The Gold Rush: Halfway Home
By BLS Columnist, Justin Goldman
A couple of weeks ago, Major League Baseball teams reached the mathematical mid-points of their seasons. I haven’t been paying quite as much attention to baseball as I’d like this season, given the amount of travel I’ve had to do for work and also given the fact that I spent most of my spring sports-viewing time watching my basketball team win the NBA title. But now that we’ve hit both the mathematical midpoint and the traditional halfway mark of the season and given that for the next couple months we’ll be in the dog days of sports fandom that consist of hot-weather baseball and not much else, I figured I’d take a look back to my preseason prediction column and look at a few things I’ve gotten right and a few things I’ve gotten wrong about this season. Because we here at the Gold Rush and Busch League Sports are all about accountability, people.
Five Things I Was Right About
1) Bryce Harper is going to win the NL MVP. We all kind of knew Harper was going to take off at some point—at least, anyone who watched him terrorize the Giants in the NLDS last year did—but the numbers exceed my lofty expectations. Right now, the 22-year-old Harper has a .465 OBP and a .715 slugging percentage. Those numbers are downright Bondsian.
2) The St. Louis Cardinals are good. Not exactly a tough pick, as I compared the Cards to a baseball hydra in my preview. But again, even though I predicted the Cards would be good, I wasn’t expecting them to utterly destroy the competition. At 51-24, with a run differential of +98, they’ve been far and away the best team in the bigs.
3) The Boston Red Sox are not good. My preseason prognostication actually had very little to do with logic, and more to do with my bitterness about an ex-third-baseman (who has had a mediocre season most notable for being out of shape and looking at pics of hot chicks on Instagram during games) and an ex-girlfriend (who is just as much an ex-girlfriend as ever), and the truth is they’ve been far worse than I predicted. None of this lessens my glee at their suffering. Because remember, no matter what: Fuck Boston.
4) The Kansas City Royals are good again. I predicted they’d be a Wild Card team, but I’m not at all surprised that they Royals have exceeded those expectations and are primed for a playoff run. It’d be pretty neat to get a Royals-Cards World Series 30 years after Don Denkinger, no?
5) The Pittsburgh Pirates are good again. And they too have been better than my expectations. With Gerrit Cole contending for the Cy Young and leading a devastating starting staff, and the great Andrew McCutchen rallying from an early-season injury to lead them on a strong run of recent play, the Buccos look poised for another playoff charge.
Five Things I Was Wrong About (In case you’re wondering, there were a lot more options to choose from in this category. You’re shocked, I’m sure.)
1) The Oakland A’s are not good. I was sure Billy Beane’s squad would continue its run of surprise successes, and the thing is, I’m not as wrong about this as it seems. Yes, the A’s are in last place in the AL West, but their +46 run differential is actually third in the league. And Sonny Gray is pitching like a Cy Young candidate. The A’s have been torpedoed by bullpen injuries and a horrific record in one-run games, but don’t be shocked if they make things interesting in the second half.
2) The Cleveland Indians are not good. I had a lot of faith in the Tribe’s young arms, and I stand by that. Look at the strikeout-to-walk ratios posted by Corey Kluber (127/23), Danny Salazar (101/24), and Carlos Carrasco (97/19). Those are dominant numbers. And yet those pitchers’ Win-Loss records and ERAs don’t match their peripherals. And Cleveland’s lineup? Ugh. I predicted this team would not only win the AL Central, but that they’d represent the junior circuit in the World Series. Teaches me to pick Cleveland.
3) The New York Yankees are not terrible. I gave the Skanks the full 10-minute Nelson Muntz “Haha” before the season. But with 67-year-old Mark Teixeira and 85-year-old Alex Rodriguez combining for 33 homers, the Bronx Bombers have slugged their way into the AL East race.
4) Matt Harvey will not win the NL Cy Young. I mostly picked Harvey because I didn’t want to pick Clayton Kershaw, and he has been pretty good (3.08 ERA, 96/17 K/BB ratio). I bring this point up not bury Harvey, but to praise Max Scherzer, who received more money than god from the Washington Nationals in this offseason, and has pitched like he’s underpaid. Particularly notable was a recent two-start run in which he threw back-to-back complete games, allowing just one hit, one walk, and racking up 26 strikeouts. Of course, the second one of those was a no-hitter that missed being a perfect game on a two-outs-in-the-ninth hit batsmen. Get out of the way, dude!
5) The San Francisco Giants are not that bad. This being an odd year, I expected depression and doldrums, but led by Buster Posey and mini Buster Posey (Joe Panik, putting up a .312/.380/.460 this year), the team has a solid offense. The starting pitching has been shaky, but with the always imposing Madison Bumgarner heading the rotation, Giants fans have reason to believe their team can break the even/odd trend and go on another playoff run this year. And now, that I’ve said that, I’m sure they’ll sink like the Titanic in the second half. Don’t ever listen to me.