Now that the All-Star game has come and gone – let’s take a look at where teams are halfway through the season and how my predictions are looking. Grim? Maybe? On target? Well, I won’t go that far yet, but let’s see how I did:
American League East – Smitty’s Pick: Boston Red Sox Actual: For the most part of the first half it was a 2 team race, but the Yankees are coming on strong and looks like it will be a interesting race in the 2nd half. Can the Rays hold on? Boston’s offense has struggled as of late and the addition of a healthy Big Papi should be a huge mid-season spark for the Red Sox lineup. If Jed Lowrie hits, will Julio Lugo make it back in the lineup? So far Sidney Ponson has been effective for the Yankees. Joba has been effective in the starting rotation, as well as Rasner. Pettite has been spectacular. Will the starting rotation hold up? Is Wang going to make it back? If Matsui and Posada are done for the season, how will it affect the offense.
Smitty’s Pick: Still the Red Sox. It is going to be tougher then most expected and this will go down to the wire. But the addition of Big Papi and the continued effectiveness of Beckett, Dice-K and Lester should get them through
American League Central – Smitty’s Pick: Detroit Tigers Actual: Chicago White Sox. Honestly, did anyone outside of Chicago see this coming? Besides Wally? What can you say – Ozzie is working his magic. Minnesota is another surprising team as no one expected them to contend this year after the loss of Tori Hunter and Johan Santana. Detroit got off to a horrible, horrible start, but has started to climb. If the Sox and Twins sputter, the division will be there for the taking. Cleveland seems to be stuck in a ALCS hangover, and don’t appear to be recovering. The trade of C.C. Sabathia has to be the proof.
Smitty’s Pick: Sticking with the Tigers as I think they are going to get hot in the 2nd half. But then again I was wrong about the first half, so who knows..
American League West: Smitty’s Pick: Seattle Mariners. Actual: Anaheim Angels. I am officially on the record as saying that I will never pick the Seattle Mariners again. 22 games out at the break? Are you kidding? But Anaheim has looked that good with dominant pitching and even better bullpen. Can their hitting hold up? The last couple of years has seen an Angels second half fade – will that trend continue? Vlad Guerrero continues to look more and more like Andre Dawson every day.
Smitty’s Pick: Just forget it okay? Unless there is a total collapse, the Angels have this division.
National League East – Smitty’s Pick: New York Mets. Actual: Tie between Mets and Phillies. It has been an interesting first half for the Mets. A terrible start, a mishandled firing of Willie Randolph, only to finish the winning streak. The Phillies have been strong in the first half, while missing their MVP for over a month in the first half. Chase Utley has to be the front runner for the MVP award. Is Ryan Howard the new Dave Kingman? Joe Blanton should an interesting pick up. Can’t forget to mention Florida, as they continue to hang in there thanks to Hanley Ramirez and the likes of Dan Uggla and Mike Jacobs. But can the young pitching hold up? Will the Mets failure to have a back up plan for the brittle likes of oldies such as Pedro Martinez and Moises Alou be their downfall?
Smitty’s Pick: Philadelphia Phillies
National League Central – Smitty’s Pick: Chicago Cubs; Actual : Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have looked good so far as Giovanny Soto has been a huge spark to the lineup. Jim Edmonds has been huge for the Cubs as well. Adding Alfonso Soriano to the lineup – see previous comments on Big Papi. Rich Harden will be a huge pick up if he can stay healthy. The Brew Crew has been exciting this year and the addition of Sabathia well before the trading deadline was sheer genius from GM Doug Melvin. Even if he is a one year wonder, Melvin decision to maximize the rental was a smart move. If Sheets can stay healthy, they should be a tough 1-2 punch.
Smitty;s Pick: Still the Cubs, but the Brewers will make it a tough race. The Wild Card is coming out of the Central.
National League West – Smitty’s Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers; Actual: Tie between Arizona Diamondbacks and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Welcome to the Norris Division, where a below .500 record gets you a share of first place. Both team’s hitting is anemic and pitching is strong. If either team’s hitting can pick up, they should be able to walk away with the division at this point. Then again, if the Rockies get hot, who the heck knows. Anything goes in this division.
Smitty’s Pick: Los Angeles Dodgers. Arizona’s lineup is full of young hitters and the pressure of the race could make things tougher for an already struggling offense.
Boston, Detroit and Anaheim taking their respective divisions. The Wildcard goes to the Yankees.
Philadelphia, Chicago Cubs and Los Angeles Dodgers taking their respective divisions. The Wildcard goes to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Do I dare say a Red Sox/Cubs World Series? Let’s hear your thoughts on the first half of the MLB season.