July 13, 2007
AL, Second Half
Was: Boston Red Sox
However, 10 games is 10 games, and the Red Sox have their own reasons to be optimistic. They've been pretty lousy up the middle, with Julio Lugo a disaster and Coco Crisp's great defense not quite making up for his lousy offense. Manny Ramirez hasn't played up to his standards, either. Daisuke Matsuzaka will be a bit better in the second half, and the fifth-starter slot should be upgraded, most likely internally.
If the lead was even a bit less, it would be tempting to pick the Yankees. The two teams play six games head-to-head down the stretch, providing ample opportunity for the Yankees to close the gap. However, the Red Sox, if perhaps not a 97-win team, aren't deficient enough to fall back in the other 70 contests. The hitters get on base (first in the AL), and the pitchers strike guys out (third), and those basic skills will keep them atop the division.
Aaaaaaand…: The Devil Rays will finish third.
Was: Detroit Tigers
As I see it, the Tigers have caught a lot of breaks in the first half. They don't have any offensive depth at all, so they need to keep the regulars on the field as much as possible. With a roster filled with aging players with injury histories, they've been fortunate to have their starting lineup play as many games together as possible. Magglio Ordonez has played 84 games, Gary Sheffield 83, Carlos Guillen 78. I'm not sure those paces can or will be sustained in the second half, and any increase in playing time for the next guys on the depth chart hurts this team.
If I'm wrong and the Tigers stay healthy, they have a slight edge on the Indians because of what might be the deepest rotation east of the 57 freeway. Now that Andrew Miller has displaced Mike Maroth, the Tigers can expect to get quality outings every night. That, with a good offense supporting them, could render a shaky bullpen irrelevant.
Aaaaaaand…: This is the year Terry Ryan's inability to put his best team on the field in April costs the team a postseason spot. Sidney Ponson and Ramon Ortiz: 17 starts, 115 innings, 5.87 ERA. It never had to be this way.
Was: Los Angeles Angels
The A's…this is the worst A's team since Billy Beane took over. The A's are squandering a great year from their rotation, and it's because every veteran hitter they have is terrible, injured or both. Jason Kendall is the worst regular in the majors, Eric Chavez has continued to disappoint, and Mark Kotsay is alternately brutal and unavailable. Bobby Crosby has failed to develop at all, probaby due to the time he missed with injuries. This is a terrible offensive team; all it does is draw walks and hit a few home runs, and that may be the strangest sentence I've written in 12 years of doing this.
The Angels won't average five runs a game in the second half, because they won't hit .284. They shouldn't need to given the flawed teams chasing them and the quality of their pitching staff. There's some concern with the back end, as neither Ervin Santana nor Bartolo Colon have been effective, mostly due to major problems keeping the ball in the park. Both should be a bit better; even if they're not, they can go to a Joe Saunders or Chris Bootcheck to provide above-replacement-level starts. The Angels will hold on, comfortably.
Aaaaaaand…: The Rangers are still scheduled to play 162 games.
AL Wild Card
Was: Cleveland Indians
Was: Alex Rodriguez
AL Cy Young
Was: Dan Haren
AL Rookie of the Year
Was: Daisuke Matsuzaka