DENVER -- As I sit here in Coors Field that is operating to full capacity, eyeing the second half of the Major League Baseball season, it occurred to me that things finally feel kind of "normal" again. It's a new normal and nothing will ever be the same after 2020, of course, but the feel here in the ballpark at the All-Star Game felt like 2019 and all years prior. And damn, does it feel good.
Given that it's back to normal, I'll hop back into my All-Star break tradition of predicting how the second half will unfold. No, this isn't undoing my regular season predictions and I'm still accountable and on the hook for them, but things change. Two teams in particular have made me believers of them when I wasn't to start to the year.
One of those teams, the Red Sox, would now be my prediction to win the AL East.
In the Central, my preseason prediction of the White Sox was spot on. They're gonna run away and hide.
In the West, it's going to be the Astros, just as I thought in the preseason.
In the NL East, it seems like all roads are pointing to the Mets, but man, they aren't reliable. I'll take 'em, but I'm not confident.
Out West, the Dodgers are the smart pick. The Padres have been the trendy one. I think both wild cards come from here, but the other team that has made me a believer is the Giants, so screw it, I'm going with them. I think they'll be aggressive at the trade deadline and they've really unlocked something with their pitching.
And if I'm gonna ride the Giants there, why not take them in the playoffs? Let's give the Giants another NL pennant.
This time they lose in the World Series, though.
The White Sox have time to get Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Yasmani Grandal healthy in September. The lineup hits for average and gets on base, but is 14th in the AL in home runs. Jimenez gives them the beef there and makes things more dynamic. The rotation boasts Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon, both of whom are pitching like aces this season, and Lucas Giolito, who has been an ace before. Dallas Keuchel is a great fourth playoff starter which pushes the talented Dylan Cease to be a bullpen X-factor alongside Michael Kopech. Oh, and they have Liam Hendriks to close things down. This team has everything it needs to be an October powerhouse.
The White Sox are the pick to win the 2021 World Series.
|It's really going to be fun to see what Farhan Zaidi has up his sleeve this month. He's been so adept at adding key pieces at the margins and having them make an impact.||1||107-55|
|Now Clayton Kershaw is hurt and the team that went into the spring so deep in rotation arms that they pushed David Price to the bullpen now has rotation depth issues.||1||106-56|
|Just to get out in front of this, no, there's no historic correlation between winning the division weeks in advance and then failing in the playoffs. None. Just run away with it.||4||93-69|
|It was weird how the offense just fell asleep for most of last week until the six-run barrage to steal Sunday's win. When they are on, though, it's scary-good. They hit the break leading the AL in average, on-base percentage, OPS and runs.||--||95-67|
|Remember, Chris Sale is coming back at some point. Might we get an all-Sox ALCS?||2||92-70|
|Mike Zunino's slash line is hilarious. He's hitting .198 but slugging .529. Factor in the walk rate and he has a 128 OPS+ despite hitting below the Mendoza Line.||2||100-62|
|Hey, remember all those people who aren't Doctors but were convinced Fernando Tatis, Jr. HAD to have shoulder surgery immediately? How's that going? I'm curious.||2||79-83|
|If they can get any offense at all, they'll be a tough playoff out behind Brandon Woodruff, Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta and their bullpen weapons. But yeah, that offense. At .220, they are last in the NL in batting average.||2||95-67|
|Maybe they really needed the break. The A's went 8-13 in their last 21 games to stumble into the All-Star break.||--||86-76|
|Pete Alonso making Home Run Derby championship into a dynasty would be so fun.||1||77-85|
|The surging Reds are 9-2 in July and have climbed to within four games of the Brewers. Keep an eye on this one.||3||83-79|
|What a disaster to blow that game on Sunday. They were all set to head into the break having won six of seven and sweeping the Astros.||5||92-70|
|The Mariners are last in the AL in average, OBP and slugging and yet they have a winning record.||1||90-72|
|After seeing what he did to those poor baseballs in batting practice at the All-Star Game, I highly recommend watching Jared Walsh take BP if you get a chance to attend an Angels game. Sure, he's rightly overshadowed by Shohei Ohtani -- and Mike Trout when he comes back -- but still! It was quite the show.||1||77-85|
|Things appear to be heading in the direction of them getting to play in Toronto again. Hopefully it happens, because they have a huge disadvantage playing essentially all away games. They are 19-20 at "home" and 26-22 on the road.||5||91-71|
|They've won series from the Padres, Cubs (OK, that's no longer impressive) and Red Sox this month. They just keep hanging around. Can they bust through and take down the Mets and Braves?||3||82-80|
|Good to finish the first half on a high note with that sweep, but the nine-game losing streak probably sealed their fate.||1||80-82|
|I'm not a Braves fan, but that Ronald Acuña injury really hurt. He's one of the most dynamic players we have here in this, our baseball.||3||88-73|
|Only six times in MLB history has a pitcher thrown at least 50 innings while walking more than seven batters for every nine innings and striking out more than 11 batters for every nine innings. Alex Reyes is doing it right now though 41 1/3 innings.||3||90-72|
|At least they only went 2-4 last week? It's an improvement.||--||71-91|
|Just when they climbed right into the thick of things, the wheels came off. The Nationals are 2-9 in July.||3||65-97|
|Taking three of four from the Dodgers while walking them off twice in a row was pretty fun.||1||67-95|
|I'll just use this space to give major kudos to Denver for being an outstanding All-Star Game host. Great city, great ballpark. Good job.||1||74-87|
|They ride a four-game winning streak into the break, but they still aren't really even close to playoff position.||3||73-89|
|The Tigers lost five of six as they staggered into the break, but they have been much better than most people thought they would be.||4||77-85|
|Joey Gallo's last 12 games: .378/.549/1.270 with 11 homers and 19 RBI. Word is the Rangers are going to trade him. This means some lucky fan base is about to get one hell of a fun, new toy.||1||60-102|
|A 4-3 week against the Braves and Mets was a nice way to end the first half.||1||61-101|
|Poor Salvador Perez! He put on an absolute show in the Home Run Derby, but people were barely paying attention since he had no chance to catch Pete Alonso. Rough bracket draw.||2||74-88|
|The Trey Mancini Home Run Derby showing was great, feel-good theater.||--||52-110|
|They had the Dodgers on the ropes but then coughed up six runs in the last two innings to lose the series. A fitting first-half end for a team that was once 15-13 and now is on pace to lose 116 games.||--||52-110|