We’ve had a great 1st half of baseball this year! The Sports Script asked Ricky and me 10 questions regarding the 1st half of the season. We’ll be talking about what’s happened so far this year, as well as predict how the season will finish.
1. Who is the biggest surprise team? The Pittsburgh Pirates.
After finishing the last 20 years on the wrong side of .500, the Pittsburgh Pirates have seemed to amass a winning formula. Known for draft picks that didn’t pan out and veteran signings that fell through, this season the pieces appear to be falling into place. With acquisitions such as Francisco Liriano and Jeff Locke, joining A. J. Burnett and Gerrit Cole in the rotation and a talented bullpen, the pitching has been the heart and soul of the Pirates’ success. Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte’s outfield performances have been electrifying. With the fourth lowest payroll in the majors, GM Neal Huntington’s bargain shopping appears to be paying off.
2. Who is the biggest disappointment? The Toronto Blue Jays
The splashiest moves in the off-season don’t always translate into regular season success. The 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are a prime example. After the trade for shortstop Jose Reyes, left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle, right-handed pitcher Josh Johnson, catcher John Buck, the acquisition of free agent Melky Cabrera and knuckleballer R. A. Dickey from the New York Mets, the Jays were an early favorite to win the division. With a division-worst 45-48 record, they are falling miserably flat. Following a poor start to the season, the Jays recovered slightly but in the midst of a strong A.L. East, there is no room for mediocrity. With a sorely under-producing rotation, in order to contend with the Boston Red Sox, the Baltimore Orioles, the New York Yankees, and surging Tampa Bay Rays, their acquisitions will have to produce.
3. Who is the MVP? AL: Miguel Cabrera. NL: Yadier Molina
Although still early in the debate, Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers is a runaway favorite for MVP consideration. Aside from Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles, there is no other major league player whose numbers even come close to touching Cabrera’s. With an impressive 95 RBI’s, 30 HR’s and batting an average of .365, his production in the Tigers’ line up is extraordinary. In the NL, Catcher Yadier Molina of the St. Louis Cardinals isn’t a “typical” MVP candidate. With only 7 HR’s in 2013, he isn’t your power-hitter, however, his real strength comes in his batting average at .341 (with 49 RBI’s) on the year. He has thrown out 45% of attempted base-stealers. With a 4.0 WAR rating, Molina ranks second only to Cabrera and has started behind the plate in nearly every game, proving his durability. Perhaps most importantly, Molina is the backbone of the division-leading Cardinals.
4. Who is the CY Young? American League: Max Scherzer National League: Adam Wainwright
Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers finally lost his first game of the season this past weekend but still leads the majors with only 1 loss. While wins-losses can be overrated, they are not meaningless. With an ERA of 3.19, Scherzer leads the league in strikeouts with 152. Adam Wainright of the St. Louis Cardinals has 12 wins and 5 losses, an ERA of 2.30, and is second in the National League with 126 strikeouts. Wainwright has had 2 shutouts on the year and an impressive 14 walks in 19 games.
5. Who is the Least Valuable Player? B.J. Upton
This past off-season the Atlanta Braves signed B.J. Upton to a 5-year, $75.25 million deal, the biggest contract in franchise history. Hitting a dismal .177/.266/.300 on the year, Upton is looking like a poor investment. He is struggling at the plate with 102 strikeouts half way through the season. His timing is poor, he shows too much movement in his swing, and any adjustments he has tried to make haven’t proven effective. In fact, Upton appears to be regressing as a hitter. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez admitted he considered asking Upton to work out his struggles in a minor league assignment. Currently Upton has been placed on the 15-day DL with a right adductor muscle strain.
6. Which team needs to make a move at the deadline? Philadelphia Phillies
Throughout the season many have speculated whether the Phillies would be sellers before the deadline with the likes of Chase Utley, Michael Young, and Carlos Ruiz. However following a strong July outing, General Manager Ruben Amaro reportedly announced the Phillies could be buyers, not sellers. With the Atlanta Braves, who started the 2013 season red-hot, slightly slowing down their pace and the Washington Nationals falling short of expectations, a strong addition to the roster could give the Phillies a push for the post-season, if any is to be had. If the Phillies go the selling route, there could be great value for Utley, Young, or Ruiz in the trade market.
7. Which team is most likely to bounce back in the 2nd half? Los Angeles Angels
With a record of 44-49 the Angels are heading into the All-Star break below .500 and 12 games out of first place in the NL West. However, they have the ability to recover. If they are going to gain ground in the second half of the season they need a boost from their pitching staff (particularly ace Jered Weaver); the offense needs to live up to its potential and they need to win the games they are supposed to win. This season against the less than stellar Astros, the Angels have gone just 6-7 included being swept by Houston in a 4 game series. Their big off-season acquisition, Josh Hamilton, had a bleak start to the season but heading into the weekend has hit .346 in his last 14 games with 12 runs and 4 HR’s. Hamilton needs to break out in the second half. Injury-riddled Albert Pujols has also had a weak first half of the season but if last season is any indication (slugging jumped from .460 to .581 in the second half), he should start to improve. His bat returning to previous form will provide a much-needed bolster to the Angels’ line-up.
AL 8. Will Miguel Cabrera win the Triple Crown for a 2nd year in a row? No.
While Cabrera is certainly making a case for a repeat Triple Crown the one category that will hinder him is power-hitting. Cabrera has 30 HR’s heading into the All-Star break, second to Chris Davis’ 37. While either hitter could slow down in the 2nd half, it will be difficult to top Davis’ power. With Davis finishing out the 1st half with 93 RBI’s, 37 HR’s, and a batting average of .315, he may also be a Triple Crown contender. At the very least, his numbers will threaten Cabrera’s.
NL 8. Who will finish with the most HRs in the NL? Carlos Gonzalez
The National League does not boast the same power-hitting numbers as the American League. Currently Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies leads the NL with 25 HR’s, Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates has 24, and Domonic Brown of the Philadelphia Phillies has 23. While the HR leader at the close of the season is a toss-up, Coors Field, the home of the Colorado Rockies is known for being a home-run friendly ballpark due to the high altitude, which could give Gonzalez an advantage.
9. Which 5 teams are making the playoffs?
AL East: Boston Red Sox
AL Central: Detroit Tigers
AL West: Oakland A’s
Wild Card: Texas Rangers, Baltimore Orioles
NL East: Atlanta Braves
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals
NL West: Arizona Diamondbacks
Wild Card: Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals
10. Who is representing the AL & NL in the World Series? Detroit Tigers & St. Louis Cardinals