As we sit about four matches past the true halfway point of the season, it’s time to look at the season so far and see not only who has excelled, but also who has surprised and who has disappointed. We will also take a look back at preseason predictions and see which ones are working out and which ones maybe aren’t looking too good(Marlins winning the East, what?) We’ll take a good look at the first half of the season after the jump.
At the beginning of the season, I had pegged the Yankees as the division winners with the Rays, Blue Jays, Red Sox, and Orioles in order behind them. Obviously I didn’t predict the Orioles surge, but this has been a tough division to call beyond the Yankees. The Yankees currently have a seven game lead over the second place Orioles, but the difference between the Orioles and the last place Blue Jays is only 2.5 games. We could see some shuffling in the ranks of these four teams with all four set as contenders for the two wild card spots.
Prediction: New York Yankees
Leader: New York Yankees
My preseason prediction was the Tigers taking the division with the Royals, Indians, Twins, and White Sox behind them. The Royals prediction looks especially bad considering the injuries and poor play they have seen from their young players. The White Sox have surprised many with their play after selling off some pieces this offseason. No one has been more surprising than the Tigers, though. The Tigers were set to be the best team in the league on paper, but they haven’t been able to get everything going so far. They currently sit in third place behind the Indians. Barring a tremendous second half surge, the Royals and Twins look to be out of the playoff hunt, but the Sox, Indians, and Tigers are definitely not done battling for the division title.
I predicted a two team race with the Angels taking the division from the Rangers. Early on it looked like Texas would run away with things as they were looking like the best team in baseball and the Angels were looking like a disorganized hodge podge of veterans. The call-up of Mike Trout sparked things for the Angels and they are now only four games back of Texas. Oakland still has a shot at earning a Wild Card spot, but the Mariners look to be out of it with another 100 loss season in sight.
If the award were handed out today, the winner would be Mike Trout without question. Trout has turned the Angels season around and really forced himself into a starting position in an outfield crowded with overpaid veterans. Trout has hit twelve home runs and stolen twenty six bases in only 64 games. My preseason prediction of Evan Longoria looks especially bad thanks to an injury that has placed him on the shelf for the bulk of the season.
Prediction: Evan Longoria
Actual: Mike Trout
This is another award that I predicted incorrectly for sure. My preseason pick was Dan Haren. Haren was ineffective to start the season and is now on the shelf with a back injury. The American League has a huge field of guys to choose from such as Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez, Jered Weaver, and a resurgent Jake Peavy, but if I made a pick I would have to go with Justin Verlander to repeat, his All Star game performance notwithstanding.
Prediction: Dan Haren
Actual: Justin Verlander
Rookie of the Year
The preseason favorite for this award was also my prediction. Matt Moore looked like he would be a strong addition to the Rays pitching staff after his performance at the end of last season. He has been fairly unimpressive so far this season, though. The American League has an impressive field of candidates such as Jesus Montero, Will Middlebrooks, Yoenis Cespedes, Tommy Milone, Yu Darvish, Addison Reed, and Ryan Cook. The winner thus far, however, is clearly Mike Trout. Trout has Rookie of the Year all but locked up and has his sights set on the MVP.
Prediction: Matt Moore
Actual: Mike Trout
Most Surprising Team/Player
The team that has surprised the most is definitely the Flyin’ Showalters in Baltimore. The Orioles were not expected to contend this year, but threatened for the division title early on. They now look like a dark horse Wild Card pick. As far as players, Mike Trout has to be touted again solely because many thought he would have to suffer in AAA for another season as the Angels were packed with aging, overpaid players.
Most Disappointing Team/Player
I predicted this in the preseason, but Boston is easily the most disappointing team of the young season. The Red Sox have the second highest payroll in the league and only have a .500 record and one All Star to show for it. They have fallen victim to injuries to Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Andrew Bailey, and Clay Buchholz. With all of their players coming back in the second half, things could turn around for the Red Sox. Even with a turnaround after an ice cold start, the most disappointing player has to be Albert Pujols. He started the season poorly and had many wondering if the league change, expectations, and huge contract had gotten to him. He has definitely looked better, but I think the Angels expected more out of their near 300 million dollar investment.
This division has been baseball’s biggest surprise. Look only at my preseason prediction of Miami winning the division with the Phillies, Nationals, Braves, and Mets falling behind. The prediction is completely off with the bottom three teams actually leading the way. The Nationals have been a huge surprise thanks to great play from their offense and fantastic performance from the league’s best pitching staff.Even after losing closer Drew Storen for a big chunk of the season, the Nationals haven’t missed a step. They look like a serious playoff contender.
I predicted the Cardinals to win this division with the Reds and Pirates just behind. Barring a late season surge by Milwaukee, this has developed into a three team race. Currently the Pirates lead the way with the Reds and Cardinals close on their tails. The Reds have seen inconsistent play from a young team, while St Louis has been rattled by injuries. The second half should see a battle between these three teams for the division title.
Prediction: St Louis Cardinals
Leader: Pittsburgh Pirates
The West is a close division this season as the leading Los Angeles Dodgers finished the first half with just a half game lead over the Giants. The Diamondbacks are four games back of the leader while the Rockies and Padres look towards next year. My preseason prediction of a Dbacks repeat is still within reach as long as they find a replacement for Daniel Hudson.
Prediction: Arizona Diamondbacks
Leader: Los Angeles Dodgers
For me, the MVP award is a three man race, but with many others close behind. David Wright, Joey Votto, and Andrew McCutchen lead the way, but there are many right in the thick of this race. Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina, and Matt Holliday have all had MVP caliber seasons for our home team Cardinals, while Ryan Braun, Michael Bourn, and Carlos Ruiz are in the conversation as well.
Prediction: Matt Holliday
Actual: Joey Votto
This is another close race with a lot of familiar names and a handful of surprising candidates. My preseason prediction, Cole Hamels, has enjoyed a good season, but is just outside of the Cy Young race. A strong second half could not only win the award for him, but also set him up for a huge payday. If I picked right now, I would give the award to Zack Greinke with guys like R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg, Johnny Cueto, James McDonald, Matt Cain, and Clayton Kershaw also in the hunt
Prediction: Cole Hamels
Actual: Zack Greinke
Rookie of the Year
In the preseason, I predicted Brett Jackson to take the Cubs by force once they traded Marlon Byrd. They made the trade, but Jackson still hasn’t seen playing time. The young season has seen many contenders such as Wade Miley, Michael Fiers, Zack Cosart, Bryce Harper, and Wilin Rosario are prime candidates, but the first half Rookie of the Year is Lance Lynn of the St Louis Cardinals. Lynn was given the unenviable task of filling in for Chris Carpenter and has done an overall great job.
Prediction: Brett Jackson
Actual: Lance Lynn
Most Surprising Team/Player
This is a tough one to call as both the Pirates and Nationals have surprised people with their strong play. The edge has to go to Pittsburgh, though, as many had pegged the Nationals as a sexy sleeper pick. They remind me of the Rays of ’08 who showed up a few seasons earlier than expected. The most surprising player has obviously been R.A. Dickey. The 37 year old came out of nowhere to become a Cy Young candidate and pitch back to back one hitters.
Most Disappointing Team/Player
These are both easy picks. With all of their offseason spending, the Miami Marlins were expected to compete for the East division, but they have seen awful play and no return on their investments. With a nine game deficit, they are still in the race, but will need to improve their game. The most disappointing player is easily Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is a two-time Cy Young winner, but hasn’t been able to put things together this season. He only has four starts out of eighteen where he has allowed less than three earned runs.
A lot of these results will change by the end of the season, but so far we have seen a lot of surprises, a lot of drama,and a lot of great baseball. Hopefully the end of the season will be even half as exciting as last year.