As the MLB season nears the halfway point and the All-Star Break, Fantasy Baseball Scholars’ Ryan Jones and Tim Lander weigh in on the 2011 Major League Baseball season thus far.
The first half of the 2011 season is almost over and the only things we know for sure are none of the divisions will be decided anytime soon, none of the awards are wrapped up at this point, and this is definitely the year of the pitcher.
Now to the 10 things about the current MLB season:
1. Curtis Granderson’s freakish first half. We all know that Granderson is having a great season but when you truly dig into it you quickly realize it’s more than great……it’s stunning. To put it in perspective, he is on pace to set career high’s nearly across the board. It’s amazing that in a season in which the pitcher seemingly has the upper hand that he is on track to post 44 homeruns, 147 runs, 117 RBI, 30 SB’s, a .365 OBP, and a whopping .572 SLUG PCT.
2. Don’t get too excited Royals fans; the future may not be so rosy. Let me preface this by saying that I’m a Royals fan and I want to believe the hype but if I look at things objectively even I can see the chink in the armor. Don’t get me wrong, the Royals are in a better position than they’ve been in years but to think a contender is a year away is quite a stretch. I’ll start with the positive and that begins with the big first baseman Eric Hosmer because the kid can hit as good as any prospect in baseball and is the best fielding first baseman KC has ever had. Then they have the ever consistent Billy Butler who may never be the power guy KC fans have longed for but will at least get on base and drive in runs when given the opportunity from his DH position. At shortstop, KC seems to have found its guy in Alcides Escobar as he is leading the AL in every fielding stat out there though his hitting is still below average despite a semi-hot June. The future at third base is 2010 Minor League player of the year Mike Moustakas who crushed the ball in the minors but has driven in precisely one run since being called up despite having 35 runners on base while up at the plate in his young career. In left field they have Alex Gordon who looks to have turned it around and may be headed for his first All Star game this season. The final positive is their bullpen is young and good with Aaron Crow (former first round pick) and Joakim Soria anchoring it. Now for the negative and it’s simple to see, they have no pitching. Royals fans were ecstatic this off-season to see Baseball America list John Lamb (18), Mike Montgomery (19), and Danny Duffy (68) all in the top 100 prospects this season yet Lamb is out for a year at least with Tommy John surgery, Montogomery has been getting lit up like a trick candle this year in AAA, and Duffy has been inconsistent at the big league level thus far. The bottom line is pitching wins championships and the Royals still look to be in desperate need of pitchers.
3. What superstar is about to bust out in the second half? Evan Longoria. The Rays young third baseman, Evan Longoria, started the season on the DL and missed over a month of the season but when he came back he didn’t look like the Longoria we were all used to. There were whispers that he was still hurt or that he missed the protection of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena in the lineup but as a student of trends in fantasy baseball I can assure you we will see a big second half from Longo. In the last two weeks he has hit 5 of his 10 home runs on the season and nearly half his RBI on the season have come in that same time period. Look for #3 of Tampa Bay to have a strong second half.
4. It’s the year of the pitcher. No stat better illustrates the dominance of the guys who play every five days than this, last year 24 pitchers had a sub 3.20 ERA at the All-Star break and this year there are 40. Not to mention we have four guys who are in a position to post a sub 2.00 ERA with Verlander, Weaver, Beckett, and Jurrjens.
5. Is Adam Dunn done? Every stat and trend out there tells me he needs to be taken off the grill but I can’t officially say he is DONE. Even with the 100 strikeouts in 231 at bats I can’t help but compare him to David Ortiz of two years ago. Dunn is only 31, he’s adjusting to a new league, and most importantly I think he’s having a difficult time adjusting to life as a DH so to completely give up on a guy who just a season ago pounded 38 home runs is too much to ask of me. While he may never hit 40 home runs again, I would not be shocked to see him finish with 25+ this season and average 30+ the next three years in the Windy City.
6. Jose Reyes is cashing in. The often injured Mets shortstop Jose Reyes picked a good time to get healthy and hot at the plate with his pending free agency being this winter. He leads the league in batting this season at .352, has 41 multi-hit games this season (15 in June), but the most glaring statistic for me is that he is on pace for 30 triples which would be the most in a season since 1894. In fact according to Elias Sports Bureau his 98 triples and 360 stolen bases in the first 1000 games of his career can only be matched by the great Ty Cobb.
7. Who would you rather have moving forward, Michael Pineda or Stephen Strasburg? Amazingly these two are quite a lot alike. They’re both 22, they both have high ceilings, and both came out like gang-busters in the inaugural season. Comparing them is brutal but I’ll give it a shot. Strasburg only got 12 starts before going down with the injury last season and he compiled a 2.65 ERA, 92 K’s in 68 INN, and 5 Wins while Pineda had a 2.33 ERA, 76 K’s in 78 INN, and 6 wins. If all things were truly equal (no injury to Strasburg) he would have to be my pick but as it stands I would have to go with Pineda. I learned no stage is too big for him when he beat an extremely tough Phillies lineup earlier this month and limited them to two hits, one earned run, and struck out five through six innings.
8. Justin Verlander is having a magical season. The Tigers ace is currently leading MLB with the most wins, quality starts, WHIP, K’s, and innings pitched. Not to mention he has a no hitter this year, four complete games, two shutouts, and in the month of June he is one of four starting pitchers since 1900 to go 6-0 with a sub 1.00 ERA in a calendar month. One word describes JV……Beast.
9. Matt Kemp is on pace for a 40/40 season. Not only is he on pace for the first 40/40 season since Alfonso Soriano in 2006, he is actually on pace for 43/43. Honestly though, I don’t know if I’m more surprised about his potential 40/40 season or the fact we’re mentioning this about a 26 year old outfielder that plays in a market like L.A. and the rest of the baseball world is hardly talking about it.
10. My World Series prediction. Despite me wanting to change my mind and go with the Phillies I’m going to stick with my original pre-season prediction of Boston in 7.
Tim and I would like to send a special thanks to Fantasy Baseball Dugout for all the information they supply throughout the year and for helping us get our information out to all the fantasy baseball junkies like ourselves. We wish all of you a Happy 4th of July and please remember the true importance of the holiday at some point this weekend between the beer and fireworks. God Bless America.