Back in April, as we did last season, we wrote a set of bold predictions for each team. We figure the All-Star Break is a good time to revisit those and see how we are doing. These were season-long predictions, so there are a number where we can’t say anything more than “let’s see what happens in the second half”, but some are looking pretty good, and others…well, you probably didn’t do any better.
Angels: Kendrys Morales stays healthy all year.
Morales suffered a brutal freak ankle injury after hitting a walkoff home run in May 2010 that cost him the rest of that season and all of 2011. No one knew what to expect from him this year, especially after the Angels signed Albert Pujols, relegating Morales to DH duty, but he has hit .289/.327/.431 while playing in 70 of the Angels’ 86 games. More importantly for this prediction, he has not returned to the DL. So far, so good. On Track.
Astros: Bud Norris is top five in K/9 in the NL.
Another “so far, so good,” Norris is currently 5th among 57 qualified NL pitchers in K/9.
Stephen Strasburg: 11.64
Gio Gonzalez: 10.45
Tim Lincecum: 9.68 (and yet…)
RA Dickey: 9.225
Bud Norris: 9.209
Obviously there’s a lot of the season to go, but this one is On Track.
Athletics: Despite losing most of their rotation, the staff will have a lower ERA than it did last year.
By “staff” we meant the starting rotation. In 2011, the A’s rotation had a 3.70 ERA. In the first half of 2012, it was 3.67. Now, that’s not a huge difference, and obviously it could change, but this is one more On Track.
Blue Jays: Brandon Morrow makes the jump to elite starting pitcher.
We probably should have clarified what “elite starting pitcher” meant, but while Morrow’s strikeout rate has dropped, his walk rate has as well, and he put up a 3.01 ERA, 1.004 WHIP, and a MLB-leading 3 shutouts in the first half. However, he, like many other members of the Jays rotation, has been on the disabled list since early June and no longer qualifies for rate stats. When he has been on the field this year, however, he has been elite. Call this one a toss-up. Wait and see.
Braves: Julio Teheran has more wins than Tim Hudson.
Tim Hudson has seven wins this season. Julio Teheran has zero wins, only one big league appearance, and isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire in AAA. Probably safe to call this one a Bust.
Brewers: They score more runs than they did last year.
The 2011 Brewers scored 721 runs, good for fifth in the NL. So far, the Brewers are still fifth in the NL in runs, and at 4.52 runs per game, they are on pace to score 732 runs this year. One more for the “so far, so good” category. On Track.
Cardinals: Carlos Beltran outproduces the 2011 version of Albert Pujols.
Last year, Pujols hit .299/.366/.541/.906, good for a 148 OPS+. This year, Beltran is hitting .296/.382/.542/.924, 150 OPS+. Beltran has slowed down a bit after his torrid April and May, but this is still On Track.
Cubs: Matt Garza isn’t their best pitcher.
In retrospect, betting on the field isn’t all that bold, even when that field is the Cubs. Garza has a 4.32 ERA (92 ERA+), and has clearly lagged behind Ryan Dempster (league-leading 1.99 ERA) and Travis Wood (3.05 ERA in limited duty). This is probably stronger than “on track” and into Likely True territory. Then again, how much longer will many of these guys be Cubs, anyway?
Diamondbacks: Aaron Hill will be good again.
Hill is hitting .300/.355/.505 at the Break and was on the Final Vote ballot, not to mention hitting for the cycle twice in a couple of weeks? Even without clarifying what “good” meant, it’s hard to find a definition where Hill’s 2012 doesn’t qualify. Barring a huge collapse in the second half, this is a Success.
Dodgers: James Loney will be a top-three first baseman in the National League.
With Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder jumping ship to the AL, the primary contenders for “best 1B in the NL not named Joey Votto” were mostly unproven youngsters like Paul Goldschmidt, Ike Davis, and Freddie Freeman. Loney put up a 110 OPS+ as a 27-year old in 2011, so we figured that while Loney hasn’t been great in his career, this prediction was bold but not excessively so. Well, we were wrong. Loney is hitting .247/.309/.333 as the Dodgers are 15th in the NL in OPS by their first basemen, second only to Miami. Barring a spectacular turnaround, this is a Bust.
Giants: Madison Bumgarner is their best pitcher.
Bumgarner has been solid this year, but he’s also been a clear third behind Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. Should have made this “Bumgarner will be better than Lincecum.” This is a Likely Bust.
Indians: They’ll have the best pitching in the American League Central.
Only the truly dreadful Twins save the Indians from having the worst pitching in the AL Central, and in fact in the entire AL. This is a Bust.
Mariners: Jesus Montero catches 100-plus games.
Montero caught 33 games in the first half, meaning he would have to catch 67 of Seattle’s 75 remaining games. Bust.
Marlins: Despite all their new acquisitions and the hype, they still finish fourth in the NL East.
The Marlins are 41-44, in fourth place in the NL East. They had a nice run in May, but an 8-14 April and an 8-18 June have put them in a deep hole. Jose Reyes is hitting .264/.336/.378, and Heath Bell has been horrible. On Track.
Mets: Mike Pelfrey is the worst starter in the NL.
Another “probably should never bet against the field” one, but any prediction involving Pelfrey would be irrelevant this year; he blew his elbow out just three starts into the season. He had been quite solid in those three starts, too, so no–Mike Pelfrey will not be the worst starter in the NL in 2012. Bust.
Nationals: Stephen Strasburg has a 17-strikeout game.
Strasburg only has three starts this year with fewer strikeouts than innings pitched, but so far his strikeout high is 13, which he did twice, both in six innings. The pace is there, he just hasn’t pitched deep enough into games. This one looks like a Likely Bust.
Orioles: Matt Wieters is the best catcher in the AL.
This one is up for debate. If you don’t consider Joe Mauer a catcher (38 games caught, 23 at DH, and 14 at first base), then you can make a case for Wieters. AJ Pierzynski has an OPS over 100 points better, however, though Wieters is also hitting well and is the superior defender. Wait and See.
Padres: Luke Gregerson is a top-three closer in the NL.
Gregerson is having a nice but hardly elite season, but the whole discussion is rather moot since he’s not a closer at all. Bust.
Phillies: Cole Hamels is their best starter.
This one is certainly true, but it would feel a lot bolder if Halladay weren’t hurt. Success.
Pirates: Charlie Morton is their All-Star.
Dead wrong. How about “they will be in first place at the Break”? Bust.
Rangers: Yu Darvish isn’t their best starter — but he’s still good.
Darvish has a 3.59 ERA, 117 strikeouts (fourth in the AL), and a 10.3 K/9, second only to Max Scherzer. He’s also third worst in the league in walks and walk rate. He’s been good–in fact, he’s an All-Star. But Texas’ best pitcher has been Matt Harrison. On Track.
Rays: James Shields will have no complete games.
After 11 complete games last year, Shields currently has zero. In fact, Tampa as a team has just two CGs, and one of those was an 8-inning road loss. So far, so good, though obviously there are a lot of games to be played. On Track.
Reds:Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman in the NL.
Phillips is hitting .280/.322/.428, ranking 7th out of 11 qualified second basemen in OBP, 5th in OPS, 3rd in homers, 3rd in fWAR, and 5th in bWAR. Who the best 2B in the NL is is up for debate, but it’s not Phillips at this point. That said, Aaron Hill, Jose Altuve, and co. aren’t exactly MVP candidates–a strong second half could put him back in the conversation. Wait and See.
Red Sox: No one hits 30 home runs.
Last year, Jacoby Ellsbury was their only 30-HR guy. This year though, Ortiz has 22 already, and Saltalamacchia has 17. This is a Likely Bust.
Rockies: Jamie Moyer will have the best HR/9 on the staff.
The sad part is, Moyer actually was leading the staff in HR/9 for a bit, but his final outing with the team–7 runs in 5 innings, with 4 home runs–doomed him. Bust.
Royals: They reach .500.
They need to go 44-34 in the second half to reach .500. I don’t see it. Very Likely Bust.
Tigers: They score fewer runs than they did in 2011.
The 2011 Tigers scored 787 runs, good for fourth in the AL. At 4.50 runs per game this year, the disappointing Tigers offense is on pace to score 729 runs. On Track.
Twins: Joe Mauer hits 15 home runs.
We called this as part of a more general “Joe Mauer will have an offensive resurgence” and in fact he has–he’s hitting .326/.416/.449, and that .416 OBP leads the AL. That said, he has hit just five homers, so this looks to be a Likely Bust.
White Sox: Robin Ventura gets ejected more times than Ozzie Guillen.
Ventura has been ejected twice this year, according to the awesome closecallsports.com, and…so has Guillen. Ozzie will likely get ejected more going forward, but this goes under Wait and See.
Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda leads the team in ERA.
After stumbling out of the gate a bit, Kuroda went on a tear from mid-April through June, and enters the Break with a 3.50 ERA that was the best on the team until his last start, when the Red Sox tagged him for 7 runs (6 earned) in five innings. That gave the team lead back to CC Sabathia’s 3.46 ERA. Andy Pettitte’s mark is even lower (3.22), but his broken ankle will cost him any shot he had at qualifying for rate stats; therefore, Kuroda and Sabathia are more or less even headed into the second half of the season. Smart money is probably on Sabathia winning that one, but this counts as Wait and See.
Likely Success: 1
On Track: 9
Wait and See: 5
Likely Bust: 5