It’s The All-Star Break. What Have We Learned?

1280px-Major_League_Baseball.svgIt’s the All-Star break. The real games begin again on Friday. What have we learned about the various teams in the 1st half and what can we expect in the coming weeks?

And most importantly (to me), will the Yankees make the playoffs after a 2-year drought.

On an overall basis, we’ve learned that there are 3 good .600+ teams, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and KC, and one awful team, the Phillies. Actually none of these are surprises. What’s a surprise is that almost all the rest of the 26 teams are caught in a parity vortex. Yes, a few teams are medicore and are not going to be playing in October, and others have a good chance of making the post season, but I don’t recall a season with as many teams treading water in the sea of so-so baseball, and that includes my beloved Yankees.

As it relates to my Yankees, the good news is that:

1. The Yankees are in first place in the AL East. They are 8 games above .500 with a 48-40 record. This is the 7th best record in baseball and projects to an 88 win season.

2. A couple of key All Star caliber players—Ellsbury and Miller–have recently returned, which makes the team much stronger.

3. For the moment they have most of their key players on the field, and not on the DL.

The bad news is that:

1. 88 games doesn’t win many division races (though it may this year)

2. After starting with a 21-12 record the Yankees are actually sub .500 since then, with a 27-28 record in the last 55 games.

3. The Yankees have lots of flaws, though perhaps fewer than other teams.

Breaking down the first 3 months for the Yankees, here’s what we found:

Big surprises:
1. A Rod—who’d have thunk? Having a terrific year, and just as surprisingly has not said anything dumb or selfish.
2. Teixeira—he’s back and he’s mashing.
3. Gardner—he’s having a career year & I’m glad he made the All Star team

Mild surprises:
1. McCann—he’s what we thought were getting. Big bat, good catcher.
2. Betances—no slump in 2nd year
3. Chris Young—a very good role player

Mild disappointments:
1. Headley—thought he was a Gold Glover?
2. Didi—I was hoping for more, though he’s improving
3. Jones-Thought he’d be a bigger contributor off the bench

Big disappointments
1. Drew—Guys who can’t hit .200 shouldn’t be playing
2. Beltran—Bad signing and we have one more year (ugh). He’s on the DL now & that’s OK.
3. CC—I love him and respect his contribution to 2009 World Championship. But he’s been awful.

All the other players are playing around the level I expected.

So will the Yankees stand pat in the second half. I don’t think so. In the next two weeks they will determine if:

1. Refsynder can be a regular second basesman and if so, Drew becomes a ultility infielder
2. What can they expect from Nova?
3. Same question from Tanaka?
4. Will everyone remain healthy, except for Beltran whose absence is hardly missed?

Here’s what I expect the Yankees will do:
1. Acquire a starting pitcher. Can never have enough. May not be top of rotation, but another arm is helpful.
2. Acquire a versatile player who can play second (and/or elsewhere).

So what’s going to happen? I think the Yankees will win 89 games and win the AL East. I think the other teams in the AL East–Toronto, Red Sox, Orioles, Rays–are also very flawed and will finish around .500. Obviously injuries and/or key acquisitions by any other teams or the Yankees could change the equation.

Once the Yankees win the AL East, they will beat wild card Minnesota in the ALDS (always love playing the Twins in the playoffs) and then the Royals in the ALCS. Then they’ll beat the Nationals for their 28th World Championship.

I can dream, can’t I? And it’s not so farfetched.

More Strumings

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