Unlike the captain of the Titanic, we’re looking out for you.  Today we’re going to look at some of the top stories to look forward to in the second half of the Major League Baseball season.  Like I said, we’re here to help, so sit back and relax while taking a look at yet another arbitrary list of items.

1) Can we stop talking about the whole Biogenesis scandal?

Yes and No.  This isn’t as simple as we’d like for it to be, so I am staying on the fence here.  MLB just announced that they will not be handing down suspensions any time soon, so let the players keep on playing.  However, that doesn’t preclude any broadcasters or talking heads to discuss it every time A-Rod has a highlight on SportsCenter.  At least we don’t have to hear about Ryan Braun’s silly PED excuses anymore, or whether or not you should trade Nelson Cruz on your fantasy team.  They’re here for the rest of the season whether you like it or not.  So, it’s time for us all to just deal with it.

2) What AL East team will finish 10-15 games above .500 and not make the playoffs?

My money is on the Baltimore Orioles, but don’t put it past the New York Yankees either.  This just isn’t Gotham’s year.  With injuries piling up, help in the form of prospects not coming any time soon, and the veracity of the division in which they play, they are in for a gloomy second half potentially.  But, let’s say Jeter does come back to at least 90% of his former self, A-Rod does make a difference, and their pitching holds up (Michael Pineda is returning after a year’s absence due to surgery), I think the Orioles will be the logical choice.  The Orioles’ pitching staff is pretty atrocious (28th in the league in ERA) and patchwork replacements like Scott Feldman won’t hold up the entire season.  They brought up wunderkind Kevin Gausman to give him an opportunity and that lasted as long as the actual vacation part of a Carnival Cruise trip.  They’ve given 37-year old Freddy Garcia 10 starts this season, which is 10 too many.  And lastly, All-Star injury replacement Chris Tillman – who has a pretty record of 11-3 – has reached the 7th inning only four times this year.  In fact, he’s failed to reach the 6th inning 7 different times this year.  Basically, it won’t matter how many runs Crush Davis and their offense creates, their pitching needs work to contend for the division title.

3) Will the Angels continue to suck?

Yes.  I wish I could be more emphatic here.  They have some of the most talented players in the league on their team, yet they are approaching Mega Maid status.  Mike Trout’s superb sophomore season is getting trampled to death by the black hole vortex that is known to us all as the middle of the Angels’ lineup – that is, Pujols, Hamilton, and recent addition to the group, Mark Trumbo.  Howie Kendrick is putting together yet another marginally unknown yet above average season, but that is not enough.  Trout performs best at the top of the lineup, but they don’t need him there.  They need his bat elsewhere if the aforementioned trio can’t put any runs on the board.  Pitching help is on the way in the form of Jered Weaver’s healthy elbow, but if Joe Blanton and Jerome Williams keep getting starts for the Halos, it might be time to call Christopher Lloyd.

4) Will Miguel Cabrera get the Triple Crown again?

No.  However, his 2013 stats are more impressive than 2012.  His current slash line is .365/.458/.674 compared to 2012’s slash of .330/.393/.606.  His average will probably dip a bit, but he’s 43 points ahead of Mike Trout, with Joe Mauer and a few other guys lingering behind.  His areas of concern are HRs and RBIs.  He’s currently 7 dingers behind Chris Davis and only two RBIs ahead of Davis.  I can see him losing his grip on one or both of those.  What amazes me most about his 2013 season is that we have seen what he can do, we see what he is currently doing, yet pitchers still go after the guy.  We don’t need another Barry Bonds 232 walks situation (in which 120 were intentional), but at least pitch around the guy a little.  He’s hulk-smashing the ball every time he’s up to hit.

5) Will the Trade Deadline be exciting?

My guess is no here again.  Hitting is usually something easy to find at the deadline.  However, pitching is a different story.   Currently, Matt Garza is headlining the rumor mill, and no offense to Cubbie fans out there, but he’s not the guy I want to lead my team to the postseason if I were a GM.  Sure, he’s a great helper, but not the guy.  Pitching-wise, there is no The Guy this year.  There’s more The Guy On The Couches than there are serviceable aces or top of the rotation pitchers.  MLB Trade Rumors is my go-to source for all things trades.  I suggest going there on a daily basis from here until the end of July if you’re a baseball fan.

6) Will the Pirates finish above .500 and make the playoffs?

Yes and No.  Sorry, Bucs fans, but the end of this year will be sad yet again.  Not this bad, but more so this bad.  They reside in second in the NL Central with a winning percentage just over .600, but that doesn’t bother me.  The Cardinals will win the division.  And the Reds will probably pass them.  Although they currently sit comfortably in front of a couple of underachieving preseason favorites (Nationals and Giants), their 8 game lead will quickly evaporate.  Oh, and let’s not forget the Dodgers too.  Loads of talent – it can’t go wrong, right?  Should we ask the Angels that?  Unless the Pirates make a couple of moves, they’re looking at a frustrating end to the season much like most guy’s junior year proms ended.  Sorry, Pittsburgh.  You’ll be above .500 but won’t be in the playoffs.

7) Okay, so if the Pirates don’t make the playoffs, who are the contenders?

Boston is for real.  Tampa is doing it’s thang again and is a team you don’t want to meet in a 1-game playoff.  The Tigers – if their pitching continues – will not be a team you’d want to meet in a short series (or any series for that matter as long as Cabrera is healthy and playing).  Texas is somehow sticking around while getting nothing from one-third of their lineup.  And then there’s always Oakland, like the fly that won’t go away.  For the National League, the Cardinals seem to be the cream of the crop and the most likely participant to be the visiting team in the World Series.  The Braves have some pop, but not enough.  Of course, any team mentioned above (or not mentioned for that matter) can make a couple of moves and place itself at the top of this list.  But if it’s Boston vs. St. Louis in the World Series, you can cite me if you’d like.

8) Should you get excited for your team’s September call-ups?

No, not in July.  And maybe never.  Sorry, this is super dorky baseball fandom stuff, but it’s really only cool to see in September.  For teams like the Astros and Marlins, they’re already watching their September call-ups.  But for teams like the Cubs and Rockies, this will be interesting to see which future prospects will shine when management decides to sit Troy Tulowitzki for the rest of the season with an unknown ailment.  It happens every year and 1.3% of the audience gets excited about it – much like QVC – but it’s not worth getting worked up about.

9) Will Adam Dunn hit 50 singles?

He currently sits at 33 on the season, needing only 17 more to accomplish his “goal.”  His 14 singles in June were three more than he had up until that point in the season.  I am hoping that was the anomaly month and his recent 10-day trend of 4 hits (2 HRs, 2 1Bs) is what we should look forward to.  Dunn, who is currently hitting .213 with over 100 Ks, is modestly providing some pop in the White Sox lineup that has been direly missing it all season.  His 24 HRs and 60 RBIs are worth noting, but his lack of everything else isn’t.  I say – begrudgingly – Dunn will get his 50 singles and that infamous record will go untouched for yet another year.

There are definitely more things to look forward to in the second half of the season.  Will Yasiel Puig continue his baseball dominance and/or hire a translator?  Will Manny Machado get the all-time doubles mark (he currently sits at 39)?  Will Billy Hamilton ever make it to the Majors to show off his Willie Mays Hayes speed?  Will Joey Votto – arguably baseball’s best hitter – reach 75 RBIs?  And, who will win it all?  There’s a lot to figure with what’s left in this season.  It’s been a long two days without any professional sports on other than men in tights riding bikes.  So, please, let the games begin!


[Deadspin, YouTube, IMDB, BroBileMLB Trade Rumors , Baseball Almanac]