Baseball is dead, but don’t tell the record-number of fans that are snapping up Steven Strasburg jerseys, or the one that paid $16,000 for his rookie card. Forget the revitalization of baseball in Washington D.C., the first half of the 2010 season has been both thrilling and unpredictable.
Since I am not feeling up to mocking Hemingway and there are still two months until Texas football, we may as well pass the time talking MLB. Besides, Muschamp thinks I’m a rummy.
At least the Rangers are in first place and signed Cliff Lee. Talking baseball may not be as provoking as The Decision, but it’s better than two toddlers trying to strangle each other while wearing mittens.
If you are a purist, the season is a mosaic. If you aren’t it is torture.
For starters, let’s play an imaginary game of If the playoffs started today…
AL East – NY Yankees
AL Central – Chicago White Sox
AL West – Texas Rangers
AL Wild Card – Tampa Bay Rays
AL East – This division has 3 teams that won at least 50 games in the first half. That’s ridiculous. Normally, I like to pick against the Wild Card team emerging from such a competitive division, but in this instance, I will be surprised if the ALE does not have 2 playoff teams.
AL Central – I expect the Tigers and White Sox race to last into September. I really like Detroit’s rotation, but if Cabrera cools even slightly then their offense will stagnate. Keep an eye on Minnesota, they will not win the division, but they may be good enough to determine who does.
AL West – The Angels were the pick here. Over the long haul, their rotation would have won out. Enter Cliff Lee and suddenly it is a toss-up. Texas likely over-achieved in the first half, but they added a huge piece and have a 4.5 game lead. Rather than the see-saw battle I expect in the ALC, I foresee the ALW as Texas being chased by Anaheim.
NL East – Atlanta Braves
NL Central – Cincinnati Reds
NL West – San Diego Padres
NL Wildcard – Colorado Rockies / LA Dodgers
NL East – Atlanta was the second-biggest surprise in the first half – not that they are good, but their consistency is what I found impressive. The Mets will fade, but the Phils won’t. This should shape up like the ALW. Can the Braves hold on? Note: The Mets, Marlins and Nationals are good enough that the second-place team will be in danger of missing the playoffs.
NL Central – I believe the veteran leadership and starting rotation of St. Louis will overtake Cincinnati at some point. However, the rest of the NLC is weak enough that I think the Reds will end up as the NL’s Wild Card. The anti-ALE, the NLC has three teams that lost at least 50 games.
NL West – The San Diego Padres are 51-37. Hello biggest surprise-team in baseball, nice to meet you. Courtesy of the Padres' first half, there are four legitimate contenders in the NLW (Dodgers, Rockies & Giants). I think LA has the best roster of that bunch, but their second-half schedule is brutal.
Ok, guys. We've won two games in a row. If we win tonight, its called a winning streak. It has happened before.
The first half showcased some stunning individual performances. At times it seemed like there was a no-hitter being thrown nightly. Three perfect games were thrown in 24 days, as opposed to the previous three, which encompassed 12 years. There are also a couple of sluggers that are on pace to challenge for a triple crown. And if defense is your thing, then just watch Mark Buerhle’s glove-flip on a loop.
AMERICAN LEAGUE AWARD PROJECTIONS
AL MVP Candidates – Miguel Cabrera (Tigers), Robinson Cano (Yankees), Justin Morneau (Twins)
The AL MVP race is as close as it can get. Cabrera, Cano and Morneau have all been stellar in the first half. While statisticians may argue differently, right now I give the edge to Cabrera. The Tigers’ offense depends on Cabrera producing and he’s delivering. If he can boost Detroit into a divisional championship, then Cabrera likely will have an edge in the final vote.
AL Cy Young Candidates – Jon Lester (Red Sox), David Price (Devil Rays), Jered Weaver (Angels)
I know Cliff Lee has an infinitesimally small stat line, but he will need to perform that way with his new team to make this list (his K/BB ratio is still worth mentioning). For now, there are three guys that are leading the race and David Price of Tampa Bay would be my pick. Ultimately Price may not have a big enough strikeout total to win, but his ERA and win total should not be ignored.
NATIONAL LEAGUE AWARD PROJECTIONS
NL MVP Candidates – Andre Ethier (Dodgers), Roy Halladay (Phillies), Albert Pujols (Cardinals), Joey Votto (Reds)
Joey Votto is leading the NL in several offensive categories and yet he was still left off the original All Star team. Why? Because you’ve never heard of him. Since enough media members cried foul about the slight, the WWL may take notice and slip him into the nation’s conscious. At this point, Pujols over Votto is akin to Reggie Bush over Vince Young. The Cardinals vs Reds race in the NL Central will be the central storyline, but the Pujols vs Votto sidebar is easily worth watching.
NL Cy Young Candidates – Josh Johnson (Marlins), Ubaldo Jimenez (Rockies), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals)
Ubaldo Jimenez had an historic first half of the season, but proved to be human in the last few weeks. That is the only thing that enables a discussion of this award as anything but a foregone conclusion. Enter Josh Johnson whose stat line is actually better than Jimenez’. However, Johnson is lacking the Votto-esque boost from the WWL. Thanks to the Marlins’ obscurity, Johnson risks having his stellar performances go unnoticed.
1,000 words on baseball is more than enough….if you’re still with me. Thoughts on the first half?