Burning Questions: What's One Big Thing That Will Happen in the Second Half of the MLB Season?
In case you hadn't noticed, baseball's regular season is just a wee bit long. The MLB schedule of 162 games is the equivalent of two NBA or NHL seasons and over 10 NFL seasons. With this tremendous length comes the ability for a whole lot of strange stuff to happen in the latter 81 games.
When you throw in the fact that there are four divisions currently separated by less than two games, you've got some wiggle room for seriously fun juju magic to go down. Because of this, we asked numberFire's crack team of baseball nerds what they thought would happen in the second half. Here's what these guys (who have obviously never, ever been wrong before about absolutely anything in their lives) had to say.
We'd also like to hear what you think's going down. Either leave your predictions in the comments below, answer this question in the numberFire question forum, or send a tweet to @numberFire. You can also just call us dumb-dumbs because that's how the internet works. Now, let's get to it!
Oscar Taveras Will Lead the Cardinals to a Division Title
Dan Weigel's Thoughts:
The Cardinals are in a dogfight in the NL Central as they currently sit one game behind the slumping Milwaukee Brewers, a half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds, and two-and-a-half games ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. With four good teams vying for first place, something – or someone – will be able to make a substantial impact on the division race. Enter Taveras.
Despite a lost season in 2013, the consensus top-five prospect heading into the year wasted little time dominating Triple-A pitching and proving he was ready for the show. An injury to Matt Adams cleared a spot in the lineup, and though he has yet to produce in his first 80 MLB plate appearances, expect that to change very soon.
Taveras isn't doing much of anything well at the Major League level right now, but I believe that true talent, of which Taveras has no shortage, is a much better predictor of Major League success than an 80-plate-appearance sample. Taveras doesn’t offer much in the realm of taking pitches or drawing walks; he is up there to hit, and in his minor league career, hit is all he has done. He offers an uncommon ability to barrel baseballs that have no business finding a barrel, and offers good pop from the left side. Put it together and you have a player with a ceiling of an a .300 average and at least 20 home runs, which is essentially Matt Holliday with a better defensive profile.
Maybe this is premature, but Taveras is an elite talent with a skill set that I believe in much more than an 80-plate-appearance sample at the Major League level. The Cardinals have let rookies carry them down the stretch before, and for a team looking for an edge, do not be surprised to see Taveras lead the way to the division title this season.
The Blue Jays Will Win the A.L. East
John Stolnis's Thoughts:
Of the three teams currently .500 or better duking it out for the American League East title, the Blue Jays have the best shot to win the division. They hit enough home runs to block out the sun (a league-leading 116), have scored an AL East-leading 431 runs, and boast what is arguably the best lineup in the division (although Baltimore's is pretty darn good, too).
They also have been getting decent results from their starting rotation, with a 3.90 ERA, better than New York and Baltimore, although not as good as Tampa's. Their bullpen, which was the biggest question mark coming into the season, has been unreliable, with a 4.39 ERA, 13th in the American League. Still, I'm betting on Toronto trading for a starter and/or a reliever, bolstering their two weakest areas.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the Blue Jays have the easiest strength of schedule the rest of the way of any team in baseball (based on current winning percentage). The Blue Jays were my pre-season "surprise team" pick, and I'm sticking with them. The Blue Jays will win the American League East.
The Tampa Bay Rays Will Make the Playoffs
Jim Sannes's Thoughts:
I can't decide if I'm doing this because I actually believe it will happen or if I want to troll my Yankees-fan roommate. I know I want to believe it because this would be one of the most incredible comebacks of all time.
Right now, according to numberFire's MLB Power Rankings, the Rays have only a 5.3 percent shot at making it as a Wild Card. They are 9.5 games back in the East, and they are eight games back of the Mariners for the second Wild Card spot. Things don't look great. However, they look a lot better than they did just a little bit ago.
Back on June 10th, the Rays were in the midst of a four-game losing streak. They were 15 games back in the East with a league-worst negative-55 run-differential. They were 11 games back in the Wild Card, and the sale of David Price was a foregone conclusion.
In the last 37 days, the Rays were able to make up 5.5 games in the East and three games in the Wild Card with a plus-29 run-differential, catapulting themselves to 10th in the aforementioned Power Rankings, the top ranking in the East.
Now, the Rays have a huge deficit to make up, and, like John said, the Blue Jays are a pretty good team. That said, the Rays still have nine games against the Jays left on the schedule, seven with the Orioles, and nine with the Yankees. Unfortunately for them, they don't play the Mariners, and I can't see the Angels slipping, so the Wild Card may be out of the question. But, I'm telling you there's a chance. You know, until they trade Price, and I cry my eyes out, at least.