Monday, July 9, 2012

Mid-Season Predictions

As we reach the midpoint in the season lets go ahead and take a look at who’s a legitimate contender for a long postseason run, who will be fighting for a spot at the end of the season, and who just can’t cut it. Going forward Perhaps the two of us can write one of these each during spring training rather than me slapping one together as we near the All-star break.

Out of it:

  • Chicago Cubs - This was a rebuilding year from the get go, this is no shock to anyone.
  • Houston Astros - Preparing to leave the NL they made no real improvements from last year, again a real gimme.
  • Colorado Rockies - A few ill advised signings, less than stellar trades, and generally ineffective pitching have sealed the Rox fate this season.
  • San Diego Padres - A completely anemic offense has robbed this team of any chance to compete despite a reasonably productive rotation and pen.
  • Seattle Mariners - “Rebuilding” would imply progress, which the M’s have finally made. Despite being in the bottom ½ of the league in ERA, Batting Average, OBP, and Runs scored they have a reasonably effective young core and could finally start seeing some growth from their club over the next year or so.
  • Minnesota Twins - They’re not packing much if any power in their lineup, and have the very worst pitching in the AL, they are for good reason cellar dwellers this season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see that carry into next year.
  • Kansas City Royals - They haven’t really been good at any point this year, but their offense is showing some promise with the 5th best Batting Average in the AL, they are however not providing much in the way of power or patience. They are pretty young as a team, and could see some improved patience. Giving up Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez didn’t help them on either side of the ball, and pitching will have to be a focus this offseason.
  • Milwaukee Brewers - With Shaun Marcum out for a while, and an overall underperforming bullpen their pitching has crippled the brew crew. They’re dangerous enough that this is arguable, but with a purge of many valuable players possible I don’t see them as a threat for a wildcard spot.
  • Philadelphia Phillies - Despite their ability to really make a run, they have managed to fall 12 games out in a very competitive division. If they don’t become sellers they could make a run but I am inclined to say it would be too little too late at this point. This isn’t exactly an indictment of the Phillies, it’s more commentary on the overall potency of the NL East.
  • Arizona Diamondbacks - They’ve been a slightly worse than .500 team all year, and it’s just not coming together for the D-Backs. Without making a huge acquisition, they’re just not going to start competing this year.

Fringe teams:

  • Oakland A’s - They don’t really have the offense to compete, and I would expect Billy Beane to be more likely to give up a pitcher or two for prospects rather than making an aggressive push to make the postseason.
  • Toronto Blue Jays - I certainly don’t see the Blue Jays as ready to compete, but given the strength of the AL East, and the general weakness of other divisions they may well be able to sneak in if their patchwork rotation can hold up.
  • Boston Red Sox - They’re probably much more capable of absorbing a bad contract or so to help rebuild their rotation and ‘pen. I would be very surprised if Ben Cherington didn’t push to make the postseason in his first year in the driver’s seat after last year’s collapse.
  • Miami Marlins - They have the talent, they just haven’t gotten the results. They may still be a year out from legitimate competition, and they could well be a piece or two away, Carlos Lee may well be the key for them.
  • Detroit Tigers - After making a strong run last year I’m somewhat surprised that the Tigers have regressed so far but with a potentially dangerous lineup and a rotation that hasn’t lived up to its potential, they could easily climb up into the picture again.
  • Tampa Bay Rays - They’re doing well enough, but being in the only division in baseball without a team below .500 isn’t doing them many favors. In a weaker division they might have been able to separate themselves from the pack, but that hasn’t been the case in the AL East.
  • Baltimore Orioles - They’re surpassing all expectations anyone could have reasonably set for them, we’ve been told countless times that they’ll come back down to earth, and we’re still waiting for it. I don’t know that the O’s are ready for a legitimate run through the postseason but they’ve made huge strides and are in a position to acquire a piece or two at the deadline to help put it all together.
  • Cleveland Indians - Despite what Shelley Duncan has said, the team needs to upgrade one way or another. They have managed to put together a generally ineffective rotation, and a spotty bullpen so far. Couple that with a middle of the pack offense, and it’s more surprising that they’re in the hunt, let alone above .500 at this point. Cleveland needs to make an upgrade one way or another or they’ll be looking up at Detroit before long.
  • Chicago White Sox - After acquiring Kevin Youkilis they’ve been on quite the tear but I don’t know that he is the solution to all of their problems. Their rotation has been spotty, between incredible dominance and barely being able to get to the 5th inning. They are a good if not great team, and are certainly holding their own despite their troubles but they have a tough division and two other legitimate postseason contenders sitting within 4 games of them.
  • New York Mets - Their rotation has been rough behind R.A. Dickey and Johan Santana, and the bullpen is a mess. It appears that Jonathon Niese and Chris Young might be able to help steady the ship, but Young isn’t known for putting up a lot of innings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them shopping for bullpen arms and maybe a lower cost starter for insurance, but messing with their lineup could spell disaster for them.
  • Atlanta Braves - Despite some trouble in the rotation, with Jair Jurrjens and Mike Minor having a rough go this season their bullpen has been stellar and the offense has been excellent. They could maybe look for a back of the rotation starter or a bench bat but are otherwise in good position to just avoid injury and see where they can go.
  • Cincinnati Reds -  With a middling offense and a stable but unimpressive rotation I don’t know that the Reds can really keep competing for the top of their division for too long. Something has to give, at 35 Bronson Arroyo (though a personal favorite pitcher) hasn’t really been this good in years. beyond Arroyo and Johnny Cueto the rest of the rotation scares me for a playoff run.
  • Pittsburgh Pirates - They lead their division, but with major competition in the division and a serious need for an offensive upgrade the Bucs may have trouble holding onto their spot.
  • San Francisco Giants - With Tim Lincecum pitching like he’s throwing with his off hand the team has been somewhat backwards so far. Despite having some dangerous bats, they have a bottom 5 offense. Given their overall potential the Giants could do to add a bat or 2 to bolster their lineup but are otherwise exactly what anyone would expect of them, Lincecum excluded.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers - Injuries have been their downfall offensively and if they can manage through that to a healthy team after the break, they may not really need to add anything else. I’m still waiting on Chris Capuano’s return to earth, but he’s looking to have the best year of his career even if he slides some in the 2nd half.
  • St Louis Cardinals - They have the best offense in the NL but their pitching has been touch and go so far. I don’t see them falling off, but they most certainly should be looking for an arm or 2, mostly in the ‘pen.

Near Locks:

  • Texas Rangers - With the 2nd best record in baseball, and only one competitor in their division, the Rangers really only have to contend with the shortcomings within their rotation to lock in a spot in the postseason.
  • Los Angeles Angels - Similarly, with the ability to beat up on Seattle and Oakland and such a stiff competition in the other two divisions I can’t see the Angels missing the postseason even if they’re going to have to make it through the 1 game playoff they’ve certainly got the pitching to do it and their lineup has gotten stronger since Albert Pujols started hitting, especially with the surge of success from both Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.
  • New York Yankees - Call it homerism or call it reasonable. I don’t care. With a strong lineup despite the loss of most of their speed with Brett Gardner on the shelf and Russell Martin’s awful year they are still hitting homers and knocking in runs with the best of ‘em. Similarly despite losing Mariano Rivera for the season, and Andy Pettitte until September they have been pitching exceedingly well and have some organizational depth to help cover up weak points.
  • Washington Nationals - They’ve been stockpiling talent like no one else in the majors and despite a middle of the pack offensive threat they have the best pitching staff in the national league. If they’re going to make a change or two it would be purely to upgrade their lineup, but they may not feel any real motivation to do that and I can’t blame them. Maybe not the best overall team in the NL but they’re certainly able to hold their own in a tough division, and there’s just nothing stopping them from making a postseason berth.

My picks aren’t too surprising but at this point I’d expect a postseason consisting of:
AL East - Yankees
AL Central - White Sox
AL West - Rangers
AL Wildcard 1 - Angels
AL Wildcard 2 - Rays

NL East - Nationals
NL Central - Cardinals
NL West - Giants
NL Wildcard 1 - Dodgers
NL Wildcard 2 - Pirates

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