Now the real baseball season begins.
We’ve gotten rid of the fast starts, cool downs by over-hyped players, and now here is the real deal.
The contenders have shown who they are in baseball’s closest season in decades. There is not one division leader up by more than four and a half games, which means every race could come down to September and this trade deadline coming up could be the most important in years.
While everyone is making a case that the Yankees are the team to beat, I beg to differ. The Yankees of all teams have the weakest bullpen that Joe Girardi still hasn’t figured out yet. Joba Chamberlain has been miserable as the 8th inning man while David Robertson, Damaso Marte and company have struggled just as much. As great as the starting pitching has been for the Yankees it can’t be the only pitching that they have.
You can make a case for the Padres, Braves, Twins and Reds (yes the Cincinnati Reds are in first place) as much as the Yankees to win the World Series come October. The last 70 plus games of the season are going to be an absolute riot if you ask me. There are no clear cut favorites for any award or division title. In the year of the pitcher (or return of the pitcher) offense has been at a premium as ERA’s have dwindled to fifteen year lows. With that said, bats are going to be a hot commodity in this upcoming deadline. Prince Fielder’s name is swinging like a carrot in front of teams as are players like Jose Guillen, Luke Scott and Adam Dunn. Fielder is the most peculiar name because you can get an all-star power hitting first baseman but also a huge head case. His bat would go over great in New York with the Mets or in San Francisco with the Giants but is he worth the trouble?
Who knows. The second half sure will be interesting to watch play out but let’s recap the first half while we look forward:
NL MVP- Joey Votto (Who Will win MVP? – Ryan Howard)
Did anyone have a better first half than Votto? He led all MLB first basemen in average, slugging, homers, RBI and OPS. Yet had to be voted in to all-star game as the last man in. He has led the surprising Reds to the top of the Central with a few key series left against the second place Cardinals. If the Reds can keep it up then Votto should be a shoe-in for the MVP.
But it is the second half of the year which means Ryan Howard is about to load up Philly onto his back and carry them through the next two months. Howard’s power number numbers are down but so are his strikeouts. Howard is becoming more disciplined at the plate and has seen an increase in average and OBP because of it. The Phils need him more than ever to carry them to the playoffs and knowing Howard he’ll gladly accept the Challenge
Contenders: David Wright, Adrian Gonzalez and Albert Pujols
AL MVP- Josh Hamilton (eventual winner?)- Miguel Cabrera)
Two men who have fought demons to become big names in the game. Hamilton through drugs, Cabrera through alcohol. Both are having stellar years. Why is Hamilton the first half MVP? A 29 game hit streak and a monster June helped catapult the Rangers into first place and have made them the team to beat out west. Hamilton has come back from last year in a big way by leading the majors in batting average, and among the leaders in homers and RBI. With help from a resurgent Vlad Guerrero the Rangers have the most formidable 3-4 punch in the game.
So why will Miguel Cabrera win the MVP? One, he could win the triple crown, two he is tearing the cover off of everything he sees. Three his focus is finally clear after two down years in Detroit after a ballyhooed trade from Miami. Cabrera has finally settled into the position has face of the franchise and is carrying himself in the way the Tigers imagined.
Contenders: Robinson Cano, Justin Morneau and Adrian Beltre
NL CY YOUNG- Ubaldo Jimenez (Winner- Jimenez)
With all due respect to Josh Johnson and his paper thin 1.70 ERA, this is Ubaldo’s trophy to lose. 15-1 2.20 ERA on the wild card leaders out west? Come on. Jimenez could very well win 25 games this year which has been done since the 80’s. Jimenez has breezed through the competition with ease though his ERA has risen by half a run in the last month. However, every fifth day there is no more automatic starter in the game than him
Contenders- Johnson, Adam Wainwright, and Mat Latos
AL CY YOUNG- David Price (Winner- CC Sabathia)
David Price is now the man in Tampa. He’s the ace, no question about it. the superstar that he was supposed to be coming out of Vanderbilt is finally coming to fruition with a 12-4 record and a 2.42 ERA that has kept Tampa within striking distance of the Yankees…
Yet the reason why the Yankees are in first place in the first place is; a. starting pitching and b. CC Sabathia’s ridiculous last 45 days on the mound. He hasn’t lost since May 23rd and has watched his ERA dip to 3.09. plus with his reputation as being a workhorse in the second half it looks like CC is in the driver’s seat for CY Young number two.
Players that need to step it up:
He’s a slow starter—this is ridiculous. Nine days ago he was batting .232 now he’s finally up to the .250’s. he ought to buy Robbie Cano a Rolex for bailing him out this far. The power numbers are there, but for the Yankees to go far into October, Teixeira needs to get going.
.203 batting average? I don’t care if you are a slugger at least get into the 230’s man. Evan Longoria would love a disciplined bat next to him right now.
Anybody on the Phillies not named Ryan Howard or Roy Halladay
Raul Ibanez has lost his stroke, Shane Victorino can’t hit anything and Cole Hamels apparently hasn’t gotten over last year’s brain malfunction. With Chase Utley out until August the Phillies need their bats and arms to wake up quick or the Braves and Mets will be sailing into October leaving them in the dust.
Career lows in all offensive categories means that Helton’s career is almost finished. Unless he finds that stroke quickly the Rockies should consider making a deal for Prince Fielder.
With Jake Peavy down for the year, Floyd has to find the form that made him so special last year. he has recovered from a 2-7 start with three straight wins and will have to continue to stay hot to support Freddy Garcia and Mark Buehrle.
Most important Players:
Ortiz claims that he’s back to form, but the real test comes now. If he can continue with his steady production then the Sox will be in it until the end. However, if Ortiz can’t maintain his current pace then the Sox can kiss October bye-bye
If he’s healthy the Mets can win the east. If he’s not then they won’t. That’s about as simple as it gets people. As he goes they go.
He has to take this rotation by the horns right now. The Reds haven’t been this close to the playoffs in years and they need Cueto to grow into the ace that he was destined to be when they signed him.
The first half comes as a surprise to those that wrote him off. Now in these next two months, Vlad will have to keep it going in order to keep the Rangers ahead of Anaheim.
Last year he was sure as gone from San Diego. This year the Padres wouldn’t give the world for him. with the Padres facing Lincecum, Clayton Kershaw, Jimenez and a bevy of west coast hurlers Gonzalez has to continue what he’s done all year for the Padres in order to make the playoffs. Set the tone, drive in runs and lead them to victory.
There is so much more to cover and talk about, but there’s two and a half months left in the season to get to it. for now enjoy it. the best baseball of the summer is about to get underway later today, and from the looks of things it’s going to be one hell of a fun second half.