So, if this site has proved anything at all, it’s that when it comes to making predictions… I’m not so good. Whether it be playoffs, or home run derbys, or skills challenges, or March Madness, I’ve come to learn that all of my predictions turn out to be wrong (ok, not all of them, but at this point it seems like most of them). So, it would only be natural to continue my excellence in prognostication for all of your amusement. I present to you my predictions for the second half of the 2011 Major League Baseball season, via a question and answer format.
1. Can the Indians hold off the Tigers and win the AL Central?: I want to say yes, but my head is telling me to say no. I don’t think they’ll take a gamble and make a big impact move to get a legit right-handed bat that can make an impact in the lineup or a top of the rotation starter. Their most likely move will come from another Triple A call up. On the other hand, the Tigers have a solid lineup with some legit power bats in it that can drive in runs (Cabrera, Martinez, Peralta, Ordonez’s decaying corpse), Justin Verlander at the top of their rotaion along with Max Scherzer, and if they feel like they need to make a move, they’ll make it. The Tigers aren’t afraid to add salary. The Indians are. I think that will be the difference, but I still think it will come down to the wire. Also… don’t rule out the White Sox… or the Twins.
2. Will the Pirates pull off the impossible and make the playoffs?: I think they can. Right now they’re only a game out of first place, they’re over .500 for the first time in 20+ years, and they have quality pitching. In all honesty, they’re a lot like the Indians and have been one of this season’s great stories. I think they’re less likely to keep up this pace though. The Pirates are even more talent deprived than the Indians, plus, the Brewers, Cardinals, and Reds could all get hot and pull away from the pack. So no, the Pirates won’t make the playoffs, but… they’ll finish over .500. Baby steps Pittsburgh… baby steps.
3. Can Jose Bautista do the unthinkable and hit 60 home runs?: This one is tough. Last year he hit 54. So far this season his is at 31 and the kicker is, he’s ahead of last year’s pace. The only problem is that I don’t think he’ll get the opportunities. He plays in the same division as the Yankees, Rays, and Red Sox. All three teams are vying for two playoff spots and they’ll be seeing a lot of the Blue Jays down the stretch. None of them are going to let Bautista beat them. They’ll walk him and take their chances with Aaron Hill and Adam Lind. To answer a second, inevitable question… Bautista should be the MVP, crappy team be damned. Any other team would sacrifice a small child for a chance to get Bautista into their lineup. Doesn’t that make him the most valuable?
4. What big names can we expect to be moved before the trade deadline?: This is another tough one. There are so many teams still in the thick of things that I don’t believe there will be many big names on the trading block. I think the most likely big name is Carlos Beltran. He’s playing well and you can’t overlook what he did for Houston a few years ago in the same situation. Speaking of Houston, I think for the right package they might be willing to let go of Hunter Pence. He’s due for a raise and as a rebuilding team, Houston might want to start over with prospects. The biggest question mark will be Jose Reyes. He’ll either be a Met, or he’ll be a Giant. He fits both ball parks well and the Giants could desperately use a new short stop and an offensive spark. Stay tuned.
5. Will we see the real Albert Pujols before things are all said and done?: Simply put, yes. Albert Pujols is about as a consistent a hitter we have ever seen. First half struggles and injuries aside, if Pujols is healthy eventually he is going to hit. There’s no question about it.
6. Which team currently “out of the race” or close to it is primed to make a Colorado Rockies type push?: The most likely candidates when you look in my opinion are the Rockies, Twins, and surprisingly… the Nationals. The problem for two of these teams, Rockies and Nationals, is that the leaders of their divisions are juggernauts. Does anyone foresee the Phillies or Giants collapsing any time soon? I think the most likely candidate is the Twins. Yes, 6.5 games back at this point isn’t “out of it” status per say, but considering where they’ve been this year and where they are now, I think they could take the central if they can get Mauer hitting and straighten out their bullpen issues.
7. Derek Jeter is the Yankees leadoff hitter. Will he be batting leadoff in October?: No. I think now that the pursuit for 3000 is over the Yankees can begin to better evaluate their stance on Jeter. I think come October he’ll be batting either 2nd, his natural place in the order, or batting 7th or 8th. It shouldn’t be seen as a slap in the face. It’s just a simple reality. Jeter is old and is a liability batting leadoff and batting near the top. I think he would serve the Yankees better in the bottom third.
8. Who wins the divisions and the wildcards?: In the AL your division winners will be the Yankees, Tigers, and Rangers. In the NL, the division winners will be the Phillies, Brewers, and Giants. The wild cards, the Red Sox and the Braves.
9. Going a step further, how will the playoffs play out?: The AL will see the Rangers topple the Yankees and the Red Sox beat the Tigers. In the NL, the Brewers will beat the Phillies, and the Giants will beat the Braves. In the LCS’s the Red Sox will beat the Rangers, Brewers will somehow find a way to beat the Giants. In the World Series… Red Sox over Brewers in 6…ugh