Posts from Maryland about everything MLB, NFL and college sports

A Great First Half of Baseball

We have officially arrived at the All-Star Break. It has been a memorable first part of the season. Here is a short summary of what has happened so far:

As expected, the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies have proved to be the three strongest teams in baseball this year. However, the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Rays continue to shock (most of) the world by being in contention for a playoff spot. The Rays are currently the furthest out of a playoff spot, just five games behind the Yankees in the American League Wild Card race and six games behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The Diamondbacks are just three games behind the San Francisco Giants in the National League West while the Pirates are just one game behind the St. Louis Cardinals and Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Central. The Indians currently stand 0.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central.

There were two managers who had to be replaced already this year, yet neither was fired. Florida Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez resigned after a horrific 1-18 start to the month of June (the Marlins finished the month 5-23). The Marlins began the month just two games behind the Phillies in the NL East but ended it 14.5 games back. Florida replaced Rodriguez with 80-year old Jack McKeon. McKeon led the 2003 Marlins to a World Series Championship, also taking over the helm in Miami at midseason during that year. Connie Mack managed the Philadelphia Athletics from 1940 through 1950 until the age of 87, making McKeon the second-oldest manager in baseball history. Florida was 32-39 under Rodriguez and are 11-8 with McKeon as manager.

The Washington Nationals also had to make a midseason managerial move. Washington was in the midst of an 11-1 run, putting them over .500 for the first time since the team moved to D.C. in 2005 when Jim Riggleman quit on June 23 due to a contract dispute with Nationals’ management over his option for next year. The Nationals tabbed Davey Johnson as his replacement. Washington is 6-8 under Johnson, but was 38-37 with Riggleman guiding the team.

There have also been some notable achievements by players through the first part of the year. Derek Jeter reached 3,000 hits with a home run at exactly two o’clock at Yankee Stadium to become the first Yankee to achieve that milestone. Francisco Liriano and Justin Verlander each threw no-hitters within four days of each other, on May 3 and 7, respectively. Liriano walked six hitters and struck out two. Verlander struck out four and walked just one hitter in the seventh inning, beginning a streak of pitching at least eight innings in eight of his next 10 starts. Andre Eithier strung together a 30-game hitting streak that began on the second day of the season. The streak is the second-longest in Los Angeles Dodgers’ history and is the longest in the majors since the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman’s 30-game streak in 2009.

The first half of the season featured many close divisional races. In fact, there is no division separated by more than a 3.5 game lead. There are currently 17 teams, more than half the league, within 6.5 games of a playoff spot. This season is shaping up to have some terrific playoff races that will go down to the wire in September. Here are my predictions from the beginning of the season and how they stack up with what has happened so far this year:

AMERICAN LEAGUE EAST

My Prediction:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)

3. New York Yankees

4. Baltimore Orioles

5. Toronto Blue Jays

Actual:

1. Boston Red Sox

2. New York Yankees

3. Tampa Bay Rays

4. Toronto Blue Jays

5. Baltimore Orioles

AMERICAN LEAGUE CENTRAL

My Prediction:

1. Chicago White Sox

2. Minnesota Twins

3. Detroit Tigers

4. Kansas City Royals

5. Cleveland Indians

Actual:

1. Detroit Tigers

2. Cleveland Indians

3. Chicago White Sox

4. Minnesota Twins

5. Kansas City Royals

AMERICAN LEAGUE WEST

My Prediction:

1. Texas Rangers

2. Oakland Athletics

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

4. Seattle Mariners

Actual:

1. Texas Rangers

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

3. Seattle Mariners

4. Oakland Athletics

NATIONAL LEAGUE EAST

My Prediction:

1. Atlanta Braves

2. Philadelphia Phillies (Wild Card)

3. New York Mets

4. Florida Marlins

5. Washington Nationals

Actual:

1. Philadelphia Phillies

2. Atlanta Braves

3. New York Mets

4. Washington Nationals

5. Florida Marlins

NATIONAL LEAGUE CENTRAL

My Prediction:

1. Cincinnati Reds

2. Milwaukee Brewers

3. St. Louis Cardinals

4. Chicago Cubs

5. Pittsburgh Pirates

6. Houston Astros

Actual:

T-1. Milwaukee Brewers

T-1. St. Louis Cardinals

3. Pittsburgh Pirates

4. Cincinnati Reds

5. Chicago Cubs

6. Houston Astros

NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST

My Prediction:

1. San Francisco Giants

2. Colorado Rockies

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

4. San Diego Padres

5. Arizona Diamondbacks

Actual:

1. San Francisco Giants

2. Arizona Diamondbacks

3. Colorado Rockies

4. Los Angeles Dodgers

5. San Diego Padres

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