Though it is hard to believe, the MLB 2010 season is already over halfway complete. Teams head into the All Star Break for some much-needed rest as the League’s best prepare to compete in tonight’s Home Run Derby and tomorrow evening’s All Star Game. So what players and teams have been surprising over the first half the season? How are my preseason predictions holding up?
So first of all for teams. My “surprise team” as predicted back in late March was the Chicago White Sox. And for a minute there, they appeared to be in for a tough season. Well they just landed in first place yesterday for the first time all year. So maybe they can make a run at this thing. In the AL West, a team that most did not see coming including myself was the Texas Rangers. This team has been just having a straight slugfest behind the big sticks of Vladimir Guerrero and Josh Hamilton. And with the addition of Cliff Lee a few days ago, this team appears to be for real. Another team that has surprised me is the Atlanta Braves. Now I will admit that I thought they would be the 2nd best team in the NL East behind the defending NL Champion Phillies. They have sat in first pretty much the entire season and do not appear to be going anywhere. But do take note that the Phillies are charging riding a 4 game sweep of the NL Central leading Cincinnati Reds.
That brings me to the Cincinnati Reds. A team that I predicted to be the NL Wildcard representative this year. The Reds currently sit atop the Cardinals in the NL Central by 1 game. None of the experts thought this team would cause any noise. Well they were wrong. This team has a lot of solid bats and cornucopia of arms. Though they have lost 4 straight games heading into the break, they will be around come September. There is just way too much young talent for this team to fade away. Then lastly, the San Diego Padres have been doing work in the NL West and currently sit 2 games ahead of the Rockies and Dodgers (I picked the Rockies in this division). The Padres have quietly just been winning with consistency and have really surprised most people.
Other surprising items. How about the lights out pitching? Sports Illustrated nailed right on the head with their recent cover. This has been the year of the “Pitcher” thus far. In the game of baseball that I have witnessed since I was a kid, I cannot remember the pitchers being more dominant. We have had 2 perfect games (really should have been 3), and 4 no hitters. Not to mention there have been over 10 times this year where a pitcher has carried a no-hitter into the 7th inning. It has just been absolutely unbelievable. Guys are really pitching well across the League. The steroid era appears to have come to a close.
So surprising players. First of all lets start with the Reds Joey Votto. Who saw this guys coming if you were not from Cincinnati? Nobody apparently, in that he needed to be the final player voted into the All Star Game despite his MVP like numbers. People are finally starting to get know Mr. Joey Votto. Then how about the Braves Martin Prado? This guy has really come out in a big way leading the NL in batting average. Though Prado batted over .300 last season, he was not well-known. He is very well deserving of making the NL All Star Squad.
Then how about the Marlin’s Josh Johnson? This pitcher has simply been lights out from the mound with his League leading 1.70 ERA. This guy has been solid for a couple of years, but this year he has been simply amazing. And also in the NL, how about Ubaldo Jimenez? The ace is 15 and 1 at the break with a 2.20 ERA. People have complained in recent years about a lack of 20 game winners in the MLB, well how about a 30 game winner this year? It is possible with Ubaldo. This guy has never won more than 15 games in a season and has already hit this mark at the break. Finally, how about Tiger’s rookie LF Brennan Boesch. Boesch is a rookie who is batting .342. How many rookies come right into the League and hammer out a .342 batting average? None that I can remember. The guy has been outstanding for a very tough Tiger’s team.
So my original predictions had the Yankees, White Sox, Angels, and Red Sox (wildcard), making the playoffs out of the AL. I am still sticking with these predictions with the Yankees representing the American League in the October Classic. It is hard not to change my Angels pick to the Rangers, but I have a feeling the Angels are prepping for a big time run in the 2nd half. Maybe hosting the All Star Game will really hype this squad up?
In the NL, I had the Phillies, Cardinals, Rockies, and Reds (wildcard) making up the playoff picture. Maybe the Reds should be picked to finish ahead of the Cards in the Central. But the Cardinals top-notch pitching will be tough to contend with down the stretch no matter how solid the Reds are. I also see the Rockies catching the Padres behind Ubaldo by the end of the season. Lastly, the Phillies are starting to turn it on and will catch a very tough Braves team. Bobby Cox can really manage folks. So I have the Phillies still representing the NL in the World Series.
Yankees over Phillies in 6 again is the pick (World Series Prediction remains unchanged)
Enjoy the Home Run Derby and All Star Game these next couple of days. A very exciting 2nd half to the season is still in store.
Stay tuned for the next edition of Sportskraze.