Monday, July 17, 2017

On Deck Circle 7/17/17: 5 Bold Predictions For The MLB's Second Half

By Pat Luhta, @PLuhta

Baseball season is now past the unofficial midway point now that the All-Star game and festivities are complete. As the MLB season is back underway, we can look at what’s ahead for the 2nd half of the season and make some predictions on what’s to come. So let’s not only make some predictions, but let’s go out on a limb and make some real bold ones here. These predictions may not seem likely but there’s no telling what could happen with this many games left to play still, so let’s jump right into it here with 5 bold predictions for the 2nd half of the MLB season.

1. The Yankees will not make the playoffs – So I’ll get started with a bold-lite prediction here and call the Yankees and non-playoff team. The Yankees got off to a hot start in April and lead the division through May and are now in the playoffs as a wildcard team so they’ve been a playoff team since the beginning of the season. They are just 6-18 since June 13th though and are tapering off rapidly, Boston has not only surpassed them for the division lead but the Tampa Bay Rays have also caught up to them and went into the All-Star break tied for the top wildcard spot. With the Twins, Royals, Angels and Rangers all within 3 games of the wildcard spot, it’s completely feasible that the Yankees miss out on the playoffs this season if they continue this type of play.

2. Carlos Correa or Jose Altuve will win AL MVP – This bold prediction is based off the previous prediction. Right now, Aaron Judge is the AL MVP and it’s not close, he has this all locked up right now. If the Yankees do miss the playoffs though and Aaron Judge hits a rookie wall, then that leaves the MVP up for debate. The Astros were an impressive 60-29 at All-Star break and on pace for roughly 110 wins this season, if they can win that many games then someone on the Astros will get big time consideration. Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are the top 2 candidates and very similar in production, it will be a close call in which they will split votes and one will end up as the AL MVP.

3. The St. Louis Cardinals will win the NL Central – A 3rd place team that is 2 games under .500 and 5.5 games out of 1st place at all-star break, it would seem unlikely that any team under those circumstances would make a run at the division. But the Cardinals though have the benefit of playing a division that is still up for grabs, not sold on the Brewers yet and the Cubs are still a mess even with the acquisition of Jose Quintana(which the White Sox fleeced them in, btw.) The Cardinals’ bats need to wake up a bit and they can make up ground in no time, their pitching is amongst the best in the league and any team that has good pitching will have a shot at the postseason. Pitching stays where it is and bats heat up a bit, and the division is all theirs to win.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates will be biggest sellers as trade deadline approaches – Everyone right now is assuming that the Oakland A’s will be the biggest sellers, but let’s not be too sure about that. The A’s have Sonny Gray that will almost certainly be dealt and they will have other available assets such as Yonder Alonso and Khris Davis to deal as well. But the Pirates have more players that are worth trading for and being 7 games out of the division, it’s time to start dealing them. While I do not think Andrew McCutcheon will be traded, players like Gerrit Cole, Ivan Nova, Josh Harrison and Francisco Cervelli could all be on the move. Cole and Nova especially now that the market for starting pitching has been set with the trade of Jose Quintana to the Cubs, pitching will cost buyers a lot in order to deal so Pittsburgh can get younger real quick by trading either or both pitchers.

5. Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw will win the NL triple crown - In batting, the triple crown is when a batter leads the league in batting average, RBI's and home runs. This is one of the rarest feats in baseball, Miguel Cabrera accomplished it in 2012 but before then it was Carl Yastrzemski in 1967 and to stack the deck even more against Bryce Harper, there hasn't been a triple crown winner in the NL since 1937. That ends this year, Harper is currently 2nd in the NL in batting average, tied for 3rd in RBI's and tied for 7th in home runs(only 4 back of the current leader.) He is within striking distance of them all and will end up leading the National League in all 3 come season's end. The triple crown in pitching is a bit more common, when a pitcher leads the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts. Clayton Kershaw accomplished this once before, back in 2011 and he is primed to do it again this season.
He leads the league in wins and is 2nd in both ERA and strikeouts and is extremely close to being 1st in all 3. Max Scherzer has a 2.10 ERA while Kershaw has a 2.18 and Scherzer has 173 K's while Kershaw has 159, that slim margin is what is keeping Kershaw from currently leading in all 3. A batter and pitcher winning the triple crown in the same league in the same year has not happened since 1934 and has only happened once in the National League(back in 1884, I'm sure we all remember that), but this year we will get to witness a rare phenomenon as both Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw will be triple crown winners.

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