AL Second Half Predictions

Posted: 07/22/2013 by levcohen in Baseball

Time for the AL Second Half predictions.
In the preseason, I had the Rays winning the AL East, the Tigers winning the AL Central, and the Angels winning the West. Of those three teams, only the Tigers lead right now. In the preseason, I had the Tigers winning 91 games, and that looks pretty solid right now. I wish they were in a tougher division, because they constantly under perform and just barely scrape by in a poor division. Perhaps I’m being unkind, as they do have a +90 run differential. Based on that, they should be 62-35. Instead, they are nine games worse.

The Rays are in second place in the balanced AL East, but I am confident that they will win this division. Since starting the season 4-9, they are 54-32, the best record in the league since then. Most of that has been without ace David Price, and without consistent Alex Cobb. Now Price is back (and pitching well, as he’s given up seven runs in 33 innings since his return) and Cobb is nearing a return. The Rays are just 1.5 games back in the East, and they have a better roster than the Red Sox.

I will, on the other hand, take a mulligan on my AL West pick. I said in the preseason that at least one of the LA teams would flunk, and it turns out that that team is the Angels. At 46-50, the Angels are 10 games out of first place, and seven out of second place. They are more likely to finish in fourth place than in the playoffs.

AL East:
Boston Red Sox:
Current Record: 60-40

Sweet: If the Red Sox even have just a slightly above average pitching staff for the rest of the way, they’ll be the best team in the American League. That’s a testament to their offense, which is perhaps the best in the Majors. The Sox lead the MLB in runs scored, and it isn’t close. They have 26 more runs than the second best team. To put that in perspective, 32 runs separate the 16th best offensive team, the Mets, and the 29th, the Nationals. Four regulars (Jose Iglesias, David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury) are hitting above .300, and this is also a team that knows how to walk. They lead the MLB in bases on balls, one of many offensive categories they lead in. Also, expect the Sox to try to upgrade their starting pitching at the trade deadline, whether it is with Jake Peavy, Matt Garza, Yovani Gallardo, or someone else.

Sour: With clearly the best offensive in the MLB, how are the Red Sox not running away with the division? Their pitching has been suspect, despite the bounce back seasons for John Lackey and Felix Doubront. The bullpen has been stretched thin, as two closers (Andrew Bailey and Joel Hanrahan) are out for the season. I could imagine the Sox’s bullpen losing them a key playoff game.

Preseason prediction: 83-79
Current prediction: 94-68
Ceiling: 100-62
Floor: 89-73

Tampa Bay Rays:
Current record: 58-41

Sweet: Evan Longoria, the cornerstone on offense, has finally stayed healthy. He has played in 96 of the 99 games, after appearing in only 74 games last season and 133 the year before. Desmond Jennings, who is still promising but not so young anymore, has raised his OPS by 80 points this season. Chris Archer, a promising young right-handed pitcher, has a 2.76 ERA and looks like a future solid starter. Alex Cobb continues to work his way back, Matt Moore has become a near ace, and David Price is back to being an ace. Basically, this is a team with two legit aces, and another two legit #2 or #3 starters.

Sour: The Rays aren’t getting a lot of production from their middle infielders (mostly Yunel Escobar and Ben Zobrist), as Zobrist has seen his OPS drop 100 points. Fernando Rodney hasn’t been dominant this season as he was last year, as his ERA is over 4.

Preseason prediction: 90-72
Current prediction: 96-66
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 84-78

Baltimore Orioles:
Current record: 56-43

Sweet: Yet again, the Orioles have gotten somewhat lucky, as their record should be (with a theorem that uses two formulas to determine a projected record) 52-47. But I think they are closer to a 56-43 team than a 52-47 one, mostly because of their power. They have 134 home runs, which is the most in the MLB by 14. Their power, er, powers them to the best slugging percentage in the big leagues. They’ve been led by Chris Davis, who has an MLB-leading 37 bombs and a slugging percentage over .700. Manny Machado has 39 doubles, which puts him on pace to hit more than 60. The last time that happened was in the 1930’s.

Sour: The Orioles are another team that is looking for starting pitching help at the deadline. They have three solid starters in Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, and Wei-Yin Chen, but outside of that they have very little. What they really need is a staff ace, as none of those guys are great and a playoff team should ideally have at least one stud. Cliff Lee would be a good fit if the Phillies were ever to come to their senses.

Preseason prediction: 87-75
Current prediction: 90-72
Ceiling: 95-67
Floor: 84-78

New York Yankees:
Current Record: 52-46

Sweet: How is their record this good when their offense is this bad? They just find a way to get things done. Offensively, their only threat is Robinson Cano. Period. Mariano Rivera is going out with a bang, as he has 31 saves and a 1.78 ERA.

Sour: The lineup stinks. Of Yankee starters with more than seven starts, four of the five have a 4.30 or worse ERA, including handsomely paid C.C. Sabathia.

Preseason prediction: 80-82
Current prediction: 80-82
Ceiling: 87-75
Floor: 76-86

Toronto Blue Jays:
Current Record: 45-52

Sweet: Edwin Encarnacion has repeated last season’s breakout year, with 26 home runs. Jose Bautista has also been an impact bat, with 22 home runs. When healthy, Jose Reyes has been terrific, as he has a 1.4 O-WAR in 31 games. The bullpen has been surprisingly good this year. Yes, the same pen that I mocked in the preseason has been terrific. Remember those names? Janssen, Delabar, Loup, Cecil. All have been good, and I stand corrected.

Sour: Overall, this team has flopped. As I predicted in the preseason, their key offensive players have gotten hurt. Reyes and Brett Lawrie have been on the DL for the majority of the season, making this infield sub-par. R.A. Dickey has been this team’s best starting pitcher, and he sports a 4.75 ERA.

Preseason prediction: 86-76
Current prediction: 83-79
Ceiling: 88-74
Floor: 70-92

AL Central:
Detroit Tigers:
Current Record: 53-44

Sweet: If Chris Davis slumps, Miguel Cabrera is going to be the first player ever to win back to back triple crowns. He is having a better season this year than he did last year, when he was the best hitter on the planet by far. They also have three other regulars hitting above .300. Max Scherzer is 13-1, and didn’t lose a game until July. Anibal Sanchez has an ERA under 3.

Sour: They should be running away with this division, and probably have the best team in the MLB on paper, but they haven’t shown it. Justin Verlander, the best pitcher in the planet coming into this season, has just a 3.69 ERA, which is fine for most pitchers but atrocious for Verlander. The Tigers really only have two reliable guys in their bullpen, in Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly.

Preseason prediction: 91-71
Current prediction: 91-71
Ceiling: 96-66
Floor: 87-75

Cleveland Indians:
Current record: 52-46

Sweet: As expected, the offense has been very good. Jason Kipnis, in particular, has broken out. He has a .913 OPS, 15 home runs, 21 steals, and a 4.6 WAR, which is tied for 10th in the MLB. Carlos Santana is one of the best offensive catchers in the MLB. When healthy, Chris Perez has been a good closer, and along with Justin Masterson, Corey Kluber has established himself as an above average starting pitcher. The new coaching staff has been terrific.

Sour: The Indians need another consistent starting pitcher, or preferably two. Other than that, this team has been very good.

Preseason prediction: 81-81
Current prediction: 86-76
Ceiling: 90-72
Floor: 78-84

Kansas City Royals:
Current record: 45-50

Sweet: Eric Hosmer has bounced back, at least somewhat, from a poor season last year and a poor start to this one. In 175 at bats since June started, he has 54 hits (a .308 average), a .502 slugging percentage, and a .346 OBP. That’s a .848 OPS, which is almost 200 points higher than he had last season. Salvador Perez looks like a solid bet to be catcher of the future, and Ervin Santana and James Shields have both pitched well, with ERA’s in the low 3’s.

Sour: The other three SPs in the Kansas City rotation have ERA’s worse than 4.40. The left side of the infield has also really under performed. Alcides Escobar has a .593 OPS and Mike Moustakas has a .620 one. Overall, this team has been a disappointment.

Preseason prediction: 79-83
Current prediction: 79-83 (why not)
Ceiling: 83-79
Floor: 70-92

Minnesota Twins:
Current record: 41-54

Sweet: I never would have predicted that the Twins would be only 13 games under .500 after the all-star break, but they are. Joe Mauer has yet again been a stud, with a .320 average and .402 OBP, and the Twins have gotten good production from guys like Oswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe. Glen Perkins has been one of the best, if not THE best, closers in baseball this year, and he will fetch a lot in a trade if the Twins decide to move him.

Sour: Unfortunately, the starting pitching has been a disaster. Vance Worley, the ace coming into the year, has a 7.21 ERA. Nine pitchers have made a start for the Twins, and six of them have an ERA of 5.40 or worse. Young players like Aaron Hicks have also underachieved.

Preseason prediction: 60-102
Current prediction: 65-97
Ceiling: 70-92
Floor: 60-102

Chicago White Sox:
Current record: 39-56

Sweet: Gordon Beckham is finally performing after years of disappointment, and Alex Rios continues to perform. Alexei Ramirez and Alejandro De Aza have also been good offensive players. Chris Sale has continued to prove to skeptical scouts that he is an ace, and Jose Quintana has also been good. Jesse Crain has probably been the best reliever in the game this year, as he has a .74 ERA (three runs allowed in 36.2 innings) and 46 strikeouts. His 2.4 WAR is second best among all relievers.

Sour: The rest. The Sox are going to be huge sellers at the trade deadline, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they challenge the Marlins and Astros for worst team in the MLB. Anyone from Alex Rios to Ramirez to De Aza to Paul Konerko to Crain to Jake Peavy could move. Basically, everyone other than Sale will move if a team wants him enough.

Preseason prediction: 76-86
Current prediction: 61-101
Ceiling: 69-93
Floor: 56-106

AL West:
Oakland Athletics:
Current record: 57-41

Sweet: The Athletics are 24th in average, 12th in on base percentage, and 17th in slugging percentage, and yet are somehow 9th in the MLB in runs scored. I don’t know how they do it, but I won’t doubt them now. Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie have led offensively, and the A’s have also gotten production from John Jaso, Seth Smith, Coco Crisp, and Brandon Moss. They’ve been this strong despite the struggles of their best player, Yoenis Cespedes. If Cespedes’s bat comes around, watch out. Bartolo Colon, at 40 years old, has been staff ace despite questions swirling around about possible PED use. The 7-8-9 combo of Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook, and Grant Balfour has been very good.

Sour: Cespedes. Tommy Milone has regressed. Josh Reddick has been hurt, and now that he is back, extremely ineffective. Brett Anderson, the staff ace coming into the season, got hurt yet again, and has started just five games and has a 6.21 ERA.

Preseason prediction: 88-74
Current prediction: 93-69
Ceiling: 98-64
Floor: 88-74

Texas Rangers:
Current record: 54-44

Sweet: Nelson Cruz and Adrian Beltre have been great offensively, and Mitch Moreland is having a career year. Yu Darvish has turned into one of the best pitchers in the MLB, and Derek Holland has an ERA just above 3. The bullpen has also been really good. Joe Nathan and Tanner Scheppers are perhaps the best 8-9 combo in the MLB, as each have an ERA at 1.80 or below.

Sour: Ian Kinsler got hurt again this season after being relatively healthy for the last two, and he has just nine homers and five steals for the season, just two years after a 30-30 season. They are another team that will probably trade for a starting pitcher, as two of their five are hurt right now (Matt Harrison and Alexi Ogando), and their replacements (Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm) have been poor, with a 4.85 and 6.37 ERA, respectively.

Preseason prediction: 88-74
Current prediction: 90-72
Ceiling: 96-66
Floor: 86-76

LA Angels:
Current record: 46-50

Sweet: They haven’t been a top three offense like many people predicted, but they have definitely been a top 10 one. Mike Trout seems on his way for another 30-30 season, and his batting average hasn’t regressed at all. Mark Trumbo has continued to be a power threat, and Howie Kendrick has turned into a really good two-hole hitter, with a .309 average and a .350 OBP. C.J. Wilson, after having a bad year last season, has been good again this year. As has closer Ernesto Frieri and setup man Scott Downs.

Sour: What a disappointment. Albert Pujols can’t even run, and Josh Hamilton has probably been the biggest disappointment in all of baseball this season. And those guys have huge contracts for years and years and years. Joe Blanton is 2-12 with a 5.53 ERA, and still has the second most starts on the team.

Preseason prediction: 93-69
Current prediction: 82-80
Ceiling: 86-76
Floor: 76-86

Seattle Mariners:
Current record: 46-52

Sweet: Kyle Seager has been the best player on the team, and Raul Ibanez has an incredible 24 homers. Even more importantly, they’ve seen some improvement from young players. Justin Smoak has an OPS above .800, and the middle infield is much more promising than it was at the beginning of the year. The middle infield of Dustin Ackley (.547 OPS) and Brendan Ryan (.521 OPS) is now Nick Franklin (22 years old, .788 OPS) and Brad Miller (23 years old, .830 OPS). Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma have both been aces, with Hernandez again a frontrunner for Cy Young. Overall, this team has slightly overachieved my expectations.

Sour: Other young players, like Ackley, Jesus Montero, Mike Zunino, and Carter Capps have been bad, and that’s not a good thing for a young, developing team. Also, veteran acquisition Jason Bay has failed miserably.

Preseason prediction: 74-88
Current prediction: 78-84
Ceiling: 82-80
Floor: 74-88

Houston Astros:
Current record: 33-64

Sweet: The Astros are currently on a 55 win pace. I predicted them to win 54 games. Better than I thought! Jarred Cosart pitched eight shutout innings in his first start. Bud Norris has a 3.91 ERA. That’s all I’ve got.

Sour: Jose Altuve, the only player on the roster who the Astros wanted to build around, has been disappointing this year. Probably worst-case scenario for Houston.

Preseason prediction: 54-108
Current prediction: 54-108
Ceiling: 60-102
Floor: 49-113

AL MVP update:
1. Miguel Cabrera
2. Chris Davis
3. Mike Trout
4. Jason Kipnis
5. Robinson Cano

AL Cy Young update:
1. Felix Hernandez
2. Yu Darvish
3. Mariano Rivera
4. Max Scherzer
5. Bartolo Colon

AL ROY update:
1. Chris Archer
2. Wil Myers
3. Nick Franklin
4. Jose Iglesias
5. Martin Perez

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