Tuesday’s All-Star Game in New York marked the unofficial midway point of the Major League Baseball season.
There have been many surprises so far this season, and a few things that haven’t been much of a surprise.
The St. Louis Cardinals entered the break with the best record in the game at 57-36, one game ahead of Pittsburgh in the National League Central Division.
There still are concerns for the Cardinals in the second half.
What do you do with the shortstop position? Pete Kozma is solid defensively, but he’s hitting .233.
Can you ride the season out with Kozma and continue to throw in Daniel Descalso at shortstop every once in a while, or do you make a move to acquire another shortstop? How will the Cardinals’ rotation hold up in August and September?
There’s nothing to worry about with Adam Wainwright, but will rookie Shelby Miller hold up? Will Jake Westbrook stay healthy? What’s going on with Lance Lynn? He hasn’t exactly been lighting it up lately.
Who’s the Cardinals’ fifth starter in the second half? Joe Kelly? Michael Wacha? Carlos Martinez? Chris Carpenter?
In the bullpen, we know Trevor Rosenthal has the eighth inning and Edward Mujica is the closer.
But what about the seventh inning? Seth Maness? Kevin Siegrist?
Here’s kind of a crazy prediction. Lynn continues to struggle as a starter, so he’s moved to the bullpen to pitch the seventh inning.
That leaves two open spots in the rotation, which will be filled by Carpenter and Wacha.
Suddenly, the bullpen becomes a major strength with the additions of Lynn and Martinez to go with Rosenthal and Mujica.
Now that the Cardinals’ issues are solved, let’s give away some midseason awards.
• National League MVP: Is there even a debate? Yadier Molina leads the league in hitting (.341) and is the best defensive catcher on the team with the best record. I don’t want to hear about Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt.
• American League MVP: Baltimore’s Chris Davis is having a great season with 37 homers, 93 RBIs and a .315 batting average. But Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera gets the nod with 30 homers, 95 RBIs and a .365 batting average. He might win the triple crown for the second straight season.
• National League Cy Young: This won’t be a popular pick among the locals, but I’m going with Los Angeles’ Clayton Kershaw. His record only is 8-6, but he owns a 1.98 ERA and a 0.91 WHIP (Walks plus hits per inning pitched). Wainwright is 12-5 with a 2.45 ERA and a 1.01 WHIP.
• American League CY Young: Have to go with Detroit’s Max Scherzer. He’s 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP.
• National League Rookie of Year: Hopefully the all-star break will help Miller, who should win the award. He’s currently 9-6 for the Cards with a 2.92 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. Watch out for Miami pitcher Jose Fernandez.
• American League Rookie of Year: Boston’s Jose Iglesias seems to be the frontrunner. He’s played in only 52 games, but he’s hitting .367.
• National League Manager of Year: Mike Matheny deserves consideration, but you have to go with Pittsburgh’s Clint Hurdle. The Pirates are in the hunt for the Central Division and haven’t had a winning record in 20 years.
• American League Manager of Year: There were low expectations for Boston this season, but John Farrell and the Red Sox have the best record in the American League.
Before the season started, in this very space, I picked the Washington Nationals to defeat the Los Angeles Angels in the World Series.
The Nationals are 48-47 and six games behind Atlanta in the NL East. The Angels are 44-49 and 11 games behind Oakland in the AL West.
My division winners were Washington, Cincinnati and San Francisco in the National League and Los Angeles, Detroit and Tampa Bay in the American League. Of those six teams, only one (Detroit) is in first place.
Maybe I’m a jinx. If that’s the case, I’m definitely not picking the Cardinals in the second half.