Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Canon Review 2011 Baseball Preview Midseason Review

Since the baseball season has reached the All-Star break, I figured it's the proper time to review the picks that I made at the beginning of the 2011 MLB season. You can go back and review the preview here if you want. As it turns out, my picks weren't exactly spot on. For example, who would have thought that the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cleveland Indians, and Arizona Diamondbacks would be in the thick of the playoff race at the All-Star break? Clearly not me. So without further adieu, here's a look at my picks and how they've held up so far.

Predictions (* = Wild Card)       Current Record:

American League

AL East
1. Boston Red Sox               1. Boston Red Sox (55-35)
2. New York Yankees*         2. New York Yankees (53-35)*
3. Toronto Blue Jays            3. Tampa Bay Rays (49-41)
4. Tampa Bay Rays              4. Toronto Blue Jays (45-47)
5. Baltimore Orioles             5. Baltimore Orioles (36-52)

Hey, remember when the Red Sox got off to an 0-6 start and everybody was panicking about the Sox? Well, since then they're 55-29 and now have the best record in the American League. While OF Carl Crawford has yet to live up to expectations for the Sox, the team's other big acquisition, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, has more than held up his end of the bargain, leading the A.L. in hits, RBIs, and batting average. The Yankees have had some injury trouble, but solid performances from 2B Robinson Cano, SP C.C. Sabathia, 1B Mark Teixeira, and CF Curtis Granderson have put the Bronx Bombers neck in neck with the Red Sox. The Rays are probably one of the four best teams in the AL, but only two teams can make it in the playoffs out of the A.L. East, and it looks like the Rays will be the team on the outside looking in. 3B/OF Jose Bautista has been the best hitter in baseball for the Blue Jays, leading the league in home runs and OPS. But the Jays pitching staff is too inconsistent for them to contend this year. The Orioles got off to a hot start, but the team's young pitching staff still has some growing up to do (last in the AL in ERA) before the Orioles can return to respectability.

AL Central
1. Chicago White Sox           1. Detroit Tigers (49-43)
2. Detroit Tigers                   2. Cleveland Indians (47-42)
3. Minnesota Twins              3. Chicago White Sox (44-48)
4. Kansas City Royals         4. Minnesota Twins (41-48)
5. Cleveland Indians            5. Kansas City Royals (37-54)

The Tigers have gotten little to no production from four different lineup spots (2B, 3B, LF, CF) and their pitching outside of ace Justin Verlander has been inconsistent, but they still enter the All-Star break leading the division and with players like Verlander, 1B Miguel Cabrera, and C/DH Victor Martinez leading the charge, Detroit should stay in the race the rest of the way. The Indians surprised the entire baseball world with their fast start, but a combination of injuries and starting pitching woes (especially from Fausto Carmona) have brought the Tribe back to earth. Still, they're only half a game back in the American League's most wide open division. The White Sox have not played up to expectations, but if some of those disappointing players (DH Adam Dunn, SP John Danks, 2B Gordan Beckham, CF Alex Rios) can round into form, then the White Sox have to be considered legit contenders. The Twins have had injuries to both C Joe Mauer and 1B Justin Morneau, their closer Joe Nathan never returned back to form, and ace SP Francisco Liriano has been a disappointment. Yet they remain only 6.5 games out of first, so a hot second half could push the Twins back into the playoffs. The Royals still seem to be a year away, although they have gotten good play out of rookies like 1B Eric Hosmer and set-up man Aaron Crow. Honestly, I think Cleveland drops out of it, and the Tigers and White Sox will duke it out down the stretch, with Chicago winning by a nose.

AL West
1. Texas Rangers                 1. Texas Rangers (51-41)
2. Oakland Athletics            2. L.A. Angels of Anaheim (50-42)
3. L.A. Angels of Anaheim  3. Seattle Mariners (43-48)
4. Seattle Mariners             4. Oakland Athletics (39-53)

The Rangers have had a few injury problems, but they're right on pace with last year's mark at the All-Star Break (50-38). If they can get better starting pitching, the Rangers should be able to hold off the Angels, who have great pitching but are offensively challenged. The Mariners have great pitching led by starters Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, but their offense is just offensive to watch (.224/.290/.331). The Athletics are a lot like the Mariners, but just not as lucky. This is going to be a two-team race at the end, and as long as the Rangers' big bats can stay healthy, they should hold off the Angels.

National League

NL East
1. Philadelphia Phillies        1. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34)
2. Atlanta Braves*              2. Atlanta Braves (54-38)*
3. Florida Marlins               3. New York Mets (46-45)
4. Washington Nationals    4. Washington Nationals (46-46)
5. New York Mets              5. Florida Marlins (43-48)

The Phillies have relied on their excellent starting pitching led by Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee to carry an offense that has been average at best to the majors best record. Sure, the Phillies could use another bat and an arm in the bullpen, but as long as Halladay, Lee, and Cole Hamels take their scheduled turns and Roy Oswalt can get back in the swing of things, then the Phillies are the team to beat in the NL. The Braves have used a similar strategy to lay claim to the second best record in the NL, and the Wild-Card spot should be theirs to lose, especially if 2B Dan Uggla and RF Jason Heyward can come back from rough first halves. The Mets have suffered injuries to 3B David Wright, 1B Ike Davis and LF Jason Bay, but their biggest concern has to be the injury SS Jose Reyes suffered last week, as the free-agent to be has carried the Mets thus far. The Nationals have gone through injuries and a managerial change, yet they still find themselves at .500 despite a poor first half from free agent acquisition OF Jayson Werth (.215/.319/.362). The Marlins played well the first two months, then struggled mightily in June, which resulted in 80-year old Jack McKeon becoming the new manager. It's not likely that McKeon will drag his team over .500 with ace SP Josh Johnson out indefinitely and superstar SS Hanley Ramirez having his worst season to date. At the end of the day, expect the Phillies and Braves to grab playoff spots, and the Mets and Nats to fight it out for third.
NL Central
1. Cincinnati Reds              1. St. Louis Cardinals (49-43)
2. St. Louis Cardinals         1. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43)
3. Milwaukee Brewers       3. Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43)
4. Chicago Cubs                  4. Cincinnati Reds (45-47)
5. Houston Astros               5. Chicago Cubs (37-55)
6. Pittsburgh Pirates           6. Houston Astros (30-62)

Baseball's most wide-open race resides here in the NL Central, where four teams are within 4 1/2 games of each other. The Cardinals waived their opening day closer, Ryan Franklin, during the season, and have been without superstars 1B Albert Pujols and LF Matt Holliday for stretches of the season. But now both men are back, Fernando Salas has filled the closer role, and thanks to an offense led by OF Lance Berkman (.290/.402/606), the Cardinals are tied for first place. The Brew Crew has been carried by 1B Prince Fielder and OF Ryan Braun on offense to go with a strong starting rotation. If SP Zack Grienke improves on his 5.45 ERA in the second half, then watch out for the Brewers. The Pirates, a team without a winning season in 19 years, find themselves only a half a game out of first place. A lot of the credit for that goes to CF Andrew McCutheon and a pitching staff that ranks fifth in the NL in ERA. The Reds lead the league in runs scored, but their pitching staff (14th in ERA) has been a disappointment, particularly SP Edinson Volquez and RP Arlodis Chapman. The Cubs are still the Cubs, an overpaid mess of a team going nowhere fast, although SS Starlin Castro has been one of the best hitting shortstops in the game. The Astros are in rebuilding mode at this point, which is something the Cubs should consider. At the end of the day, I'll stick with the Reds pulling out another division title, if only because I'm not sold on any of these teams, so I might as well stick with my original pick.

NL West
1. Colorado Rockies           1. San Francisco Giants (52-40)
2. San Francisco Giants      2. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers     3. Colorado Rockies (43-48)
4. San Diego Padres           4. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-51)
5. Arizona Diamondbacks  5. San Diego Padres (40-52)

Giants baseball may be torture (15th in the NL in runs scored), but once again manager Bruce Bochy and a strong pitching staff have made it work, as the Giants are in first place at the All-Star break despite a season ending injury to C Buster Posey and getting next to nothing out of SS Miguel Tejada. The Diamondbacks have played with a new spark under manager Kirk Gibson, and to the surprise of many, find themselves right in the thick of the hunt, thanks in large part to OFs Chris Young and Justin Upton. The Rockies have a reputation of being a second half team, which is a good thing because they'll need a strong second half to make the postseason this year. Better pitching from ace Ubaldo Jimenez would help. The Dodgers are just a mess right now, and not even the talent of players such as CF Matt Kemp, RF Andre Ethier, and SP Clayton Kershaw will push the Dodgers into the pennant race. The Padres just can't score enough runs, and with the trade deadline approaching, the team is looking to trade star closer Heath Bell for a package of prospects. Where Bell ends up could make the difference for a contender, which is the only impact the Padres will have on the pennant race this season. I would like to stick with the Rockies, but I think they're too far behind the Giants to catch up, so the Giants are my choice.

World Series Predictions: Rangers over Rockies

One day, I'm going to learn not to expect huge things from the Rockies, as they seem to have the pieces for a great team but just can't put it together for whatever reason. So instead, I'm saying the Phillies will match up with the Rangers in the 2011 World Series, with the Rangers winning a close series in at least six games. Sure, it might be a gut feeling, but I think the Rangers have the talent to pull it off and win the first World Series in their franchise's history.

Awards Predictions:


1. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox (.354 BA/.414 OBP/.591 SLG, 128 hits, 17 HR, 77 RBI)
2. Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (.301/.357/.542, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 54 games)
3. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (.239/.321/.459, 11 HR, 42 RBI)
Dark Horse: Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (.225/.281/.338, 54 games, injured)

Midseaon Picks:
1. Gonzalez
2. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays (.334/.468/.702, 31 HR, 65 RBI)
3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers (.311/.430/.549, 18 HR, 59 RBI)
4. Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees (.269/.361/.575, 25 HR, 63 RBI, 79 runs, 15 SB)

Gonzalez has been everything the Red Sox could have ever hoped for and more when they traded for him in the offseason, carrying the Sox to the league's best record and leading the league in many major categories. Bautista's team may not be as successful as the Red Sox, but the Blue Jay has reinvented himself over the past two years and has become the most dangerous hitter in the game with the possible exception of Albert Pujols. Once again, Cabrera is putting together another solid season for the AL Central leading Tigers, but he's a little short of Bautista and Gonzalez thus far. On a team full of stars, Granderson has arguably been the best of the bunch for the Yankees, providing a devastating mixture of power and speed for opponents and leading the A.L in runs scored and triples to go along with his stellar numbers. As for my other preseason picks, well, they've all been hurt, and only Hamilton has really had a solid season thus far.


1. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (.280/.357/.500, 18 HR, 50 RBI)
2. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (.268/.337/.468, 17 HR, 57 RBI)
3. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds (.324/.438/.507, 13 HR, 55 RBI)
Dark Horse: Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (.226/.315/.404, 9 HR, 69 games)

Midseason Picks:
1. Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates (.291/.390/.505, 14 HR, 54 RBI, 15 SB)
2. Brian McCann, C, Braves (.310/.381/.514, 15 HR, 50 RBI)
3. Lance Berkman, OF, Cardinals (.290/.404/.602, 24 HR, 63 RBI)
4. Jose Reyes, SS, Mets, (.354/.398/.529, 124 hits, 15 3B, 30 SB)

Perhaps I may be overstating McCuthen's contributions this year, but on a team that's not exactly full of superstars, McCuthen's been the one consistent in the lineup and the biggest reason why the Pirates are within half a game of first place. McCann's been a very important part of the Braves success this season, as he's been the one shining light in an offense that has been inconsistent throughout the season. Berkman leads the NL in OPS and home runs, not bad for a guy that was considered finished after his disastrous stint with the Yankees last year. Reyes leads the NL in batting average and triples and is second in stolen bases, but he is currently on the DL with a leg injury, so that might hurt his MVP chances going forward. While Pujols isn't having a season up to his usual standards, he's still having a mighty fine season and could find himself in the discussion with a strong second half. Votto's no slouch either, as he leads the NL in on base percentage and is in the top 10 in many major offensive categories. Tulowitzki needs a big second half to get back in the discussion, while Jason Heyward has had the sophmore jinx thus far in 2011 and has no chance of an MVP Award this year.

AL Cy Young Award:
1. Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (8-7 win-loss record, 3.19 ERA, 140 strikeouts)
2. Jon Lester, SP, Red Sox (10-4, 3.31, 110 SO)
3. C.C. Sabathia, SP, Yankees (13-4, 2.72 ERA, 126 SO)
Dark Horse: John Danks, SP, White Sox (3-8, 4.21 ERA, 65 SO)

Midseason Picks:
1. Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers (12-4, 2.15 ERA, 147 SO)
2. Jared Weaver, SP, Angels (11-4, 1.86 ERA, 120 SO)
3. Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox (8-3, 2.27 ERA, 94 SO)
4. Sabathia

In a season where there are many great pitchers, it was hard to limit worthy choices to four. To me, Verlander's been the best of the best so far, showcasing overpowering stuff and giving the Tigers a chance to win every time out. Weaver's had his best season yet, leading the AL in ERA, Beckett has had perhaps his best season yet as well, giving the Red Sox the ace to go along with Jon Lester, who hasn't been too bad himself. Sabathia's going to get his wins playing for the Yankees, but make no mistake about it, he's still one of the best pitchers in the game. Hernandez hasn't been quite as dominant as he was last season, but he hasn't been bad either. As for John Danks, well sometimes you go off on a limb and it crumbles beneath you.

NL Cy Young Award:
1. Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (11-3, 2.45 ERA, 138 SO, 6 Complete Games)
2. Tim Lincecum, SP, Giants (7-7, 3.06 ERA, 132 SO)
3. Cliff Lee, SP, Phillies (9-6, 2.82 ERA, 137 SO)
Dark Horse: Clayton Kershaw, SP, Dodgers (9-4, 3.03 ERA, 147 SO)

Midseason Picks:
1. Halladay
2. Jair Jurrjens, SP, Braves (12-3, 1.87 ERA, 65 SO)
3. Cole Hamels, SP, Phillies (11-4, 2.32 ERA, 121 SO)
4. Tommy Hanson, SP, Braves (10-4, 2.44 ERA, 109 SO)

Halladay, Lee, and Hamels are three of the top ten pitchers in baseball, and each man is going to be in the running for the Cy Young this year. Thus far, Halladay has just the slightest of edges. A strong case could be made for Jaur Jurrjens, as he leads the NL in ERA and batting average against. Hanson is second in the NL in WHIP (1.016), fourth in ERA, and in the top ten in most important pitching categories. Apparently, that's not enough to get into the All-Star game, but it should be. Kershaw's been pretty good himself, as has Lincecum, but they're a slight notch below the top contenders for this award.

AL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Rays (8-7, 3.21 ERA, 68 SO)
2. Michael Pineda, SP, Mariners (8-6, 3.03 ERA, 113 SO)
3. Kyle Drabek, SP, Blue Jays (4-5, 5.70 ERA, demoted to minors)
Dark Horse: Mike Moustakas, 3B, Royals (25 games .228/.294/.283)

Midseason Picks:
1. Pineda
2. Hellickson
3. Jordan Walden, CP, Angels (20 Saves, 2.84 ERA, 41 SO in 38 IP)
4. Mark Trumbo, 1B, Angels (.260/.305/.483, 17 HR, 41 RBI)

Pineda's been a revelation for the Mariners rotation this year, having a season that's right up there with Mariners ace Felix Hernandez. Hellickson's effectively replaced Matt Garza in the Rays rotation and given Tampa Bay another young arm to go with David Price and James Shields. The Angels entered the year with some questions in the bullpen, and Walden has been the answer saving 20 games, though he has also blown five. Trumbo's been a bit inconsistent, but he has provided the Angels with some much needed power, leading the team in home runs and total bases. Drabek hasn't exactly replaced Roy Halladay, the man he was traded for, while Moustakas spent the first part of the season in the minors and has yet to catch up to big league pitching.

NL Rookie of the Year Award:
1. Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (.274/.347/.459, 13 HR, 43 RBI)
2. Arlodis Chapman, SP, Reds (4.57 ERA, 22 walks in 21.2 IP)
3. Brandon Belt, 1B, Giants (19 games, .211/.328/.281)
Dark Horse: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Braves (2.35 ERA, 28 Saves, 70 SO in 46 IP)

1. Kimbrel
2. Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals (.242/.332/.460, 16 HR, 52 RBI) 
3. Freeman
4. Dillon Gee, SP, Mets (8-3, 3.76 ERA, 60 SO)

Kimbrel has had some rough patches, but when he's on, he's unhittable, striking out 13.7 batters per nine innings. What Espinosa lacks in batting average, he makes up for in power, leading the Nationals in home runs and RBIs. Freeman has been one of the few solid bats in the Atlanta lineup while playing great defense at first. Gee got off to a 7-0 start, but has cooled off a little since then. Still, an 8-3 record isn't too shabby. Both Chapman and Bolt struggled early on and were sent down to the minors, so it's unlikely they'll get any ROY votes.

Well, thanks for reading the 2011 Canon Review Baseball Preview Midseason Review. Yes, it is a long title. If you have any thoughts about this topic or other posts, then feel free to share those thoughts either by leaving a comment or by sending me an e-mail at KtheC2001@gmail.com.


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