5 AL Predictions For The Second Half

BALTIMORE, MD - Adrian Gonzalez #28 of the Boston Red Sox strikes out swing for the second out of the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

I love predictions posts. And I'm really good at them. My preseason predictions were spot on and completely accurate. I totally called the Orioles being relevant, Edwin Encarnacion turning into a power monster, and Kevin Youkilis getting traded. I can't find a link right now, but I'm sure I wrote all of that. It was all so obvious, really.

There's a whole second half of the season coming up. And baseball things will happen. A list of five second-half predictions around the American League.

Mike Trout comes down to earth … juuust a little bit
Mike Trout is playing baseball right now like he has a Game Genie jammed into the bill of his helmet. Major League Baseball is a collection of the world's best 750 players, but Trout's already bored and looking for a call up to some sort of robot league. He's 20, and he could win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season. Based on the Fred Lynn Agreement of 1981, that means Trout will be traded to the Red Sox before he's 30 -- something like a player to be named much, much, much later.

But for this season, he'll calm down a little bit. He's hitting .341/.397/.562 and leading the league in OPS+. I'm not going to predict specific numbers, just note that whatever he does, it isn't going to be enough for him to win MVP. The average will come down, and with it the slugging percentage and overall production.

He'll still be amazing, of course.

The Tigers will win the Central with a September surge
Not because the White Sox aren't good -- I'm pretty sold on them as a good team, especially if they make another trade or two. But because here's the Tigers' schedule at the end of the season:

9/21 - 9/23 - Twins
9/24 - 9/27 - Royals
9/28 - 9/30 - @Twins
10/1 - 10/3 - @Royals

While the Tigers are doing that, the White Sox will be going to Anaheim, hosting the Rays, and taking on the Indians in two different series. It shouldn't be a fun week of scoreboard-watching for the other Central teams.

Adrian Gonzalez will be just fine
Jeff Sullivan had an amazing note about Gonzalez the other day:

BB rates

2008: 11%
2009: 17%
2010: 13%
2011: 10%
2012: 6%

BB rates, excluding IBB

2008: 8%
2009: 15%
2010: 9%
2011: 8%
2012: 6%

It's almost as if the Padres didn't have any hitters to protect Gonzalez while he was there …

Gonzalez is hitting .283/.329/.416 right now. That's adorable! Those are also pretty close to Mike Fontenot's career numbers. I can't even do lazy, surface-level analysis to develop a theory -- Gonzalez's BABIP isn't low, and his ground-ball rate isn't higher than normal. He just isn't hitting for power like he used to. At all. It's bizarre.

The one difference this year compared to previous seasons is that he's swinging at more pitches out of the strike zone and making more contact on them. That's a miserable combination.

So why will he improve? I don't know, man. He just will. That's the kind of analysis you come here for. But when a hitter with a history of health and production like Gonzalez has a bad first half, it's probably best to pay more attention to the ten or twelve good halves that came before it, regardless of what the PITCHf/x, heat maps, or advanced stats suggest. The best predictor is past performance, so I'm betting on a rebound.

The Rangers trade for Justin Upton and Cole Hamels or Zack Greinke
This is because the Rangers are dicks.

But it's also because those two blockbusters aren't created equal. Upton isn't a short-term trade; he'll be around for a while, and he's the kind of player you hope your prospects will turn into in the first place. Hamels is a short-term trade. The Rangers have the organizational talent to do both, and they're cognizant of their place in the success cycle. They're good now. A bunch of prospects might help reinforce the team in 2015, but the Rangers might not be good in 2015. Things change quickly. Baseball!

Hamels/Greinke would give them an ace-type for the playoffs, and Upton would give them a middle-of-the-order hitter to fill the void if Josh Hamilton leaves. The two trades would take a big ol' bite out of the system, but considering the Rangers are already one of the best teams in baseball -- the best? -- it'd make them as unstoppable as a baseball team can get.

Which is pretty stoppable, really. In a best-of-five series, the Astros could take the Rangers out. Baseball! But they'd still be as hard to beat as any contender in recent memory.

Mostly, though, the Rangers are just a grabby franchise, and they enjoy hoarding talent and getting all grabby.

The Orioles don't make the playoffs
I know, I know. I predicted this before the first half started, too.

The Orioles will still have a season to build on, of course. If they were in the Central, I'd give them a fighting chance. There are just too many games against good teams in the East, though. They'll probably trade for a pitcher to support Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen. Hopefully, it'll be someone like Wandy Rodriguez, who would at least help them out next year, too.

Predicted playoff teams in the second half:

Yankees (East)
Tigers (Central)
Rangers (West)
Angels (Wild Card)
Rays (Second Wild Card)

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