MLB Midseason Bonanza: The AL

With the MLB All-Star Game come and gone, it’s time for John S and Tim to look back at their pre-season (well, more like 5 days into the season) predictions and see where they stand now. Here’s John S looking back on what he got right and what he got dead wrong.

AL West

What I Got Right

We should start in the AL West, where I made probably my best call in picking Texas to beat LA for the division title. As I expected, the Angels have taken a big step backwards—they are only three games above .500, and their run differential is -24. A lot of that is due to a rough patch the team hit shortly after the devastating injury to Kendry Morales, but a lot of it also has to do with a mediocre rotation. Joe Saunders and Scott Kazmir, the two veterans of the staff, have turned in lousy seasons, and the team is 11th in the AL in runs allowed.

Meanwhile, Texas has been even better than I anticipated. They have the biggest divisional lead of any first place team in the majors, and their run differential is better than every non-AL East team in baseball. And the only glaring weakness of the Rangers—the lack of a real ace—was addressed by trading a package centered on Justin Smoak for Cliff Lee. The Rangers won’t be able to resign Lee, but he makes them a legitimate pennant contender this year.

What I Got Kind Of Right

Well, I was right not to buy into the hype around the Seattle Mariners, but I still managed to overestimate them by pegging them as a third-place, .500 team. Instead, they are on pace to lose 98 games, and they actually figure to get worse in the second half, since they traded Lee.

What I Got Wrong

Vladimir Guerrero. By far my biggest mistake of the NPI MLB Preview Bonanza was my declaration that Guerrero’s career was all but dead. I thought Hideki Matsui (hitting .252 and slugging under .400) would be an improvement for the Angels, and I actually said, “I’d be surprised if Vlad was still in the (Texas) starting lineup by the end of the year.” Meanwhile, Guerrero was an AL All-Star with an OPS of .925. He’s been a huge pick up for the Rangers and a major reason why the team is firmly in first.

AL Central

What I Got Right

For most of this season it looked like my prediction that the Chicago White Sox would finish in second place was dead wrong. Heading into the All-Star Break, though, the Sox won 25 of 30 and surged into first in the Central. Whereas a lot of prognosticators thought this division would once again come down to the Twins and Tigers, the White Sox have stuck around through the first half. Losing Jake Peavy—who since June 1st was 3-2 with a sub-2.00 ERA—may hurt them down the stretch, but so far they’ve made the division a three-horse race.

What I Got Wrong

Even though I predicted the White Sox hanging around in second, I still thought the Twins would win this division easily. As of right now, though, they are stuck in third, and four games back of the other two teams in the loss column. Carl Pavano, who I wrote off, has actually been Minnesota’s most effective starter, and the team just lost out on its quest to land Cliff Lee. The team has suffered from the lack of a dominant ace, as well as sub-par offensive years from pretty much everyone but Delmon Young and Justin Morneau. Even Joe Mauer, the $184-million man, seems to have lost the power he found last season, as well as 40 points off his career OBP.

It may be a little early to give up on the Twins, though, as despite the team’s “struggles,” they still have the best run differential in the division.

AL East

What I Got Right

Well, I was right to call this division by far the best in baseball: I initially said that three of the best six teams in baseball played in the AL East, but now I’m thinking three of the best three teams in baseball play here. And the divisional standings I predicted—Yankees in first, Rays in second, Red Sox in third—is exactly how things stand right now. I was right that Javy Vazquez would end up fitting nicely into New York’s rotation, and that the addition of Lackey in Boston would be little more than an above-average pitching addition (4.78 ERA, 1.60 WHIP). And while it briefly looked like I had underestimated the Blue Jays, they are rapidly falling back to Earth.

What I Got Kind Of Wrong

While I got the big picture stuff right, I got a lot of little things wrong: I thought the Yankees would welcome the additions of Nick Johnson (out since May 7th and for the rest of the year) and Curtis Granderson (.718 OPS), while hardly mentioning Brett Gardner, Robinson Cano, and Nick Swisher, who have been the three best hitters on the team. While I thought the Rays rotation would be solid, I focused on Matt Garza and James Shields, even though it’s been David Price who has taken the reins of that staff. Similarly, I was wrong about Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester in the Boston rotation.

What I Got Way Wrong

Well, somehow, 70 wins turned out to be a HUGE overestimation of the Baltimore Orioles, who are actually only on pace to win 54.

Also, I was probably wrong to underestimate the Red Sox, figuring that they would finish 21 games behind the Yankees (right now it’s more like five). Despite a rash of injuries (Josh Beckett, Dustin Pedroia, Victor Martinez, Mike Lowell, Dice-K, Mike Cameron, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Varitek, and Clay Buchholz have all spent time on the DL this season) and David Ortiz’s traditional April swoon, the team is tied for the fourth-best record in the majors. Adrian Beltre has provided more offense than the team could have expected, and if they can get Beckett and Pedroia back at close to full-strength, then the team should be able to make a serious push down the stretch.

Oh, and as Tim predicted, I was probably a little generous in estimating 107 wins for the Yankees. They’re only on pace for a paltry 103.

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