing to write home about, but his 3 straight wins have made it a lot better (9-6). What is to brag about is a 2.76 ERA and 120 Ks in 114 innings pitched. We still feel Santana will be the Cy Young winner when all is said and done, but for the 1st half, we have to give it to Justin Verlander. The Tiger's 2nd year starter is 9-3, 3.18, including a June 12th no-hitter against the Brewers. He's got 90 Ks in 102 IP and a miniscule 1.17 WHIP. Consideration also goes to C.C. Sabathia (12-2, 3.20 116 Ks) and Josh Beckett (11-2, 3.38).
Travis Hafner started out a house afire, hitting .338-5-16 in April. He's hit just .224-8-36 since. His teammate Victor Martinez though has stepped up to MVP status. V-Mart's .325-14-63 tops all 3 team categories. He also has 20 doubles and a .920 OPS. Vlad Guerrero is enjoying another "Vladian" type season. 14 HRs and 73 RBI to go along with a .328 average. Tiger teammates Magglio Ordonez (.369-13-68) and Gary Sheffield (.290-18-52) have helped take Detroit to the top of the AL Central.
But the numbers cannot lie - the first half MVP is A-Rod. While the Yankees are not in any contention, imagine how many out they would be if A-Rod weren't have the season he is. Joe Torre would probably already be home. The official numbers, which may not change if A-Rod's hamstring is bad, .328-28-80 with 74 runs scored. He's also playing gold glove caliber defense at the hot corner.
Our pre-sason pick, Delmon Young (.271-9-44, 6 SB), has been having a decent season for the Devil Rays, especially since he started slowly. The Red Sox have a duo of the much ballyhooed (and so far, overhyped) Dice-K and hobbitt Dustin Pedroia. Matsuzaka (9-5, 3.80) has pitched well, but has received plenty of run support. Pedroia nearly lost his job in April to Alex Cora, but Terry Francona stuck with him and it has paid off. Pedroia hit .4`5 in May and .333 in June.
KC's Brian Bannister was just named AL Rookie of the Month after winning 4 games in 6 starts with a 2.75 ERA. The Mets wish they still had the kid who overall is 5-4, 3.58. He won't get enough attention in the small market though to garner enough media buzz.
Several injuries to Angels players gave Reggie Willits the opportunity to play ever day and he has taken full advantage. He's hitting .337 with 39 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in 66 games. Orioles' pitcher Jeremy Guthrie was released by the Indians after failing to live up to the hype he had gotten in the organization. Thing is though, he never really got the chance to prove himself at the major league level. He certainly has this year. He's 4-2, 2.63 in 16 starts. 10 no decisions caused by a lack of run support and one of the worst bullpens in baseball. Over the last 2 months, Guthrie has made 11 starts, going 2-2. His ERA over that time? 2.01, yes I said 2.01. He's also average more than 7 innings a start and is our 1st half AL Rookie of the Year. Look for Dice-K to still get the year end award thanks to the overhype.
Our AL Manager of the Year to this year would have been Mike Hargrove for his job with the M's, but being he has resigned, will give it to perennial contender, Mike Scioscia.
The National League 1st half MVP award goes to Jose Reyes, whose playmaking, offensively and defensively, sparks the Mets. His smile and love for the game also keeps his teammates loose. The Carloses, Delgado and Beltran have been a big disappointment in the 1st half, making Reyes' play all the more important. As the Yankees will attest, when Reyes gets on base, it's pure chaos for the opponent. His numbers- a .316 average, 40 steals, 45 walks, 50 runs scored, and 34 RBI. He could also garner a gold glove this year.
The Rockies' Matt Holliday is a pure hitter, leading the NL with a .347 average. He also has 14 HR and 65 RBI. Phillies' 2nd sacker Chase Utley, our pre-season pick, is a guy any team would love to have. He's been the one consistent for the Phils this year. His .322-15-65 is a worthy of a corner infielder. The Brewers' Prince Fielder has boosted their resurgence with 27 HRs and 66 RBI. Miguel Cabrera (.330-17-57) and Jimmy Rollins (.285-14-49, 15 SB, 10 doubles, 14 triples) are also viable candidates.
The NL Cy Young award right now would go to Jake Peavy in a close one with Brad Penny. Peavy (9-2, 2.09) has 119 Ks in 112 IP. The NL is hitting just .214 against him, while not drawing walks either (1.05 WHIP).
Penny is having an outstanding season for LA. A 10-1 record with a major league leading 2.00 ERA. He's a 1.12 WHIP to go with a .233 opponent's average. Peavy's teammate Chris Young (8-3, 2.14) also is a top contender with an opponents average of .197 and 90 Ks in 96.2 innings. Another screw up by the Texas Rangers in dealing the 6'10" right hander. John Maine, Brandon Webb, Ben Sheets, and Brewer's closer Francisco Cordero are among the others candidates.
NL Rookie of the Year would belong to Hunter Pence of the Astros. A .342 average with 9 HR and 38 RBI, 34 runs scored, and 7 stolen bases. Troy Tulowitzki (.278-8-36, 47 runs), James Loney (.393-3-14 in 56 ABs), and Josh Hamilton (.273-13-28) were also in the mix.
Our NL Manager of the "half" Year is Milwaukee's Ned Yost. Entering play today, the Brew Crew has the best record in the NL and the best mark at home.