Wow, the MLB season is flying by! The All-Star game has come and gone (thank god) and now we can get to the dog days of summer. The first few months of the baseball season were absolutely terrific. New York has two competitive baseball teams, there is unbelievable rookie talent in the league, there are teams that have overachieved so far and a handful of teams which have been huge disappointments. Below are the five stories I am most excited to watch unfold and my prediction to how they will all play out. Enjoy the free education!
Kevin Youkilis will lead the White Sox to the playoffs while Boston watches from home. In the first half, the Boston Red Sox traded away Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox. It is assumed that the main reason for this trade was Kevin’s inability to coexist with new manager Bobby Valentine, but the Red Sox are trying to sell their reason to be that they are excited about rookie 3rd baseman Will Middlebrooks. Either way, Youkilis has showed the baseball world that he still has a lot left in his tank, as it appears a change of scenery was the best thing that could have happened to him. With Boston this season, Youk was batting .233 with 4 HRs and 14 RBIs in 42 games. In only 15 games with the White Sox, Youkilis already has 3 HRs and 15 RBIs and a strong .316 average. More importantly, the White Sox are in first place by 3 games and Youkilis provides veteran leadership and a winning pedigree for a team entering a tight pennant race. Meanwhile, the Red Sox are currently 44-44 and tied for last place in the AL East, 10.5 games behind the Yankees. As a Yankee fan, Youkilis always scared me in the big spot so I’m more than glad to have him out of Boston.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will make the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Pirates are easily one of biggest surprises in the baseball world and have a chance to do something they haven’t in 20 years…MAKE THE PLAYOFFS!. They are currently tied for the NL Central lead and are in position to win the Wild Card. I firmly believe that Pittsburgh will hold onto at least one of the two Wild Card spots. Outfielder Andrew McCutchen is having a MVP type season, batting .366 with 20 HRs and 63 RBIs. Pedro Alvarez has supplied Pittsburgh with 17 HRs and 51 dingers despite a pedestrian .228 batting average. Pittsburgh’s real strength is their pitching, as AJ Burnett has proved to be the pitcher the Yankees thought they were gaining 3 years ago. He’s pitched to a 10-2 record and a ver solid 3.68 ERA. The ace of the staff has been James McDonald, who has pitched to a 9-3 record and a great 2.59 ERA. The Pirates entire team is pitching to a 3.52 ERA, which is good for 5th in all of baseball. If there is anything all baseball fans can agree on, good pitching always beats good hitting. The Pirates have the arms to compete in the National League.
The Nationals will sit Stephen Strasberg and it will cost them the pennant. Other than the Pirates, the Nationals are easily the biggest surprise in the league this season. Youngsters Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasberg have come to the big leagues and have performed above and beyond all expectations. The Nationals figured they would be competitive this season but the organization was really looking ahead 2-3 years, which was when they really felt they would be legit Championship Contenders. Well, the Nationals have demonstrated that they are ready now. They are leading the Braves by three games in the National League East and have been on top all season. However, management will have an incredibly difficult decision to make in the near future, and they have pretty much let the baseball world know what they intend to do. Along with Harper, they view Stephen Strasburg as the future and face of their franchise. GM Mike Rizzo has placed a 160 inning limit for Strasburg, who is coming off Tommy John surgery to repair his shoulder. Strasburg is 9-4 this season, with a 2.84 ERA and they plan on sitting him in the middle of a pennant race. Think about how manager Davey Johnson, who might not be around for the future feels about this decision. Think about players like Ryan Zimmerman, who has been on nothing but losing teams, and now that he has a chance to make some serious playoff noise, management is taking away one of the teams biggest weapons. The Nationals have a chance to do something special for the first time since they’ve been in DC, and if they really take the ball away from their ace it will be detrimental to everything they have built. They appear to be sticking to their guns and it will be fascinating to watch as they falter down the stretch.
Mike Trout will win the AL Rookie of the Year and AL MVP. While Bryce Harper has been getting all the headlines as the best Rookie to enter the league, Mike Trout has quietly performed as not only the best rookie, but the best player in all of baseball. If you haven’t seen this guy play, you must tune in. Trout leads the AL with a .348 batting average, which is 20 points higher than the next closest player, Miguel Cabrera. He leads the league with 30 steals, and might be the most prolific base stealer since Ricky Henderson. He also has incredible power, smacking 12 HRs and 40 RBIs in just 66 games. Did I mention that he 20 years old?!?! The Angels have to be thrilled about the upside this guy has. Albert Pujols was brought into Anaheim and they paid him to win the MVP, but Trout has taken the spotlight off Albert’s struggles and has allowed Pujols to straighten out under the radar. Though the Angels play in a division with the mighty Texas Rangers, they are a safe bet to lock up at least one of the Wild Card Spots and with their pitching and offensive fire power, I could easily see Trout leading the Angels deep into the playoffs.
The New York Yankees will win the World Series. Yeah, this might be predictable since I am a die-hard Yankee fan, but I truly feel this team is destined this season. They have battled through devastating injuries and slow starts by some core players, and at this point the Yanks have the best record in all of baseball and a 8 game lead in the AL East. The Yankees lead the league in home runs, which analysts around baseball are saying is a negative? I may be wrong here, but isn’t the purpose of baseball to score as many runs as possible, and aren’t home runs the quickest and best way to do that? The Yankees also have a team ERA of 3.78, which is good for 4th in the AL. They lost two of their starting pitchers on the same day, and still haven’t missed a beat. Rafael Soriano has filled in for Mariano Rivera to the tune of 22 saves and 1.51 ERA. The bullpen is actually going to get stronger in the second half, as Joba Chamberlain is said to be getting very close to coming back from his ankle injury. Robinson Cano has quietly turned a slow start into an MVP type season as well, batting .315 with 21 HR’s and 54 RBIs. The Yankees have incredible veteran leadership with players like Jeter, Pettitte, Granderson, Teixeria and Rodriguez, have been through all the battles before and will once again prevail as baseball’s best team.
Enjoy the second half and I’ll see you in the Canyon of Heroes for the World Series Parade!