Ahhh yes. The All-Star break in Major League Baseball is you can take upon us. That annual rite of passage where kids see their baseball heroes all in one place and where Chris Berman annoys the hell out of all us with his Home Run Derby call. What would summer be like without it?
I’m certain tonight’s Home Run Derby will be just fine. I know it will be in my house as the mute signal glares from the bottom right of the TV screen. I won’t be thinking about whether Prince Fielder can win the Derby because I’m looking ahead to the second half of the season and I’ve got some predictions you can take to the bank.
American League Projections
AL East – The Boston Red Sox hold a 2.5 games lead over a very hot Tampa Rays team. Baltimore is 4.5 back and the Bronx Bombers are six back. I don’t know how long the Yanks can hang in there because the offense is lacking and A-Rod’s return will help but it won’t be enough. I like the Sox to hang on with a combination of pitching and offense.
AL Central – The Tigers have just a 1.5 game lead over Cleveland who will be their only competition down the stretch. Kansas City is out by eight and the White Sox and Twins are expected to hold fire sales at the end of the month. Detroit will make a deal to get a more stable closer and eventually will pull away behind the offense and great starting pitching.
AL West – Much like the Central, this is a two-team race. Oakland leads Texas by two games. Both teams are in the middle of the pack offensively, but Oakland owns the best pitching in the American League and that’s why they’ll hang on to win the West.
NL East – Atlanta leads Washington and Philadelphia by six and 6.5 games respectively but has injury issues with the Upton brothers and Freddie Freeman. The question for the Phillies is whether they feel they have a shot at the post-season because otherwise, they have lots of guys available for trade talks. The Braves win the East.
NL Central – This is a three-team race with St. Louis in front of the Pirates by a game and a half and ahead of the Reds by four games. In order for the Pirates to avoid a third-straight second half collapse they’ll need to add some offense to go with great pitching. The Reds lack consistency which is why I like the Cards to hang on and the Pirates to grab the wild-card.
NL West – Arizona leads LA by 2.5 games. Colorado and San Francisco are 4.5 and 6.5 games out respectively. This is the one division I struggle to call. Yasiel Puig has given the Dodgers a nice life to get back in the race but I don’t think it will last. Colorado is near the bottom in pitching which will doom them and the Giants aren’t significantly better. I think Arizona hangs on in the West but its’ going to be close.
Other Predictions – Miguel Cabrera is on a pace better than his Triple Crown season of last year but I don’t know that he’ll catch Chris Davis for home runs. Davis leads him by seven. I will take Cabrera to win a second-straight MVP award though…. If the Nationals don’t show some life in the first three weeks after the break then I’m predicting Davey Johnson becomes the first managerial casualty…. Player suspensions will be the talk of the second half as I expect them to be handed down in the next week or two…. If the Pirates win the NL Central, reliever Jason Grilli could be an MVP candidate. He’s been that good for the Buccos…. My World Series pick of Washington and Detroit looks much less likely today.