Dojo Sparring 6/23 – 6/30

Greg to Joe

So MLB.tv is the greatest thing that has ever been invented. I will have to give you my information for that since I have your Netflix info. I’m just sitting here in Lewisburg, PA with standard cable and MLB.tv and I am watching the Orioles play the Indians. It is the greatest thing in the world. I love it. And I’m pumped that I get to go to the Orioles game against the Yankees on Sunday Night Baseball. It’s gonna be awesome and Camden Yards is a great stadium.

Chris Davis

Chris Davis

In the game, I just saw Chris Davis CRUSH another home run. This is nothing unusual, but it got me thinking… is he the first half AL MVP? I would say that he is 100% in the conversation. It is basically Miguel Cabrera, Davis and Mike Trout. Davis is second in batting average with .331, behind Cabrera by .039 points, and has 7 more homers than Cabrera, 28. As I am writing this, it is subject to change after I send this, Davis trails Cabrera by 5 RBI’s. He has the pedigree for this. In the minors, he had a homer every 15 AB’s or so. That’s about 1 every 5 games, assuming he gets 3 AB’s a game. He just could not put it together in his first couple years in the majors. He had a .251 batting average with only 44 homers in his first four years in the majors. The Rangers dealt him for a reliever in 2011. It has worked out well for the Orioles as Koji Uehara, the reliever who got them Davis, is with your Red Sox now.

So, I think I am going to go with Davis because he is basically as good as Cabrera and he plays a really nice first base. Davis is my AL First Half MVP. I also have some really bold predictions, First Half Cy Young awards and the NL First Half MVP. But I want to hear what you have to say first. What are your answers to all those questions? Bold predictions, First Half Cy Young awards and First Half MVP’s

Joe to Greg

I’d have to agree with you in terms of the AL MVP leaders. I say as of right now, Chris Davis, Miguel Cabrera, and Mike Trout are your front runners. I think two other guys are worth mentioning and both come out of the AL East; Evan Longoria and David Ortiz. Longoria is batting over .300 for the season and is a big reason why the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t fallen out of the playoff race just yet. (Quick side note. The AL East yet again is producing a crazy race between all five teams, seeing as they’re all just separated by 6.5 games, the smallest margin in the MLB). David Ortiz is an honorable mention because the guy is 37 years old and he’s leading the Red Sox in Home Runs, RBI’s, OPS, and Batting Average. Keeping that type of production up is difficult at an older age.

On the NL side, Yadier Molina, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto are my favorites so far. Molina is out dueling Buster Posey as the best catcher in baseball right now. Posting a .355 average to go along with only 28 strikeouts in nearly 273 at-bats. To put that in perspective, Chris Carter of the Houston Astros has 107 strikeouts in 252 at-bats. Paul Goldschmidt might be one of my favorite players to watch. He’s tied for 3rd in home runs (19) and leading the NL in RBI’s (66). There’s no question he deserves to be apart of the conversation. Joey Votto is leading the Cincinnati Reds offense. Currently rocking a .325 batting average with a .963 OPS, ranked 4th among NL batters (Goldschmidt is 5th with .959). Votto may lack some of the numbers other candidates have but make no mistake about it, he knows how to hit and get on base.

Through the first half, these are my picks:

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera

NL MVP: Yadier Molina

What are your thoughts on NL MVP and the Cy Young Race?

Greg to Joe

I’m not so sure Ortiz is really a factor in the AL MVP race because it is basically impossible for a DH to win MVP. And Longo is big for the Rays, I agree with that. I put a little bit of AL East stuff in today’s Daily Dojo actually.

Yadier Molina

Yadier Molina

The NL MVP race is very interesting. I think Molina is so good and is definitely the best catcher in baseball. He has the offensive numbers as you said, but his defensive ability is AMAZING. I wrote about how the Cardinals pitchers that get called up and miraculously pitch well. I think that is because of Molina. He is just a pitchers dream. He makes his entire pitching staff indescribably better.

With all of that said, I think Goldy deserves NL MVP. He is carrying that team and he is absolutely dominate at the plate. They lead their division in a really tight race.

With Cy Young awards, its pretty tough. I think the AL comes down to Max Scherzer, Yu Darvish, Chris Sale and Hisashi Iwakuma. First of all, I do not think Iwakuma is legit. I believe he blows up in the second half even though he is in that huge park in Seattle, Safeco Field. So, it comes down to the other three. I think Sale will slow down to. He pitched 192.0 innings in 2012 and that is a 121 innings increase from 2011. His arm may fatigue and slow down. For me, its down the Darvish and Scherzer. If we go by what has happened so far this year, it is probably Darvish. He leads Scherzer by 21 strikeouts with 143. And his ERA is 2.95 to Scherzer’s 3.05. Now, I think Scherzer will win the AL Cy Young in the long run. He has the lowest Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) than any of the pitchers I listed above with a 2.55. I can explain the FIP calculation later if you want to know what it is exactly. This is a good indicator of where the ERA is going to go as the season rolls on. It is also a better indicator of pitching quality. Also, his FIP is the only one that is lower than his ERA out of those 4 pitchers. So his ERA should drop, and the others should rise. For me, its Darvish now, but Scherzer at the end of the season for AL Cy Young.

In the NL, I think it is going to be Adam Wainwright now and in the future. He is so good and finally back to form after his Tommy John surgery in 2011. And he has been better than ever. Yes, Matt Harvey has been amazing and he has 15 more strikeouts than Wainwright with a better ERA at 2.05. However, they have FIP’s that are only a point from each other. Harvey has a 2.01 and Wainwright at 2.02. So actually, you know what? I am changing my First Half NL Cy Young to Matt Harvey. I do think Wainwright will end up winning it because Harvey will probably get shut down at some point. The Mets are not competing. They will not win this year, and why should they have Harvey pitching until the end of September when you could save the mileage on his arm? I also think that he will get lit up a couple times for no particular reason and no stats to back me up. Wainwright, when I watch him, is so good. I just cannot not pick against him. Therefore, Wainwright for Cy Young at the end of the year.

First Half NL MVP – Paul Goldschmidt

First Half AL Cy Young – Yu Darvish — Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Max Scherzer

First Half NL Cy Young – Matt Harvey —  Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Adam Wainwright

Cy Young thoughts? and any BOLD predictions for the rest of the MLB season?

Joe to Greg

By no means is Ortiz going to win MVP, but he’ll get the lower votes when voting comes around. I think it is tough to call an AL Cy Young. Without a doubt Yu Darvish and Max Scherzer are the top two candidates. Felix Hernandez is definitely in the conversation and I think just as deserving as Iwakuma. If you compare the two player’s stats through June 26th, their stats are basically identical. Just for fun, what team do you think has the best 1-2 pitching combo in the MLB? I think Hernandez/Iwakuma are at least top three right now.

  • Hernandez – 17 GS, 116.2 IP, 106 Hits, 123 strikeouts, 8-4, 3.4 WAR, 1.10 WHIP, 2.70 ERA
  • Iwakuma – 16 GS, 107.1 IP, 78 Hits, 96 Strikeouts, 7-3, 3.8 WAR, 0.89 WHIP, 2.26 ERA

Unfortunately, my main man Clay Bucholtz likes to play hurt. He came out of the gates hot and is still undefeated on the year and has the lowest ERA in the MLB, but he’s missed a couple of starts which I think will cost him a shot at picking up some hardware this year.

Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey

Adam Wainwright and Matt Harvey

In the NL, I agree with Adam Wainwright as a top pick.You have to appreciate a guy bouncing back from Tommy John surgery and producing the way he is. As impressive as Wainwright has been, how can you not love Harvey? The guy is an animal on the mound and he’s only a rookie but being a rookie has its issues. I believe the Mets will look to shut him down a couple weeks early depending on the playoff races and with St. Louis primed for a playoff run, Wainwright is going to have to continue to produce. I give the edge to Wainwright in the long run. I don’t think people can sleep on Patrick Corbin of the Arizona Diamondbacks either, seeing as he has yet to suffer a loss on the year. With the Diamondbacks looking like a threat to make the playoffs, it will be interesting to see how much they depend on Corbin to produce seeing that he’s also a rookie. Corbin’s name will be thrown around a little but I don’t think he has the credentials to compete with Harvey, Wainwright, or Clayton Kershaw. I feel we have the same thoughts for these awards with maybe one exception.

First Half AL Cy Young – Yu Darvish — Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Felix Hernandez (IF he continues to pitch heavy innings + keep his ERA low + earn some W’s)

First Half NL Cy Young – Matt Harvey —  Actual Cy Young (end of year prediction) – Adam Wainwright

Bold Predictions:

I truly feel like the AL representative for the World Series comes from the AL East and from what it looks like, the top two offensive teams in the MLB right now are gearing up for what will be an interesting AL playoffs. That would be your Baltimore Orioles and my Boston Red Sox. Sox-O’s in the ALCS, and my bold prediction, the Pittsburgh Pirates make it to the NLCS, where they play the Cardinals. By the way, if the Cardinals were to win the World Series, can we start to tag them as a dynasty? They win, add that to the 2006 and 2011 trophies and you’re looking at a team that’s been consistently competitive for almost a decade now. Who knows.

Have any bold predictions for the second half of the year?

Greg to Joe

Felix Hernandez is really interesting. I think that is pretty bold. He is going to need more wins. I know voters thinks wins are a good indicator of pitcher performance even though they really aren’t. The AL Cy Young Award race should be interesting. And I am glad you agree with me in the NL. I think the pitching dominance in baseball makes the Cy Young award race so much more interesting.

I think that the Cardinals can get a dynasty tag. They also have the best farm system in baseball. They are going to be good for a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time with Oscar Taveras as their lead man. It is incredible how well that organization is built from top to bottom.

Bold Predictions:

  • I think Manny Machado breaks the single season doubles record. I have been watching the Orioles a lot recently. He is just so good. He really is in the echelon of Trout and Harper. If/when he moves back to shortstop, I think he becomes more valuable than both of them. That could be my Orioles bias kicking in, but I really think he is the real deal.
  • Miguel Cabrera does not end up leading any of the Triple Crown categories at the end of the season.
  • Chris Davis hits 55 home runs this year, but only 33 next year (I realize this is kind of long term).
  • NL (L)East only sends the Braves to the playoffs and they will finish at .500 or worse. They will also be swept in the NLDS.
  • NL Central sends three teams to the playoffs. The Pirates win the 1 game Wild Card against the Reds with Cliff Lee pitching a shutout and Giancarlo Stanton mashing the game winning home run. The Pirates end up winning the NL Pennant and beat my Orioles in Game 6 of the World Series because of a Chase Utley baserunning error that kills a rally in the 8th inning.

Yes, I realize these are very BOLD

Joe to Greg

I don’t think your predictions are bold, they’re borderline crazy. Although I’m a sucker for you placing the Pirates in the World Series because come on, how can you hate the pirates? To wrap up our first half discussion lets play the question game.

  • Which team looks the most complete in the AL/NL?
  • Which division looks the strongest in the AL/NL?
  • Which manager deserves the most credit so far this season?
  • What player/team surprised you the most through the first half?

You already answered my last question, which was, what is your World Series pick through the first half, so I’m guessing you’re taking Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Baltimore Orioles – Pirates win in 6?

Greg to Joe

The Pirates WILL win the World Series if they deal the farm and get Lee and Stanton. They have the farm system. I just don’t know if the front office will make the deal. The Orioles have a shot, but they need another starting pitcher that won’t get hurt. It should be an interesting playoffs.

To answer your questions, the most complete teams are the Tigers and Cardinals. They have it all. The Tigers only problem is they cannot field, but that is about it. The Cardinals have everything including a great farm system to get a possible upgrade if they think they need it.

Strongest Divisions – AL East and NL Central. Both of them could send three teams to the playoffs. I will be doing half-season division reviews in the upcoming weeks leading up to the All Star break. So you’ll see how I view every division. Check out today’s Daily Dojo for the preview of the NL East, or NL Least if you prefer that.

John Farrell

John Farrell

Manager – John Farrell. I expected the Red Sox to be in the basement for the next three years. He has really helped a turnaround in that franchise.

Team/Player- Red Sox, see above sentence. The player that has shocked me the most has to be Jean Segura and/or Yasiel Puig. Segura just had no pedigree for power and I am surprised by his 11 homers. He has always had speed through the minors, but the power is just a shocker. Puig has been amazing so far. I think he is an absolute man-child. He is a stud, but I do not know if this will ever be matched by him ever again. This could be his peak. I say this just because he has been so good. A lot of people said that about Trout and Trout proved them wrong. Trout will be better than him in the long run I believe, but I could easily be wrong. I have a man crush on Trout.

And my predictions will be right if those trades happen. The one that I am most confident about is the Braves finish.

Answer your own questions. I am interested in your responses.

Joe to Greg

Most Complete Team – I’d say the Cardinals pitching and overall performance so far makes them look good. Also, as long as Scherzer keeps dealing, the Tigers look very threatening so we agree on this one.

Strongest Divisions – AL East for just how close of a race it is, again, this year and showcasing quality teams in the Orioles, Yanks, Sox, Rays, and the Blue Jays, who are finally getting their act together. I would say the NL Central because the NL East has been lacking a little with both the Nationals and the Phillies underperforming during the beginning of the season.

Manager – I think I have to give the nod to John Farrell because even though I also had faith in the Red Sox after a miserable season last year, I didn’t expect this big of a turnaround. Hats off for John Farrell so far.

Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig

Team/Player – This is more of a combo pick between the Blue Jays poor play and the Red Sox quick resurgence. The Jays spent the money to get big names and haven’t really clicked yet, it will be interesting to see if they can make a run to close out the season and sneak into the playoffs. I’d be careful. Player — I’d say Puig for his overall LeBron-like style. I’m not talking about this potential legacy, but how from the moment he stepped onto the field, Puig began dominating games just as LeBron starting scoring and leading a team to the playoffs from the moment he entered the league. It really is fascinating to watch someone so young and inexperienced play with boiling confidence and composure. I agree Trout has the better career as well.

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

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