Wednesday, June 29, 2011

MLB Mid-Season Oddities and Predictions

We are about halfway through the 2011 MLB season, a season that has produced a myriad of surprises thus far:
  • Bartolo Colon is the 2nd best SP on the Yankees. Still holds title as best purveyor of Dunkin Donuts.
  • Twins SP Francisco Liriano threw a no-hitter in which he walked six, struck out two, and came into the game with a 9.63 ERA.
  • Pirates SP Kevin Correia is currently tied for the Major League lead with 10 wins on the season.
  • The San Francisco Giants are twelve games over .500 and leading the NL West, despite having only one player with 200+ AB's batting over .270 (Freddy Sanchez .289 BA).
  • Rangers OF Nelson Cruz joined Willie Mays and Mark McGwire as the only players in MLB history to hit a HR in each of their first four games of the season.
And now, a follow up on some of my predictions I made about the season back on March 31st:

American League

Best Rotation
Preseason Pick: Oakland A's (Gonzalez, Andreson, Braden, Cahill, McCarthy)
Mid-Season Reality: Seattle Mariners (Hernandez, Fister, Vargas, Bedard, Pineda)

Wasn't too far off with my pre-season pick as I would argue that the A's have either the second or third best rotation in the AL, but the Mariners have been a big surprise. Everyone knew Hernandez would be his wunderkind self, but no suspected that from the rest of the rotation. No starting pitcher has an ERA over 3.88 and four of the starters have 3.20 ERA or less.

Best Rookie
Preseason Pick: Jeremy Hellickson, SP, Tampa Bay Rays
Mid-Season Reality: Michael Pineda, SP, Seattle Mariners

This is another one that is pretty damn close. Pineda has been a monster to start the season with a 7-5 record, 2.65 ERA, and 99 K's in just 16 starts. Hellickson isn't too far behind with a 7-7 record, 3.18 ERA, and 66 K's in 15 starts.

Best Chance For A Breakout Year
Preseason Pick: Kila Ka'aihue, 1B, Kansas City Royals
Mid-Season Reality: Alex Avila, C, Detroit Tigers

Alex who? The 24 year old Tigers starting catcher has been having a terrific year, only his second in the majors. He has a .303 BA, 10 HR, and 45 RBI compared to a 2010 full season stat line of .228/7/31.

Best Team That Didn't Make The Playoffs Last Year
Preseason Pick: Boston Red Sox
Mid-Season Reality: Boston Red Sox

This is another close one, as I could see arguments being made for both the Tampa Bay Rays and Cleveland Indians too. However, the Red Sox are so loaded on both offense and defense, it's hard to seem them faltering as the season progresses. As long as Fenway still has that short porch in right field, Adrian Gonzalez will continue to put up MVP numbers.

Best Bet For Cy Young
Preseason Pick: Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
Mid-Season Reality: Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels

Pretty easy pick here. Jered is the only starting pitcher in baseball with an ERA under 2.00 and has 116 K's to only 28 BB's in his 17 starts this season. Tigers SP Justin Verlander and Red Sox SP Josh Beckett have also had stellar starts to the 2011 campaign.

National League

Best Rotation
Preseason Pick: Philadelphia Phillies (Hamels, Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Blanton)
Mid-Season Reality: Philadelphia Phillies (Hamels, Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, Kendrick)

This was probably the easiest mid-season pick to make. The Phillies rotation has been nothing short of spectacular. The three headed monster of Hamels-Halladay-Lee will all likely be duking it out with one another for the Cy Young in the National League. Honorable mention goes to the Pittsburgh Pirates with four starting pitchers with an ERA under 3.80.

Best Rookie
Preseason Pick: Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants
Mid-Season Reality: Craig Kimbrel, RP, Atlanta Braves

Wasn't a great start to the season for Belt who saw himself hit under .200 in the first 17 games of the season and shipped down to Fresno to make room for Cody Ross. Kimbrel has been pretty solid for the Braves thus far, saving 22 games while posting a 2.70 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 40 innings pitched.

Best Bet For MVP
Preseason Pick: Albert Pujols, 1B, St. Louis Cardinals
Mid-Season Reality: Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

Imagine where the Dodgers would be right now if they didn't have Kemp patrolling the outfield. Kemp has a rare combination of power and speed having already locked down a .332 batting average and 22 HR with 63 RBI to go with 22 stolen bases. However, if Roy Halladay keeps up his impeccable first half, he might be the first starting pitcher to win an MVP since Dennis Eckersley did it with the Oakland A's in 1992.

Best Bet To Hit 50+ HR
Preseason Pick: Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins
Mid-Season Reality: Prince Fielder, 1B, Milwaukee Brewers

We are about halfway through the season and no player in the National League has more than 22 HR, so we may not see ANYONE reach 50 this season. However, if anyone can do it, it's Prince. He currently sits at 21 HR and the confines of Miller Park in Milwaukee are conducive to generating plenty of big fly's.

Best Team That Didn't Make The Playoffs Last Season
Preseason Pick: Colorado Rockies
Mid-Season Reality: Arizona Diamondbacks

While I could have easily handed this title to Fielder, Ryan Braun and the Milwaukee Brewers, what the Diamondbacks have put together in the first half of the season is simply outrageous. The team's payroll is a little less than 2/3 of the Milwaukee Brewers and I guarantee you can't name more than one or two players on the Diamondbacks roster off the top of your head. Starting pitcher Joe Saunders is there highest paid player, earning just a hair over $5 million this season. Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Young have really carried the team in the early going.

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