Sunday, July 13, 2008

OWNED! Reflections of Pre-All Star Break Season

I get owned on what appears to be an INXS message board. I'm not sure if this exactly hurts, I mean these are INXS fans, right? In reflection of a post I created during the middle of March, I proclaimed to 'Better Than Oasis', heckling pop group INXS for making a song which sounded as if they wanted to say it, but couldn't man up.

Needless to say, I don't think INXS fans will be writing my name in for any blogger of the year awards. On the bright side, I'm now referred to as a 'Sports Writer'. Oh, and I also learned what happens when you google your own name...a couple times...a day.

That aside, I know everyone has been asking themselves, what does Brandon think about the pre All Star Break season? So here I will reflect on my pre-season player predictions and what I anticipate to come.

Pre-Season Player Predictions

Over at The Fantasy Baseball Generals we were asked to give some award predictions. You can check mine out here.

American League MVP to date:
Milton Bradley - I am sticking with the player I picked nearly two weeks ago for the blogger's poll. Bradley has been incredible and goes into the All Star Break having hit home runs in back-to-back games. As I mentioned, I feel Bradley's presence has had a lot to do with Josh Hamilton's impressive season.

I have a tough time believing Bradley can maintain the season he is having. While his batted ball data is not entirely out of line with his career rates, staying healthy will be Bradley's biggest obstacle. Combine that with the Rangers current place in the standings makes it tough to believe he will come out on top.

Currently, I have Alex Rodriguez as my second most valuable player, but like Bradley, the Yankees position in the standings combined with Rodriguez's injury may limit the likelihood of that. In third, my preseason pick of Grady Sizemore does not look terrible, until one is reminded how awful the Indians have played to date. The current American Leader in home runs and not far from the 40 home run pace I predicted in March.

MVP by seasons end:
All in all, this award is going to come down to the best player on whichever team wins the American League Central. Right now, Carlos Quentin would be the front runner, but he will have to avoid any second half slumping. Ian Kinsler and Josh Hamilton will both challenge, especially if the Ranger make a legitimate run. Prediction: Justin Morneau.

Cy Young to date:
Roy Halladay - Doc is having arguably the best season of his career. Unfortunately the Jays hitting has stunk otherwise my Jays for the wild card pick wouldn't look so bad. Halladay's ability to give the Jays bullpen a night off on 7 of his 19 starts has been phenomenal and justifies my pick here.

Halladay is also a good enough pitcher to continue the success he is having. Unfortunately, the Baseball Writers of America (BBWA) do not care how good a player performed, they care about how a player performs, they care about how a player performs relative to his team. Currently Doc has 11 wins, but I have a tough time seeing him surpass 16 win unless the Jays really turn things around. That will be what holds him back.

John Lackey and Cliff Lee have both been otherworldly. Lee has the least likely chance of winning the award simply because the Indians have stunk. Although, when Martinez and Hafner return, the Indians could hurt a lot of teams playoff dreams. On the other hand, Lackey is the typical BBWA Cy Young pitcher-posting solid numbers and performing on a playoff caliber team.

Similar to the situation my preseason MVP, Grady Sizemore, finds himself in, my preason Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez is playing phenomenal baseball for a terribly team. In March I predicted the Mariners to win 'a lot of games' and for the Mariners to subsequently win the division. I also envisions Hernandez being the centerpiece of this success en route to far and away leading the league in wins, while taking the next step in his development as a pitcher. Hernandez is having an outstanding season and is holding up his end of my prediction, sitting with the 6th best Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in the American League. Unfortunately the Mariners suck.

Cy Young by seasons end:
If the Mariners didn't suck, I would stick with Hernandez. I probably would have done the same thing with Sizemore for MVP. But I know how the BBWA vote and what they like to see. I can see the voters giving some love to Halladay (especially if he keeps firing complete games), but in the end, I see the award going to John Lackey or super-surprise John Danks. Predictions: John Lackey.

Rookie of the Year to date:
Evan Longoria - Fewer then 4 weeks ago, by my own admission, Jacoby Ellsbury, had made too wide of a gap with his outstanding play in April, for Longoria to make up the difference. Well, Longoria officially put his name on the map with a fantastic series against the Red Sox to further cement his position as the best first year player.

My preseason pick has officially fallen off the face of the earth. Philip Humber has essentially lost all of the value that he entered this season with and is unlikely to get called up this season, let alone perform at a high enough level to overtake Longoria. My bad.
Rookie of the Year by seasons end:
Longoria started running away with the award and has become a major factor for the Rays this season. His defensive play has been a god-send for one of the majors best defensive teams. Ellsbury appears to be turning things around, but the Red Sox will begin to minimize his work again once David Ortiz returns in a couple of weeks. The BBWA have fallen in love with Longoria, thus Prediction: Evan Longoria.

National League MVP to date:
Lance Berkman - Aside from the steals, Berkman isn't doing a whole lot that he hasn't done previously in his career. If one forgets last seasons ice cold start, Berkman's current season looks a lot like last years second half. The big surprise, however, comes with the fact that Berkman is 32 years old, he isn't supposed to age like this.

Behind Berkman is Albert Pujols, and super surprise Edinson Volquez. Unfortunately Pujols missed some time this year, which will hurt him when the BBWA are handing out the award. However, the Cards stayed hot and Pujols won't have to worry about not winning the award due to being on a losing team. Volquez on the other hand, does have that to deal with.

Prior to the start of the season, I predicted that Pujols would run away with the award. I claimed that the elbow injuries were more a concern of the media then they would be of Pujols. Low and behold, Pujols hasn't had any elbow issues to deal with, and his power is only marginally worse then it had been in years past. However, for a player of Pujols' age, that isn't really a good thing.

MVP by seasons end:
This is a tough one to call. Currently none of the top performers (aside from Pujols) are on teams that are performing at a high enough level for a typical winner by BBWA standards. Keep an eye on the Mets-Phillies race in the National League East. Either David Wright or Chase Utley should walk away with the award for whichever team wins the division. Prediction: David Wright.

Cy Young to date:
Tim Lincecum - It is simple, Lincecum has dominated. Despite the vote that I sent in for Volquez earlier in the week, Lincecum has simply taken over as the National Leagues best pitcher, and has arguably been the best pitcher in all of baseball. Leading the league in FIP, Lincecum is actually managing to get better as the season goes along. Simply put, I cannot gush over Lincecum enough.

Volquez and Ben Sheets would still round out my top three. Volquez appears to be fading, although he will still merit an understandable amount of votes for Cy Young, simply because of how big of a surprise he has been. Being on a losing team also will not help his cause. On the other hand, Ben Sheets is on a team that is looking to make a significant run to the playoffs.

Cy Young by seasons end:
I am curious what the BBWA will do with CC Sabathia. Are his numbers as an Indian not transferrable to winning the NL Cy Young? If they are, Sabathia will make a legitimate argument to win the award. However, either he or Sheets will make a quality candidate for the Brewers.

The being said, with how the Mets have played as of late, my preseason pick of Johan Santana may come to fruition if the Mets can pull out the division. I also anticipate this selection being the BBWA trying to say, 'see, we were right'. Prediction: Johan Santana.

Rookie of the Year to date:
Geovanny Soto - Apparently the steps Soto took last year were legitimate. Soto has been one of, if not the best offensive catcher this season. Receiving pitches from an outstanding rotation on a winning ballclub make his contributions that much more noticeable.

However, Jair Jurrjens, the pitcher the Braves received for Edgar Renteria, has potentially been more valuable to the Braves to this point in the season. As is, Soto has had better overall numbers, but Jurrjens has been more consistent. It will be interesting to see how both wear as the season progresses. I am also not willing to count out Kosuke Fukudome, although I would debate that his rookie season is somewhat a fraud.

My preseason pick of Jay Bruce has not worked out. Despite raking in the minors, the Reds kept Bruce down as to control his arbitration. After a fast start, it appeared the Reds made the wrong decision, and my personal question of whether or not the Reds had used up all of Bruce's stats in the minors, was answered. A lot has changed, and the worries about how Bruce will hold up against Major League pitching have come to fruition, as Bruce has look absolutely terrible, striking out at a ridiculous rate.

Keep in mind Bruce is only 21 years old, so despite his struggles (specifically against lefties), he is still having an outstanding season.

Rookie of the Year by seasons end:
I am going to give this award to Jair Jurrjens. I feel as though the season he is having is more sustainable. Soto is having to log a lot of time behind the plate, and despite being given a considerable break DHing during inter league play, the summer isn't even halfway through yet. The Cubs would be wise to ensure he is getting at least 2 days off a week. Prediction: Jair Jurrjens.

I will reflect on surprise seasons and my highlights of the first half in the coming days. I also intend to supply my All Star teams, and maybe an All Disappointment Team.

BallHype: hype it up!

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