Major League Baseball at Midseason: How am I Doing?

The All-Star game marks the traditional half way point. So how am I doing in my preseason predictions?

As Yogi Berra so astutely observed of major league baseball, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” but that doesn’t stop any of us, including me, from engaging in preseason speculation about what will happen. I dutifully posted my predictions in April, so let’s check up and see how I’m doing.

As Good as I Predicted:

The San Francisco Giants, Texas Rangers, and Detroit Tigers are sitting atop their divisions, as predicted. I also said the Atlanta Braves would top the NL East. At present they’re 3 ½ games back, but they’re the second-best team in the NL, so give me that one too.

Slightly Better than Expected:

The Philadelphia Phillies offense has more than made up for the fact that I found their vaunted pitching staff slightly overrated. I’m shocked that Cole Hamels is 11-4, but I was right that Oswalt wouldn’t last a whole year. The Milwaukee Brewers are currently in first; I picked them second. I may still be right about them as I think the real story is how bad the NL Central has been. I picked the Washington Nationals for last and currently they’re 46-46, so currently I’m off, but I don’t think I will be in October. The team has a future, but it’s not now.

I knew the Boston Red Sox were loaded, but I picked them for second (and the Wild Card) and they’re currently leading the tough AL East. This prediction could go either way, as that division probably won’t be settled until late September.

Way Better than I Anticipated;

At present the obvious choices are the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Arizona Diamondbacks, both of whom I slated for the basement. That said, I continue to see both of them as bad teams currently overachieving in the case of the D-backs, and simply playing in a bad division in the case of the Pirates. This year, though, the Pirates won’t finish last, so I’m wrong on that one.

I knew that the Cleveland Indians had wonderful young talent, but I thought they were a year or two away and picked them to finish fourth. It looks like their kids are maturing faster than I anticipated, though I still don’t think they’ll finish in the money. Ditto the Los Angeles Angels, who are lurking in second. I don’t think they’ll last either. And I think Jared Weaver will return to earth.

My biggest misfire, methinks, is the New York Yankees, whom I picked to finish fourth. Who knew that Freddie Garcia and Bartolo Colon would pitch like they were 28? The Yankees have been very resilient even though they’ve had devastating injuries and are old and fragile. Age and fatigue took their toll at the end of last season and I suspect it will again this year, but so far I look like a chump on this prediction!

As Bad as I Predicted:

The Kansas City Royals never fail to live down to expectations. I’m sick of hearing about their “prospects;” most of them retire before they’ve ever shed the label. Bad team in a lousy city.

I also said that the Houston Astros were in for a long year and it looks like a desperate summer indeed as they’ve fuddled their way to MLB’s worst record. It doesn’t look promising for next year either as management is in flux and isn’t likely to be offloading underachievers.

Speaking of underachievers, leave it to the New York Mets and Chicago Cubs to set the bar low. Both are absolute train wrecks that need to be scrapped with new stock placed on the rails. That might not be a bad plan for the Seattle Mariners either, a team that always looks good on paper and stinks on the field. The GM will be lynched if he trades Felix Hernandez, but it might be time to package Ichiro for prospects as this team is spinning its wheels, as predicted.

As Mediocre as I Thought:

The St. Louis Cardinals are sputtering, as I suspected they would because of injuries. They’re tied for first at present but they’ve been up and down all year. They might still win the division, which wouldn’t surprise me. Nor would I be surprised if they finish third or lower. Looks like .520 ball will win this division.

Leave it to the big-mouthed, little-talent Ozzie Guillen to keep the Chicago White Sox safely under .500 instead of in the chase. This one’s playing out as predicted, with Ozzie launching more shots than his lineup. Will the Colorado Rockies make their yearly run at the top? I continue to think they’ll finish in the middle of the pack, where they currently reside and where I picked them to be.

I also said that the Toronto Blue Jays would finish in the cellar, but be the toughest last place team in MLB. Looks like they’ll finish fourth instead, but they’ll continue to be a team you simply don’t want to play in an important series. If this team can stay together, it will make some real noise in the next few years.

Who Knew How Bad They’d Stink?

There’s simply no excuse for the Miami Marlins or the Oakland A’s to be in their respective basements. Both teams have already fired their managers; look for the trade vans outside both ballparks. And can we stop talking about what a genius Billy Beane is? Yeah, right! The A’s aren’t going anywhere soon, unless it’s San Jose.

The Cincinnati Reds ought to be running away with the weak NL Central, not sitting in fourth. Okay, they don’t stink, but serious thought must be given to replacing Dusty Baker if things don’t get better fast. That is, unless management thinks that their young talent was overrated (which it might be).

Did anyone pick the Minnesota Twins to be nearer the basement than the top of the AL Central? I said in April that it was a fragile team that couldn’t weather sustained injuries to key players. That’s been the Doomsday scenario that’s played out with Joe Mauer, Jim Thome, Liriano, Kubel, and others spending time on the DL. I continue to think the Twins will get well enough to make a run. I doubt it will be enough to get them to the postseason.

I picked the Tampa Bay Rays to win the AL East on the strength of their pitching. I think I’m wrong about them. The Rays simply can’t hit--for power or average. They lost 1-0 to the Yankees the other day, when a run scored on two errors. This team has no such margins for error and, barring a major trade or a Yankees collapse, looks like a third place team.

Add the Los Angeles Dodgers to the scrap-it-and-start-over list. This is a franchise in total disarray and Don Mattingly has been no Joe Torre in keeping his players battle-ready under the microscope. Half of this team wants out and if I’m the GM, I oblige them. Mattingly might not last the year either.

As wrong as I was about the Dodgers, give me the Double Bonehead Award for picking the Baltimore Orioles to finish above the Yankees. The Orioles have been stunningly awful--so bad that management must reevaluate its prospects. It doesn’t look as if any of their young pitchers is an ace and it appears increasingly likely that most of them aren’t cut out for the Bigs at all. Don’t get me started on what a waste of money it was to sign Derek Lee or Mark Reynolds. This team’s numbers one and two needs are new ownership and new management.

Who am I Picking Now?

Revised List--National League: Giants and Phillies. The Central is up for grabs. It still should be the Reds. If not them, it’s a toss-up between St. Louis and Milwaukee. Wild Card: Braves.

Revised American League: Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers. Wild Card: Yankees.

How’d I Do?

No too bad so far. I was out to lunch on a few teams, but none of my top picks are out of the running. Unless the Pirates go crazy and win the NL Central or the Diamondbacks steal the West, I’m fairly accurate on the bad teams as well. I’d give me a B/B+. What say you?

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