A Handful of Predictions…

Today kicked off the unofficial 2nd-half of the baseball season, after all most teams have played nearly 95 games meaning the “real” split was two weeks ago. I’ve never had a problem labeling the post All-Star Break portion of the season as the second half. It’s colloquially accepted that the second half begins when the All-Star Break wraps up. OK, so that’s out of the way… sorry, you’re never getting that 30 seconds of your life back and I feel wholly responsible.

I’ll do the American League today and the National League tomorrow. Without further ado, a handful of predictions for the entire league:

American League East
Baltimore OriolesAdam Jones enjoys a very formidable second half and joins teammates Nick Markakis (.892), Aubrey Huff (.875), Brian Roberts (.864) and Luke Scott (.809) in the .800 OPS club for 2008. Last year only Markakis and Roberts hit the mark and Roberts barely squeezed in with his .808… Closer George Sherrill‘s ERA will be north of 4.50 by season’s end, though he’ll end the season approaching 45 saves. He has a dominant strikeout rate with 9.8 per nine, but the 5.4 walks per nine is simply atrocious.

Boston Red Sox – Slugger David Ortiz has been shelved with a left wrist injury since June 1st, but he’s expected to return this weekend. Look for him to mash from here on out and end the season with 30 home runs. I know, wrist injuries don’t usually bode well for power hitters, but Ortiz will buck the trend… I was high on Daisuke Matsuzaka coming into 2008 and his results have been a mixed bag including a DL-stint. He was absolutely trashed upon return from the DL (7 ER in 1 IP), but he’s been brilliant since despite 16 walks in 23.3 innings. His luck bank will run out as he delivers a >4.00 ERA for the rest of the way yet still wins 17+ games.

New York YankeesJoba Chamberlain will lead the Yankees’ staff during the 2nd half as he throws a sub-3.50 ERA and racks up 10 wins while the Yankees charge hard for the wildcard… During that charge, the much-maligned Alex Rodriguez posts a >1.050 OPS with 20 home runs.

Tampa Bay Rays – Everyone’s feel good story fell on hard times right before the break and inspired several “the-sky-is-falling” articles that pronounced their Cinderella run over or severely harmed. It is not. They are legit and I don’t think they’ll just fade, though they’ll have to fight tooth and nail to make the playoffs. Carl Crawford will do his part in that run with an .800+ OPS and 10 home runs… Future Rookie of the Year, Evan Longoria does his part as well with 14+ home runs completing his best Ryan Braun imitation… Starter Andy Sonnanstine continues to rack up wins and drops his ERA near 4.25 by season’s end.

Toronto Blue Jays – Workhorse starting pitcher Roy Halladay completes five more games this season for a total of 12, the most since Randy Johnson finished the same amount way back in 1999. No team even notched that many in all of the 2007 season… Despite three straight months of rising ERAs, A.J. Burnett, whether with or without Toronto, posts a sub-4.00 ERA from here on out… Alex Rios‘ power outage has been a disappoint to all of his fantasy owners, but he has tried to make up for it with 23 stolen bases. He will continue to run at a solid clip, but he will also hit 10+ home runs after the break.

American League Central
Chicago White SoxGavin Floyd collapses in the 2nd half and ends up with an ERA nearing 4.50… Outside of an amazing June, Nick Swisher has been a colossal bust for the White Sox despite the expectations that he’d have a breakout season in that ballpark. While he won’t mean the expectations from the preseason, he’ll end up with >25 home runs and a batting average approaching .260.

Cleveland Indians – It’s not entirely his fault, but Ryan Garko‘s failure deliver on expectations of a very strong season have helped lead to a rather anemic offense in Cleveland. He can’t single-handedly change their fortunes, but he’ll do his part with an .800+ OPS… Matt LaPorta gets a mid-August callup that leads to 12+ home runs.

Detroit Tigers – On May 19th, Justin Verlander was 1-7. He will end the season with 15 wins and an ERA south of 3.75 as the Tigers’ stopper in their playoff chase… Curtis Granderson lost almost a month to injury, but has picked up right where his amazing 2007 season left off and he’ll finish the season with 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases… Miguel Cabrera dominates American League pitching for the remainder of the season and ends the season with more than 30 home runs and a .300 average.

Kansas City RoyalsAlex Gordon isn’t Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria, that much is evident by the fact that he still hasn’t completely figured out in the majors. The expectations of him were at least as high if not higher coming into his rookie season last year, but even still he’s hardly chopped liver. A 10-home run 2nd half gives him a 21-home run season and gets some of the critics off of his back for a hot minute… Golden child teammate Billy Butler has absolutely sucked this year despite some lofty expectations yet he continues to get a pass. Watch him continue to scuffle and end the season with fewer than 10 home runs.

Minnesota Twins – I wrote these out prior to the news on Thursday night that Francisco Liriano‘s agent was considering filing a grievance against the Twins for leaving his client in the minors despite looking like he’s completely back from Tommy John surgery and ready to contribute for the Twins again. Not knowing how that will play out could impact how soon Liriano is called up whether he deserves it or not. That said, I’ll stand by the prediction that he comes up and throws 75 innings of sub-4.00 ERA.

American League West
Los Angeles Angels – Throughout May, you could find several articles and message boards around the internet declaring the end of Vladimir Guerrero‘s career. He had 6076 at-bats as one of the game’s BEST hitters, yet these idiots were ready to write him off after less than 200 (he had 199 by the end of May). Sample size people. Vlad the Impaler is going to continue mashing with a ridiculous second-half that sees him post a .900+ OPS with 10 home runs and 40 RBIs… The Los Angeles rotation will end with three 15-game winners, and one of them will be John Lackey.

Oakland AthleticsJack Cust will end the season with 30+ HRs and Rajai Davis will end the season with 20+ SBs, yet the two will combine to hit <.235… I’ve made it clear before that I am a HUGE Justin Duchscherer fan and I placed him on SEVERAL of my fantasy baseball teams this spring (in the draft/auction, not just as a waiver pickup), but the realist in me says he is in for a 4.00+ ERA in 2nd half. He’s already pitched 36 more innings than he did in the past two seasons combined and he’s riding a very beneficial (read: lucky) hit percentage and runners-left-on-base percentage. Both of those will raise the ERA as they normalize. By the way, I really want to be wrong on this one as Duchscherer has helped me so much this season… Newly acquired Sean Gallagher will off-set the Duke’s “mediocre” 2nd half with a sub-4.00 ERA in the Oakland rotation.

Seattle Mariners – There hasn’t been much to celebrate about for the M’s in 2008. And to think, I predicted them to finish 2nd in the West. At least Felix Hernandez is starting to reach the expectations unfairly placed on him the past few seasons… Jeff Clement will post a >.800 OPS with 10 home runs in the 2nd half… Brandon Morrow and Sean Green continue their 1st half success and give the M’s a very formidable back-end of the bullpen. This is hardly a bold prediction, but I wanted to give M’s fans something realistic to expect from here on out.

Texas Rangers – Offense comes easy in Texas, especially in the summer, regardless of who is playing there. It seems to happen without trying when Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, Ian Kinsler, David Murphy and Michael Young are in the lineup. The Rangers will have three 100-RBI seasons this year as two of the above join Hamilton… They will also have no one with 75+ innings posting a sub-3.50 ERA.

Tomorrow, the National League…


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