BP's dirty dozen makes their prognostications to generate the wisdom of at least one small crowd.
Today we reveal the Baseball Prospectus staff predictions for the division standings and the major player awards (MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year) in the American and National Leagues. Each staff member's division standings predictions may be found later in the article. Here, we present a wisdom-of-the-crowds summary of the results. In each table you'll find the average rank of each team in their division with first-place votes in parentheses, plus the results of our pre-season MVP, Cy Young, and Rookie of the Year voting. Picking favorites for the Wild Card for the respective leagues initially might have seemed easy, since the selections universally favored the second-place team in the AL East, while all but two voters picked their second-place teams in the NL East to earn the non-division champ playoff team, but a tie in the rankings had to be broken in favor of the team named the Wild Card winner on the most individual ballots, which is sure to upset some people.
For the MVP voting, we've slightly amended the traditional points system in place that's been used elsewhere, dropping fourth- and fifth-place votes to make it 10-7-5 for the MVP Award, and the regular 5-3-1 for the Cy Young and Rookie of the Year Awards (that's 5 points for a first-place vote, 3 points for a second-place vote, etc.). Next to each of these selections we've listed the total number of ballots, followed by the total number of points, and then the number of first-place votes in parentheses, if any were received.
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Will the lefty-mashing Brewers match up well with Philly, or will Phillies firepower and a strong pen make all the difference?
Less than three weeks ago, the Brewers came to Philadelphia holding a four-game lead in the wild-card race and carrying the league's second-best record despite a slump that had seen them lose seven of 10 to open September. By the end of the four-game set, the two teams were tied for the wild card. It was the start of a finishing kick in which the Phillies went 13-3, breezing past the Mets to claim their second division title in a row.
For some players, the upcoming break looks like the dawn of a new day, but for others, the sun may be setting fast.
The halfway point in the season has come and gone, but the All-Star Game is still a week away. The season seems to be dominated by injury news, but it's really not. Looking back, we've had some big names go down, but not so many that it would be outside the normal variance. Injuries, in some ways, are actually down from recent levels. We're seeing players come back much more quickly than in the past, and some returning from conditions that would have been career-ending five years ago. Medical science changes faster than I can type, but we're seeing those changes work to the field's advantage in most cases. Players don't just blow out their arm and head back to Spavinaw or whatever small town they came from anymore. No, the team is on the hook for a couple million and spends a year working him back. That's tough, but in the end it makes the game better. Where would the Cubs be without Kerry Wood or Ryan Dempster, two guys that are back on the field because of Tim Kremchek and Jim Andrews? Would the Rays be in the position they're in if they'd had arm injuries, or if Ron Porterfield (and before him, Ken Crenshaw) didn't do such an outstanding job of keeping players on the field? The Red Sox, the White Sox, and the Diamondbacks are all winning teams with winning medical staffs. The two go together, so when you see the athletic trainers take the field at the All-Star Game, cheer for them. They deserve it as much as the players. Powered by the iPhone 3G, on to the injuries:
Injuries and trades reshuffle a few rotations, but look for at least one surprising late-season comeback.
Yovani Gallardo (120 DXL)
In all the hype surrounding the impending C.C. Sabathia trade, there are a few interesting injury notes. Sabathia comes in as the No. 2 starter for the Brewers, taking over the spot they thought Gallardo would be filling, except that Gallardo's currently out after surgery to repair his ACL. there was some discussion that he could be back before the end of the season, and while it sounded crazy at the time, the Brewers may have something here. Gallardo is already throwing from 45 feet and could be back by September. It's a long shot, but the idea of Gallardo slotting in, perhaps even in the bullpen, is intriguing. It will be difficult to build up his arm strength enough to move him right into the rotation, and the team usually looks to the long term, but Gallardo did heal quickly from his spring knee surgery. There's a chance we'll see him again in 2008, but this is almost completely dependent on whether Sabathia is the difference maker that the Brewers think he is.
Some serious star power winds up on the DL for the Yankees, Braves, and Rockies.
Philip Hughes (60 DXL/$2.31 million)
At this time yesterday, there was a lot of question about the validity of Hughes' injury. The odd timing-he's fine, and then suddenly he's not?-led many to wonder, including me. The problem is this is my area and I'm supposed to know, and Hughes wasn't faking anything and the Yankees weren't playing a roster shell game. Instead, he's got a stress fracture of his ninth rib on his right (pitching) side. Wonder how something like this gets missed? Check out this MRI and see if you see it. Here's an X-ray, which is usually clearer; while this is at the fifth, not the ninth you can see that even something easy like a traumatic fracture isn't clear. Hughes' injury was a stress fracture, a small break that results from the strains of activity rather than an incident, and it's very painful. Hughes is likely to miss at least two months with recovery and then rebuilding his stamina. The pain that he played through would explain his poor start, but he'll have to come back and pitch well for it to be that simple. So, Mr. Hughes, my apologies and best wishes in your recovery.
A fragile outfielder joins Matt Garza on Tampa Bay's shelf, while the Mets get bad news about their 42-year-old pitcher and the Braves' closer hits the DL.
If the Trop didn't have a dome, I think Joe Maddon might be looking to the heavens, waiting for frogs to fall from the sky. The latest victim of the injury streak is Cliff Floyd. Now, it's no stunner that Floyd is injured, but the injury stacking that the team has had makes even an expected injury tougher to deal with. Floyd has a small tear in his meniscus that will be fixed with a quick scope. He'll miss roughly a month, maybe a bit more. I'm setting this at 40 DXL because with turf and Floyd's history, I think the Rays will be conservative here and keep him towards the far end of the range. Floyd, for his part, thinks he'll be back in three weeks, which is possible. Once back, Floyd should be a bit more comfortable, but remains injury-prone. In the meantime, Maddon will use Justin Ruggiano to keep Jonny Gomes from getting exposed defensively as the team really tests its outfield depth.
Injuries don't discriminate: losing stars and scrubs can each impact the lineup of a team.
Curtis Granderson (20)
Granderson has a fracture at the base of his second (middle) finger. It's an important area for grip strength, and the lingering effects of the injury will be exposed when he returns, making this a double whammy. Early reports indicate that the team thinks he can start swinging a bat in two weeks, but as we saw with Chone Figgins last season, swinging a bat doesn't necessarily mean swinging it well. There will be some need for Granderson to get tuned up, either in extended spring training or with a quick rehab assignment. (The Tigers have a tendency to do these in warmer climates at the start of the season, so I'd guess extended spring training is the most likely.) I'm estimating that Granderson will be out slightly beyond that expectation, or about three weeks into the season. Whether he's effective at that point or not remains to be seen, though we'll get more of an indication when he does get a bat in his hands again.