Posted July 18, 2013

10 bold (and possibly even correct) predictions for the second half

Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Pittsburgh Pirates, Washington Nationals
Matt Garza, Cubs

Matt Garza could be heading back to the AL East, and to a pennant race. (Brian Kersey/Getty Images)

In the business of writing about baseball, you’re expected to make predictions. Whether you arrive at your prognostications via NASA-caliber number-crunching, gut feeling, or entrail reading, history has shown that most of them will be wrong. For every pick that gives you a false sense of superiority for being right, another will be so spectacularly wrong you’ll wish it was entered into the federal witness protection program if not buried under a parking lot.

What follows here are a handful of predictions for the second half (presented in roughly chronological order). Some are bold or even outlandish and some a bit more off the wall. The only guarantee I can make is that by season’s end, at least one of them will make me want to crawl under my desk, and serve as a cautionary tale.

1. Matt Garza will be traded to the Red Sox, who will win the AL East with his help

Garza is the best available starter on the market, and he’s been on a roll lately, with a 1.24 ERA over his last six starts, all of at least 6 2/3 innings. While other teams such as the Rangers and Diamondbacks may be interested, the Sox will be convinced to pull the trigger by Garza’s previous success in the AL East and by Clay Buchholz’s slow progress in his return from neck and shoulder woes. It won’t be painless (though my crystal ball is notoriously cloudy on the identity of traded prospects), but the move will pay off by helping the Sox return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.

2. The Phillies will trade Michael Young but otherwise stand pat at the deadline, yet finish well below .500

General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. is convinced he’s got a contender on his hands, because the Phils are 48-48, have gone 24-14 within their division, and man, Delmon Young is really starting to come around. Despite that, their run differential (-56), lack of depth and thin minor league system suggests they won’t be able to bear the losses of Ben Revere, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay. Even with those hurdles, Amaro will refuse to trade pending free agents Chase Utley and Carlos Ruiz, and he won’t unload either Cliff Lee or Jonathan Papelbon, thus shrinking the July 31 trade market considerably. He’ll unload Young on the Yankees, but the return will be minimal and won’t help either team; the Phils will finish below .500 for the first time since 2000.

3. Neither Ryan Braun nor Alex Rodriguez will serve suspensions this year for their connections to Biogenesis, but they won’t escape scot-free

It won’t be for lack of trying on MLB’s part. With the union and the commissioner’s office apparently in agreement that the latter isn’t bound by the 50-100-lifetime scale for first, second and third positive tests, Bud Selig will overreach in his attempts to levy additional punishments to the two marquee players, the former for his successful appeal of a 2011 positive test, the latter for having failed the supposedly anonymous 2003 survey test, and both for allegedly lying to investigators about their connections to the Miami-area Biogenesis clinic. The union and the players’ lawyers will mount appeals that will push any penalties into next season, and ultimately limit the damage to 50-game suspensions. Some of lesser-known players named in Biogenesis records will agree to suspensions and begin serving them before season’s end, but at least one will manage to beat the rap, after which MLB will dismiss yet another arbitrator, setting up an ugly war when they propose stricter penalties for first-time offenders.

4. The Yankees will miss the playoffs

They’re 51-44 at this writing, three games back in the wild-card race, but while they’ve hung surprisingly tough without Curtis Granderson, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira for most of the season, the bet here is that they’ve peaked before the cavalry of returns and deadline acquisitions has arrived. With their offense scoring less than four runs per game, it’s been their pitching that’s kept them afloat, but their run differential is in the red (-2). A closer look shows that at least among their starters, only Hiroki Kuroda and fill-in Ivan Nova have been preventing runs at a better-than-average rate, while CC Sabathia has been maddeningly inconsistent and Andy Pettitte has looked his 41 years. For the first time since 2008, the Yankees will be on the outside looking in come October.

JAFFE: 13 ways to survive the All-Star break

5. Ned Yost will be fired before the end of the season, but the Royals will somehow finish above .500

Dayton Moore’s bold offseason moves to acquire pitchers Ervin Santana and James Shields have improved the Royals’ run prevention considerably, though their offense is still languishing thanks to Yost’s inability to keep Alcides Escobar (.246/.277/.328) out of the number two spot, as well as the lack of power shown by hitters such as Eric Hosmer, MIke Mosutakas, Alex Gordon and Billy Butler, none of whom is slugging higher than .427. Yost will take the fall sometime next month, and interim hitting coach George Brett — on whose watch Hosmer has hit .311/.347/.530 since taking over — will reluctantly become interim manager George Brett. The move won’t get the team into the playoffs, but it will be enough for it to make a late push to an 82-80 finish, its first winning season since 2003. Barbecue will rain down in Kansas City.

6. With a big September, Stephen Strasburg will lead the Nationals back to the postseason

At 48-47, last year’s darlings have underachieved considerably, but Washington has still got too much talent to stay down all year. It says here that the Nats will be one of the NL’s strongest teams in the second half. The offense, which has averaged 4.42 runs per game in July, will continue to come around, but it will be on the strength of their pitching that they make it back to October. Strasburg, who was shut down last September as he approached his innings cap, will make up for lost time by dominating down the stretch, and Washington will nab one of the NL wild-card spots but won’t surpass the Braves atop the NL East.

7. Yasiel Puig’s big series against the Giants in late September will push the Dodgers to victory in the NL West

Currently hitting a searing .391/.422/.616 through his first 38 games, the Dodgers’ rookie sensation will keep whatever disappointment he had over being left off the NL All-Star team under wraps, but he will get even. With his flair for the dramatic, he’ll be a factor in the September 24-26 series between the Dodgers and Giants in San Francisco, collecting key hits that enable Los Angeles to clinch first place in enemy territory during the season’s final week. Meanwhile, the defending world champions will finish below .500, in part because Hunter Pence returns to his home planet.

8. The Pirates will end their streak of futility and make the playoffs

They haven’t finished above .500 or made the playoffs since 1992, but they currently hold a 56-37 record. Unlike the past two years when late-season collapses crushed their dreams of a winning season, this time it will be different thanks to the team’s pitching depth and a well-stocked farm system that will let Pittsburgh deal as needed. It says here that Alex Rios will be the big corner bat they obtain.

Pirates’ Jason Grilli lands on cover of SI

9. Chris Davis won’t reach 61 homers

Having already set a career high with 37 homers through the Orioles’ first 96 games, Davis is on pace to finish with 62, which would conveniently push him past Roger Maris’ former single-season record, one which Davis views as the standard to beat due to the PED connections of the men who surpassed him. Davis will cool off — yes, I’m making a bold prediction that the outlier will regress — and finish with a total in the mid-50s, but it will be enough to help the Orioles win a wild-card spot for the second straight year.

10. The rest of the postseason field, noted so that we can all laugh in October

The Tigers will pull away from the surprisingly strong Indians in the AL Central. The Rangers will edge the A’s in the AL West, though the latter will join the Orioles in the wild-card game. The Braves will hold onto the NL East and the Cardinals to the NL Central, with both surmounting challenges by the wild-card-winning Nationals and Pirates. The Diamondbacks will be passed by the Dodgers in late September thanks to their porous bullpen and the erosion of their rotation depth.

Bonus

The Astros will finish with a better record than the Marlins, which will spell the end for Jeffrey Loria in Miami

The race to the bottom is a close one, with the Astros (33-61) just 2 1/2 games worse than the Marlins (35-58) at the All-Star break. Don’t expect things to finish that way. The Marlins will need to shut 20-year-old rookie sensation Jose Fernandez down at some point, but it will be the trades of Greg Dobbs, Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco — believe it or not, they’re the best the organization can do at some positions right now — that will really sink Miami. After the team loses 110 games, an angry mob will hand Loria and his prized art collection over to marauding pirates, though it will later be discovered that this was a setup to allow him to evade the Securities and Exchange Commission.

He’ll open an art museum in Fiji.

VERDUCCI: Top 10 storylines for the second half

SHEEHAN: All-MLB team at All-Star break

LEMIRE: X-factors and record chases to keep an eye on

37 comments
6marK6
6marK6

I don't think a few of these will happen, least of which is the Royals finishing above ,500.

Michael10
Michael10

Here's a bold prediction: A full 24-hour period will pass during which neither Jay Jaffe nor Cliff Corcoran will mention Yasiel Puig. 

That day will be October 16th, when the two fanboy writers make a pilgrimage to Bryce Harper's hometown of Las Vegas on his 21st birthday and get wasted in his honor. They will wake the next morning to find Mike Trout handcuffed in the hotel bathroom, wearing nothing but a Puig jersey and a gimp mask...

gefilte927
gefilte927

Lets see if the Cubs can receive more value in return for Garza than the players they had to surrender to the Rays when they acquired Garza.   That'll be interesting to see. 

paintstheblack
paintstheblack

How is Chris Davis not continuing this ridiculous tear a bold prediction? 

AdamBaum2
AdamBaum2

Chicago is going to trade Garza to the Cubs.

OK
OK

1. Matt Garza will be traded to the Red Sox, who will win the AL East with his help

#####

Report: Cubs, Rangers talk Matt Garza trade

SI.com

Posted July 18, 2013  

The Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs are discussing a trade that would send starting pitcher Matt Garza to Texas, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi reported Thursday.

Citing major-league sources, Rosenthal and Morosi reported that the two teams have had “extensive talks” and discussed the “framework” of a deal. The report mentions other teams that are still interested — the Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, St. Louis Cardinals, and Cleveland Indians — but says that the Rangers are the “most motivated.”

ESPN.com reported last Sunday that the Rangers were the clear “front-runners” for Garza. They have had interest in trading for him since 2011.

TylerMorrissey
TylerMorrissey

11. One or more SI writers will get arrested/have a restraining order imposed on them by Yasiel Puig, who's getting sick of them trying to blow him in the locker room.

mr.zinn
mr.zinn

no love for the A's!! east coast bias in full effect

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

It will be discovered that the Pirates and Nationals have accidentally been wearing each other's uniforms.

PhilsEagles6ers
PhilsEagles6ers

Phillies are .500 despite a 4-11 Hamels and no Bullpen. If Hamels continues to pitch like he's pitched more recently and we can add a bullpen piece or two, this team could easily finish ahead of Atl and Wash. 6.5 games back is nothing for an always strong 2nd half team.

Joe R2
Joe R2

UGH.... I hate being a Cubs fan

redsox_celtics
redsox_celtics

Also...these predictions are anything but "bold". 

redsox_celtics
redsox_celtics

The fate of the AL East hinges on the injured shoulder of Clay Buchholz. If he comes back healthy the Red Sox will win the AL East going away. If he can't get healthy the Rays may take the division. 

SteveRowFla
SteveRowFla

Tampa Bay wins the AL East.  They've closed the gap substantially despite using rookie starting pitchers for 40% of their games over the past 2 months.  The vets are either back or will be back soon.

TFUIDv1.0
TFUIDv1.0

None of these predictions are "bold" at all, rather, just obvious.

TFUIDv1.0
TFUIDv1.0

Boston will make the playoffs without Garza anyway.

Philip10
Philip10

now that jay had made his predictions, I feel much more comfortable about two things; while Boston may make the playoff, they will not win the division - garza or not; and that the yankees will make the playoffs  - michael young or not.

Vinny Cordoba
Vinny Cordoba

The Cardinals will run roughshod over the rest of the league, leaving death and destruction in their wake, then go 11-0 in the postseason while outscoring their opponents 103-12, thus capturing their 12th World Championship and being hailed as the finest collection of ballplayers this grand game has ever known or ever will know.

BMORE_MARKY_RISES
BMORE_MARKY_RISES

Urrutia sparks the O's offense even further and the pitching gets it together.

David131
David131

The Yankees missing the playoffs, the 56-win Pirates winning 26 more games, Chris Davis hitting sub 61 homers = NOT bold predictions

Jonathon
Jonathon

Those Garza stats were from his last six starts, not his last two.

NoQNoSuperBowl
NoQNoSuperBowl

The Nationals have underachieved? Try they overachieved last year.  They are a clown team.

byurcan
byurcan

The Mets will go 60-10 the rest of the way en route to winning the World Series

Veejh
Veejh

I hope the Phils do stay pat and get one year older without revitalizing their team with youth. 

Zak
Zak

@redsox_celtics Well, if bold equivocates to unlikely or stupid, then these are very bold. Only a couple will happen, and those aren't bold because they are odds-on. The only prediction here that is bold and also not unquestionably imbecilic is the prediction that the Nationals will get past the Reds...which also won't happen.