An Important Conversation About the Second Half Major League Baseball Season 2.0

An Important Conversation About the Second Half Major League Baseball Season 2.0

MLB

An Important Conversation About the Second Half Major League Baseball Season 2.0

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Jun 29, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (right) and Zack Greinke against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Jun 29, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw (right) and Zack Greinke against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Although every team has already played more than 81 games, the unofficial second half of the 2015 baseball season resumes Friday. Last year around this time I grilled myself with a bunch of hard questions about the rest of the season. Let’s try it again this year because everyone loves a gimmick — different questions … same fading grasp on sanity! Grab the peanuts and Cracker Jacks, this is going to be fun!

***

You’re really going to do this again, aren’t you?

Full disclosure: The All Star Break gave me the time to legally change my middle name to Sisyphus.

Oh you’re trying to sound smart with some boring Philosophy 101 bullshit? How does a guy doomed to push a boulder up-and-down a hill for all eternity have anything to do with the second half of the 2015 baseball season? 

Not much. We’ve sort of pushed that rock out of the valley and into a new one — the revenue-sharing, parity-driven valley that could double as Bud Selig’s personal Valhalla. Consider this, as of Thursday morning the Royals are the only team with a winning percentage over .600 in the American League. Nobody in the AL is under .400. The biggest divisional leads are the Royals — 4.5 over the Twins (!) — and the Dodgers — 4.5 over the Giants. The St. Louis Cardinals are 23-games over .500 (56-33) and they’re only 2.5 games better than the Pirates.

Realistically the only team you can say has zero shot of shooting for the second wild card in either league are the woeful Phillies (29-62) who are 20 games back — FanGraphs gives them a 0.0 percent chance, even the Brewers get  0.1 percent shot at the Wild Card. The Marlins, Athletics, Mariners, Rockies and others are highly unlikely to reel off the requisite hot streak to chase down a playoff spot, but Selig got what he wanted, which I’m sure has sent him to his typewriter so he can boast to his various pen pals and correspondences.

But don’t you think it’s mostly a dumb idea to play 162-games over six months and have two teams’ fates decided by a one-game Wild Card playoff?

There certainly isn’t a lot of logic to it, but one-game playoffs are exciting. As we saw earlier this week at the Derby, walk-off home runs are exciting, too. Baseball needs all the excitement it can get. If you’re a player or a manager you’d probably rather have that shot at the playoffs than not, right? Hey, I’m a Tigers fan — the second Wild Card is all we’ve got this year.

Oh that’s right you’re a Tigers fan — don’t you ever get tired of proclaiming that on this site? And what should your thoroughly mediocre 44-44 team do before July 31 rolls around?

Sell! I mean buy! I mean … stand pat! This much I know: at nine games back, Tigers aren’t chasing down Ned Yost and the Royals in the Central … but they’re only 3.5 off the Astros for the second Wild Card and Miguel Cabrera should be back sometime in August. That said, David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Joakim Soaria, Alfredo Simon and even Alex Avila are free agents and might be worth something to another contender. Fuzzing matters even more is Dave Dombrowski, the team’s GM, might go elsewhere in the winter, too. The results over the next 10 days likely decide it. Unless Dombrowski clones Price to pitch more than once every five days, a team with a staff 4.41 ERA isn’t going very far. At least J.D. Martinez is awesome.

Wait … you said something about the Astros and the Wild Card? I thought they were crushing everybody …

Yeah the surprising Astros are still clubbing the ball and own the most homers in the Majors (124) but they hit the break on a six-game losing streak and were passed by the Angels atop the American League West. The former laughingstocks are now being linked to all the available pitchers at the trade deadline, namely Cincinnati’s Johnny Cueto. I would say more but Jeff Luhnow changed his password from baseball123 to something else.

Oh yeah, that hacking thing. The Cardinals are the worst, aren’t they?

Yeah, the same team winning year after year does get tiresome.

Jul 11, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) rounds the bases on a game winning two run home run to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourteenth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 6-5 in fourteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 11, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) rounds the bases on a game winning two run home run to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourteenth inning at PNC Park. The Pirates won 6-5 in fourteen innings. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

So we should all root for the Pirates?

Raise the Jolly Roger! Even with Josh Harrison on the disabled list, the Pirates are rolling into the second half with a viable Cy Young candidate (Gerrit Cole) and MVP (Andrew McCutchen). As good as Pittsburgh’s been they’re sort of stuck in a weird spot: unless they overtake and slay the mighty Redbirds, they’re staring down a one-game playoff in #Buctober — the same place they’ve been the last two seasons. Maybe the Pirates look for a power corner bat or maybe they bank on the Cole/AJ Burnett/Francisco Liriano + nasty bullpen to carry them.

Why haven’t you mentioned the Cubbies yet? Isn’t Baseball going to pull some strings to get them into the playoffs to ensure big television ratings in October?

Obviously. It’s all a conspiracy, man. If you don’t think Rob Manfred is in a secret bunker somewhere in Manhattan pressing buttons over the next two months to ensure Joe Maddon and his young stars get in the playoffs you don’t know nothing, man. Do you really think Jake Arrieta’s turned into one of the best starters in baseball by sheer coincidence? Don’t you realize baseball pulled a lot of strings to put Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo in the same infield? Think about it, man.

Are you okay? Are you going to start ranting about Chem Trails next?

Woah man, woah. Have you ever been to a game at Citi Field with all the planes flying over Queens? How else do you explain the Mets are only on full game behind the Cubs for the second National League Wild Card spot? Don’t tell me anything about Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey or Noah Syndergaard. This is all a conspiracy of the highest order to get the New York and Chicago markets in the mix.

If that’s the case, pal, then why are the White Sox four games under .500 despite Chris Sale’s best efforts? Better yet, why are the Yankees in first place and nobody even seems to notice? 

Uhhh … that’s a good question. Chicago is an easy answer: Sale might be on his way to a Cy Young (and a shit ton of strikeouts) but the rest of the White Sox roster is fairly mediocre.

The Yankees? Well … I wonder could the average fan name anyone on their team beyond A-Rod and maybe CC Sabathia or Mark Teixeira? It’s hard to remember such an anonymous Yankees team in the last two decades. As good as Brett Gardner, Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and others have been, they’re nowhere near that silly “Face of Baseball” crap that FOX kept pushing during the All Star Game Tuesday night. Brian Cashman’s longheld dream of building a squad around a bullpen and role players might finally have come to fruition.

Could A-Rod be the face of baseball?

arodWWE

Sure.

Does this mean the Yankees are going to win the American League East?

Unless Toronto goes out and gets Cueto — and maybe another starter — I don’t see them winning 8-7 games the rest of the way, no matter how good Josh Donaldson is at the plate or in the field. Boston and Baltimore are mostly middling, which could be enough in that division. Somehow Chris Archer and the Rays are a game over .500, what in the name of Kevin Keirmaier is going on here?

You made up that name, didn’t you?

Nope. He’s got the 17th-highest WAR in the game right now despite a paltry .248 average. Didn’t you know defensive stats are all anyone that’s cool talks about?

Well I’m not cool.

Me neither, I just try to fit in.

So say something bold, dude. Bold opinions are where it’s at. Nobody wants to simply read about baseball anymore. You should know that. 

Okay. How about the Mets finally break down and trade for Troy Tulowitzki, giving up one of their young pitchers to the Rockies. Of course being the Mets, Tulo likely gets hurt during his third game at Citi Field and the pitcher they give up is bemoaned like Nolan Ryan is in Queens. WFAN will be fun to listen to if and when this happens.

Jul 3, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Jul 3, 2015; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) at bat against the San Francisco Giants during the first inning at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

That’s not very bold. Pretend this is a debate show: who is better Mike Trout or Bryce Harper — no hedging!

Can’t they both be really good at the same time? What Trout is doing before his 23rd birthday is historic. If he played 25+ years ago they’re would already be a statue of him in front of a stadium somewhere. Playing for the Angels — the second team in Los Angeles — and on the West Coast probably does have an impact on his status and Q-rating. Harper is just fun to watch hit a baseball — there is something about a lefty power swing that is more aesthetically pleasing than hitting from the right side.

Look how similar the two players 2015 counting numbers and slash lines are:

  • Harper: 26 HRs, 61 RBIs, 70 SOs, 63 BBs, .339/.464/.704
  • Trout: 26 HRs, 55 RBIs, 65 SOs, 44 BBs .312/.405/.619

They’re both on first place teams, too.

It’s a shame Giancarlo Stanton broke his hand because a home run race with Harper, Trout, Stanton and a rejuvenated Albert Pujols, along with Home Run Derby winner Todd Frazier and Nolan Arenado would’ve been cool to watch unfurl over the late summer months.

You mentioned Los Angeles and playoffs, is this the year Clayton Kershaw pitches well in October?

… sorry, just took a call from Andrew Friedman asking the exact same thing.

The beauty of baseball and all sports is that Kershaw can be among the best regular season pitchers of all time and then its a total crapshoot in the playoffs. Maybe less pressure will be on Kershaw this fall since Zack Greinke is putting together a season for the ages, although figure Don Mattingly doesn’t have the smarts to start the ex-Royal in Game 1 of a potential series.

The crazy thing about the Dodgers is that they don’t exactly have any trusted starting pitching after Greinke and Kershaw. Their best offensive performers have been All-Star Yasmani Grandal, Justin Turner and All-Star rookie Joc Pederson. Yasiel Puig’s been limited to 43 games due to injuries and … they’re still 51-39 and 4.5 games better than the Giants.

Friedman and his braintrust will make some move nobody sees coming later this month, but whatever it is, all the baseball smarts in the world cannot accurately figure out how to navigate a five-game series once the first pitch is thrown. Just imagine what if Friedman goes against type and actually parts with either Corey Seager or Julio Urias to land both Cueto and Aroldis Chapman from the Reds for the rest of the year? That probably won’t happen but it’s the kind of game-changer that shifts the balance of power.

Division Series - Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim v Kansas City Royals - Game Three

Ahem, doesn’t Ned Yost know something about navigating through October?

Yeah but like we’ve said numerous times on this blog, Ned Yost is a wizard from another dimension. When everyone else is playing checkers, he’s playing Settlers of Catan. Wouldn’t it fit modern-day baseball logic for the Royals to finish 2015 with the best record in the American League only to lose to a random Wild Card team, like the Cleveland or Baltimore in October?

So let me get this straight, you write about baseball for a blog but admit you really don’t know anything about what’s going to happen three months from now?

Well … yeah, that’s like your opinion.

Lebowski quotes, really dude? Don’t you realize that movie came out in 1998? You’re living in the past! 

You’ve got me there. Carlos Correa was only three years old when that movie came out. We’re all getting old, reckon.

Anything else you want to say, there’s no way anyone is reading this far in 2015 about baseball.

Sure. Prince Fielder wins both the AL batting title and Comeback Player of the Year honors. Paul Goldschmidt flirts with the Triple Crown, but still loses the NL MVP to Harper. Pederson edges Bryant for NL Rookie of the Year. Division winners in the American League: Yankees, Royals, Astros. AL Wild Cards: Blue Jays, Angels. Division winners in the National League: Nationals, Pirates, Dodgers. NL Wild Cards: Cardinals, Mets.

Predictions? That’s the spirit! 

Baseball wins again!

[Photos via USA Today Sports Images, except A-Rod]

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