American League: Midseason Predictions

This has been one of the most intriguing baseball seasons we have seen in a long time. The pitching has been stellar and new faces in the game continue to impress fans every day. The action leading up to the All-Star break has been exciting and interesting. Some teams are starting to heat up while some are desperate for the break. Here are my predictions for the division winners and the wild-card spot in the American League.

New York Yankees - 2009 World Series Champions
New York Yankees - 2009 World Series Champions

AL East: New York Yankees

Much to the displeasure of Boston fans and others throughout the country... the Yankees should once again win the AL East.

The Yankees have a +117 run differential, which is a testament to both their pitching and hitting. The Yankees have three pitchers who have won 11 games at the break: CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, and Phil Hughes. We can expect to see continued production from these three pitchers. A.J. Burnett is very inconsistent but can, sometimes, look brilliant on the mound. What's great for the defending champs is that their powerful offensive weapons can salvage any sub-par pitching performance.

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have started to heat up and should be much better during the second half of the season. The big surprise has been Robinson Cano who flashes a good glove but an even better bat this year.

The schedule for the second half of the year could give the Yankees some trouble but rather unlikely. They have four series with Tampa Bay, three series with Boston, and one series with Texas, the White Sox, Detroit, and the Los Angeles Angels.

I'm predicting the Yankees to hold their place and win the AL East. Their pitching is too good and their bats are only going to get better. The Yankees are the team to beat in all of baseball.

Who will win the AL East?

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AL Central: Minnesota Twins

The AL Central should prove to be the tightest race in baseball down the stretch. This is no surprise as the last two years have come down to a one game playoff. And each time the Minnesota Twins find themselves in the middle.

Part of my reasoning for why the Twins will win the AL Central has to do with the other two contenders in the division: Chicago and Detroit.

Currently, at the break, the Chicago White Sox are .5 games in front of Detroit and 3 games in front of Minnesota. This is due, primarily, to a huge hot streak by the White Sox. Chicago has gained tremendous momentum and the All-Star break couldn't have come at a worse time. In their last 25 games they hold a record of 22-3. This can be attributed to the long ball. In the MLB, the White Sox rank 5th in homeruns. Unfortunately they only rank 18th in RBI, 19th in batting average, and 25th in hits. The latter statistics is why I believe the Chicago White Sox will decelerate in the AL Central.

Additionally, their starting pitching took a huge hit with Jake Peavy's season ending injury. Peavy could have been instrumental in maintaining and building the teams lead.

Their schedule will only add to their problems. The White Sox have three series with Minnesota (two of which are at Minnesota). They also have four series with Detroit, one series with the Yankees, Angels, and the Red Sox at the end of September.

Their offensive power should fade and they will relapse to a substandard offensive team. Likewise, their pitching isn't good enough to keep their heads afloat facing superior teams. The White Sox will fade to third place in the AL Central and miss the playoffs again.

The AL Central will come down to Detroit and Minnesota. In the MLB the Detroit Tigers rank 4th in batting average and 6th in hits. The Tigers know how to get guys on base.

The Tigers are in a good position going into the break at just .5 games behind Chicago. However, their schedule coming out of the All-Star break could prove troublesome. They have the toughest schedule in the AL Central for the second half of the season.

Their starting pitching needs to improve for the second half of the season. Justin Verlander is, once again, proving himself as the teams ace. However, with their run differential at only +11 the other starters need to step up.

Detroit's saving grace could be their offensive firepower. Miguel Cabrera could contend for the triple crown. He is arguably the hottest hitter in baseball batting .346 with 22 HR and 77 RBI.

Factor in Carlos Guillen, Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez, Johnny Damon, and the surprising Brennan Boesch and you should have a great offensive team for the second half.

Ultimately, their pitching and tough schedule will leave the Tigers just short of being the division winners.

The Minnesota Twins have been dubbed the 'piranhas' by White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen because they always find a way to come back. And that's exactly what I expect the Minnesota Twins to do again this year.

With the exception of the Texas Rangers and Boston Red Sox no team needs this break more than the Minnesota Twins. Not necessarily because of injuries (although that helps too) but more for momentum's sake. Their production has declined significantly as they are only 3-7 in their last 10 games.

For most of the first half the Twins were leading the division. Now they find themselves 3 games behind the Chicago White Sox in third place. That should all change in the coming months.

The Minnesota Twins have been without their opening day lineup for most of the season. Newly acquired J.J. Hardy has seen the DL more than desired. The same can be said for Orlando Hudson. Defensively, Nick Punto has been a great utility man filling in wherever needed. But the Twins will need consistent offensive production from Hardy and Hudson.

In addition, Joe Mauer has produced below expectations hitting .293 and only launching 4 homeruns. Mauer can only improve during the second half.

Justin Morneau has been exceptional hitting .345 with 18 HR and 56 RBI. Delmon Young has stepped up this year batting .305 with 10 HR and 58 RBI. Likewise, Denard Span has improved since the start and should flirt with a .300 batting average by seasons end.

Offensively the Twins can only get better with Mauer, Hardy, Hudson and Span. Expect to see consistent play from Justin Morneau, Delmon Young, Michael Cuddyer, and Jason Kubel.

The question mark for the Twins is their pitching. They lack a standout ace on the bump. But Carl Pavano and Francisco Liriano have been reliable. Despite some inconsistency from starters Scott Baker and Kevin Slowey the Twins starting rotation has held their own.

The black eye of the group appears to be Nick Blackburn. Twins fans expect him to be demoted soon after the break. He maintains a team high ERA of 6.40, 134 hits, and a 1.660 WHIP.

Brian Duensing may be called into his spot. Duensing was fairly reliable last year when he was called into a similar situation. The bullpen remains questionable with the exception of big man Jon Rauch, who replaced All-Star closer Joe Nathan at the onset of the season.

Overall, the Twins should turn things around after the break. To begin the second half of the year the Twins face the Chicago White Sox for a 4 game series at Target Field in Minnesota. Afterwards they play Cleveland, Baltimore, Kansas City, and Seattle to finish the month of July. That soft schedule should jump-start the Twins. The absence of a true ace pitcher may hurt them slightly. Nevertheless, their improving offense, tenacious spirit and fundamental defense should help the Twins top the AL Central.

Who will win the AL Central?

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AL West: Los Angeles Angels

The Texas Rangers hold a 4.5 game lead on the Los Angeles Angels going into the All-Star break. A lot of debate has surfaced regarding whether or not the Rangers are legitimate?

Texas already made a huge move with the acquisition of Cliff Lee. This move should tell you something about how confident the Rangers organization is going into the second half.

The Rangers needed the All-Star break badly. In the past 10 games they hold a 3-7 record. Throughout much of the first half of the season the Rangers were the hottest team in baseball but their streak came to a screeching halt a couple of weeks ago.

Their current advantageous position is attributed, almost entirely, to their offensive firepower.

Vladimir Guerrero: .319/.369/.919
Josh Hamilton: .346/.390/1.019
Nelson Cruz: .299/.362/.992
Ian Kinsler: .310/.408/.831
Michael Young: .301/.353/.831

It is a delight to watch this team. But as we all know... baseball is a long season... I can't see this production staying consistent. A lot of times in baseball it comes down to who is hot at the end of the season especially if their is a divisional race. Texas may have peaked too early. In addition, the Rangers are notorious for falling apart in the second half of the season. I don't see this year being any different.

Their pitching has been satisfactory but Scott Feldman and Rich Harden hold era's of 5.32 and 5.68 respectively. Feldman's WHIP is 1.597 while Harden's WHIP is worse at 1.677.

The acquisition of Cliff Lee will all but certainly help the Rangers despite his poor era in Texas. Their second-half schedule is tough for a young team facing Detroit several times, the Yankees, Twins, Red Sox and of course the Los Angeles Angels.

Expect the Rangers to cede their position to their nemesis... the Los Angeles Angels. However, the race could come down to the final series of the season for both teams where the play each other in Texas. Let's hope...

But I'm predicting a comeback by Los Angeles in the second half. The Angels have great potential to increase their offensive output. Primarily, they should be able to accomplish this though Erick Aybar, Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu, Hideki Matsui, and the powerful Mike Napoli.

Moreover, the Angels have a soft schedule at the end of August through mid September.

I really think the Angels will have a good shot of taking first place if another starting pitcher can step up. Jered Weaver is performing great with a 3.20 era and 137 strikeouts which leads the American League. Similarly, Ervin Santana is also doing well putting in a team high 122 innings of work.

The Angels will need either Joel Pineiro, Joe Saunders or Scott Kazmir to strap in and buckle down.

Overall, the combination of solid experience and good pitching should put the Angels atop the AL West. I am, however, relying on the Rangers collapse more so than better play from the Angels.

Who will win the AL West?

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AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox

Given all the injuries that the Red Sox have incurred... they are not in a bad position. Boston is 5 games behind the Yankees and 3 games behind the Rays.

Boston has endured seemingly endless injuries throughout their season. Currently, their injury report looks as follows: Victor Martinez, Dustin Pedroia, Adrian beltre, Mike Cameron, Josh Beckett, Manny Delcarmen, Jacoby Elsbury, and Jason Varitek. I may have even missed one because there are so many. Despite what most would consider 'crippling injuries', the Red Sox have put up incredible offensive numbers. In the MLB they rank 1st in RBI, 2nd in HR, 3rd in batting average, and 3rd in hits.

Imagine when they get everyone healthy what these numbers will look like!

The Red Sox are still in the toughest division in baseball and will have to get past the Tampa Bay Rays. But I believe the combination of their pitching and offense can help them take the Wildcard spot.

With the absence of Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz has emerged as the co-ace wit Jon lester. Buchholz olds a record of 10-4 with a 2.45 era. Lester is 11-3 with 2.78 era and 124 strikeouts.

Boston fans have to feel good about their starting pitching as a whole and who they can throw on the bump. Their big names include; Tim Wakefield, John Lackey, and Daisuke Matsuzaka. Each can improve their numbers but, nevertheless, many clubs wish they had just one of these pitchers.

As the squad becomes healthy their potential offensive production is a monster ready to rear its head. I see the Red Sox having a bit of battle with the Tampa Bay Rays but, in the end, Boston's bats and pitching will help them win the AL Wildcard.

Who will win the AL Wildcard?

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