The All-Star Game grooved right on by, and now the American League will receive home field advantage in this year’s World Series. That’s about as far on the record as I’m willing to go with regards to second-half certainties in Major League Baseball. Everything else remains in flux, from division winners to potential trade candidates, from award winners to statistical oddities. Anybody who says they can see something coming from a mile away is, more often than not, lying – insider information only gets you so far. With that being said, here’s 10 fun predictions for the second half of the 2014 MLB season.
(For gits and shiggles, we’re doing this in descending order, from likeliest to most far out there.)
1: Mike Trout will win the AL MVP.
The man is due. He’s having another breakout season (Can you have three breakout seasons in a row? You can if your slugging rises by 50 points.) and has already been worth 5.6 WAR. His steals are down, but so is his times caught stealing: ZERO, which is even more valuable. Miguel Cabrera has “only” been a hitting savant this year as opposed to a force of nature, and while RBIs are plentiful, his homers are down, and the RBI has become devalued in this modern sabermetric age. Josh Donaldson of the A’s will have support, and Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista might get a vote or two each, assuming neither the Orioles or the Jays crash to Earth. (More on the Jays later.) However, this award is Trout’s to lose.
2. Clayton Kershaw will repeat as the NL Cy Young winner.
This seems to be a little bit more hearsay, given what I’ve gathered from other season predictors. Adam Wainwright would be a worthy candidate, I grant you, and Johnny Cueto should be receiving plenty of talk (the Reds fan in me is screaming “ALL THE TALK” right now), but Kershaw is simply the Best Pitcher on the Planet. He will most decidedly finish with less than 200 IP this year due to his April back injury, but with a season line of 11-2, an 0.83 WHIP, an 11.8 K/9, and a 9.69 K/BB rate, he’s looking fairly astonishing. His ERA of 1.78 bests Wainwright by .05 at the moment, but Kershaw is also 2 outs shy of qualifying for the ERA title, so that doesn’t count. (See? This is why I hate awards predictions – they’re so tacky!) Without Yadier Molina framing the plate, I predict a slight decrease in Wainwright’s numbers, allowing Kershaw to swoop in for his 3rd Cy Young.
3. This Year’s Hall of Fame Induction will be MASSIVE.
Maddux. Glavine. The Big Hurt.
Biggio. La Russa. Cox. Torre. While a number of players should be rolling into the Hall of Fame in years to come, we may not see a class of this caliber for quite some time. Tune in and enjoy the spectacle, fans.
4. Somebody will steal more than 80 bases.
There are three candidates to top 80 stolen bases this year, which would be the first time that anyone has reached that number since 1988. (I was 1, just for the record. 1 year old.) Dee Gordan leads the way with 43, and has become a key part of the Dodgers offense with a breakout year – they’ll need every base he can swipe to outlast the Giants in the West this year. Meanwhile, Jose Altuve has quietly stolen 41 bags (and leads the league in hits) for the moribund Astros. Finally, back in Reds Country, Billy Hamilton has 38 bags, and has gotten better and better with each month of the year. One, two, or all of them are more than capable of running away with the stolen base title. Whatever happens, they certainly make the game more exciting whenever they’re taking a lead off of first base.
5. The NL MVP will come from the Central.
Troy Tulowitzki was crushing his way to this award for the longest time – however, he’s shown discontent with the situation in Colorado (Come on, Troy, who wouldn’t want to be Todd Helton?) and may be traded. If so, the Cardinals stand tall as a likely suitor. Meanwhile, Jonathan Lucroy has led the Brewers to the top of the NL Central – and he’s been known to falter in the second half. Andrew McCutchen is following up his MVP year with another high-caliber season – and the Pirates may miss the postseason because there are four teams in the Central fighting for the division title and two Wild Card slots. Even if both of the WC slots come from the Central again, somebody’s going home unhappy. My bet is that whichever team wins out will boast the MVP of the League.
6. A Rookie will hit 50 home runs.
Jose Abreu has astounded by hitting 29 home runs by the All Star break, and he’s only been exposed to major league pitching for three months. I’ve watched him play – his natural power is astonishing. It’s entirely likely that he could hit 21 homers by this time next week if he felt like it. With Masahiro Tanaka’s recent elbow injury, Abreu should run away with AL Rookie of the Year.
7. Derek Jeter will miss out on the postseason.
There are two factors that will block Jetes from the postseason in his final year on the diamond. The first is injuries – the Yankees have been absolutely devastated over the course of the season, and their remaining players have been decimated by time. This is a club that will be lucky to finish at or above .500. The second comes from an overabundance of quality teams with playoff aspirations in the AL. In the East, as mentioned before, Baltimore and Toronto are literally slugging it out for division rights. In the West, the A’s lead the way, with the Angels and Mariners (!) breathing down their necks. The Tigers look comfortable in the Central, but they’ve shown that they are far from invincible this year, and the Indians and Royals (!) are fighting hard behind them. With three division winners granted, that leaves five teams fighting for two spots. Somebody’s going home unhappy, and it already looks like it’s going to be Jeter.
8. David Price will be traded to…somebody.
The Rays’ ace has been the recipient of much bad luck this year. Tampa knows that they will not resign him in the offseason. He has to go somewhere. A likely destination is the (gulp) Cardinals, who have a need for pitching and the farm system to meet the Rays’ asking price. I’d rather not put it in print, but if I had to guess where he’d wind up……eh, I’ll stick with LA. Yeah, that sounds good. LA. Definitely not St. Louis, no sir.
9. Yasiel Puig or Mike Trout will hit for the cycle.
A statistical oddity with absolutely no means of prediction, the cycle is a relatively fun quirk that pops up from time to time. If anyone could be predicted to do it, however, it would be these two – players gifted with the ability to hit for average, to crush the ball with power, and to speed around the base paths on that elusive, yet necessary, triple. More of a fun prediction than anything else.
10. The Reds will make the postseason….somehow.
Hey, a boy can dream.