2nd Half Questions and a Prediction

The Giants get the “second half” (66 games left) tonight against the First Place Diamondbacks. The Giants continue to stand on strange ground. 6.5 games behind the D-Backs, but 8 games under .500. What the?

Here are the pertinent questions:

  1. Buy or Sell? In or Out? Two questions, I know, but essentially the same: are the Giants really in this thing, or is the 6.5 games out just a fantastical mirage meant to befuddle and entice the weak of mind and heart? If they have a good weekend and sweep, or even take 2 of 3, from Arizona, I’d expect the Giants to think they can go for it. If, the reverse happens, then I think it’s time to bite the bullet and see what they can get for various pieces. In the end I think the Giants will straddle the fence for as long as possible, make a minor move, and see if the core crew can’t find some magic.
  2. What of Tim Lincecum? He just threw a no-hitter. Other teams want to add him to their bullpen. Maybe he wants to be a Giants for life. Maybe he wants a fresh start. My gut tells me he stays through the season, but probably not beyond that. I could be wrong here in many directions. No matter what, enjoy every opportunity to see him from here on out…it might be the last time you see him in this uniform (tear).
  3. Can the Pitching Recover? Finally, a true on-the-field baseball question! This is a huge question, not just for the rest of the season, but moving forward as well. In 2009-2012 the Giants were among the best staffs in all of baseball, not just during that span, but historically. There is no doubt the team has the talent to put together an 8-10 turn run of excellence. In order for that to happen Madison Bumgarner and Timmy need to keep at their current pace. Matt Cain needs to get it together and fix his mechanical issue out of the stretch (or whatever the heck is wrong with him). Ryan Vogelsong needs to come back soon and he needs to be 2012 playoff caliber Vogey, not early 2013 Vogey. Finally, the Giants need to leave Gaudin in the rotation and send Zito to the pen. Not only does that give the team a stronger rotation it ensures that Zito won’t hit his inning mark (thus locking him in for one more expensive year), and gives the Giants a lot more flexibility heading into next year. The reality: that’s a lot of “what-ifs”…not out of the realm of possibility, but unlikely.
  4. Who Will Hit? Pablo seemed to be getting it together in San Diego before the break, but the Giants will need Pence to get hot and they will also need the Brandon’s to continue to contribute down the stretch. I never thought this team would miss Angel Pagan so much, but they do, and they need a couple of other guys to step up and take some pressure off the pitchers.
  5. What About the Future? As uncertain as the next couple of weeks and rest of the season may seem, it still doesn’t compare to what lies ahead this off-season. 3/5 of the rotation will be up in the air. Pence is likely gone, leaving 2 outfield spots open, plus lingering questions about Pagan’s ability to stay healthy as he ages at a tough position (CF). The Giants don’t have immediate help waiting on the farm, and will have to bridge the gap somewhere. Lot’s of interesting moves lie ahead.

Bold Prediction: As crazy as it sounds, I’m going to go with my heart, and not with my head, and predict that the Giants will win 87 games and the NL West. That will require them to go 44 and 22 over the final 66 games. Seems like a tall order for this club, but IF the pitching can get on a roll it is entirely possible. This is the Giants’ version of the 2000 Yankees, the final year in their great run, where they were able to sneak in despite being an inferior version of their former selves. Bring on the second half.

(-SB)

Steve’s Pick (2012 Predictions)

AL East

Both easts are tough calls, with four legit teams in each division. It seems easy to go with status quo (which I will do in NL, but not here):

  1. Rays
  2. Blue Jays*
  3. Yankees
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

The Rays have it all: pitching, defense, and more than enough offense to win this division. They finally stay healthy and put it all together for a deep run into the playoffs. The Blue Jays are a bit of a reach, but I think they have plenty of talent, and they are able to stay healthier than the Red Sox and Yankees. Age and injuries take down the two beasts of the east this year and for the first time since 1993(?) there is a postseason with no Boston or New York teams.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Royals
  3. Twins
  4. White Sox
  5. Indians
This is the easiest division to call. Tigers coast for 2012, and then it gets more interesting next year because the Royals will finish strong, end up at .500, and be ready to go for real in 2013. Enjoy it Tigers because the division is gaining on you! Twins and White Sox continue to retool and struggle, and the Indians are in full-out rebuild mode.
AL West
  1. Angels
  2. Rangers*
  3. Mariners
  4. A’s

The Angels pitching carries the day. They have the deepest and nastiest staff in the AL. The Rangers take the second wild card, but I worry about the toll that the last two post-seasons have taken on the team…look for some injuries to slow them down. The Mariners are not as bad as it might appear, but the A’s are in for a dismal season.

NL East

The east has seen a lot of shifts, but it won’t make a difference in the end this season…the times are a changin’ but not quite yet…

  1. Phillies
  2. Braves*
  3. Nationals
  4. Marlins
  5. Mets

As I said earlier there are four legit teams in this division. The Phillies though will prevail one last time before they succumb to age and breakdown. The Braves have too much pitching to not compete and they take the second Wild Card. The Nationals will be good, but they are a year away from the Harper/Strasberg combo taking over the division. The Marlins have made some moves and they will hang around, but I don’t think they have enough of anything to hang with the Phillies. The Mets will be good…in 2015.

NL Central

  1. Cardinals
  2. Reds
  3. Brewers
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

This is the one totally wide open division where anything could happen. The Cards lost Pujols, but we’ve seen teams lose stars again and again and keep on going, if not get better. They made some nice additions (Betlran) and have some rising stars (Freese), but most importantly got one of the best pitchers in the world back (Wainwright). They should be able to make it out of the central. The Reds will make it close, the Brewers are still dangerous even without Prince, and even the Pirates could make some noise if their young pitchers make the jump this year. Cubs and Astros have no shot. Sorry guys.

NL West

  1. Giants
  2. Diamondbacks*
  3. Dodgers
  4. Rockies
  5. Padres

I believe that every team in this division improved this offseason, even if only a little bit. Which means it will be competitive. At the end of the day, though, the Giants and the D-Backs have great pitching staffs from top to bottom and that is what wins the day. Given health for both teams, I can’t not pick the Giants staff, so they take the division and D-Backs have to deal with the one and done wild card system. The Dodgers will be better and the Rockies are always a little scary, but they go 3 and 4. The Padres will be tough too, but there’s just not enough there to move them out of the cellar.

Playoffs:

WC: Braves beat the D-Backs; Blue Jays beat the Rangers

DS: Giants beat the Cardinals, Braves beat the Phillies; Rays beat the Tigers, Angels beat the Blue Jays

LCS: Giants beat the Braves; Rays beat the Angels

WS: Giants beat the Rays

(-SB)

 

Nick’s Picks

Just because I was wrong about Mike Fontenot being a lock for the Giants roster doesn’t mean I’m wrong here! Let’s start with my second favorite MLB League, the American league.

AL East

  1. Yankees
  2. Rays
  3. Blue Jays
  4. Red Sox
  5. Orioles

I think the Yankees win but not by much over the Rays. Tampa has better pitching and it’ll be interesting to see if the older Yankees can put enough hitting together to get the division. Ultimately I think the Rays win one of Wild Cards and the Yankees are bounced in the first round again. The Red Sox seem to have some trouble, and I really like what the Blue Jays are doing with some great young pitching. Honestly the Sox will probably finished 3rd and could very well win the WC as well, but I like my home country team so they go 3! O’s suck.

AL Central

  1. Tigers
  2. Indians
  3. White Sox
  4. Twins
  5. Royals

I think the Tigers run away with the division, but the rest is tough to predict. The Indians will keep improving, the White Sox will be about the same as last year I think, and the Twins can’t possibly be as bad as they were last season. Any of those 3 teams could switch positions, and all will miss the playoffs. The Royals are slowly getting better, but still a year or two away from contending in this division.

AL West

  1. Rangers
  2. Angels
  3. Mariners
  4. Athletics

The Angels got Pujols and CJ Wilson, but I think the Rangers will win their 3rd straight division title with the Angels winning the 2nd WC. It honestly could go either way, and Albert and Kendry Morales being a huge addition to the Angels team in terms of offense. But this team still has Tori Hunter, Vernon Wells and other not as powerful offensive options. The Rangers have Mike Napoli, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz , Ian Kinsler etc.

NL East

  1. Marlins
  2. Phillies
  3. Braves
  4. Nationals
  5. Mets

It’s not that I think the Marlins are really good, although the additions of Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle certainly help, it’s that I don’t see Atlanta or Philly that good. Philly has their big 3 pitchers but not much else other than an aging lineup, the Braves can be so inconsistent and have little pitching or hitting depth.

NL Central

  1. Brewers
  2. Reds
  3. Cardinals
  4. Pirates
  5. Cubs
  6. Astros

I’m going against the trend and picking the Brewers to win the division with either St. Louis or Cincy to win a WC. The Brew Crew lost Prince, but added Aramis Ramirez (still a good power hitter), and better hitting shortstop and a potential big bat prospect at first in Mat Gamel. Other than that this is the same team as last year, I don’t see them losing the division. St. Louis is going to feel the lack of Big Albert in their lineup, and I don’t see how Berkman puts up the numbers he did last season again, plus no Chris Carpenter and who knows how their closer situation will be?

NL West

  1. Diamondbacks
  2. Giants
  3. Rockies
  4. Padres
  5. Dodgers

Dodgers are always last in my book. I’m worried about the Giants offense competing enough to win the title. The D-Backs looked really good last season to me and I don’t see them dropping off. The Giants will be good and win the other WC and make a good, solid run into the post season. I actually think this will be a competitive division that will be a lot of fun to watch.

World Series

  • Brewers vs. Rays…Brewers win.

(-NW)

A Look At Christmas Future

So, just for fun, let’s pretend the season begins today. Who is enjoying Christmas 2012 as the World Champions of Major League Baseball?

AL East

  1. Boston Red Sox
  2. New York Yankees
  3. Toronto Blue Jays
  4. Tampa Bay Rays
  5. Baltimore Orioles

I have to say this AL East is not the most dominant division in my mind anymore. Boston wins in 2012 because the talent is there, they will be healthier, and Bobby V won’t let them fold in September. But the Yankees won’t pitch like they did last year, the Jays are stronger, and while I have the Rays low right now, NEVER count them out! The O’s are still a year or two away.

AL Central

  1. Detroit Tigers
  2. Kansas City Royals
  3. Minnesota Twins
  4. Chicago White Sox
  5. Cleveland Indians

I am not impressed with this bunch at all. Tigers win by default since they have the best pitcher and hitter in the division. My controversial pick is Kansas City. I may be a year early, but 85-86 wins is not out of the question as that young team starts to come together.

AL West

  1. Texas Rangers
  2. Anaheim Angels
  3. Seattle Mariners
  4. Oakland A’s

Somewhere in recent history the Rangers and Angels became the Yankees and Red Sox. Not sure how that happened, but it is fascinating to watch. There is no division in baseball with a wider gap between the top and bottom halves. Right now I give the Rangers the edge because they seem deeper in the lineup and bullpen, but a few more moves could change that.

NL East

  1. Philadelphia Phillies
  2. Atlanta Braves
  3. Florida Marlins
  4. Washington Nationals
  5. New York Mets

MLB 2012 Most Interesting Division Award goes to the NL East. Hard to bet against the Phillies and their big 3 rotation, but the team is aging rapidly and will be without Ryan Howard for a while (perhaps the whole season). The gap between 1 and 4 is not as wide as it might seem. The Braves have made few moves but they are young and good and a little health will go a long way for a team that would have been in the playoffs under this year’s format. The Marlins and the Nationals are improved teams that already had good young cores. They are still works in progress so I feel it too early to deem them worthy of the postseason, but they are not far away. (Take note NL West).

NL Central

  1. St. Louis Cardinals
  2. Milwaukee Brewers
  3. Cincinnati Reds
  4. Pittsburg Pirates
  5. Chicago Cubs
  6. Houston Astros

I love what the Cardinals have done this offseason, plus they are getting their ace back. No guarantee that Wainwright is as dominant as he used to be, but there are plenty of reasons to think this team will pitch better than it did in 2011. The Brewers are still good without Prince, but their fate really lies in whether Ryan Braun misses a third of the season or not. The Reds have made some moves, but I’m not a believer yet. The Pirates feel like they are treading water, the Cubs are in rebuild mode, and the Astros are terrible.

NL West

  1. Arizona Diamondbacks
  2. San Francisco Giants
  3. Colorado Rockies
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers
  5. San Diego Padres

The Diamondbacks have made some win now moves to capitalize on their big turn around, the Giants have…..ah, don’t want to think about that right now. The Rockies don’t impress me, the Dodgers have two great players and a lot of second basemen (good luck with that), and the Padres are back in rebuild mode (and are laying some ground work, btw).

The ShakeDown

In the AL, the Red Sox, Tigers, and Rangers win the divisions, with the Yankees and Angels claiming the Wild Cards. Angels win that battle and beat the Red Sox and face the Rangers in the ALCS. The Rangers, continuing in their quest to be the Buffalo Bills of MLB, win the pennant.

In the NL, the Phillies, Cardinals, and Diamondbacks win the divisions with the Braves and Giants taking the Wild Cards. The Braves win the WC showdown when Chipper Jones hits a pinch hit home run off Jeremy Affeldt in the 11th inning. The Braves go on to defeat the Cardinals and face the Phillies in the NLCS where the magic continues. Braves take the pennant.

In the World Series the Atlanta Braves defeat the Texas Rangers in 6 games, and the NL wins its third straight World Series.

Of course, I’m going to change my mind about all this next week when the Giants sign Prince Fielder. Ha!

(-SB)

Forecasting the Future (or something like that)

The All-Star game helped to highlight the one truth that we know from 2011. The National League has some good pitchers. Sure, the AL had 4-5 great arms unavailable for various reasons, but so did the NL. Pitching has been the story of the season all around, but I am still amazed at how deep the NL is with pitchers. Soon I’ll have a post up regarding how my pitching ideas factor in the pennant races, but for now here is my gut level feel about the rest of the season:

AL EAST

I’ve been touting the Rays all year and by all appearances they are done but shouldn’t have what it takes to finish in the top 2 in a strong division. Disagree. Still think the Rays have a better shot than the Yankees over the full schedule. Red Sox and Rays as division winner and wild carder, respectively.

AL CENTRAL

So, I picked the Twins at the beginning of the season, then the White Sox, and it makes a ton of sense to choose the Tigers at this point (all the while the Indians remain very much in the hunt and they are the team I’d love to see win it, but I still don’t believe). I might be back in on the Twins, though. 6.5 out. The next two weeks are super important for them. If they tank, they’ll trade some guys and regroup for next year. If they get close to .500 look out, it may be another Minnesota Miracle. I’m going to go out on a very precarious limb and say I’m on the Twins bandwagon. They just might get healthy and hot and take this thing after all.

AL WEST

A minor subplot here is a bet I’ve had since opening day with my friend Kevin. If the Angels win more games than the A’s he gets to write a guest post telling the world what an idiot I am. Right now he’s got to be feeling pretty comfortable. He might even be on his third or fourth draft. The Angels aren’t terrible and I need to look at the pitching numbers to confirm some suspicions I have that they may end up winning this division. Today, though, I’m predicting a slide by Weaver and Haren and the Rangers hold on to win the west again.

NL EAST

Told you the Braves were pretty good right! A lot has gone wrong with the offense and a ton has gone right with the pitching. (This might be blasphemy on a Giants blog, but pitcher for pitcher is there a better staff top to bottom than the Braves? The Phillies have a slight advantage in a couple of statistical areas but that’s a top-heavy staff…I think it’s a good debate: Giants vs. Braves for deepest/strongest staff in all of baseball). Nice work by the Mets and Nationals to be at .500 and the Marlins are coming back a bit after being punished for the sins of Scott Cousins. Best division in baseball? Yes. Phillies win, Braves take the Wild Card easily and have the second best record in the NL.

NL CENTRAL

Here’s a good one. The fourth place Reds are only 4 games out. Anything can happen here and this is the division that might be the most affected by a trade. (Nice job by the Brewers getting K-Rod. He’s a nut job but I think he’ll behave himself, prove he can be a good citizen, and pitch great as a set up man in order to get a big contract this offseason). I don’t think the Brew Crew can pull off much more in the trade market, so we’ll have to see what the other teams do in response. None of these teams have three starters like Grienke, Marcum, and Gallardo and so I still believe Milwaukee is the team to beat in this four horse race. 

NL WEST

Giants win the west, simple as that. More importantly, despite all the rumoring and posturing over the last few days, I don’t think the Giants get Beltran and if they do make a move it will be a minor move (or moves). Even if I’m wrong and they do get Beltran, the fact remains: the Giants need improved production up and down the lineup, especially out of the leadoff spot and at SS, 2B, and C. Carlos Beltran solves none of those problems, so ultimately, big trade or not, the G-men must look internally to get some kind of sustainable offense going.

More to come in the near future as I examine which teams fit the pitching model for a run at the World Series.

(-SB)

Mid Season Evaluation

Well this has certainly been an interesting first half hasn’t it? Between Pittsburg, Arizona, Cleveland and Seattle I don’t know anything about baseball anymore.

AL East: Yes, the Rays are still in this thing, but I think as the season goes along you’ll see that this is going to become a two-horse race between the Red Sox and the Yankees. Boston’s pitching scares me, but not in the good way. Lester is good, Beckett is great, and you got nothing else. But New York doesn’t exactly have the Big 5 either, honestly they are hoping and praying that Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon don’t fall apart and that CC Sabathia can pitch with 1 days rest, because that is what they’ll need to win the Division or the World Series this year. As far as offense goes, New York looks good with Texiera, Granderson and Cano while Boston has a VERY good Adrian Gonzalez. Boston is my pick still to win the division, but I think I’m putting the Yanks as my new Wild Card winners.

AL Central: This division makes less than no sense. Seriously. The only thing I know about this division is that the Royals won’t win it. But the Twins? The White Sox? Both are possible now! What the world. My pick remains Detroit though, but I have a feeling this division will cause me to change my picks about 15 times in the last two weeks of the season. Why Detroit? As much as I love the resurgence of the Indians, they don’t have Justin Verlander. Verlander has been RIDICULOUS this season, and that reason is why Detroit can hold off anyone else to win.

AL West: I don’t even want to write about this terrible division. The Rangers are my pick still. That is all.

NL East: Until yesterday I was 100% confident that the Phillies would win this decision, and while they are still my pick, my doubt is starting to rise. This has nothing to do with the Phillies, and everything to do with the Atlanta Braves, who are still my NL Wild Card pick. The Braves are being led by amazing pitching and some really good hitting, especially from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. With how good Atlanta is playing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this division get very competitive by the end of the season, especially if the Phillies keep playing hurt.

NL Central: This is also a wacky division this season. The Cardinals are good, despite having gone over a month without either Matt Holliday or Albert Pujols on their roster, Lance Berkman suddenly decided to hit home runs this year, and they have no closer (literally no closer. It’s rotated between like, 3 guys), yet are in first place as of this writing. The Brewers are somehow being completely ignored, even though they have amazing hitting and some really good starting pitching. To add to the wackiness, the Reds are still hanging around and the Pirates are playing above .500 baseball for the first time since the 1890’s. (Not a real fact). Brewers still win this because of Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks , Prince Fielder and Shaun Marcum.

NL West: Someone explain to me how the Giants are in first place still? The hitting is atrocious, but thankfully we have one of, if not the best, rotation in the Majors and probably the best bullpen in baseball also. Giants still win this division, but the D-Backs and Rockies will give me heart attacks all the way until October.

First Half AL MVP: Wow. My pick of Adam Dunn was a little off wasn’t it? First half MVP has to be Adrian Gonzalez. Sure you can make a case for Paul Konerko and Jose Bautista, but Gonzalez is putting up some crazy wild offensive numbers and is probably the biggest reason the Red Sox are so good right now.

First Half AL Cy Young: You can make a great case for CC Sabathia, Jered Weaver, Justin Verlander, Jon Lester and David Price, among others. I’m voting Verlander. He has a 2.86 ERA, .88 WHIP, 138 K’s, 31 walks (!!!!) and an opponent batting average of .187. ONE EIGHTY SEVEN. Craziness! Weaver is putting up numbers that are just as good, but Verlander also has a no-hitter this season, either way there has been some GREAT pitching in the AL in 2011.

First Half NL MVP: Prince Fielder, no question. You can make a good case for Matt Kemp, and an excellent case for Jose Reyes, but I’m in the unique position of having in-laws who are Brewers fans and have the MLB Extra innings package, so I’ve gotten to see Prince play, and there really is nobody as valuable to his team as him. The Mets aren’t going anywhere this season and neither are the Dodgers (yay!) but the Brewers hitting is anchored by Fielder. Yes, Ryan Braun is a huge asset and Rickie Weeks is going nuts, but without Prince and his NL leading 72 RBI, they aren’t tied for first in the Central.

First Half NL Cy Young: Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Jair Jurrjens are your top NL pitchers, but I think Halladay takes this award. This only reason I’m holding out on Jurrjens is his total K’s are lower (due to injury) and a higher ERA than Roy. Roy is nutty. Just plain nutty on the mound. Crazy good stats, crazy good strikeout rate and is just crazy good. Like have you actually seen him pitch a game? Ridiculous.

(-NW)

Third Time Is {Probably} The Charm

June updates to predictions? DONE! Nick Waltz style…

AL East:

I thought all along that the tales of the Red Sox demise was foolish at best, and now I look like a freaking genius. Sox are still my pick for the AL East but I’m changing my Wild Card pick to the Rays. A few reasons: They’ve played out of their minds since Manny left town, and the reworked bullpen ACTUALLY IS WORKING! Their biggest strength last year became their biggest weakness and now it’s a strength all over again. By the way, look at this lineup: Sam Fuld? Johnny Damon? Kyle Farnsworth as your closer? You’ve got to be kidding me, but it’s WORKING. Amazing. Plus I hate the Yankees.

AL Central:

So the Twins are done and the White Sox are looking like it? Amazing. Nothing in the American League Central makes sense this season. I want to stick with the Indians winning the Central (Which was my new pick after picking the White Sox at the beginning of the season), but I have to agree with the great and wise Josh Stover: Tigers look good, and I honestly think they are underperforming right now. Plus there is no way a team could look like one of the 3 worst teams going into the season and ending up being one of the top 3 teams right? Right?

AL West:

So a funny thing happened while no one was looking: The Mariners are 1.5 games back of Texas, and this is happening with Ichiro apparently forgetting he’s one of the greatest hitters ever to play baseball. Amazing. However I’m picking the Rangers to win the division this year. Oakland is looking like they are about to fall down hill fast, and the Los Anaheim Angels of Anaheim have no offense. especially with Morales gone for the whole season yet again. The M’s have no one hitting for them either, which means the Rangers, who were in good shape offensively already before Beltre started  killing it for them this season, will only be better has Hamilton comes back to form, plus you’re looking at a very good rotation still.

NL East:

So the Phillies are still the team to beat, or rather their rotation is, and so they stay my pick for the NL East champs, but what the heck is going on with Florida? They’re making me doubt picking the Braves to win the Wild Card, until I noticed that Josh Johnson is now on the DL and that’ll affect them a LOT. Braves still win the WC but they have some middle relief issues that needs solving, and Dan Uggla needs to stop doing his best impression of Carlos Pena and start getting on base.

NL Central:

The Brewers continue to impress me each time I watch them play. Rickie Weeks is crazy good and Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have put together incredible offensive season almost completely under the radar, which makes no sense to me at all. Jonathan Lucroy is the hottest young catcher in baseball and Shaun Marcum is showing how good he really is, all this while Zach Greinke isn’t pitching at his peak yet. Brewers still for the win.

NL West:

What in the world? Arizona is in first? This league is crazy. Losing Posey is a huge blow, but the Rockies took a bigger one with De La Rosa out for the year, so instead of a Giants/Rockies chase, it’s not a Giants/Diamondbacks chase. Will Arizona continue to perform this well? Who the heck knows, but I do know that I’d take the Giants pitching over theirs, (and that includes the bullpen) 100 times out of 100, and there is NO WAY the Giants continue to hit so poorly. Hopefully Huff’s 3 HR night breaks him out and when Pablo comes back, watch out. Giants still win this one.

(-NW)