I don't really want to ramble much more on wrapping up the first half, as we have the past two days, so instead I want to change gears and look ahead to what we can expect for the rest of the year. There are many things to look at. Many players could and should be dropped, there is still a slight chance of going to the playoffs, and there is the great question of awards. Lets take a look:
5) Kyle Lohse won't end the year with the Twins
There is simply no way he can stick around in my mind. The brilliant men over at The Bleacher Bums suggest that Lohse has a "million dollar arm and a ten cent head." That's pretty much spot on with my thoughts. From being a immature player to being completely ineffective as a pitcher, there is little reason to keep him around.
Its great and all that he is doing halfway decent out of the bullpen, but for $3.95 million (more than Joe Nathan gets this year), it really isn't worth it at all. There are much better pitching prospects around in the system who deserve a shot over this headcase. I don't think the Twins can get very much for him, considering the market, but they might as well take any deal they can get. Just getting rid of his baggage seems like a victory.
4) Scott Baker will have a good second half
The stats show that Scott Baker really wasn't that bad during his tenure in the starting rotation. He just happens to be an extreme-flyball pitcher who ran into some bad luck. His control is great, he has plenty of strikeouts, and his head is sitting squarely on his shoulders.
Now that he has been recalled (hopefully ruling out a return of Lohse to the rotation for now), he should get that chance. Its tough with young guys when Gardy is managing, since he doesn't see much beyond his age, experience, and ERA. Thats unfortunate, because he looked like the one bright spot for the rotation in April. I think he'll work things out and end up with an ERA around 4.50 and a few wins to go with it.
3) The Twins will not make the playoffs
This unfortunately is obvious to many of us bloggers. The Twins sit in the best division in baseball and are too far back to have much of a shot at the playoffs. In order to get there, as Aaron Gleeman noted yesterday, the Twins basically have to play over .600 ball the rest of the year and the teams in front of them (wild card included) have fall hard in the second half.
The fact is its unlikely the Tigers, White Sox, Yankees, Blue Jays, and potentially the Red Sox (if the Yankees or Blue Jays make a push) will go on a huge losing streak anytime soon. The Tigers probably won't win as much in the second half, but they don't have to in order to get to the playoffs. We know the White Sox are legit and their pitching hasn't even been great yet.
The great news is that despite not making it this year, there is so many reasons to watch the team and its hard not to look foward to the future. With so much young talent, the Twins need only to invest in their young stars and forget about tired, mediocre veterans. Lets just hope they learned a lesson this year.....
2) Fransisco Liriano wins Rookie of the Year
Hold on, any Sox fans. I'm aware of Jonathan Palpelbon. I know about the .59 ERA, .72 WHIP, and 26 saves. This guy nearly saved one of my fantasy teams this year. However, it should be a given by now that starters are worth a lot more than relievers, even great closers.
As Rob Neyer observed watching the All-Star game, Brad Penny easily threw 99 MPH fastball after 99 MPH fastball at the AL hitters when he didn't have to worry about lasting seven or more innings. The fact is, the moment Palpelbon allows a few runs and his ERA all the sudden sits a 2.00 or more, he won't be as big of a story. For what its worth, B.J. Ryan has been just as good, if not better, for the Jays this year.
Liriano, on the other hand, looks absolutely unstoppable. I know based on experience, we all want to hold our tongues and resist predicting a 20-2 record. That probably won't happen, but if he finishes with 18 wins, a 2.40 ERA, and over 200 Ks, he has to win the award. And those stats are very much within this young man's reach.
1) Johan Santana is your 2006 AL Cy Young Award Winner
This isn't a hard one to guess on. We've already commented numerous times on this blog about how great he has been this first half and how historically great he is in the second half. The only thing in his way is Roy Halladay and his 12-2 record. Knowing how crazy wins drive award voters, it could be a problem.
However, if he can get 11 wins (in between his 13 in 2004 and 9 in 2005 for the second half), that gives him 20. With 20 wins and a great ERA and strikeout title, I can't see the writers keeping him from what should be his third straight Cy Young.
Of course, I know I'm missing one big second half story: Joe Mauer. But Mauer is so huge, I'm not sure if its worth predicting. I think a .340 or .350 average is well within his reach. If he just hits around .300 in the second half, he'll finish with about a .340 average. That would definitely put him in range of a batting title. Can you say MVP?