With the All-Star break looming, now is as good a time as any to toss out some second half predictions for my Bravos, as well as the rest of the league.
As a Braves fan, I can’t draw anything greater than a mediocre level of excitement from a 6 game cushion over the Nationals, a team buried in injuries and deflating expectations. We’ll take it, but don’t mistake that for over confidence – my Braves wouldn’t fair well if the post season started tomorrow.
Our recent starting rotation improvement has been mitigated by a home run drought threatening to expose the already glaringly obvious deficiency surrounding this line up – we don’t make enough contact. This is a dead horse, I know, but striking out at this clip with runners in scoring position just isn’t something any team can overcome. The second half will need to hold better plate discipline and more regular contact in the middle of the order if we expect to make a respectable playoff run.
I’ll take Scherzer and Wainwright for their respective league’s Cy Young Award, and Cargo for N.L MVP. Carlos Gomez deserves a lot of love here, but I’m not convinced he’s proven enough or plays on a team capable of contention. Team standing shouldn’t play any significant role in stat-based awards, however it can be a tipping point. I’m not taking a huge chance with this next one, but is the Puig for N.L Rookie of the Year bandwagon full? If not, come around and pick me up.
Everyone, myself included, probably wants to entrust another MVP to Cabrera. He’s still arguably the best all-around hitter in the majors, fields his position respectably and happens to play for a winning ball club. It doesn’t change the monotony of it all. Miguel continues to hit at a higher level than everyone else and it’s getting painfully easy to predict. Although if Baltimore can manage a fiery second half, watch out for Davis in Miguel’s rear view mirror.
Both Western Division races look like they’ll go down to the final weeks. Arizona and Colorado, behind a mind blowing season from Goldschmidt and what we’ve come to expect from Carlos Gonzalez, still look to be favorites. That isn’t to say The Giants can’t sneak into contention, or perhaps a Padres squad suddenly pitching TOWARD their ballpark’s strength.
In the A.L, the A’s aren’t going away and, analytically, they’re beating teams exactly the way you’d expect. Oakland is barely above the league average in almost every major offensive category (BA, OPS, OPS+, HR) but once again lead the A.L in walks. They’re getting guys on and hitting well with RISP, typical Athletics baseball. Here are my divisional picks:
West – Colorado over Arizona, but barely.
Central – St. Louis should run away with the division, their pitching is that strong. The aftermath will leave Cincy and Pittsburgh fighting over wildcard spots.
East – Atlanta shouldn’t have an issue locking up the East, mostly due to Washington’s injury troubles.
West – Oakland is such a fun pick here. I love watching how fundamental they are at the plate. Texas obviously has a real shot here and the Angels are hitting very well. Anaheim just can’t pitch, that isn’t changing.
Central – It’ll be increasingly tough for Cleveland to hang around in the second half. I’ll be the first to admit the Indians are pitching better, an issue which notoriously collapses first-half Cinderellas. The Tigers are just too dangerous when they start to see the ball well.
East – This is the best race in Baseball. Every team in the A.L East is over .500 – think about that for a second. The Rays would be leading the N.L West and are currently loving 4th place, staring up at The O’s, Yankees and Red Sox. Tough, tough division.
N.L – This one seems a bit too obvious. As it stands, the Reds and Pirates have a grudge match on the horizon. Home field could have a significant impact on this one, as Great American Ballpark should be re-assessed by the MLB or closed. It looks like a high school field. Bonds might have hit 900 homers as a Red.
A.L – Baltimore jumps Texas because Davis isn’t a fluke. He’s a legit power hitter and should be stirring up a ton of pride in Baltimore.
I’m going to keep playoff and World Series picks to myself for now. Sure, I’m a coward.